What exactly happened to me? Contrary to reports—though it is flattering to think that my medical condition would interest anyone—I did not have a stroke or fall down the stairs, nor did anyone have to break my door down to rescue me. (If you started these rumors, I hope you are not too attached to having skin because I will have you flayed alive.) Ironically, a battery of tests has proven that I am in rude health. I don’t even have high blood pressure, how did that happen?
As a literature major I get a kick out of telling people I had “brain fever”, a 19th century catch-all term for any inflammation of the brain. Practically everyone in Victorian and Russian novels had it: Pip in Great Expectations, Catherine in Wuthering Heights, Victor Frankenstein in Frankenstein. In The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan had it just before he was to defend his brother on the charge of murdering their father. When he had brain fever he saw the devil, who looked like a nouveau poor landowner.