A Strong Case Of Postpartum Depression Of Margery Kempe, The Revered 14th And 15th Century Christian Mystic

A Strong Case Of Postpartum Depression Of Margery Kempe, The Revered 14th And 15th Century Christian Mystic

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Mark 5:34 in the King James Bible as Jesus speaks to a sick woman reads, “And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.” The gravity of these words ring true in the case of Margery Kempe, the revered 14th and 15th century Christian Mystic. Suffering from a malady of the mind it is only the words of God that enable Margery to recover, almost quite literally a reiteration of Mark 5:34 in a slightly modified form. The power of the word and presence of God was paramount in the 14th and 15th centuries, especially regarding health and wellness as there was little if any scientific and secularized treatments for both physical and mental ailments. But did Margery ever truly recover from her sickness? Moreover, what specific condition was it that Margery suffered from? While many assume it to be a strong case of postpartum depression, there is a more severe disorder that fits quite firmly with the written word of Kempe. Many of Margery’s symptoms, including but not limited to hallucinations, uncontrollable emotional outbursts and paranoia, point towards the much more potent diagnosis of a schizoaffective psychosis over the conventional assumption of postpartum depression.
Firstly, what is schizoaffective psychosis? The primary definition of the disorder is that of a person who experiences a combination of ‘psychotic’ and ‘bipolar’ symptoms that affect both the mind and sometimes physical functionality (“Schizoaffective Disorder”). It is somewhere between full schizophrenia and a full affective disorder, containing elements of both without full being classified as one or the other (Yip 1). Symptoms include disorderly thoughts, feelings of being controlled by outside forces, halluci...


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...vid visions and acts as a result of schizoaffective psychosis. During her time there was no “psychosis” or “schizoaffective disorders” in a clinical sense, or any reason for anyone to suspect or imagine such things. To her time, her mysticism was valid and there no reason for it not to be viewed as such. Now, hundreds of years later, with clinical psychology and other practices to analyze her story it is clear that her holiness may not have been specifically of a supernatural nature, but a very natural and explicable one. Alison Torn says it best, that we “…need to realise is that Kempe’s book is a pre-Enlightenment narrative, where the boundaries between madness and religious experiences were drawn very differently to modern times. Her story could not be told in the same way today, but that does not mean that we should not listen to it and hear her voice” (Torn 88).

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