Well, we’re winding down to the end of this marathon blog. Today’s letter on the A to Z Blog Challenge is the letter “V” as in vision. When I wrote Fire Angel, I did a great deal of research not only on fire and arson, but also on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It was while reading about PTSD that I discovered Conversion Disorder, the new terminology for psychosomatic illnesses. As a teacher, I’d learned over the years people could indeed make themselves sick, and no matter how real the illness seemed, when the tests results came in, there was nothing wrong with them. That made no sense. If there was nothing wrong with Mary, why was she sick to her stomach so often?
I’m old. The times I grew up in are vastly different than those we have today. Children didn’t have the plethora of rights they have now. For the most part, they did what they were told–they went to school, did their chores and homework, played outside, were polite, and if they wanted adventure, they read or went to the movies. I was 10 before we even got a television set, and there were only four channels. I saw the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show on a 14 inch screen, in black and white–no stereo sound system.
In those days, you had to be really sick, aka at death’s door, to miss school. If Mom didn’t think you were sick enough, she’d pack you off to school with the admonition, “it’s all in your head.” 9 out of 10 times, you made it through the day just fine. Staying busy usually helped and when you got home, if you still felt sick, you were sent to bed. Chances were you’d be right as rain in no time.
It came as quite a shock to realize she might have been right. I think back to Mary and realize her tummy troubles always presented themselves when she has a test of some sort. We have a name for that now. Her upset stomach was an avoidance mechanism. But, she was really sick–I witnessed her retching. Well, according to Conversion Disorder, a person can exhibit physical symptoms of a disease even if they don’t have it. In other words, it’s all in their heads.
People with Conversion Disorder can have the same symptoms people with the illness have–they can be sick as if they have ulcers, limp, as if they have sore bones or muscles, and even have asthma attacks. They can be blind, deaf, even fully or partially paralysed, and there is no physiological reason for the disability. So, what causes it? Fear, guilt, anxiety, and other emotional issues are to blame. People with Conversion Disorder can be cured, but it takes patience and understanding. They need to realize what’s making them the way they are, and want to get passed it.
In In Plain Sight, my hero Nick suffers from Conversion Disorder brought on by deep seated guilt–misplaced guilt at that. Nick is seriously injured in the car accident which killed his wife. He recovers from his injuries in every way but one–he’s blind. Doctors run tests, but nothing can account for his blindness. Nick refuses to believe its “all in his head.”
The challenge in writing the book was in giving Nick vision–not curing his conversion disorder, but in letting him “see” although he was blind. As a writer I rely heavily on description, but where Nick was involved, I had to rely only on 4 of the 5 senses–taste, touch, smell, and hearing. He couldn’t see the roses on the table, but he could smell them, perhaps touch the velvety petals.
Here’s an excerpt of Nick’s reaction to meeting Mindy.
Nick sat with his back to the keyboard listening to Misty’s footsteps as she hurried out of the theater. What had just happened? His hand pulsed with heat and energy. He hadn’t imagined that jolt of electricity through his body, the flash of lightning that had illuminated his darkness. He’d been struck mute, unable to utter a sound. He’d shaken more than his fair share of hands, and no one had ever affected him that way. Had she felt it, too? She’d sounded flustered before she’d left so abruptly.
Without sight, it was harder to judge someone’s initial reaction, but she’d let him hold her hand a second longer than necessary, and he’d felt her pulse race almost as fast as his. Hell, he was still breathing heavy, and all he’d done was shake her hand. He stared into the black void in front of him as he had every waking moment of his life since the accident. He’d come to hate the blackness that surrounded him, but just for a moment tonight, when he’d touched her, there’d been light.
Her voice! She had a wonderful voice, an angel’s voice, the kind of voice that belonged on Broadway, not in some small-town theater production. She must have had vocal training. He hadn’t been kidding; she could out-sing more than half the so-called divas out there today… He continued to listen to her sing because she touched his soul, that part of him he’d thought as dead and lost as his vision.
He wondered fleetingly what she looked like. Her voice had carried into the hall where he’d been standing with Micah before they’d entered the room. He knew from her quirky comments that she must be short since she didn’t think the pink stripes made her look taller. A smile crossed his face at her sense of humor when he remembered the way she’d compared herself first to a cabana and then a clown; he figured that possibly she was on the more voluptuous side, curvier than Becca had been. He had always liked women with a little meat on their bones, but he’d been mesmerized by Rebecca, and it hadn’t been until much later in their relationship that he’d realized what a cruel, self-centered bitch his wife had been.
Interested in knowing more about Nick’s vision? Check it out. In Plain Sight is available at most ebook distributors. It can also be purchased in paperback.
Don’t forget to visit the other A to Z Blog Challenge entries today.