Singer Joni Mitchell remains hospitalised as she battles for her life against a rare, often misunderstood illness called Morgellons.
Morgellons is a rare condition that many doctors and scientists snub, referring to the victims as being “delusional”. Victims of the illness usually describe feeling as if they are infested with disease-causing fibres and parasites that makes life unbearable.
In 2010, Joni identified herself as suffering from the condition, saying “I have this weird, incurable disease that sounds like it’s from outer space… Fibres in a variety of colours protrude out of my skin like mushrooms after a rainstorm … they cannot be forensically identified as animal, vegetable or mineral.”
Joni’s best friend, Miss Morris, announced earlier this week that the singer “remains unconscious and unable to make any responses, and is therefore unable to provide for any of her personal needs”.
The Daily Mail report:
Like many of the other estimated 1,400 sufferers in the U.S., Mitchell is convinced that parasites are living under her skin — a condition that scientists call ‘delusional parasitosis’.
At times, she said, she couldn’t wear clothing as she continually felt that she was being ‘eaten alive’, and was unable to leave her house for several years. Sometimes, she felt her legs cramping up so much that she could not walk, and had to crawl across the floor instead.
While Morgellons is often described politely as a ‘mysterious’ disease, the overwhelming medical opinion is that sufferers have a psychological — rather than a physical — illness.
Many victims appear to have had a history of drug-taking. Predictably, given her counter-culture past, Joni Mitchell has admitted to taking a lot of drugs over the years.
She says she was addicted to cocaine in the Seventies. When she went on a concert tour headed by Bob Dylan, and was asked how she wanted to be paid, she replied: ‘In cocaine.’
While she accepts that smoking has ruined her voice, and says she also suffers from acute insomnia and paranoia, Mitchell blames Morgellons for deterring her from performing, recording, or even travelling in recent years.
As one sympathetic doctor put it this week: ‘Imagine you’re at Madison Square Garden, singing for thousands … and then all of a sudden you feel the itch. Spiders have begun creeping across your limbs, rashes spread over your face and under your skin.’
Is it possible that Mitchell’s latest spell in hospital may be the result of a psychiatric, rather than a strictly physical, condition?
That would certainly go some way to explaining the confusion about her condition, and also the apparent speed of her recovery.
Her friend Miss Morris, in her court submission, claimed that Mitchell had confided ‘over the years’ that she no longer had any living relatives who could care for her, hence her own offer to take on that role.
In fact, Mitchell does have a living relative: an illegitimate daughter she gave up for adoption as a teenager but who came to find her birth mother 30 years later.
Mitchell was 19 and at art school in Canada when she became pregnant by a fellow student and gave birth in 1965. Not until 1997 did her daughter, Kilauren Gibb, make contact.
By then, Gibb had two children herself, a boy and a girl, making Mitchell a grandmother.
Initially, the reunion was rapturous. They met in a blaze of publicity at Mitchell’s $9million mansion and Gibb said of their first hug: ‘It felt like I’d gone away on a trip for a couple of months and I was coming home.’
However, the relationship soon soured. Mitchell blamed ‘abandonment issues’ and poor behaviour by Gibb, who had worked as a model after being brought up by a prosperous Canadian family.
In 2000, police were called to Mitchell’s home when Gibb claimed her mother had attacked her. Amid growing tension, mother and daughter were once again estranged. It was a bitter blow for Mitchell, who then retreated from public view.
In recent years, she has emerged to brand her contemporary, Bob Dylan, a plagiarist and a fake, and to dismiss singer Taylor Swift — who was tipped to play her in a biopic — as just ‘a girl with high cheekbones’.
It seems the singer has lost none of her innate feistiness, which she will certainly need in the coming weeks and months.
‘I have a tremendous will to live,’ Mitchell told a newspaper in 2010. Her fans will certainly hope that she comes through this latest battle with her fighting spirit intact.
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