Humans are social animals. We talk, work and love together. We need others to survive. Pandemics can have us thinking that there is only one form of isolation. There is another.
No sight. No hearing. No speech. No communication. No world awareness. Nothing. From birth.
You’re fortunate. If you can see this post, you don’t have Usher’s Syndrome.
Michelle Fedgaard (substituted name), was born with this rare genetic condition and is now 34 years old. As you’d expect, the syndrome has caused significant ‘mental’ issues, but it took years for anyone to notice them. How would anyone know to look?
The symptoms burst onto the surface one night. She behaved erratically, for no apparent reason — shaking and twitching violently. And then it took several years for psychologists to make sense of it, and her. It’s hard enough to get it out of someone who can speak. Breaking into someone who has only known silence and lifelong isolation would be something beyond challenging.
Imaginary friends and foes who were fighting each other in an alternate world. That’s what they discovered going on inside her mind. She was on some kind of survival quest. The narrative had kept her going throughout her life. Unfortunately, the foes got too close to her that night and she prepared herself to die.
It kind of makes sense.
If you can’t know people in a real world, why not imagine some in an imaginary one and live a life with them instead? Michelle’s mind grew into an entirely alternate universe. It was filled with people and things to keep it enriched with variety-filled content. It nourished her mind with storylines that entertained and delighted but, like life, make-believe didn’t always lead to happy-ever-afters. This world had also developed a darker element. Friends argued. Some split and took sides. A war was waged between principal characters. An outrageous psychotic episode in her twenties finally opened a window between the inside and outside worlds. That’s when clinicians peered inside to take a look.
What they saw shocked them.
Attackers came at her with knives. Men on machines tried to run her down. Friends conspired to take her life. She couldn’t trust anyone anymore. Her stories became too much to bear. Decades of psychological isolation had created enemies within herself and there was no way to get them out.
In my novel, I’ve incorporated a more detailed account of Michelle’s story. It was done to draw a parallel between her example and individuals who find themselves in psychologically abusive marriages. The sense of isolation and loneliness is similar, not to mention the reason-warping. Ongoing internal conflicts alter behaviour and if nothing changes, the psychosis will reach a critical mass.
A husband who tells his wife what to eat and what she can wear — a wife who checks her husband’s phone log and demands to know his every movement — represent some of those abusive situations. If left unchecked, the results can destroy souls.
Love promises to set us free but not everyone finds freedom there. Some of us end up in a living hell. Small crumbs of hope are all we have to keep us going.
My story will make a fourteen-day stint in isolation look tame.
–Michael Forman (author)
Five women’s bodies are discovered after the nights of thunderstorms. Their spouses are suspected of the crimes, but it becomes clear that someone else is responsible. There’s no blood and few clues. A storm photographer who specializes in taking pictures of lightning may be the only witness.