Manual of bizarre mental disorders

Manual of bizarre mental disorders

Julia Ramírez has been an avid reader since her early days in her hometown of San Lorenzo, a land of wine, carnival, and poverty. She has inherited a library that spans five generations of women, known for housing peculiar books. Perhaps the most interesting of them all is the "Manual of Bizarre Mental Disorders" (1881, Springstein/Verlag), a compilation by various Austrian authors.

Leafing through the manual, one can find cases treated in the three most significant asylums in Vienna. Perhaps the most intriguing condition is "extremis inversus," documented in two Bulgarian patients who walked on their hands and greeted with a kick. They had twisted spines, causing their legs to function as their arms and vice versa. This condition made them perceive reality in reverse (the sky was their floor and the earth their sky). "According to them, we are the ones upside down. They pity us," reads the notes of Dr. Bauer.

No similar cases have been reported since then, although Julia's grandmother claims to have known a boy in San Lorenzo with the same condition. Unfortunately, the family, unable to treat him, sent him directly to the circus and took advantage of the earnings. The boy supported them with the money he sent from Chile, Argentina, or Paraguay until he passed away at the age of 19, apparently due to chronic sciatica. "I think we're really all upside down," says Julia as she squints at the sky and kicks the door shut.

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