Health, Hypothesis, recent, Science

How I Lost My Partner to a Parasite

I have given only the first rough outlines of a province of a great terra incognita, which lies unexplored before us, and the exploration of which promises a return such as we can at present scarcely appreciate.
~Johann Steenstrup, Danish zoologist, on parasites (circa 1854)

This monster isn’t David. It’s a parasite of some kind. You see, another consciousness inside him. This thing burrowed into David’s brain … and has been there, feeding off him ever since. ~Loudermilk, FX Legion.

Some lose a lover to a younger woman or an irreversible illness. I lost my partner to a parasite named Edwin. Imagine watching someone you love slowly die—except they’re still alive, still walking around, and still functioning. This is what it must feel like losing them to some kind of cult. Except that intervention and deprogramming can revert them back into the person you knew. And, although reversing a parasite invasion is possible, my now-ex ultimately didn’t care to do so.

I often find it hard to believe myself, which is when I have become thankful for cognitive dissonance. Yet the scariest monsters remain those that actually exist. Contrary to what you may believe, parasitic creatures are not only found in Third World countries. These unwelcome microscopic stowaways are far more common than we realize. In fact, these “highly adapted creatures are at the heart of the story of life,” writes author Carl Zimmer in his book Parasite Rex, Inside the Bizarre World of Nature’s Most Dangerous Creatures. “[They’re] clearly designed to live their entire lives inside other animals.”

The majority of animals on earth are host to at least one parasite in their lifetime. In the United States alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified five parasitic infections that affect more than 60 million humans. My story, then, is not so unusual. Parasites are so abundant that in some environments, they collectively outweigh the total biomass of that ecosystem’s top predators. Some parasites cause relatively few negative effects for their hosts, but plenty of parasites are much more disruptive tenants. They can burrow in your brain and change you forever.

Confused? Let me use pop culture to illustrate. In Season 1 of the FX television series Legion, the main character, David, is possessed by a mutant “devil with yellow eyes”—the Shadow King; a parasite that lives inside and feeds off of him. As this malevolent creature grows stronger over time, it infuses itself into David’s psyche, living there so long it becomes part of the mental wallpaper in his brain. When presented with the opportunity to rid himself of the Shadow King, David questions whether he even wants to. They have been together so long, David wonders who and what he would be without the parasite.

Like David’s lover Syd, however, I was more concerned with obliterating the parasite and getting my partner back. Unlike in Legion, however, I didn’t have the privilege of a team of mutant Marvel super agents or access to a metal halo device to place around James’s head, temporarily isolating the parasite from his mind while I hacked a more permanent solution.

Science Friction and Lost Love

I first met James in 2004 on Craigslist. Not in the personals; he was looking for a researcher and writer and, out of 250 applicants, he hired me to develop documentary ideas. I even tracked Julian Assange in Iceland, before WikiLeaks became a global sensation and he opted to live in London’s Ecuadorian embassy until his arrest last week. For six years, up until late 2010, my relationship with James remained strictly professional, until we unexpectedly fell in love. 

James was the first man I’d ever lived with. It was during our first year together in 2011 that we dreamt up a co-venture in the Dominican Republic, and soon after started an online health and wellness magazine and marketplace. When we were together, we’d work together, often in silence. I was alone but I was with him. Every night, we fell asleep curled up in each other’s arms. Over the course of several years, we built our startup into a million-dollar company. The goal was to run it from anywhere we wanted. And that it what we did, from places like Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Greece, Italy, Miami, and Montreal.

He traveled often, and during one of these trips he wrote me the following note:

A coyote howled in my heart,
A full moon filled me, bright,
drowning all other creatures of the night, when you just sat there, to my right.

We worked well together. Until we didn’t.

Crazy Cat Ladies And Small Blobs With Big Sway

Dive into the wild and weird world of parasites and you’ll undoubtedly encounter Toxoplasma gondii, arguably the most infamous and studied neurological parasite. It’s a tiny but powerful protozoa which crawls its way into the brain and can radically alter the behavior of its varied hosts. This exemplary tale of survival begins with T. gondi, aka Toxo, setting up camp in a rat.

“Once they’re safe and warm in the guts of their temporary hosts, the oocytes morph into tachyzoites, unassuming little blobs that can really do some damage,” writes Ben Thomas. “Those tachyzoites migrate into their hosts’ muscles, eyes, and brains, where they can remain hidden for decades without doing much of anything.”

Infected rats eventually become sexually aroused by the smell of an entirely different species: the cat family (Felidae). Rats then engage in fatal feline attraction and inevitability meet a horrible death. By doing so, they release the tachyzoites into the next host, which then pass through the cat and back into the environment. Infected cats excrete billions of infectious Toxoplasma oocysts.

From there, they can jump to the ultimate host: humans, who can become infected as owners scoop cat feces out of the litter box. Rat. Cat. Human. Brilliant. One small bug able to exert incredible influence over a host billions of times its size. Researchers estimate that as many as 30 percent of the human population—more than 2 billion of us—are carrying T. gondii tachyzoites around in our brains right now. Most of us have no idea, because the parasite often causes no symptoms at all. Until the day it strikes. T. gondii has been implicated as a contributing factor to chronic psychological disorders. Studies have linked Toxo infections to Parkinson’s, cryptogenic epilepsy, migraines, and schizophrenia.

Goat Balls and Voodoo Rituals (Phase 1)

It all started around June 2013. James and I had been together for two years when he got a gig in Haiti. He would become one of the first white men to journey to a sacred mountain to honor Bondyè, the Creator God. His mission was to film a voodoo ritual, alongside Vodouisants, high priests (houngans), and priestesses (mambos) deep inside a remote Haitian cave. The servants of the spirits lucky enough to be possessed would sacrifice a goat and then eat its testicles. James filmed the ceremony while standing in blood, feces, disease, mud, and spirits.

Within five days of his return, he had lost 10 pounds. It was coming out of both ends and it didn’t take long for me to conclude he had parasites. I urged him to get his stool sampled, which he did. Western Medicine identified three parasites and my naturopath’s lab identified four. James had taken Cipro, an antibiotic, while in Haiti for food poisoning, and another dose upon returning. He was considering a third round of antibiotics until my naturopath advised him against it lest he face a “total immunological breakdown.”

“The bugs inside you will be able to learn, adapt, and mutate,” she warned. Instead, he began taking a natural anti-pathogen formula called SCRAM, which kept things stable for a while until he went through several bottles. From this point onwards—during what I describe as the first of three phases in the parasites’ evolution—James started getting ill about once a month. He’d undoubtedly get fever, diarrhea, and stomach cramps, spending a few days curled up in a fetal position, incapacitated in bed.

“To survive a parasite must usurp the resources of another organism to grow and reproduce,” according to an article entitled “Rewiring the Brain: Insanity by Parasite.” Many parasites accomplish this task by partially debilitating their host while still keeping it healthy enough to continue providing shelter and nourishment. I noticed that symptoms were activated around the full moon, which is when the freeloaders—who, by the way, absorb our nutrients and excrete toxic waste—swell with water and have sex parties in our bodies. Mature tapeworms, for instance, can lay a million eggs per day and roundworms, which afflict 25 percent of the world’s population, can lay 200,000 eggs daily.

“Parasitic infections can disable normal mental function by depleting the host of essential nutrients, interfering with enzyme and neuroimmune function, and releasing massive amounts of waste products, enteric poisons, and toxins, which disable brain metabolism,” says Dr. James Howenstine, M.D., board-certified specialist in internal medicine.

James had a recurring dream. It was fairly nondescript; he was at a beach party with some braless women in South America when he felt a strange presence. He said it was as if something had hacked into the dream. He noticed a figure loitering a few hundred feet away on the periphery of his vision. When the figure noticed James staring at him, he edged out of reach. On the third night, James got close enough to identify the figure: he said it looked like Don Fino Sandeman, the caped man from the sherry bottle! Enter Edwin.

Stool Samples and Mania in Cannes (Phase 2)

Oh-oo-oor. Oh-oo-oor. I awoke at 7 a.m. to pigeons noisily making a nest on our roof, and James hovering over me. He looked distressed. At the time we were living in his friend’s penthouse in Cannes. Vivid hallucinations had kept him up all night. Apparently, a Jabba-the-Hutt-like creature had been sitting on me while I slept. Around this period in late 2014—what I call Phase Two of the parasite’s evolution—James’s sleep was often disrupted. Many nights he barely slept, contending that sleep was simply “a mindset” needed only by the weak-willed.

Over the previous several months, I’d noticed his heightened agitation and mood swings. It was also during this phase that James announced that his parasite had a name. “Edwin,” he announced, didn’t like to be called “a parasite.” This term, he explained, didn’t properly capture its nature. I asked Google if parasites can cause hallucinations. Indeed, they can. Parasites can cause personality changes and psychosis, including delusions and auditory hallucinations.

“Just like any other brain injury, any infectious agent that damages the brain has the potential to disrupt mood, behavior, and personality,” says Bill Sullivan, a Showalter Professor at Indiana University School of Medicine. I suspected the parasite was causing James’s personality to change. Parasites can influence multiple facets of host phenotype, including physiology, behavior, and biochemistry.

“Because pathogens want to spread to other hosts, one way they can do this is through behavioral manipulation,” added Sullivan. The behavioral manipulation hypothesis predicts that parasites can change a host’s behavior in a way that benefits the parasite and not the host. Or their loved ones for that matter. James tentatively collected a new sample but I was noticing that the strength he needed to fend Edwin off was declining. And so the test tube sat in the fridge for two weeks before I eventually threw it away. 

Life Lessons from a Parasite

“Most people who hear the word, visualize a worm that hasn’t shaved for weeks, with tiny antennas, living in a cabin in your brain or colon, chewing your guts out. But nobody really knows who ‘he’ is, or that he sometimes takes more than the shotgun seat,” James wrote of Edwin. Unlike most hosts, James was aware of Edwin’s presence and, as health-oriented journalists, we openly discussed Edwin’s progress with fascination.

“It’s impossible to cover all examples of parasites controlling the minds and bodies of other animals. Indeed, there may be many cases that have yet to be discovered,” according to Amanda Pachniewska, founder & editor of AnimalCognition.org. Besides Toxo, there are parasitic worms that turn crickets into “suicidal maniacs,” making them jump into the water where the worms need to go to breed. They also manipulate the crickets to silence their chirping. And then there’s the fungus that zombifies ants and wasps that enslave cockroaches six times their size by injecting and enslaving them with mind-controlling venom. There are also the thousands of other parasites we know very little about.

If these parasites are able to screw with other species’ brains, is it that strange to believe that a microscopic puppeteer was beginning to pull the proverbial strings of the man I loved?

Parasitism: The Most Common Way of Life on Earth

James officially broke up with me three years into our relationship (around end of Phase Two of the parasitic invasion), stating that he’d outlawed them. “What do you mean?” I replied. “Everything is a relationship. You’re relating to your omelet right now.” Shortly afterward he left Los Angeles and moved 5,773 miles away.

We then developed what I regarded a “distancer-pursuer” relationship —I pursued the established relationship while he distanced himself. This resulted in a lot of tears and travel. As Edwin grew and mutated, it became clear that he didn’t like me much. It was as though he knew that I stood between him and the energy he was draining from James’s heart. “Who is this?” I’d occasionally write. “Is this James Or Edwin?” Sometimes I received a reply. At others, the silence provided an even louder response.

A psychologist might simply chalk my tale up to lunacy or a perhaps a shared delusion; James’s behavior could be “bipolar” or just garden variety asshole-ishness. Similarly, in Legion, David is initially misdiagnosed with a mental health issue. “The brain is a ‘privileged site’ for many parasites,” states Joanne Webster, a parasitology researcher at Imperial College, London. “And that really challenges the concept of free will—after all, is it us or our parasites who ‘decide’ our behavior?”

Beliefs Beyond the Norm

If you still have trouble accepting that a parasite can commandeer a human mind and seize control of its will, consider that 99 percent of our cellular count (100 trillion) is made up of something other than human DNA. That’s right, you are more bacteria than you are you, making us all minorities in our own bodies. Bacteria in our guts dictate brain cognition, mood, and health. And since we are all composed of chemicals, who am I to judge James’s parasite-altered reality?

Studies on the battles between parasite and person waged in the human body are remarkably scant. “Research into the potential neurological consequences of brain infection in humans is ongoing, although it is very challenging,” adds Sullivan. And if you want to try and measure a parasite’s capacity to erode a loving connection, good luck—that data is even more remote.

“There is no evidence either way, but it’s unlikely,” states John Hawdon, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Microbiology, Immunology, and Tropical Medicine. Nevertheless, I remain convinced that Edwin carved out a section of James’s heart and set about securing complete dominion. Without someone tugging at his heartstrings, James was infallible.

Superpowers Fully Integrated (Phase 3)

“I’m you. I’m me. I’m everything you want to be,” the Devil with the Yellow Eyes tells David in Legion’s first season. By now, the parasite has completely infested David’s body and mind. More Devil than David, he uses his powers to systematically wipe out an entire section of the shadowy governmental task force known as Division 3.

I surmise that the phases of integration vary in humans, compared to, let’s say, a cat or a cockroach. Since humans have considerably longer life-spans (and are larger), Webster et al speculate that “one could reasonably propose [they] may be more susceptible to developing ‘unselected’ pathological behavioral changes simply as a byproduct of their extended durations of infections.” 

It took about four years for Phase III to announce itself. James still possessed oodles of charm. Meanwhile, his cognition and physical capabilities only seemed to improve. Creatively, mentally, and physically, James was off the charts. He had evolved into a superbug of sorts. He inhaled information, which he retained and integrated into beautifully creative stories I edited. He could swim out a mile into the vast ocean and loop around a Greek island with ease. I marveled at his prowess.

Essentially, parasites evolve to out-maneuver their host. In response, the hosts evolve better defenses, and the resulting feedback loop is a veritable arms race known as co-evolution, according to Pachniewska. It may seem strange that parasites can have a positive influence. But consider that causing its host to die quickly is not particularly helpful, especially when certain parasites jump into the ultimate frontier—a human body.

Does evidence exist in the animal world of host-parasite interactions, during which the infected cope better and develop superpowers of sorts? It does. For instance, toxo-infected rats become braver, and heedless of danger. A recent research study indicates that this parasite may actually be a source of increased dopamine. Meanwhile, by modifying particular receptors, the ichneumon wasp enables spiders to weave an optimized cocoon web that is stronger with more durable support. And a recent study, shows that, when infected with parasitic worms, Artemia brine shrimp actually have boosted abilities to survive arsenic-laced water. They also produce more antioxidants.

“I’m the magic man,” David cockily declared toward the end. As I witnessed the final phase of colonization, Edwin went from being an invader to what James now described as a “high priest.” Edwin was no longer an “enemy” but a “co-inhabitant.” The two of them had apparently worked out a living situation that suited everyone but me. The parasitic nature of our interaction finally caused part of my own heart to suffocate and die. James was collaborating with the critter, and I was frozen out.

“Edwin is getting the better of you,” I offered. “Stop talking to Edwin in a demeaning way, you have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said when I asked why he’d stopped trying to kill the parasites. “I’m not fucking boyfriend material or a life partner. Do I have to carve it on copper?” Was this the same man who once told me I filled him with the glow of the full moon? And so I surrendered. I stopped plotting ways to annihilate Edwin with ayahuasca, exorcism, coffee enemas, strict detox, or love. Parasites usually reproduce quickly to maintain the upper hand; Edwin was keeping a firm grip on his host. He was the master now.

Perhaps you think that this parasite was simply an excuse, and that James is an insufferable narcissist who never loved me at all. It might certainly appear that way to the observer. While I could accept that he no longer wanted to be with me, the underlying aggression was perplexing. Edwin seemed to be rewriting James’s memories, or, at the very least, disfiguring his perception.

The love of my life is no longer tethered to a reality I recognize. Regardless of the true impact of this passenger named Edwin, I was no longer his lover, his partner, or even his friend. The full moon did end up filling James with its light, but I was unable to drown out all the other creatures of the night.

 

Maryam Henein is an investigative journalist, functional medicine consultant, and founder and editor-in-chief of HoneyColony. She is also the director of the award-winning documentary film Vanishing of the Bees, narrated by Ellen Page. You can follow her on Twitter @maryamhenein

65 Comments

  1. Graham Strouse says

    When you’re bleeding back & forth between metaphor and reality it’s time to ask whose got the cray in the the brain.

  2. Jean Levant says

    “A psychologist might simply chalk my tale up to lunacy or a perhaps a shared delusion”.
    Not only a psychologist, I’m afraid. And maybe there are some other leads in this weird tale of you own, Maryam.

  3. Did this article get lost on its way to BuzzFeed or is Quillete now in the business of publishing bizarre ramblings based partially on FX’s Legion in which naturopathy constitutes medicine?

    I concur with the first comment.

    • I invite you to take another read where I quote paristologists in the field. Contributors of BuzzFeed could only wish to write a piece like this. I’d like to think it’s a little bit more high-bro

      • Casey Clyde says

        The difficult thing about this article for me, is how tightly the personal and scientific are bound. The story you’re telling is a common one. I’ve lived it from the man’s end if I’m being honest. And I know it wasn’t due to parasitic possession. You draw a direct line between the parasite and the events of your relationship, but it’s a tough sell. Especially when you use some TV show over and over to elaborate your thinking on the situation. It feels less like an artistic liberty than an admission of what influenced your thinking. Parasites are no doubt interesting but there is a hell of a lot of ground between infection in crickets and humans. Hell, there is a long way between mice and humans. How many drugs have worked wonders on mice only to fail when they come to humans?

  4. Jean Levant says

    Even the headline is fitted for Hollywood.

  5. Steve says

    Elsewhere I see people dismiss Quilette as a right-wing echo chamber, so I am happy to know this exists to provide evidence against that. Well-written and entertaining. I’m not convinced that James isn’t just an asshole, but it’s definitely worth learning more about the effects of parasites on humans. None of us can rule out parasites as the cause of whack-left insanity, after all.

  6. Fraank Knarf says

    “…my naturopath…”

    I think I see your problem.

    • mitchellporter says

      Just to be clear, the link above leads to an article by “James”, describing “the parasite” in his own words.

      • Stephanie says

        Thanks for the link, Mitchell. The guy definitely seems like a narcissist, and I suspect his “Edgar” is more a psychological placebo than the effect of the parasite. It’d be great if people could privately accept a guardian angel without being a douche about it, let alone encouraging people to forgo medical treatment for parasitic infections.

        • John says

          To Shehol with modern medacin. Grarlic and other lagumes will kill 90% of all parisites , espacally Toxo. Go to a MD and be diagnossed as Crazy and be put into an instatution. Then tell me about modern medacine. God put the Herbs here to Heal not treat symtoms like man’s drugs do. Its a war that i won with God help. Not faith not prayer but actual pyhsical media. Wake up you blind ideots !

    • Hutch says

      To quote the article from “James”:

      “No single “remedy” can fix a disruptive bug, because the real cause is the cumulative damage of modern lifestyle, stress, nutrition-scarce foods, lack of exercise, high carbs and high toxin intake. The sustainable answer to pathological parasites is to rid ourselves of an energy-deficient lifestyle.”

      Please don’t put yourself through the above article or its companion piece. I’ve suffered through both and in completely good faith and can suggest that there is absolutely nothing of value in either.

      • Lightning Rose says

        My vet can cure most nematodes for about $1.99’s worth of generic ivermectin. But good luck with woo-woo and all that. You’ll find liver fluke is REALLY transformative . . . 😉

  7. Alan Gore says

    If her partner were thoroughly evaluated by a team of real physicians, this story could become interesting. Behavior modification of a host by parasites is a hot area for science right now – but characterizing something like this takes real scientists.

  8. I read the whole article and still don’t know what species of parasite was diagnosed. This is surely the most important item of information any reader would want to know.

    • Yes unfortunately I did not have that information handy. But they were documented. Western medicine did confirm they were parasites and that’s why I have gone in science to support my theory. Of course it can all be taken tongue in cheek but it is something that we both experienced. And James was aware to a certain degree.

      • Jeff says

        Then you could have put it in that comment. You could put it in now. Why not?

      • Hutch says

        I’m 100% convinced that your article is nothing more than a creative writing exercise solely intended to draw people to your website so assist you in peddling your alternative medicine and “wisdom”.

        I’d challenge you to present evidence of the actual parasitic diagnosis. However I know I’m wasting my time and to be fair you have no business posting other peoples medical history without their consent (even if redacted).

        This is hands down the worst “plug” on this website.

        This modern “shaman” gig is the most played out racket.

        • bohicad says

          The worst part was that the alternative medicine clearly didn’t work. Should of gone for that third round of Cipro.

  9. Heraklion says

    MD here. I wonder why this kind of bullshit is being published on Quillette. Seriously, you partner needed a psychiatrist or a neurologist at least, not a naturopath!

    • Justin says

      That was exactly my thoughts. Why did she go to an ND. Stands for Not-a-Doctor you know. This case needed real medical intervention it sounds like. I hate how pseudoscience is taking over.

      • Lightning Rose says

        Pseudoscience the likes of Gweneth Paltrow is taking over because we’re living in a strangely post-factual moment where “feelz” and “belief” is everything. It’s a house of cards that stands on logical fallacies like trying to prove a negative. Dare I posit that this faith in intuition in the absence of evidence is somehow related to feminism?

        If one has a wicked backache, and has “reiki” or “dry-needling” or some other woo-woo performed, and the back gets better at some point post-treatment–almost invariably the cure is attributed to the “woo,” and that’s the anecdotal marketing hook right there. Never mind that backache is usually self-limiting and will get better within 2 weeks spontaneously regardless of if you do anything or nothing. That kind of carefully hidden context props up all this nonsense, and a lot of non-evidence-based “standard of care” MD’s wield besides.

        I’m convinced that most non-specialists walking around out there today are almost entirely ignorant of biology. I mean the basic “owner’s manual” for the human or animal body. The latest evidence-free fad is “CBD,” or “cannabidiol,” a hemp extract they’re hawking all over the radio claiming “cures” everything and anything. If you THINK it works, it works, see? CLASSIC placebo response. There is not one known biologically plausible pathway by which this could possibly be a “thing,” but just try winning an argument with people like this; you can’t win on facts because they just “know!”

  10. Euan MacIsaac says

    As someone who had a manic depressive breakdown in the Congo (Kinshasa) due in large part to malaria at age 18, I’m very aware of the psychotropic effect of parasites. I’m still bi-polar type one 30 years later, but malaria free. I foresee a new field of research opening up in mental health research. Bugs do rewire your brain.

  11. Euan MacIsaac says

    As someone who had a manic depressive breakdown in the Congo (Kinshasa) at the age of 18 due in large part to malaria I’m well aware of the psychotropic effect of parasites. 30 years later I’m still bi-polar type one. They can rewire your brain. I can forsee a new field of research opening up in mental health research. Genes and environment may not be the most important thing.

  12. Stephanie says

    Interesting article, although I suspect that whatever influence the parasite has on the boyfriend was embellished by him. He seems like a dreadfully self-absorbed man, the type who would cook himself into a real strange psychological state state if he thought it made him seem more interesting. I’d say it’s a shame that he didn’t go see a real doctor and get treatment before going off the deep end, but he probably got exactly the attention-seeking story he desperately needed. The author has dodged a bullet.

  13. If the authors partner was genuinely severely affected by a parasite, and that is a big if, then the author has a major responsibility for it. She pursuaded him to ignore medical device in favour of fradulent psuedo-science: ‘He was considering a third round of antibiotics until my naturopath advised him against it lest he face a “total immunological breakdown.”’

    Both parties sound like self obessesed narcissists with a tenuous grasp on reality. If you visit her website she makes a living as an unqualified medical ‘consultant’ peddling quack cures to desperate people with more money than sense. She is clearly a parasite herself which is quite ironic.

    The article was interesting but would work better as outright fiction rather than self delusional faction.

  14. It’s a sad story. I’ve been fascinated by parasites for years, particularly those that change the behaviour of their hosts.

    I recall a story from Oliver Sachs about a woman (elderly) who went to her doctor worried that she felt too well, too happy. After some pestering. they did tests and eventually discovered that she had tertiary syphilis from a dose that she probably contracted when working as a nurse during WW2. They killed the bug with antibiotics, but the brain ‘damage’ remained.

    As for the ‘alternative’ therapies, it wouldn’t be my choice…

  15. ThereAreDozensOfUs says

    Deeply amusing to see ‘James’ and the author described as ‘narcissists’ (etc) with absolutely no knowledge of them outside of this article nor any idea what the author went through.

    • Great point, regardless of the efficacy of the parasite story. We know nothing of these people outside of extremely surface stuff aka articles and a bit of information from websites.

  16. Hutch says

    Part of the subject matter is interesting but the form and style is immature esoteric garbage.

    I see the author touts herself as a “functional medicine coach”, but what is way more unforgivable is that she was involved with the 2004 catwoman film.

    I really hope the editors of this site did not publish this piece in an attempt to seem balanced. There are far more eloquent and rational left leaning essays out there.

    I feel like this piece was published to shame the author or induce eye rolling or rubber necking.

    The article may be quillette’s first true parasite.

  17. Psychophobia says

    It could be that, nowadays, I see psychopaths under every bed, having been trounced by one. But there are many signs that are consistent – the charm, the narcissism, the illness (what did he use that to do to you?) the change in perceived personality, etc.. Was he always vague about his past? The usual best advice for what to do about a psychopath is to run away very fast! Stop trying to chase what can never be (and probably, in reality, never was). And don’t feel tempted to exact revenge because psychopaths are also extremely vindictive when attacked. It’s a power thing. Good luck.

  18. Fickle Pickle says

    I found this fascinating essay to be a refreshing change to the usual petty-point-scoring culture wars pabulum that is usually featured on Quillette.
    Her documentary The Vanishing of the Bees is superb – a very urgent wake up call.

    I am very impressed with Functional and/or Integrative Medicine, because it obviously works.
    One of its founders was Kenneth Pelletier M D – check out his website and thoroughly investigate the topic too.
    In Australia it is promoted by the National Institute of Integrative Medicine.

    Check out a related essay titled Mind Altering Cat Parasite Just Got Linked To a Whole Lot of Neurological Disorders.

    Some of the dismissive comments are very closed minded. Especially for a site that pretends to promote open ended free inquiry, and which rails against the supposed suppression of the same.

    Meanwhile Maryam’s essay, her Honey Colony website and The Vanishing of the Bees would be very much at home on this very refreshing website which is full of “esoteric garbage” http://newearth.university

    I came across it via a video titled 5G Apocalypse the Extinction Event – scary stuff.

    • Hutch says

      “Meanwhile Maryam’s essay, her Honey Colony website and The Vanishing of the Bees would be very much at home on this very refreshing website which is full of “esoteric garbage” http://newearth.university

      Thank you for the link. I would prefer to describe the contents of same as “esoteric garbage for SALE”.

      The piece above is “esoteric garbage for free.”

  19. Dave M says

    The metaphors are artful, and if this was fiction I’d have no issues. But there is a HUGE gap between “parasites can do this” and “this parasite can do this to humans”, then another leap to “that’s what happened to the writer’s partner”. Those can only be addressed by science and medicine, not anecdote.

    And if this were real, wouldn’t we know? It makes you an alpha male narcissist, after helping with weight loss? Gym bros would be pushing it on kids. 4chan would make a sport of getting redditors to infect themselves, and laughing when they get sick. I would have ads for it in my spam folder…

    • Greg Lorriman says

      Perhaps the writer should have gone in to more detail on that, but there is research linking Toxoplasmosis to Schizophrenia. And there have been a number of articles in the Media from recovered Schizoids taking anti-parasite drugs.

  20. peanut gallery says

    Jesus, some people can’t have fun. I guess some are only interested in reading about progressives. As if they haven’t already won and more articles about how they have infected every liberal system are going to stop the train. It’s not a bad story. I don’t have to believe the author find it entertaining/interesting. I’m personally getting a little bored of reading about progs. I get it. We’re fucked. In the next few decades, The West ill be on fire. By then we’ll all wish we had an Edwin.

  21. A Huge red flag: The use of the term “western medicine”. Is there western math? Western physics ? African Biology? North American Chemistry?

    Here’s what “Functional medicine” can mean “The Temecula Centre for Integrative Medicine was born and so was her vision of a true integrative healthcare centre. This centre currently is working under the PPO insurance model that includes: Medical Doctors, Family Nurse Practitioner, Physician Assistant, Naturopathic Doctor, Chiropractor, Acupuncturist, Marriage Family Counselor, Lifestyle Educators, Nutritional IV Therapies, and Massage”

    Naturopathy , Chiropathy and Acupuncture are all snake oil!

    Honey Colony: Alternative medicine crap. Questioning if anti depressants work? Hydrogen water for sleep? Metformin for weight loss , this is an anti diabetic drug, you should be extra careful when using it for weight loss.

    Seinfeld said once in one of the episodes “sometimes the road less travelled is less travelled for a reason” . SOMETIMES people don’t get published because what they have to say is unadulterated bullshit

    I don’t care if QUILLETTE publishes 1000 articles with opinions I don’t agree with. However publishing health misinformation is a serious matter. I know a thing or two about this, I’m a pharmacist. If you want to get an idea about how to cure Toxoplasmosis :

    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/toxoplasmosis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20356255

  22. I think a virus replaced my “Quillette” bookmark with a “The Onion” bookmark. I have no other reasonable explanation how this article appeared on my screen. What’s next? “Boyfriend bitten by flea turns into wereflea despite ministrations of trained homeopath.”?

    • Very sad. I have no problem with left wing political ideas; we can have disagreements about it. But this is unscientific BS.

    • DiamondLil says

      Don’t anger the werefleas! They’re everywhere . . . and they hear you.

  23. Etiamsi omnes says

    If ever I start writng things like: “My naturopath this…” or “My homeopath that…” in the comments I post, I hope my friends on Quillette will have me tested for parasites. Thank you.

  24. Asenath Waite says

    The evidence that Toxoplasma can have large impacts on human psychology is very tenuous at this point. There are correlations between infection and prevalence of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder but no causal relationship has been shown.

    Also a nitpick, once in the brain and muscle tissue the tachyzoites transition to encysted bradyzoites. These are transmissible via oral ingestion (tachyzoites are not), which makes humans an evolutionary dead end for T. gondii, as we are very rarely eaten by anything. Really the parasite wants to get back to its primary host, felines, from which the highly infectious oocysts are produced, and therefore prey species for felines (mice being the most common) have the greatest relevance to parasite transmission. Toxoplasma would therefore probably have evolved to influence the brain function of rodents, and any effects of the parasite on human brain function would be incidental byproducts of that adaptation.

  25. Greg Lorriman says

    Schizophrenia is linked to Toxoplasmosis. Supposedly some Schizophrenics recover on taking (rather expensive) anti-parasite drugs. It’s not reflected much in the Wikipedia article on this, but it’s been in the news.

    Schizophrenics sometimes have inverted reasoning, which may be explained by the effect on mice and rats of making them attracted to what they would normally be repelled by, cat urine. So the more you demonstrate trustworthiness, the more you will be distrusted causing paranoia. And their thinking can be extremely bizarre, if you’ve ever talked to one.

    There’s also some connection to bi-polar, one of whose mania symptoms is megalomania “I am God”. They also go hypersexual. This happens regularly to a Catholic acquaintance who ends up bonking boyfriends with the door open in her Christian flatshare (doubly verbatim). She’s actually quite devout and obviously embarrassed when she recovers. My bipolar ex-landlady told me that she couldn’t remember anything during her manic phases and had regrettably given away her rolex with no idea to whom. In one of her long depressions she went around town madly asking strangers for a gun to do away with herself,”… but Greg, I’m not suicidal at all”. She eventually succeeded though her mum didn’t tell me how.

    In any case, it’s yet another reason why we can never judge anyone.

    Mind-bender parasites.

  26. Steve says

    @Asenath : It seems that this guy James has a much much increased chance of getting eaten by something though. Do we know if whales or sharks a mile out to sea are involved in the parasite’s life cycle?

    • Asenath Waite says

      @Steve

      Toxoplasma has been identified in dolphins (and maybe whales, can’t recall) but it can’t infect fish. Maybe if a killer whale gets James it could be passed on that way.

  27. Asenath Waite says

    About a third of people worldwide are thought to be infected with Toxoplasma, including 10 percent in the US, a somewhat higher proportion in Europe, and around 80 percent in Brazil. So if it is affecting our psychology it’s interesting to think about how large that potential impact on human society could be.

  28. Sydney says

    I expect the author knows of Anne Louise Gittelman and her parasite book and talks:

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001E95IN0?ie=UTF8&tag=annlouigitton-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B001E95IN0

    I’ve heard her speak and guess you could probably find videos of interviews or talks on YouTube.

    Dr. Will Cole is another functional practitioner who seems to have worked with the issue:

    https://drwillcole.com/your-definitive-guide-to-intestinal-parasites-what-they-are-symptoms-how-to-heal/

    Parasites don’t get enough exposure (no pun intended) as a topic. Good thing that ‘Quillette’ published this post.

  29. S Snell says

    This amazing, captivating article actually changed my life!

    Sorry, that was the parasite speaking.

  30. Farris says

    So we are all blank slates until the parasites get us? This sounds like the preparation for an argument against personal responsibility. The parasites made me do it! It’s hard to determine who dodged the bullet in this relationship; James or Maryam?

  31. codadmin says

    The parasite was in fact a flotilla of Haitian migrants trying to smuggle themselves into a socialist welfare state.

  32. Tim says

    “My naturopath….”

    Maryam, your boyfriend needed an infectious diseases physician and a psychiatrist. (Another MD here, by the way).

    What a pile of anecdotal bullshit. The author seems to have taken her relationship problems with some douche-bag, marginal epiphenomena of parasitic infection in species other than humans, added a sprinkle of quotes from a fictional TV show and produced a vomitarium of incorherent rubbish.

    Was this article just a ruse to direct traffic to her snake-oil peddling website?

    Seriously, this is the kind of superstitious, feelings-don’t-care-about-your-facts nonsense that we need less of, not more.

  33. Morgan Foster says

    “James filmed the ceremony while standing in blood, feces, disease, mud, and spirits.”

    Shit happens.

  34. somewoman says

    2/10. I thought this story was going to end with James dying of getting eaten by parasites while he felt like he was at the top of his game. Now that would have been a good story.

    Babe, I know I’m not the first to tell ya. He’s just not that into you. He’s not going to be. You’ve told us that he is charming, others call him narcissistic, non comital and you’re sitting here pining for him for years. No part of that story needs a parasite to explain. That’s human nature for you. You are woman number 3 billion to fall madly in love with some unavailable alpha male cad.

    I googled you, you look fine as h*ll. I know he’s not the only guy after it. Go find yourself another boyfriend. Make it easy on yourself and find someone who is either better looking or better in bed. You’ll eventually get over james, and Edwin might tell james to one day come knocking on your door once he feels he’s lost you.

  35. Caleb McInerary says

    Everybody knows that during the full moon parasites swell with water and have sex parties in our bodies. It’s just common sense.

  36. Sufferer says

    I either have an allergy to something like dust mites (that feel like little mosquito bites) or some form of parasite that one cannot see, and/or a mental disease making me think I have same (but otherwise being completely sane). No doctor has been of help. It has been 30 years now – but thankfully I’ve acclimatized somewhat to it and reduced the stresses that make it physically unbearable. It is far more episodic than constant these days.

    People have no idea what this sort of harm this can do to one’s mind.

    The worst case can result in suicide, but the second worse case can be a living hell that totally destroys relationships with other people.

    The near constant irritation is bad and makes one testy and stern – but the imagined guilt causes utter anguish. Imagine what it is like to feel like you cannot be intimate with other people, because you think they might catch the parasite from you. Imagine needing to work, but having to go to training courses or long meetings and being 100% alert to every time a person scratches themselves or looks physically irritated and thinking it is due to you. Imagine feeling that even a hug from a parent is potentially dangerous to them. Imagine never being able to seriously flirt and date someone because you can’t let anyone know about your condition let alone risk passing it on.

    Don’t mock the article due to the subject matter.

  37. Derek says

    Interesting article but isn’t it a little too convenient to believe that the reason your boyfriend broke up with you is because his brain became possessed by demon parasites that wanted to keep you away lest you cure him somehow? Perhaps he went along with this Edwin theory to avoid telling you that you were just too clingy.

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