Sunday 31 March 2013

Cowed (extract)

Kinfauns condition was discovered in the United States of America in the year 2017. The condition was characterized by a broad range of symptoms including lethargy, delusions of grandeur, crippling despair, and elements of attention deficit disorder. After its discovery up to 40% of the population were diagnosed as sufferers, within 20 years this figure had rose to up to 70% - 80% according to conservative estimates. Governmental awareness campaigns of the condition were coordinated through the usual social media channels along with information on self-diagnosis using an online questionnaire. Self-diagnosis in this manner was considered adequate grounds to apply for a prescription for medication.

It was with a mixture of fear and relief that Jim Seagold learned that he was a sufferer. The fact that he was suffering from a new, unknown mental illness was definitely unsettling, however, relief stemmed from finally knowing what exactly it was that had been troubling him for what felt like most of his life. In reflection he struggled to recall a time of the calmness, optimism and certainty that others seemed to project and that he himself felt entitled to. As well as the comfort of a definitive diagnosis, he also had access to the cure.

Sympaprex-Pro was a new experimental treatment developed by Dr Larry Kinfauns, the founder of the illness which proudly bore his name. The overwhelming epidemical nature of Kinfauns syndrome was such that government health boards gave the green light to synthesize and prescribe this new treatment to anyone who required it. A lack of scientific testing and the range of alarming side effects (including hallucinations, nausea, episodes of severe confusion, panic, Tourettes and listlessness)

What heady times he lived in! Children as young as seven years old were being diagnosed with the condition and immediately being prescribed with Sympaprex. Jim felt a sense of righteousness and specialness as he asked for a private word with his manager to patiently explain his diagnosis. To his acute dismay, his manager grinned ruefully and disclosed that he was also suffering from the illness, as was Rachel in accounts and Steven, the head of the SEO department. Full acceptance and sympathy/empathy was directed towards him, the 21st Century was ushering in a new era of understanding and benevolence compared to the stigma and ignorant persecution associated with mental health issues in previous centuries.

This sympathy did not extend to Jim's wife Shelia. Disdainful of his tendency towards childish self-sympathy and malingering, Shelia was skeptical of her husband's avowed condition. This skepticism was unspoken but registered by Jim in non-verbal cues, or so he thought. There existed, of course, the possibility that paranoiac thoughts were forming either as a result of the illness itself or even as a side effect of the medicine. Jim was in the privileged position of being able to afford his own private reality counselor to help guide him through the the violent waters of Kinfauns condition. Such counsellors were appearing all over the country and used techniques including neuro-linguistic programming, meditation and physical exercise to boost sufferer's moral and disperse with unwanted thoughts. Jim's own counsellor specialized in paranoiac behavior and instructed him to take up a hobby, Jim selected poetry. He attended bi-monthly workshops and readings where medicated poets assertively heckled one another. He took up chess and attended a weekly club. He began learning Spanish and enrolled in a course to study graphic design.

Of his half dozen friends, two had already tearfully confessed to suffering from Kinfauns syndrome in grim late night bar encounters, another two he was certain were also sufferers.
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