Brainworkers’ disease

I’m researching, among other things, treatment of the insane circa 1910. A particular malady was emerging then among “brainworkers.” It was the price of civilization, apparently, and particularly afflicted the professional class. The malady was called neurasthenia. The symptoms, as listed by neurologist George Miller Beard, included, get ready (and I’ve shorted the list):

Tenderness of the scalp and spine . . . teeth and gums, tenderness of the whole body, general or local itching, vague pains and flying neuralgias, tremulous and variable pulse, special idiosyncrasies in regard to food, medicine, and external irritants, sensitivities to changes in the weather, profound exhaustion unaccompanied by pain, ticklishness, desire for stimulants and narcotics, partial failure of memory, mental depression and general timidity, morbid fears of special kinds, as agoraphobia and aacraphobia [fear of lightening], sick headache, disturbances of the nerves and organs of special senses, local chills and flashes.

And so forth. One solution, recommended by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg of Battle Creek Sanitarium, was to eat a lot of cereals, especially granola or, better yet, his new corn flakes. I myself will continue eating granola in the morning.

Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

Posted in New novel

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“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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