Showing 321 - 330 of 375 annotations tagged with the keyword "Mental Illness"

Fever

Hughes, Ted

Last Updated: May-11-1999
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This poem is one in a series written by Ted Hughes, addressing his wife, the American poet Sylvia Plath, who committed suicide in 1963. Here, the speaker recalls a time when he and his wife were living in Spain, and she became ill: "You lay helpless and a little bit crazy / With the fever." For Plath, the illness seems intolerable. She whispers, "Help me" to her husband, "crie[s] out for America," and sobs "I am going to die." He takes care of her, feeling as if he is "a nursemaid" or "suddenly mother." He cooks soup and spoon feeds her.

What worries him, though, is her reaction to being ill. He wonders whether she's exaggerating, and fears that if she treats a fever as if it were "the most impossible / Of all horrible things," then how will she be "when things get really bad"? He feels himself withdraw his sympathy for her, but then he recognizes what he calls "the overload"--a bluntedness which he likens to "the callous / That eases overwhelmed doctors."

The end of the poem is ambiguous: both he and his wife are overloaded; where her response is (hyper?) sensitivity, his is anesthesia. He continues to feed her the soup. (67 lines)

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The Tender Place

Hughes, Ted

Last Updated: May-11-1999
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This poem is one in a series written by Ted Hughes, addressing his wife, Sylvia Plath, who committed suicide in 1963. After her first suicide attempt, and before she met Hughes, Plath was given electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for depression (see Plath's novel The Bell Jar for her own description of this). In this poem, Hughes contemplates the mechanics and symbolism of what seems so brutal and elemental a treatment.

He focuses on the fragility and beauty of her body--"Your temples, where the hair crowded in, / Were the tender place"--and then makes us imagine the effect of electrodes there, in ever more shocking images: "They crashed / The thunderbolt into your skull," "They dropped you / A rigid bit of bent wire / Across the Boston City grid." He then suggests that there is a link between this treatment and the kind of poet she became: her "voice" was scarred and "over-exposed / Like an x-ray," and when her words returned they were distorted and vulnerable, "Faces reversed from the light / Holding in their entrails." (38 lines)

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Persona

Andersson, Bibi; Bergman, Ingmar; Ulman, Liv

Last Updated: Apr-09-1999
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

The film opens with a short series of images of hospitals, dead bodies, landscapes, a hand impaled by a nail, and a bespectacled young boy lying uncomfortably under a thin sheet. (The shot of an erect penis was removed for distribution outside Scandinavia.) A young nurse (Bibi Andersson) is assigned to look after a great actress, Elizabeth (Liv Ullman), who had been playing Electra to critical success. Elizabeth is completely mute, but the psychiatrists cannot detect any discrete pathology and have no diagnosis.

At first the nurse worries that the case may be too complicated for her, because of the difference in age and experience. The pair are sent to the doctor's summer cottage by the sea. The actress remains silent, but her nurse chatters endlessly, trying to draw out the patient. Eventually, in a complete reversal of psychotherapeutic roles, she is compulsively confiding her fears and intimate secrets of sexual adventures.

To her horror, she reads a letter written by Elizabeth to the psychiatrist that describes the confessions as nothing more than amusing diversions. She is angered and deliberately tries to harm Elizabeth. Then she delivers a stern accounting for her patient's silence, as a rejection of her femininity, her marriage, and especially of her son. This scene is portrayed twice--once with the camera on the nurse; once with the camera on the patient. The irritated husband comes for his wife, they return to the city, where Elizabeth's future is ambiguous. But at the completion of their relationship the nurse has grown in wisdom and confidence.

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Spin Dry

Hollingshead, Greg

Last Updated: Feb-08-1999
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Rachel is married to passive Leon who is utterly dependent on her care and organizational skills. They live in a vast, blanc-mange of a suburb where Rachel constantly looses her way while driving home from work. One night, she seeks direction from Wilkes. A strange recluse, he is obsessed with his teenage memory of the lost "girl on the bus" and leads a support group for agoraphobics.

Through contact with Wilkes, Leon gradually grows more independent and finds himself a job. Rachel becomes obsessed with the search for the meaning of "Harry," a mystery man who recurs in her husband's dreams and begins to take over her thoughts. She consults a psychologist, Alex Silver, who soon has Rachel enrolled in a study with two other women. Silver uses dream-deprivation with the goal of enhancing insight about her marriage, her life, and her friends.

Cameo appearances of three depressive, mid-life siblings, Dick, Jane, and Sally, with their dog, Spot, and cat, Puff, emphasize that life in modern suburbia can be a pathology in itself. In Jane, Wilkes finds his lost girl on the bus. Rachel dumps Leon and finds happiness with the agoraphobic developer of the aptly named "Arcadia Centre," where expense, space, light, greenery, and intimacy are employed unstintingly to create a non-pathogenic space for human collectivity.

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Sojourn at Elmhurst

Lieberman, Michael

Last Updated: Jan-26-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poems (Sequence)

Summary:

This book is a sequence of poems about Frank Goldin, a middle-aged biochemist who is admitted to a mental hospital, Elmhurst, with the chief complaint, "I hear a thousand voices and must respond to each." In the first poem Goldin confesses his sins, but simple confession doesn't get to the root of his dilemma, the existential ambiguity that plagues him.

During Goldin's dark night of the soul, his scientific self struggles with the mysterious longing within. Dr. Hudspeth, the Elmhurst psychiatrist, directs his support to the part of Goldin that says, "I am the restless biochemical cycle / that pours out glutathione in buckets." In essence, just straighten out the chemicals and you'll get better.

Throughout the book Goldin waits for his wife Helen to visit Elmhurst, but she never appears. He ruminates over the matter of confessing that he had an affair with a woman named Da-ling during a professional meeting in Osaka. If he confesses, if Helen comes, Goldin hopes that things will return to the way the way they used to be.

However, the mysterious side of Goldin is looking for something else. He has visions of the ancient Rabbi Yehuda of Smyrna, who asks, "Why do we not even know how to ask a question properly?" After several weeks Goldin leaves Elmhurst with the feeling that he has made progress, but not in any discernible direction. Goldin concludes that he should be grateful, but he asks, "to whom?"

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The Madman

Géricault, Théodore

Last Updated: Jan-25-1999
Annotated by:
Winkler, Mary

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

This three-quarter portrait of a man is painted in brown tones which, by accentuating the contrast with his skin and the white cravat surrounding his neck, allows the viewer to concentrate on the man's troubled features. His hair is ill kempt, and his averted eyes seem concentrated on some inner grief or turmoil.

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Raising Lazarus

Pensack, Robert

Last Updated: Jan-13-1999
Annotated by:
Martinez, Richard

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Dr. Pensack writes in the first chapter of his memoir: "Through a lifetime I have been in the process of dying, consistently surprised when reminded that life is appallingly brief, and briefer still for me. The prospect of an early death has amounted to little more than embarrassment and loneliness, even though the routine of living can be, and usually is, just one goddamn thing after another. A new heart was somehow supposed to be my bloody-red carpet of victory." (p. 7)

At age 4, Pensack's mother died of IHSS, Idiopathic Hypertrophic Subaortic Stenosis--now known as HCM, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, a genetically inherited, progressive disease of heart muscle that results in early death. At age 15, Pensack receives the terrible news of his own fate--the disease afflicts both Pensack and his older brother--and thus launches a life of near death experiences, numerous hospitalizations, early experiences at the National Institutes of Health with early investigators of the disease, pursuit of his own medical training and eventual specialty training in psychiatry, marriage and children, and ultimately, the waiting and eventual transplantation of a younger man's heart into his chest at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center when Pensack was 43.

Raising Lazarus tells of Pensack's journey through much of this, including his descent into madness, his fury and anger with medical colleagues, his poignant relationship with the heart surgeon who eventually performs the transplant, and the importance of his family in his refusal to die. While much of the book tells of the events leading to the transplant and post-operative period of Pensack's life, the reader learns of Pensack's early losses, including the death of his mother, and how these experiences shape the values of a gutsy and determined survivor, a man who continually returns to the struggle.

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Harvey

Hull, Josephine; Koster, Henry; Stewart, James

Last Updated: Jan-12-1999
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

With regret, Veta Simmons (Josephine Hull) decides to have her affable brother Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) committed to an asylum. His drinking and his unshakeable delusion of Harvey, a six-foot rabbit who is his constant companion, are interfering with her plans to find her daughter a suitable mate.

The young doctor is a psychiatric zealot, and when Veta claims that she is so fed up that she can sometimes "see that rabbit," he cleverly commits her instead. The error is discovered and rectified, but the gentle manners of Dowd (and his rabbit) eventually convince the young doctor, his nurse, their boss, and even Veta herself that he does not deserve to be locked up. They release him at the very moment he is about to receive a new chemical treatment guaranteed to rid him of the delusion. Dowd happily sets out to share the rest of his life with Harvey.

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

It is London, June 13th, 1923, and Clarissa Dalloway, in her late middle age and recovering from some kind of heart ailment, is about to hold a party. As she prepares for her party, Clarissa remembers--in flashbacks--the time when she chose to marry the wealthy politician Richard Dalloway over her more adventurous relationships with Peter Walsh and her possibly-lesbian friend Sally Seton.

Clarissa does not seem unhappy, just intensely aware that in choosing one kind of life for herself she has had to relinquish the chance of others. It seems that she has planned the party as a way to affirm the choice she did make, but it turns out to do more, to suggest that the other possibilities were not lost after all.

Another character's experience of June 13th, 1923 is also told: Septimus Smith, suffering from what we'd now call post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result of his experience in the trenches of World War I, is about to be hospitalized by his physician, Sir William Bradshaw, a specialist in "shellshock." To avoid this, he commits suicide by jumping from a window. The two plots come together when Sir William, a guest at Mrs. Dalloway's party, describes Septimus's death.

For Clarissa, his story disrupts the careful balance of her perfect evening. She goes up to her own window and for a moment, it seems, contemplates suicide too. But she returns downstairs to dance with her husband. Sally cuts in, leaving Clarissa free to talk, at last, with Peter. The unspoken threat of Clarissa's illness, as well as our knowledge of Virginia Woolf's own suicide, remind us of her fragility, yet the film leave us with the exhilarating sense of encountering a woman who is complete.

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The Changes

Perkins, Fionna

Last Updated: Nov-24-1998
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The Changes is set in the deep South during the depression. A fifteen year old girl, whose main ambition is to finish school and go to college, witnesses her mother’s intentional starvation. The family attributes their mother’s irrational behavior to menopause, believing that all women going through "the change" become crazy.

The young daughter not only fears that her mother’s insanity is hereditary, but also that it may be partly her fault. The reader suspects that the mother may have intended to die in order that her daughter could afford to go school. The family seems to feel that the daughter’s presence in the household somehow drove her mother to insanity.

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