At the turn of the last century, America witness an apparent epidemic of "hysteria" among its upper class women. Physicians treated this "nervous prostration" with long-term bed rest, isolation, plasters of mustard and vinegar, creamy foods, physical restraints, and bleeding by leeches. Most female patients were treated with these methods and returned home further depressed and distraught. Feminist author Charlotte Perkins Gilman was one of these women. Tessa Leigh Derfner and Barbara Pitts have created Miles Below Zero as an expressionistic examination of one woman's personal collapse juxtaposed with prevailing medical thought used to treat thousands like her.