I’m pleased to host author and friend, Michelle Griep, this week as she blogs about historical medicine.
Welcome back, Michelle!
My mother took me to a pediatrician when I was five because I spent an excessive amount of time beneath the dining room table talking to my best buddy…Daniel Boone. Yeah, I know. He’s dead. I knew it at the time as well, but that didn’t stop me from having heart-to-hearts with him. In my mind, he was as real as the old cat lady who lived next door, only he didn’t smell as funky.
The doctor vindicated me by telling my mom there was nothing to worry about. I simply had a bad case of a vivid imagination. I don’t dare tell her (or the good doctor) that my gray matter now devises horrific murder scenes in cinemagraphic color—and that I actually make money doing it.
All this to say that writers are a quirky lot. They have to be, or they won’t get paid, which is really interesting because a few hundred years ago, the same twitchy behavior might’ve landed one in the loony bin. It didn’t take much…
Husbands committed wives for being “melancholy
”. Translation: the fella took a fancy to the hot babe down the lane and wanted to ditch his wife.
Yo, mom and dad…got too many mouths to feed and one of them has a slight deformation? Maybe a cleft palate, perhaps? No worries. Pack that kid off to the asylum and voila; one less plate to serve at dinnertime.
If someone higher up the food chain has an issue with you, watch your back, buddy. Dueling is against the law, but getting you committed sure isn’t. All it takes is a lie or two whispered into the right ears and you’ll be packing your bags for Bedlam
One of the most famous nutjobs in Bethlehem Royal Hospital was James Tilly Matthews
, who was little more than a verbal threat to the crown. Well, to be fair, there was the rumor that he was a double agent, and he did think there was a conspiracy to place bad thoughts into his head by use of an “airloom
”, but other than that, he was relatively harmless…unless you happened to be one of the politicians he spoke against and were worried he might froth up the rabble against you.
Getting packed off to a late eighteenth century asylum was about as much fun as stint in a Poorhouse
. Many were understaffed, over populated, and the mental health industry itself was in need of reformation—which would and did come, but not in time to help out the heroine in my latest release, A Heart Deceived
Today, writers, daydreamers and silly hearts don’t need to be as fearful about the men in white jackets coming to haul them away. Still, it wouldn’t hurt if you kept all your talk about airlooms to yourself.