Can you imagine what it's like to suffer with a disease that doesn't exist?
I don't mean things like 'The Red Death' or 'The T-Virus', I mean a real, honest to goodness disease that infects people who live in the real word.
I only heard about it last night whilst I was on the way home, it was on the Radio 4 program 'The Museum of Curiosities' Which avid readers will know that I have spoken of before. (There was all that kerfuffle about dead bodies and seeping juices, remember?) - The journalist / Writer Will Storr managed to freak me out with his gifting of Morgellons, a condition that he wrote about in a Guardian article back in 2011, to the virtual museum. Unfortunately, I pulled up in the west parking structure of Dandy Towers just as he was starting his description. He'd said just enough to whet my appetite as Heckmondswycke, my trusty manservant, opened the door of the MkII Dandymobile and presented me with my ironed Radio Times and a delicate china cup of steaming-hot weasel tea.
Now, if like me you've never heard of this condition before, let's do as we do traditionally and see what Wikipedia has to say on the subject:
Morgellons (also called Morgellons disease or Morgellons syndrome) is a condition whose sufferers have the delusional belief that they are infested with disease-causing agents described as things like insects, parasites, hairs or fibers, but in reality no such things are present.
Sufferers may exhibit a range of cutaneous symptoms such as crawling, biting, and stinging sensations (formication), unusual fibers in the skin, and persistent skin lesions (e.g., rashes or sores). These symptoms have been identified by a range of medical experts including dermatologists, entomologists, and psychiatrists, as consistent with delusional parasitosis (DP or DOP). Some cases of self-diagnosed Morgellons have been more accurately diagnosed as known skin disorders.
But did you see how early on in the description they got in the world 'delusional'? It was the sixteenth word they used! You can tell that the writer of that particular article didn't hold much stock in the reality of the syndrome... Love that word... Syndrome, syndrome, syndrome... Sssssssyyynnndroooommeee!
Anywho, so these poor people have an itch and they believe that it's down to foreign 'things' buried in their skin. Now, I'm the first person to admit that itches are a bitch. We all get them, I've got one now in fact, but then I'm eating day old Doritos and a bit's gone down the front of my shirt. And apart from the whole 'Having to wait until you're not in polite company to scratch the really interesting ones' thing, they're usually more of a nuisance than anything else. But imagine an itch that, as our colourful colonial cousins mught say "jus' won' quit!"
It'd drive you mental wouldn't it? And that does seem to apply to some of the people who have self-diagnosed themselves with Morgellons (Because a healthcare professional, one with diplomas and stuff hanging on their office wall, won't diagnose you with Morgellons - You'd be more likely to walk out of their office with a piece of paper that says 'Caution: This person has the galloping vapours' stapled to your forehead.) Is this right and fair though? Just because medical science can't prove something is real, does that mean it's not real? I don't know, because I'm just an idiot who writes things that sometimes make you think, not a doctor,
It's at this point that I'd normally stick in a few pictures that would show the sort of damage that an imaginary disease can do to you - But I'm not going to, because 99% of the pictures that come up when you Google 'Morgellons' are enough to put you off eating for life, so go ahead and do it yourself if you really want to, but I really wouldn't. I'll just say that some of these people have scratched themselves... A lot, for quite a long time.
One of the oddest things that I've read about it is that one of the main symptoms, apart from the itching that is, is that 'whatever' is under the skin exhudes fibres that look more than a little bit like the fibres you might find in things like clothing - Which I can imagine is difficult to explain when you're trying to get someone to take you seriously.
Patient: I have an excrutiating itch, I think it's caused by parasites under my skin that excrete these curly fibres.
Doctor: [Examines fibres] These fibres?
Doctor: But these are the normal type of fibres you get from clothes and pollution and stuff, I know this because I got the CSI boxset for Christmas.
Patient: No, they are the feaces of invisible bugs that live beneath my skin.
There have also been reports that say that these fibres cannot be burned or even melted by extreme heat (Although there are as many reports that say they behave exactly like the more mundane clothing fibres - Which doesn't really help the cause I guess)
You can see the Doctor's predicament though can't you? It's a bit of a grey area really. But for the people who suffer with it, it's completely debilitating. It has caused many of them to abandon their chosen careers and has provoked changes in their behaviour to stop them spreading the disease.
Ah yes, did I mention it was contagious? If you were to find yourself in a confined space with a sufferer, the chances are that you will start to itch yourself. In fact, I would lay money on the fact that since reading this post, you have started to itch.
Maybe your shoulder-blade, or your forehead just below your hairline, or possibly the crook of your elbow or the small of your back, But somewhere, and it's not that usual itch is it? it's slightly stronger than normal... Just a little bit more sharp, and when you scratch it instantly moves. Is it in your hair now?
Good Gods! They're in your hair! Scratch them out now!
(If you did actually start itching, the chances are that you've not contracted Morgellons, it's something called a contagious itch, it's similar to that yawning thing that happens, you know where you yawn when you see someone else yawn?)
If you did feel an itch it means two things:
1) You're a compassionate type of person, because they tend to be effected by these contagious behaviour things.
2) I'm a bit of a dick, sorry about that.
If it's any consolation, my beard is now itching like a bitch!