EPILEPSY, HYSTERIA, AND NEURASTHENIA

THEIR CAUSES, SYMPTOMS, & TREATMENT

WEBMASTER'S NOTE: This work is presented for historical interest and subject background only. Many of the conclusions, attitudes, and treatments discussed here are those of an "expert" of another era, many of which have been overturned by science or are not acceptable in today's world.
[pg 131]

CHAPTER XXVI

MARRIAGE

"Between two beings so complex and so diverse as man and woman, the whole of life is not too long for them to know one another well, and to learn to love one another worthily." - Comte.

No neuropath should have children, but marriage is good in mild cases,for neuropaths are benefited by sympathetic companionship, and their sexual passions are so strong that they must be gratified, by marriage, prostitution, or unnaturally.

Bernard Shaw's sneer -

"Marriage is popular because it combines the maximum of temptation with the maximum of opportunity" -

is justifiable, though the "maximum of opportunity" is better than a maximum of unnatural devices to satisfy and intensify normal and abnormal cravings.

There is a popular belief that an epileptic girl is cured by pregnancy, a state that ought never to occur.

The lack of sex-education causes millions of miserable marriages. Sexual desire is cultivated out of all proportion to other desires, the will cannot control the desire to relieve an intolerable sense of discomfort, and men eagerly seize the first chance of being able to satisfy these fierce cravings at pleasure.

If sex were treated sensibly it would develop into a [pg 132] powerful instead of an overpowering appetite, and reason would have some say in the choice of a life-partner.

WifeA neuropath needs a calm, even-tempered, "motherly" wife. For him, gentleness, self-control, sound common sense and domestic virtues are superior to wit or beauty. Unfortunately, contrary to public belief, people are attracted by their like, not by their opposites. The sensitive, refined neuropath finds the normal person insipid and dull; the normal person is rendered uncomfortable by the morbid caprices of the neuropath.

There must be no disparity of age, for at the menopause the woman no longer seeks the sexual embrace, and if her husband be young unfaithfulness ensues. Not only that, but she, knowing, probably to her sorrow, how rarely the hopes of youth mature, cannot take a keen interest in his ambitions like a younger woman, or fire his dying enthusiasm at difficult parts of the way. If he be his wife's senior he will be as little able to appreciate her ideas and habits.

An excitable, volatile, garrulous, "neighbourly" woman, or one who can do little save strum on the piano or make embroidery as intricate as it is useless, means divorce or murder. For him, sweetness, gentleness, self-control, sound common sense, shrewdness, and domestic virtues are incomparably superior to any mental brilliance or physical comeliness. He needs a "homely" woman, and should remember that no banking account can match a sweet, womanly personality, and no charms compare to a sunny heart, and an ability steadfastly to "see the silver lining".

He must on no account marry a woman in indifferent health, for under the strain of her husband's infirmity the woman, who if she were well would be a help, is a source of expense, worry and friction.

On the other hand the woman who receives a proposal [pg 133] from a neuropath, be he ever so gifted, has grave grounds for pausing, though it is hard to counter the specious arguments of one who may be "a man o' pairts", a witty companion and an ardent lover. It is doubtful if a neuropath is ever permeated by a steadfast emotion, for all his emotions are fierce but unstable, the love of an inconsistent man being ten times more ardent than that of a faithful one, while it lasts.

"You can't marry a man without taking his faults with his virtues,"

and love must be strong enough to stand, not storms alone, but the minor miseries of life, the incessant pinpricks, the dreary days when the smile abroad has become the scowl at home. At best, her husband will be capricious, hard to please, and though rabidly jealous without cause, at the same time very partial to the attractions of other women. He usually needs the attention of the whole household, which his varying health and moods keep in a mingled state of anxious solicitude and smouldering resentment.

His infirmity may mean a very secluded and humdrum life. She will have to make home an ever-cheery place, an ideal that means hard work and self-sacrifice through lonesome years in which her nobility will be unrecognized and unrewarded.

A woman fond of amusements and sport, and having many acquaintances would find this unbearable. Any happiness in marriage to a neuropath is largely dependent on the self-sacrifice of the wife.

Should marriage occur, the wife must judiciously curb her husband's passions without driving him to other women by coldness, a problem which is often solved by separation. The suggestion should never come from her, and the more she can curb his ardour by tactful suggestion, the healthier will he and the [pg 134] happier will she be, for nothing causes such an irritable, nervous state as excessive coitus.

She will often have to give way in this matter, but must be firm on the necessity for preventing conception, for she can only bear a tainted child; her responsibility is great, and she must insist that her husband use those simple methods which prevent conception, thereby ending in himself one branch of a worthless tree. This must be done at any cost, for her happiness is nought compared to the welfare of future generations. Bitter though it be that no fruit of her womb may call her blessèd, it is less bitter than hearing her children call themselves accursèd.

"So many severall wayes are we plagued and punished for our father's defaultes, that it is the greatest part of our felicity to be well born, and it were happy for humankind if only such parentes as are sounde of body and mind should be suffered to marry. An Husbandman will sow none but the choicest seed upon his lande; he will not reare a bull nor an horse, except he be right shapen in all his parts, or permit him to cover a mare, except he be well assured of his breed; we make choice of the neatest kine, and keep the best dogs, and how careful then should we be in begetting our children? In former tyme, some countreys have been so chary in this behalf, so stern, that if a child were crooked or deformed in body or mind, they made it away; so did the Indians of old, and many other well gouverned Commonwealths, according to the discipline of those times. Heretofore in Scotland, if any were visited with the falling sickness, madness, goute, leprosie, or any such dangerous disease, which was like to be propagated from the father to the son, he was instantly gelded; a woman kept from all company of men; and if by chance, having some such disease, she was found to be with child [pg 135] she with her brood were buried alive; and this was done for the common good, lest the whole nation should be injured or corrupted. A severe doom, you will say, and not to be used among Christians. Yet to be more looked into than it is. For now, by our too much facility in this kind, in giving way to all to marry that will, too much liberty and indulgence in tolerating all sorts, there is a vast confusion of hereditary diseases; no family secure, no man almost free from some grievous infirmity or other. Our generation is corrupt, we have so many weak persons, both in body and mind, many feral diseases raging among us, crazed families: our fathers bad, and we like to be worse."

Her husband will want much petting and caressing, and she must foster his love by lavishing on him much fondness, and ignoring amours as but the mischievous results of his restless, intriguing mind.

She must let him see in an affectionate way that she can let others enjoy his company betimes, secure in the knowledge that she is supreme in his affections - cajolery that flatters his overweening vanity, and rarely fails.

angry manIn anger, as in every other emotion, the neuropath is as transient as he is truculent. A trivial "tiff" will make him blaze up in ungovernable rage and say most abominable and untruthful things; even utter violent threats. He will not admit he is wrong, but like a spoilt child must be kissed and coaxed into a good temper, first with himself and with others next.

At one moment he is in a perfect paroxysm of fury; five minutes later he is passionately embracing the luckless object of it and vowing eternal devotion. In a further five he has forgotten all his remarks and would hotly deny he used the vexing statements imputed to him.

[pg 136]

Epileptics are morbidly sensitive, and reference to their malady must be avoided. Victims are intensely suspicious, and a pitying look will reveal to them the fact that some outsider knows all about the jealously-guarded skeleton. Resentment, distrust and misery follow such an exposure, for every innocent look is then translated into a contemptuous glance, and the victim detects slights undreamt of in any brain save his own.

Unless seizures are severe, no one should be called in; if they cause alarm, ask a discreet male neighbour to assist when necessary, leaving when the convulsions abate so that the victim is not aware of his presence. Avoid the word "fit" and "epilepsy", and if reference to the attack be necessary, refer to it as a "faint" or "turn".

Living with a man liable to have a fit at inopportune times is a tremendous strain, and the soundest advice one can offer a woman thinking of marrying such a one is Punch's - "DON'T!"

We have painted the black side, but, tactfully managed, a neuropath will merge in the kindest of husbands, the most constant of lovers. The wife need not be unhappy. Tactless, masterful women will fail, but no one is more easily led, particularly in the way he should not go, than a neuropath.

A man with definite views of his own value will not be successful foil for "mother-in-lawing", nor remain quiet under the interference of relatives, who should remember that well-meaning intentions do not justify meddling actions.

Many a neuropath led a useful life and gained success in a profession, solely because his wife tactfully kept him in the path, watched his health, prevented him frittering away his gifts in many pursuits or useless repining, and made home a real haven.

When the yolk seems unbearably heavy, the wife [pg 137] should remember her husband has to bear the primary, she only the reflected misery, for the limitations neuropathy puts on every activity and ambition, social and professional, are frightfully depressing.

In spite of his peevishness her husband may be trying hard to minimize his defects and be a reasonable, helpful companion.

"Judge not the working of his brain,

And of his heart thou can'st not see;

What looks to thy dim eyes a stain

In God's pure light may only be

A scar brought from some well-fought field,

Where thou would'st only faint and yield."

Magnify his virtues and be tenderly charitable to his many frailties, for he is "not as other men" and too well he knows it. Love at its best is so complex that it easily goes awry, but death will one day dissolve all its complexity, and when, maybe after "many a weary mile"

"The voice of him I loved is still,

The restless brain is quiet,

The troubled heart has ceased to beat

And the tainted blood to riot"—

it will comfort you to reflect that you did your duty and, to best the of your ability, fulfilled your solemn pledge to love and honour him.

To quote George Eliot:

"What greater reward can thou desire than the proud consciousness that you have strengthened him in all labour, comforted him in all sorrow, ministered to him in all pain, and been with him in silent but unspeakably holy memories at the moment of eternal parting?"
[pg 138]

Surely, none!

We have considered the mournful case of a wife with a neuropathic husband, and must now say a few words about the truly distressing fate of a husband afflicted with a neuropathic wife, for neuropathy in its unpleasant consequences to others is far worse in woman than in man.

A man is at work all day, and his mind is perforce distracted from his woes, and, though he retails them at night to the home circle, they get so used to them as to disregard them, proffering a few words of agreement, sympathy or scorn quite automatically.

With women the distraction of work is not so complete, for housework can be neglected, there are always neighbours and friends to listen to tales of woe and thus generate a very harmful self-pity, and women are not content to enumerate their woes, but demand the attention and sympathy of all listeners.

Many of the facts in the foregoing parts of this chapter apply with equal force to both sexes, but women being usually more patient, tactful, resigned and self-sacrificing than men, can—and often do - alleviate the lot of the male neuropath; whereas the absence of these qualities in the average man means that he aggravates, instead of alleviating, the lot of any female neuropath to whom he may be wedded.

Having taken her "for better, for worse" he will find her irritating, unreasonable, and unfitted to shoulder domestic responsibilities. Her likes and dislikes, fickle fancies, unreasonable prejudices, selfish ways will cause trouble; he must be prepared for misunderstandings and feuds with relatives and friends, and on reaching home tired and worried, he is like to find his house in disorder, be assailed by a tale of woe, and perhaps find that his wife's vagaries have involved him in a tiff with neighbours.

She will be fretful, exacting, impatient, and given [pg 139] to ready tears. Sensitive to the last degree, she will see slights where none are intended, and a chiding word, a reproachful look, or a weary sigh will mean a fit of temper or depression.

Not only are men less gifted for "managing" women than vice versa, but women are far less susceptible to tactful management than men; a man, like a dog, can be led almost anywhere with a little dragging at the chain and growling now and then; a woman, like a cat, is more likely to spit, swear, and scratch than come along.

Consequently, it is almost impossible to suggest means of obtaining relief to one who has been luckless enough to marry, or be married by, a neuropathic woman.

If the husband sympathize, the condition will but be aggravated; medicinal measures will only increase, instead of diminishing, the number of symptoms; indifference will procure such an exhibition as will both prove its uselessness and ensure the attention craved.

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Chapter 26 - Marriage
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