Several years ago, a group of neuropsychologists published a study correlating the fragmented writing style of a subset of nuns with their higher incidence of Alzheimer's disease later in life. Looking at early school writing samples from over 700 retired Midwestern nuns, they found that young novices who wrote biographical essays in very simple sentences later perished with symptoms of Alzheimer's, whereas those with more complex prose styles did not. 1
When I began editing Stricken, I became painfully aware of the ways chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS) also undermines the linguistic process and defeats the efforts of people with CFIDS (PWCs) to convey their own hermetic world. CFIDS is a multisystemic disease that, among other things, leads to severe cognitive problems such as memory loss and word-finding difficulties. One remarkable study, utilizing specific brain scan techniques, found the effects of CFIDS on the brain to be strikingly similar to those of AIDS dementia.f Earlier research discovered punctate lesions in CFIDS brains resembling those of multiple sclerosis patients.f Dr. Paul Cheney found that in dual chromatography analyses, many CFIDS patients actually had more derangement of the brain, on a biochemical level, than Parkinson's or Alzheimer's patients." Dr. Sheila Bastien, who studied a group of educated patients, was stunned to realize that patients who initially appeared very lucid had suffered tremendous drops in IQ points, so severe in some cases that "a few performance IQs were startlingly close to the legal definition of idiocy." 5 Thus, as I culled submissions, writers with higher education degrees sent me notes apologizing for their choppy sentences. Published poets told me the subject matter of their own illness was too painful, too difficult to convey. Reliable literary friends promised to write me pieces and then sent frantic e-mails saying they were bed bound, having a
severe relapse, or too One writer-in a c1assic CFIDS haze-actually schedule. Often, I wished I were editing a book on, say, workaholism or hypermania. I felt like the editorial Cruella De ViI.