Authors: Jim Cunneely
Copyright © 2013 Jim Cunneely
All rights reserved.
Folie à deux
Folie à deux
is a psychiatric syndrome used to describe similarly delusional ideas in two, closely associated persons. The expression comes from the French, “Madness shared by two.” The belief may be shared by more than two people,
à trois involves three,
folie en famille
is a family madness and
folie à plusieurs
is of many. The simple clinical name is, “Shared Psychotic Disorder,” or “Induced Delusional Disorder.” The syndrome was first theorized in late nineteenth century French psychiatry thanks to a high profile occurrence in 1901 known as the, “Moberly-Jourdain Incident.”
On August 10
, in the gardens of Versailles two women, Charlotte Ann Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain allegedly experienced a time slip. Weeks later, comparing notes with friends revealed that their collective memory, despite the absence of collaboration, was identical. Both women spoke of seeing Marie Antoinette and other people from the same era. Despite both being of educated backgrounds and respected in their individual professions their pseudonymously published book, “An Adventure” caused ridicule and criticism ranging from psychosis to cover-up of their homosexuality.
The conclusion they collectively reached is that the grounds of Versailles were haunted and what they saw was a result of paranormal activity. Further trips to the landmark only furthered their theory due to anomalies in their investigation. After years of independent research by prominent figures in the psychological circle it was agreed that the women suffered from an episode of
folie à deux,
where one of them successfully influenced the delusion of the other. From that point the disorder has been an accepted diagnosis as an explanation of atypical behavior by two individuals.
I’m your son. I’m your brother. I’m the kid that sat behind you in English class, the one who accidentally kicked the book bag under your seat. I’m your cousin, your neighbor, your paperboy, your average, nondescript teenager in suburban New Jersey. But very soon, I will be anything but typical.
I live in a typical neighborhood, in a two story, three bedroom house. I share a room with my brother who is ten years younger. My sister, born between us, is in the room next door. I want to be a rock star, a famous actor or play in the N.F.L., in that order of preference. I love alternative music and want to grow my hair out but don’t think my parents would like that.
My dad is still my hero, having stopped dressing like him just recently. I also admire my grandfather, amazed at all he knows and has accomplished. I idolize Joe Paterno and my own football coach for their own fatherly qualities. I love to read and am infatuated with whatever biography I’m currently into, Douglas MacArthur, Abraham Lincoln or Anne Frank. My life is simple so I vicariously live their adversity from a safe distance.
I’m always scared, fifteen years old and figuring out high school. Freshman year went by uneventfully but not without personal tribulation. Ninth grade was the first time I changed classes, used a locker combination and met more people than ever before in my life. Nothing in my skill set has prepared me for the
daunting daily task of being cool, likeable and normal, however my classmates define that. Thankfully I played football and wrestled growing up so I have a handful of guys who provide greater odds that someone will talk to me during lunch or study hall. I had my first kiss last year and the second it was over, I sprinted away from the park bench where it happened, mortified.
Now a sophomore, I’m not the bottom of the food chain, but not an upperclassman either. I’m commonplace, stuck in an unremarkable stage. I graduated from a Catholic grammar school with only 20 other poor souls. We were all taught to obey and never, ever question the infallibility of our teachers. Especially the nuns. Laic teachers might make a mistake once in a great while, but that was exclusively for my parents to decide. This won’t be the first time I curse my Catholicism.
I love my parents and enjoy being the oldest even though I think my siblings benefit from the overcautious approach taken with me. I wish I could talk to my parents about emotional things yet they don’t seem to understand me. But it’s not a big deal. Life is mundane, I go to school, play sports, go home to play video games and then start over again. I don’t have a girlfriend and think I prefer things that way to not complicate the awkwardness I already feel walking through the halls.
That’s the depth of my world right before I’m smacked with more reality than any kid could imagine, right before I go from average to extraordinary. I wish I could say that I won an award, or saved a friend from drowning but my switch is darker. It’s fluid, transcendent, and unnoticeable until I wake up one morning amazed at who I’ve become. I never have and never will know anyone who will endure and survive the existence that I will wear for the next three years.
Kevin’s mom died on December 11
1991, and the end of my life will soon follow. Kevin is not a good friend but he’s the best friend I have. He’s pushy, girl crazy and a bully. A good looking kid and well-built but unfortunately, he knows this. I’m more his lackey than true friend. He knows the benefits of my unthreatening manner and uses it frequently when I approach girls on his behalf. This is the first relationship of many that will revolve around a power imbalance and without the help of foreshadowing, dictate much of my immediate future. But I need this type of friend with balls and swagger to help me navigate the rocky landscape.
Kevin’s mom is sick, her illness as mysterious to me as adolescence. When I ask him what’s wrong with her the only response he gives is, “It’s some sort of infection that the doctors can’t find.”
He replies with sincerity but I feel his confusion, so I let him alone. I wish he would be more open because she is deteriorating at such a rapid rate and it’s gut-wrenching to witness. I hate my own lonely sadness so his must be unbearable. She makes repetitive visits to the hospital, keeping current with when she is home or away almost impossible. She looks sicklier every time I see her but luckily Kevin does not notice or doesn’t remark when I shy away from visiting. In November of our sophomore year she is
taken to the emergency room and admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.
Days later I’m met by Frank, a friend Kevin and I share, as I walk out of the boy’s bathroom, he mumbles, “Kevin’s dad and sister are in the guidance office. His mom died.”