Library Collections: Document: Full Text

A Mind That Found Itself: An Autobiography

Creator: Clifford Whittingham Beers (author)
Date: 1910
Publisher: Longmans, Green, and Co., New York
Source: Available at selected libraries

Previous Page   Next Page   All Pages 

Page 7:


The dawn soon hid itself in the brilliancy of a perfect June day. Never had I seen a brighter -- to look at; never a darker -- to live through, -- or a better to die upon. Its very perfection and the songs of the robins, which at that season were plentiful in the neighborhood, served but to increase my despair and make me the more willing to die. As the day wore on my anguish became more intense, but I managed to mislead those about me by uttering a word now and then, and feigning to read a newspaper, which to me, however, appeared an unintelligible confusion of type. My brain was in a ferment. It felt as if pricked by a million needles at white heat. My whole body felt as though it would be torn apart by the terrific nervous strain under which I labored.


Shortly after noon, dinner having been served, my mother entered the room and asked me if she should bring me some dessert. I assented. It was not that I cared for the dessert; I had no appetite. I wished to get her out of the room, for I believed myself to be on the verge of another attack. She left at once. I knew that in two or three minutes she would return. The crisis seemed at hand. It was now or never for liberation. She had probably descended one of three flights of stairs when, with the mad desire to dash my brains out on the pavement below, I rushed to that window which was directly over the flag walk. Providence must have guided my movements, for in some otherwise unaccountable way, on the very point of hurling myself out bodily, I chose to drop feet foremost instead. With my fingers I clung for a moment to the sill. Then I let go. In falling my body turned so as to bring my right side toward the building. I struck the ground a little more than two feet from the foundation of the house, and at least three to the left of the point from which I started. Missing the stone pavement by not more than three or four inches, I struck on comparatively soft earth. My position must have been almost upright, for both heels struck the ground squarely. The concussion slightly crushed one heel bone and broke most of the small bones in the arch of each foot, but there was no mutilation of the flesh. As my feet struck the ground my right hand struck hard against the front of the house, and it is probable that these three points of contact divided the force of the shock and prevented my back from being broken. As it was, it narrowly escaped a fracture and, for several weeks afterward, it felt as if powdered glass had been substituted for cartilage between the vertebrae.


I did not lose consciousness even for a second, and the demoniacal dread, which had possessed me from June, 1894, until this fall to earth just six years later, was dispelled the instant I struck the ground. At no time since that instant have I experienced one of my imaginary attacks; nor has my mind even for a moment entertained such an idea. The little demon which had tortured me relentlessly for six years evidently lacked the stamina which I must have had to survive the shock of my suddenly arrested flight through space. That the very delusion which drove me to a death-loving desperation should so suddenly vanish, seems to me to indicate that many a suicide might be averted if the person contemplating it could find the proper assistance when such a crisis impends.




THOUGH I was unquestionably insane before the physical injuries which I sustained, I am inclined to believe that without the injuries my insanity would have manifested itself in a mild and easily curable form. As it was, the mere shock to my spine affected my brain and complicated my case. Within a few hours after my fall my brain was in a seriously disordered condition.


I have my own perhaps fanciful theory regarding the effect of that concussion. In physics, the fact that a change of molecular structure in a magnetized bar of soft iron will change the character of its magnetism is proved by a very simple and interesting experiment. If a magnet in the shape of a straight bar be held vertically, the top of the magnet being positive and the bottom negative, the positive end may be immediately changed to negative, and the negative to positive, if either be struck a sharp blow with a hammer. The character of the magnetism may be changed as frequently as the experimenter wishes by thus striking the two ends alternately. Now if the naturally positive end be left negatively magnetized, and the magnet then be laid aside, it will gradually lose its negative quality and eventually become positive as at first. This return of the iron to its normal character is due to an irresistible tendency of the molecules to re-adjust themselves and take their original relative positions.


The human body, like every physical object, including the earth, is, potentially at least, a magnet. My body as it hung from the window-sill was feebly positive, as it were, at the top. If the molecular structure of a bar of iron can be changed by a slight blow, it seems reasonable to suppose that the molecular structure of the human body, and especially of the nervous system, may be completely altered by such a blow as my body received when my feet struck the ground. As in the case of a magnet left in a state of magnetism other than its normal, the molecular structure of my body was left to re-adjust itself by the slow process of time. And after a period of over three years, it finally did become sufficiently positive at the top to enter again the magnetic field of sane, human endeavor.

Previous Page   Next Page

Pages:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25  26  27  28  29  30  31  32  33  34  35  36  37  38  39  40  41  42  43  44  45  46  47  48  49  50  51  52  53  54  55  56  57  58  59  60  61  62  63  64  65  66  67  68  69  70  71  72  73  74  75  76  77  78  79  80  81  82  83  84  85  86  87  88  89  90  91  92  93  94  95  96  97  98  99  100  101  102  103  104  105  106  107  108  109  110  111  112  113  114  115  116    All Pages