"Better Living Through Gizmology"
Megan Argall grew up
in a college town with
a professor father and
a librarian mother.
She was smart
but not super-smart,
good at gizmology
but not super-gizmology.
Megan had a problem --
sometimes she had
far too much energy,
and other times she could
barely drag herself out of bed.
That made it hard to do science.
She persevered, though,
getting a diagnosis --
bipolar disorder -- along with
counseling and medication
which helped somewhat.
But people talked.
"Eccentric," they whispered,
"Lunatic," "Crazy woman,"
and worst of all, "Mad scientist."
The names always hurt, but
the slight to her professionalism
cut even deeper.
Was she less of a scientist
for having a mental illness?
Was that supposed to put her
automatically into the same category
with people who built death rays
and tried to take over the world?
Was there something wrong with her
for working in a calm state of mind or
for wanting to make things that helped people?
Megan refused to let them stop her,
sticking with her care regimen and
her research project, taking up
mental health as a social cause.
She was determined to make a difference.
It took years to develop a device
that would buffer brain activity,
nudging it up out of a depressive state
and down out of a manic state,
maintaining the delicate equilibrium.
It took more years to reduce the thing
from the size of a large filing cabinet
to a pair of ear cuffs, two dainty curves
of electronics covered by a row of pearls.
One to push the mood up,
one to push the mood down,
and Megan had produced a treatment
for depression and for mania as well
as her own dual problem.
The money from selling those gizmos
enabled her to expand her lab
and begin work on new projects.
It was a lot easier to concentrate
when she could wear ear cuffs
that sent a constant signal
to steady her brain, instead of
relying on pills that changed the results
as they took effect or wore off.
People still whispered "Eccentric,"
and "Mad scientist," and it still hurt --
but they were drowned out by
the ones who said things like,
"Angel," and "My hero."
* * *
The title is a riff on an ad campaign, now often used in reference to psychotropic medications used to promote a healthy mindstate.
Mad scientists appear both in entertainment and in real life. Studies show a correspondence between creativity and mental illness. What they rarely mention is that some people find an unusual mindstate beneficial or necessary to their creation, while others find that it makes their work difficult or impossible. Mental illness is when your brain causes problems for you; if it's not doing that, then you don't have a mental illness even if you think very differently than the usual.
Women are often called crazy as a means of control and oppression, whether they actually have a mental illness or they don't. Picking on people in either regard is not okay.
Bipolar disorder is marked by high/low mood swings which disrupt everyday life. People often find it helpful to track their moods.
Taking over the world and death rays are two tropes commonly associated with mad scientists. Now imagine being a scientist, having a mental illness, and living in a world where a few supervillains keep trying to do those things.
The Gadgeteer Genius trope appears in Terramagne as Gizmology (cutting-edge technology) or Super-Gizmology (putting superpowers into object form). Gizmos often take the form of electronics embedded in metal and studded with stones; jewelry is a convenient way to wear something that's meant to work for or on a person for an extended length of time. Here we have a pair of ear cuffs set with pearls. It's not a cure for bipolar disorder, but it definitely helps.