Alexander, psychosis, and me

Recommend, or otherwise, books on Alexander (fiction or non-fiction). Promote your novel here!

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Alexander, psychosis, and me

Post by tei »

Well, a novel it ain't, but I see other people have posted their fanfiction here before, so I figured I'd drop mine too: here's a short story that is a vehicle for my thoughts on Alexander and bipolar/psychosis.

Oddly, it came to me in a way that had nothing to do with any of the many armchair diagnoses of various mental illnesses that I've seen posited in various pieces of writing on Alexander (mostly hostile ones using "mental illness" as merely the latest trendy phrase meaning "bad person," unfortunately.) I was reading Plutarch, who includes the oft-repeated legend that Alexander smelled sweet, in fact strongly enough that he perfumed his clothes with it.

Of course, the simplest and probably truest explanation for that would be frequent baths and good press, but I got to thinking about what could be the cause if he really did have a strong natural sweet scent, and was reminded of a dear friend of mine, now gone, who was bipolar with frequent psychotic episodes, and had a strong fever-sweet smell when she was hallucinating. To this day, I sometimes smell that scent in public and am convinced (though admittedly, I have no real scientific evidence for this) that it's the smell of someone experiencing some sort of psychiatric event or disconnect from reality-- and when I looked it up, it turns out that some nurses have anecdotally identified a sweet smell associated with schizophrenia, though the research into the actual compounds that might be involved seems to have gone nowhere.

So, I started thinking about the events of Alexander's life, and what we know of his personality, through that lens-- not necessarily that I want to "diagnose" him with the modern presentation of a psychiatric disorder, because mental health and wellness are culturally mediated, but how those close to him might have interpreted the kind of presentation that would lead to that diagnosis today. Once I started, it was almost creepily easy to make the facts fit the narrative, or at least a certain version of the facts.

So, if you're interested in that version, here it is: If that version is not of interest to you, feel free to move right along without refuting it-- I'm aware this is a very fictional kind of historical fiction, and the Hephaestion of this story is an author avatar of a somewhat personally sensitive sort.

Feedback on historical details, however, is always welcome! (How much does one pay a slave to buy their silence, anyway? And other such matters that take up hours of my time while writing!) :D
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