“I’ve got a number of irrational fears
That I’d like to share with you” –Weezer, “Falling For You”
My primary care physician likes to tell me how interesting a patient I am. I am a generally fairly healthy person, but I have had a fair number of sports injuries over the last year, and if I get injured or ill, it’s generally some weird condition she hasn’t heard of since doctorin’ school.
Anyone familiar with the internet for a few minutes has looked up their weird assortment of symptoms and decided they have a tumor of the pineal gland. However, I have had assortments of symptoms that I never even thought of as symptoms, only to one day read of a weird condition and think, “oh man, not everyone feels that way!? I just thought that was normal!” I am a total syndrome hipster–you’ve probably never heard of my syndromes. They are as follows:
Stendhal Syndrome The first time I went to the Art Institute in Chicago was in high school. I remember breaking off from the group and sitting in front of El Greco’s Assumption of the Virgin. Generally this is exactly the kind of art I do not like. I mean, I get that it’s beautiful and such, but it generally doesn’t do much for me. I’m also not religious, but hooboy have I had hours of training on religious art–I went to 14 years of Catholic school. I believe I had an entire class period on this painting alone. I sat down because there was a bench, not because of this painting in specific, but because I was feeling dizzy, nauseous, and near fainting. I never feel this way. I never vomit, pretty much.
I’ve been to lots of art museums over the years and whenever I really like some art, I feel this way. I have felt this way in non-art museums, and generally even when seeing cool natural things. Lately it also includes random weeping! In college I was in a class where The Red & The Black by Stendhal was required reading. And that’s when I learned that this is actually a (psychosomatic) condition people tend to get. It’s generally unpleasant and sometimes embarrassing. Yes, I have wept openly at the Library of Congress. It’s something I have to build into tourist experiences now.
L’appel du Vide/Call of the void This is an urge, when in a high place, to jump off. Growing up in Chicago, I was not faced with many high places. It’s flat. We do have a very tall building but I don’t get the call of the void when indoors. I only get it in what I call “unsecured heights.” If there’s even a rail, I have no impetus to throw myself over. But a trail? Yes. The Grand Canyon? Hooboy yes. I have rappelled off of a 28 story building and thrown myself (and someone else) out of a perfectly good airplane in order to attempt to get more comfortable with this. Sort of helped. I am even freaked out if there’s intense traffic with no guardrail–I want to throw myself into it. The el tracks? They are very compelling.
Let me clarify that I have no urge to die. I am a clumsy person so I try to avoid being near these places in general because I trip and fall a lot. So I think this fear is actually totally rational and keeps me from these places. If I could throw myself (safely) off of a building every week, I would do so with glee. When I rappelled, I was told I went way too fast and they physically stopped me several times. MUST GO FAST TOWARD GROUND!
When I skydived, it was the least frightening thing ever. It was more exactly what I want to do whenever I am high up. The jumping out wasn’t frightening–it’s the having to make myself not jump all the time that’s frightening. In fact I jumped out of the airplane too soon–before my instructor told me. It was fine but he thought this was hilarious, especially after hearing I was a librarian and totally thinking I would wuss out. He commented on how extremely calm I was. WELL OF COURSE MAN!
I may also have Freiberg’s Syndrome/Infarction/Disease, something that only affects one metatarsal and is common in gymnasts under 20 (I am neither of those things). And I have a weird genetic anemia which kills my red blood cells and would kill my children if I had a Mediterranean babydaddy. On the bright side, it makes it really hard for me to get malaria! Yippee!
Do you think this is why I was such a big fan of House, M.D.?