Monday, February 07, 2005

The Midnight Disease

This weekend I began reading The Midnight Disease by Alice W. Flaherty. Subtitled The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain, Flaherty's book explores how changes in the temporal lobes and limbic system of the human brain affect creatvity, focusing on hypergraphia (a clinically excessive drive to write) and writer's block. Flaherty is a neurologist who has experienced hypergraphia twice: the first time after miscarrying twin boys, the second time after giving birth to healthy twin girls. Her experiences led her to deeper research and eventually to the writing of The Midnight Disease.

The similarities between temporal lobe epilepsy (a cause of hypergraphia) and manic depressive illness (in whose manic episodes hypergraphia sometimes manifests) are striking . In fact, one is often misdiagnosed for the other, even today, and anti-seizure medications are commonly prescribed for their effectiveness in bringing a bipolar person down from and preventing further manic episodes. So there's the whole mood disorder tie-in going on here, as well. The human brain is fascinating.

I'm enthralled. I had to get up three times to walk around the room out of excitement before I got out of the book's introduction. Always a good sign.


r said...

I have been wanting to read that book forever, Cindy. She was on The Diane Rhem Show last year sometimes, and I actually got through that morning and asked about the blogging phenomenon, and if some people struggle with hypergraphia in the virtual realm? She thought not. I also asked if she had seen it demonstrated in children. I think E has this, and have wondered if I have it. But then, anytime I read about some disease, I start looking for similarities (it cracks R up).

Please continue to post about it :D

Re: I had to get up three times to walk around the room out of excitement. You are so funny, Cindy :D

Cindy said...

Rae--In one of the early chapters, she mentions blogging as a form of online memoir or diary, but she seems to connect such memoir/personal writing to mental illness along the lines of bipolar's manic phase.

One of the things I'm appreciating is that she emphasizes that while only a small percentage of writers may be clinically hypergraphic, a much larger percentage will have traits and tendencies in that direction.

I've seen E.'s blogs. Whether or not she's driven to write, she writes extremely well for her age. If she does turn out to be a prolific writer, you should be well taken care of in your dotage! ;)

P.S. Doesn't everyone get up and pace about the room when they read something especially interesting and well written? (An honest, if befuddled, question.)

r said...

I think E is an incredibly gifted writer. I find bits of her writing all over the house on ledger paper, post-it notes, receipts, a few lines alongside her homework; complusive is the only word that seems to accurately describe it. She would like to be a journalist, an editor or a book reviewer. All my girls seem to have this desire to consume literature. I wasn't going to start reading lessons with K until this fall, but over Christmas she told me that she "needs to be able to read." So, I started, and she is racing through her reading lessons. Alas, let us embark on a discussion of mathematics and we all turn a lovely pallor.

Interesting, her thoughts on blogging.

I do think that those who don't feel compelled to write, for what ever reason(s), sometimes misjudge those who do feel so. R just can't understand my desire to stay awake until 2 A.M. writing, and rewriting. Sigh, such is the life of an artist ;)