The Falling Sickness

I have been reading a novel that is set in the early 1800s and one comment caught my eye.  One character was saying that it was obvious another character was defective. The character’s  brother had the falling sickness and that was proof that the family had defective brains.  I knew the reference was to epilepsy and I started to wonder what my Victorian Medical book had to say on this matter.  It begins with a dramatic but fairly accurate description of what an epileptic episode might look like but didn’t mention how a person might lose control of their bladder or bowels.  It is not that Victorians had an aversion to discussing such functions (as you shall see in some of the remedies).

They list the causes and include hereditary (hence my book’s character taking one brother’s affliction as proof of the other brother’s faulty facilities.)  The medical book mentions malformations of the skull and brain as a cause.  That makes sense to me.

There was a list of conditions that could cause epilepsy.  One was intestinal worms.  I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF THAT!  Apparently, these beasts can invade the brain and do so, in developing countries!  Who knew!  Teething was also listed.  But, from the quick google search I did, it may have more to do with a baby getting an unusually high fever while teething that causes seizures.  I had to google the next cause because I had no idea what it was “the suppression or retention of catamenia”.  Basically, not having a period.  A google search says the menstrual cycle can affect epileptics and that makes sense to me too.  Poisons can cause seizures as can injury to the head and brain.  Well, of course they can.  So I learned something and I was thinking “they were bang on the mark with this one.”  Then I read that “masturbation, is also a fruitful cause of the disease.”  If I’m not mistaken, Victorians thought that it would cause all kinds of crazy things.  So they slipped off the mark I thought they were on.  If anything, I’ll concede that I can imagine that this particular activity may trigger an episode for someone WITH epilepsy but, it can’t CAUSE it!

The treatment for the falling sickness was to prevent the person from hurting themselves during an episode.  That is the procedure today.  There was no mention of the old wives tale of putting something in the mouth to protect the tongue.  I wonder when that idea came to be.  (FYI-don’t put anything into a seizing person’s mouth.  They can’t swallow their tongue but they can choke on or break their teeth on what ever is shoved in their mouth.)

Of course, a remedy depended on the cause.  If you were diddling with yourself-stop it!  If there is a fever, reduce the fever.  If you were born with it there wasn’t too much you could do.

The first recommended treatment is a good cleaning out of the bowels occasionally.  This came with a list of different substances and their amounts to achieve this goal.  I’m eye rolling here, but I’m not a doctor.  Perhaps being backed up doesn’t help a person with epilepsy.

The second thing the book recommends is the person be given an emetic at least once a week.  Basically, a herb that will make them throw up once a week.  Seems counter productive to me.

Third on the list is antispasmodic.  Makes sense.  Perhaps the list of possible herbs are the very thing being used now.  I don’t know.  Tonics are next.   That makes sense as well-keep the body strong.  Our modern version of tonics are vitamines and caffeine drinks.

The next remedy is Nitrate of Silver.  The book says that if taken for some time the skin with turn blue-black.  Well, that can’t be good!  And from what I can find on the internet, continuous doses in higher amounts is toxic!

Well if turning blue was not enough, the book recommends covering the face of a person having a seizure with a black silk handkerchief, tying it about the head and neck. (Can you imagine how you would feel waking up from a seizure with black fabric tied around your head and neck!) Gunn says this treatment is from France and is highly spoken of in some parts of that country.  “The patient, it is said, will recover from the attack almost immediately, or it will render it much lighter; and by continuing to do this for a while the disease may be entirely broken.”  It is exactly that kind of horrific practice I was hoping to find when I bought this book.  If I were an epileptic, I think I would prefer living now!

Good gravy! I’m stuffed.

You are lucky you are getting a single word out of me today!  I went to a girls only buffet/Bar-B-Que this evening and I ate myself to oblivion!  I was smart and removed my corset and put on my somewhat mu-mu-esque dress before heading out.

Hey! What are you calling mu-mu!

I actually wore this dress to my mother’s wedding a couple of years ago. (This glamour shot was taken at the wedding).  And really, the dress is just a tube with a neck line at the top and ruffles at the bottom.  But, the glorious thing about mu-mus is you can stuff your face in them and not worry about pinching or exploding waist bands.  (Note…not obsessed with Victorian clothes at this time so had nearly no hair).

If I were to do a Victorian vs Modern on this very subject, I honestly couldn’t say what would win.  If you want to EAT, a modern mu-mu is the way to go.  If you don’t want to LOOK LIKE you love to eat… A LOT…OFTEN…. then a corset is good.  It holds a lot of the evidence in.  Also, it really is hard to gorge yourself while wearing one.  I can get a good-sized meal in but I can’t pig out when wearing a corset.  I haven’t cinched enough to restrict my food intake so I’ll not likely lose weight a la external Lapband method but I truly can’t oink out and that is probably a good thing.  Look better and not grow worse vs a really good chow down….hmmm.  What would you pick?

Modern vs Victorian: finding answers.

It is a glorious day here in my little burg.  The sun is warm and the air is fresh and full of wonderful smells.  I have this lovely tree in my back yard (I haven’t a clue what it is) but when it blooms it has the prettiest perfume.  If I found that scent bottled somewhere I would wear it always.

Anyone know what this tree is?

This is a great lead into my point for today’s post.  The internet is a fabulous place to learn things.  I want to see how long it takes for someone to answer this question.  Bare in mind that I get less than 100 viewers per post.  (Any one know if that is a wasp or a bee on the right hand side?)

For my next photo, I wanted to know right away what this is….

Isn’t this the prettiest little bug?

Too bad it is evil.  Three minutes on the internet I found out it is called the Scarlet Lily Beetle and it is the one that has gnawed the holes in the leaves of my lily.  It seems I have caught these two in flagrante delicto so soon I will have a hoard of these things.  Drat.  So Mr. Victorian has been given a new job…squish all these pests as there seems to be no real chemical way to do it.

Today the modern world has won the vs. game.   In Victorian times, to find out what bug this was,  one would have to either ask someone who may be in the know or look it up in a book.  This assumes that you have the book in your limited personal library.  A trip to the public library (if your town had one) would be in order.  And this library is not like what we know now.  There would be limited number of books and no way to know if another library in another area would have the book you want unless you actually went to the library itself.

I like being able to say “I wonder….” and with in moments I am hot on the trail of my answer without ever leaving my couch.  That being said, you have to be careful about what you read on the internet.  It can lead you astray at times.  But, I guess, the Victorians were led astray by books as well.  History books and science books need to be re written all the time because false beliefs are held up as gospel truth.

Text messages vs hand written notes.

One of the things I thought I might explore with this blog is the question “would I really prefer to live in Victorian times?”  I think that people tend to romanticize eras that they are attracted too and forget the icky parts.  And every era has them….even ours.  The questions are, did we give up to much of the good things of the Victorian era for the good things we have now or has it been a steady up hill climb?  Or does it all balance out in the end  with each era having just as many good points and bad points as the other eras.  Is it simply a matter of accepting what is and what you are used to?

Today, I want to explore text messages vs hand written notes.  For myself, I hate texting.  It takes me forever to type out what I want to say…it would be faster to just call.   And don’t get me started on T9!  It never picks the word I want!  I find people have spelling worse than mine (and I am dyslexic!) because they don’t write out the full words any more.  I’m horrified when I see a group of people out for coffee together but they aren’t talking to each other…they are texting people who are not there!  I have told my kids that in family gatherings they are not to be texting all the time.  I’ll put up with one or two glances at the phone over several hours but no more than that.  The family has to believe they want to be there!  I can usually tell which teen conducts most of his or her interaction via text messages…they are the ones who are oblivious to things like voice tone, eye contact and facial expression…both in how they send them and how they fail to recognize these cues in others.

But, the upside of texting is I could always keep tabs on my kids.  They’d never answer their phone when I called because they couldn’t bring themselves to talk to their mommy in front of their friends.  But, they would respond to texts because their friends couldn’t hear the response.  Some how I don’t think trying to keep tabs on them with written notes would have been functional.

And yet, the written note has some sweet sentiments.  I used to hide little notes in my kids’ lunches when they were little.  I don’t know if he still has them but I do know one of my boys kept them for some time after the fact.  Some how saving a message doesn’t seem the same when it is a text message.

But, notes could be rude too.  Passing notes in class was fun for the sender and receiver but not so much fun for the teacher trying to teach or for the kids who didn’t get to read the note.

I don’t think there is much difference between texts and notes as far as content.  They both share information, send fond sentiments, ask questions, build people up and tear people down.  They both can be saved for sentiment or for evidence.  I guess they are both require an equal amount of effort to make up (unless you are me and it took you 30 minutes to ask your kid if he’ll be home for supper).  But, don’t hand written notes seem more personal?

In this case it is a tie.  Texting is good because it is a fast way to send a message (if not compose it). But, hand written seems more personal.