Hey David, thanks for having me on your site. It’s very kind of you. I, therefore, must apologize for the grotesqueries about to ensue.
You know one thing that sucks about being human? Getting sick. And I’m not talking about the sniffles or a stomachache. Although I whine like a freshly born baby anytime I have either. I’m talking about the funky, crippling, life-altering illnesses that skulk this planet and infect the truly unfortunate.
My debut novel, We Are Monsters, deals with mental illness, with an emphasis on illness. So I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the most horrific diseases and disorders that afflict mankind.
Warning, if you are hypochondriac, you may want to stop right here.
Here are 5 of the most disturbing diseases and mental disorders I’m presently aware of, in no particular order:
1) Fish Odor Syndrome: Have you ever forgotten to use deodorant and then realized you had terrible B.O.? Like, eye-watering B.O.? It happened to me once in middle school and I skipped class to take a bath in the restroom sink. Imagine, then, having your breath, sweat, and urine produce the pungent smell of rotting fish, with nothing you can do about it. Welcome to the world of trimethylaminuria, which prevents a persons body from breaking down a fishy-smelling organic compound found in food. And there’s no known cure.
2) Alien Hand Syndrome: Turns out the familiar plot device used in several horror flicks is an actual disorder. People with alien hand syndrome have full sensation in the errant hand, but it acts possessed. The 'alien' hand can undo buttons, manipulate tools, and even grope people without its owner’s consent.
I can see it now. “Hey, get your hands off me you pervert!”
“What? It wasn’t me! It’s my alien hand.”
The syndrome is caused by a separation of the lobes of the brain either through injury or surgery, and there's no cure other than to distract the wayward hand with an object to handle.
3) Myiasis: Okay, this one… This one I can barely think about without retching. Myiasis is the parasitic infestation of the body of a live mammal by fly larvae (maggots) that grow inside the host while feeding on its tissue. You’ve seen what maggots do to decomposing flesh, right? Well, Myiasis is where they do that to you while you’re alive. You think maybe you have a zit developing on your neck or arm, then… Surprise, you’ve got maggots!
4) Walking Corpse Syndrome: Also called the Cotard Delusion, this is a rare, though real, neuropsychiatric disorder in which patients believe that they have died, do not exist, are putrefying, or have lost their vital organs. In some cases, they can even smell the rotting flesh. While they may resemble zombies, they, fortunately, do not crave the taste of human brains. Unfortunately, because they believe themselves to be dead, they stop caring for their basic needs, and many die from starvation.
5) Tree Bark Skin Disorder: Ever had a wart? What were you willing to do to have it removed? I had one. I went to a dermatologist who burned it off with a freaking laser.
[Dermatologist]: “I’m now going to shoot your skin with a laser beam to remove your wart.”
[Me]: “Whatever, man. Just get it off me.”
People with Tree Bark Skin Disorder, or Epidermodysplasia Verruciformisgo as it’s technically called, have warts that grow so voraciously across their entire body they give one’s skin the appearance of tree bark. Good news: they can be removed through surgery. Bad news: they grow right back.
While reading about these ailments is interesting, I do not bring them up to poke fun. I find them fascinating, sure, but I also have sympathy for anyone suffering from one of these devastating disorders. I can’t imagine what it would be like, and I have a vivid imagination.
Part of my aim in writing my debut novel, We Are Monsters, was to try and get inside the minds of people who suffer from tragic mental disorders.
According to recent studies, 1 in 5 Americans suffer from various mental illnesses each year, so it’s a widespread concern. But, again, my aim wasn’t exploitation. I came at it from a compassionate point-of-view.
In my story it’s the doctors who are forced to confront the inner demons they have inside in order to see their patients in a new light. So far readers have been picking up on that twist and enjoying the fresh perspective.
For instance, author, Mercedes M. Yardley, said this about the book: “WE ARE MONSTERS is a smart, elaborate novel that weaves together the best and worst of us. Complex, terrifying, and still humane, this book moved me to both horror and compassion, and that's a difficult thing indeed.”
Anyone interested in facing the monsters inside my book can buy a copy here:
Thanks for having me over, David. Here’s where people can find me if they want to stay in touch: