You might be a zombie if . . .


you have Cotard’s Syndrome, also known as Cotard’s delusion (sounds a bit mean) or walking corpse syndrome (sounds like the politically correct term for the zombie apocalypse). Named after 19th-century French neurologist Jules Cotard, it’s a rare type of neurological disease which causes the sufferer to believe that he or she is not a living person. The person may believe that he/she has no soul, or that a vital part is missing, like blood or internal organs. It can occur after a traumatic event or head injury. It can also occur, let’s say naturally, in middle-aged and older women, so in seven years, give or take, I may wake up one morning and believe that I’m dead.

If this happens, I plan to do whatever the hell I want. Stop paying taxes. Shoplift. Speed. Lead a horse to water and make it drink. What the hell, right? I am one of the walking dead. The Man can’t tell me what to do.

screw you! i’m dead!

All joking aside, someone with Cotard’s may become suicidal; he may believe that he can smell his decaying flesh. He won’t recognize friends or family. When he looks into a mirror, he won’t know the person staring back at him. He will refer to himself in the past tense. “I used to like chocolate ice cream, back when I was alive and had functioning taste buds.” This may also cause him to take dangerous risks because, what the hell, he’s already dead. He might also starve himself, because being dead, he has no need to eat.

Treatment includes . . . um, next to nothing, because it’s so rare. Antipsychotic meds don’t work, so the medical establishment usually falls back on the old standby of electroconvulsive therapy.

This would make an interesting idea for a quirky short story or movie, something along the lines of Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, or Sunshine Cleaning. (Despite the similar titles, the last two movies are not related. But they’re good. Check ’em out.) I can see the main character, who suffers from Cotard’s because of a major car wreck, roaming his or her home town and home state, searching for her grave. Insert a cast of quirky relatives and friends, all who bend over backwards to humor the main, and you’ve got dramedy gold. Sorry, have to spoil the ending: the main tries the car wreck thing again, and succeeds.

Maybe. I dunno. Anyone have a different idea?

what? no, i’m not a zombie. seriously. it’s a neurological thing. i’m cool, honest.
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4 thoughts on “You might be a zombie if . . .

Add yours

  1. That would be an interesting idea for a screenplay, though it would be tough to top the three movies you mentioned. As an aside, I don’t understand why someone who believes he is dead would be suicidal. How do you kill yourself if you’re already dead?

    1. I wondered that too. Every article I read on it never explained the suicidal compulsion thing. I guess maybe it’s not suicide so much as, “Hey, I can hang myself, it’ll be cool, I’m already dead”, or, “That train won’t hurt me”? Or maybe the hope is that the next afterlife will be a bit more interesting?

  2. Since it’s so rare, can i claim that’s what I have if a need a day off, and then get “better”?

    I think Steve Buscemi should play the non-zombie in question, whoever writes the screenplay.

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