And there is the poor stomach, a big nervous centre in close communication with the brain, protesting and protesting, and its owner interprets all these protestations into: “I am so unhappy. I have to work so much harder than I ought. Nobody loves me. Oh, why am I so nervous?”
The blood also cries out: “Give me more oxygen. I cannot help the lungs or the stomach or the brain to do their work properly unless you take exercise in the fresh air that will feed me truly and send me over the body with good, wholesome vigor.”
Now there is another thing that is sadly evident about the young woman who will not take fresh air, nor eat the right food, nor masticate properly the food that she does eat. When she goes out for a walk she seems to fight the fresh air; she walks along full of resistance and contraction, and tightens all her muscles so that she moves as if she were tied together with ropes. The expression of her face is one of miserable strain and endurance; the tone of her voice is full of complaint. In eating either she takes her food with the appearance of hungry grabbing, or she refuses it with a fastidious scorn. Any nervous woman who really wants to find herself out, in order to get well and strong, and contented and happy, will see in this description a reflection of herself, even though it may be an exaggerated reflection.
Did you ever see a tired, hungry baby fight his food? His mother tries to put the bottle to his mouth, and the baby cries and cries, and turns his head away, and brandishes his little arms about, as if his mother were offering him something bitter. Then, finally, when his mother succeeds in getting him to open his mouth and take the food it makes you smile all over to see the contrast: he looks so quiet and contented, and you can see his whole little body expand with satisfaction.
It is just the same inherited tendency in a nervous woman that makes her either consciously or unconsciously fight exercise and fresh air, fight good food and eating it rightly, fight everything that is wholesome and strengthening and quieting to her nerves, and cling with painful tenacity to everything that is contracting and weakening, and productive of chronic strain.
There is another thing that a woman fights: she fights rest. Who has not seen a tired woman work harder and harder, when she was tired, until she has worn herself to a state of nervous irritability and finally has to succumb for want of strength? Who has not seen this same tired woman, the moment she gets back a little grain of strength, use it up again at once instead of waiting until she had paid back her principal and could use only the interest of her strength while keeping a good balance in reserve?
“I wish my mother would not do so many unnecessary things,” said an anxious daughter.
A few days after this the mother came in tired, and, with a fagged look on her face and a fagged tone in her voice, said: “Before I sit down I must go and see poor Mrs. Robinson. I have just heard that she has been taken ill with nervous prostration. Poor thing! Why couldn’t she have taken care of herself?”