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CHAPTER V.

State of the Mind when recovering from an

Attack of Insanity.

How deeply interesting are the descriptions sometimes given by the insane of their state of mind when passing out of a deranged into a sane condition of intellect. In some cases, the reason is restored suddenly to its sovereignty; in many cases, however, the mind appears gradually and almost imperceptibly to awaken, as it were out of a fantastic and fairy-like dream, into a healthy state of consciousness. In one case, the patient described his mental condition during the period when it was considered to be in transitu, as follows :-“I felt as I was recovering, the delusions gradually losing their hold upon my fancy. I then began to entertain doubts as to their reality. I felt disposed to listen patiently to the judicious advice of my physician. I was no longer irritated at being told that my perceptions were false, and began to appreciate the absurdities of other patients. One fellow-sufferer, who firmly believed that he was endowed with supernatural power, and divine authority, and whom I had always considered as sane, and improperly confined, and had invariably treated with great awe and deep reverence, I now thought, must be mad!” The dark clouds that had so long obscured, enshrouded, and embittered this patient's mind were gradually dissipated, and the bright sun of reason shed its joyous and effulgent light upon his hitherto darkened and bewildered understanding. As he progressed towards recovery, his mental

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perceptions became daily more clear and intelligible. Whilst in this intermediate phase of morbid thought he was forcibly reminded of Milton's majestically poetical, and profoundly philosophical passage, in which he makes Adam relate to the angel what passed in his mind immediately after awakening into life :

“ Whilst thus I call’d and stray'd I knew not whither,

From where I first drew air and first beheld
This happy light, when answer none return’d,
On a green shady bank, profuse of flowers,
Pensive I sat me down; there gentle sleep
First found me, and with soft oppression seiz'd
My droused sense; untroubled, though I thought
I then was passing to my former state
Insensible, and forthwith to dissolve. ....'

“ Paradise Lost," b. 8. 1. 283.

Another patient described his state of mind when recovering, as follows: “During the whole of my illness, which lasted for eighteen months, I always fancied myself surrounded by a dark cloud. I never could appreciate that there was any difference between day and night. Even when the sun shone most brightly, it produced no alteration in my feelings. I fancied that I was doomed to live for the rest of my days in a state of per. petual gloom, and never-ending darkness, as a punishment for sins I had committed in early youth. No bright object, alas ! looked so to my mind. I found that I could gaze, without the least inconvenience, at the sun, , even when at its height. It did not, in the slightest degree, dazzle me.

“I date the commencement of my recovery from the time when this mysterious darkness began gradually to

” “When I was getting well,” the patient continues, “I fancied I saw objects more clearly and less through a haze. My mind appeared during this distressing illness, as if it were covered, if I may so speak, by a dark veil. This is the only comparison that occurs

fade away.”

to me.

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It was as if I were looking through a piece of green glass at every object. This cloudy condition of mind did not disappear altogether for some months, but as I began to see things with my natural vision, I felt that I was getting well. This state of progressive recovery continued until I saw everything through a clear and sunny atmosphere, and then my happiness and peace of mind were restored ; in other words, I was well.”

A gentleman who imagined, without the slightest foundation for such an impression, that his wife had been unfaithful to him, persisted in entertaining this delusion for a whole year. He declined, during the greater part of his illness, having any communication with, and rarely speaking civilly to her when she called to see him. His general health was much shattered by a sedentary occupation and neglect of the ordinary rules of hygiene. His mind had also, for a long period, undergone much anxiety. At times he suffered from severe mental depression. His general health, in course of time, became greatly improved, but there were symptoms of local disturbance in the head that at first led to the suspicion of the existence of some form of organic disease of the brain.

A few months before his recovery, a large carbuncle made its appearance in the lumbar region. This caused great pain, and confined him to his bed for some weeks. Subsequently, numerous furunculi broke out in various parts of the body, attended with great general irritation and serious disorder of the assimilative functions. He was invalided for many months. He, however, entirely recovered, still, however, entertaining the delusion with regard to his wife, but in a somewhat modified and less acute form. At first he began to reason with himself as to the reality of this impression. He asked himself the following questions :—“Is my suspicion founded on fact? What proof have I of the infidelity

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SINGULAR CASE OF RECOVERY.

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of my wife ? Could I establish an accusation of the kind against her, in a court of law? If I were to apply for a divorce on the ground of infidelity, who would be my witnesses ?” Up to this time, he had resolutely maintained a firm belief in his wife's gross acts of immorality, and it was not until after his serious bodily illness that he began to waver on the subject of his delusion.

For nearly three weeks, a contest of this character took place in his mind. It was a struggle between healthy and disordered impressions. Occasionally, he appeared entirely to lose the delusion. It then recurred to his mind, but much less strongly than before. I advised a complete change of air and scene, and suggested a residence at Boulogne for a few weeks. He obeyed my instructions, went to this place, participated in the amusements it afforded, had a course of sea-bathing, and returned in a few weeks to England, in the full enjoyment of the “mens sana in corpore sano." He informed me that one day when returning from a tepid salt-water bath, which had greatly exhilarated him, all idea of his wife having behaved even with indiscretion, vanished entirely from his mind. “I felt,” he says, “a gush of joyous feeling take possession of my thoughts, that produced an indescribable state of happiness, which made me almost leap

for joy.”

A lady who had been for a period of nine months insane, believing that she was forsaken of God, appeared suddenly to recover. Her restoration to health of mind, however, was not so rapid as her friends were at first led to suppose. She gave her husband, after she returned home, a detailed and deeply interesting account of the gradual return of reason, and of the steady battle she had been carrying on for two months with the insane delusions. For more than eight weeks she had been struggling with the morbid impressions which had so

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poisoned her mind. The commencement of this contest occurred contemporaneously with a return of the uterine functions, which had been suspended for a considerable period. This improvement in her general health appeared to shake her belief in the existing delusion. At that period, she said, “I, for the first time during my long illness, asked myself seriously the question, “Am I under a delusion ?'” For some days the morbid impressions caused her less mental distress, but having, owing to an attack of stomach disorder, passed two or three sleepless nights, the delusion returned in full force to her mind. After the lapse of a week, she again began quietly to reason with herself as to her insane religious notions. She then went regularly to church, without feeling, as she did previously, that “she was only mocking God' by so doing.” “I felt,” she said, “a comfort, in the prayers, and could listen with repose and satisfaction to the sermon."

But even at this time, her mind was occasionally much distressed by some, but less acutely manifested, morbid and gloomy apprehensions as to the salvation of her soul. She continued, however, gradually to recover a sane state of thought. She no longer persisted in refusing to adopt the remedial measures suggested for her cure, and pari passú, with an improvement in the physical, did I witness the return of a healthy state of the intellectual functions. She informed me after her recovery, that she was impelled by an internal voice to refuse compliance with everything that was proposed by myself in the way of treatment. She fancied that she was doing God service by resisting all the attempts that were made to improve her bodily and mental health.

I have, in a previous page, referred in detail to the deeply interesting history which has been published of the Rev. Mr. Walford's state of morbid religious des

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