“Suzanne O’Sullivan is an Irish neurologist working in Britain who is the winner of the 2016 Wellcome Book Prize. She won for her first book, It’s All in Your Head: True Stories of Imaginary Illness, published by Chatto & Windus in 2015. The book also won the Royal Society of Biology General Book Prize.
O’Sullivan is a consultant neurologist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London. O’Sullivan completed an MA in creative writing at Birkbeck College, University of London, in November 2015.”
Suzanne O’Sullivan wrote in The Guardian of 16 May 2015:
“…I knew from an early stage that I wanted to be a neurologist. I enjoyed the detective drama of the job, unravelling the mysteries of how the nervous system communicates its messages. But I did not predict how far I would be drawn into the care of people whose illness originated not in the body but in the mind. Some examples of how the mind affects the body are commonplace: we are familiar with the shake in our hand as we pick up the pen to sign the marriage register, or the bead of sweat on our brow as we stand up to give a presentation. These are the body’s physiological responses to stress. But we are less familiar with the frequency with which people can unconsciously think themselves ill. Up to one third of people seen in an average general neurology clinic have symptoms that cannot be explained by medical tests or examinations. In those people, an emotional cause is often suspected…
…Think about laughter: it is a physical display of emotion whose mechanism is ill understood; it is not always under our control, it affects our whole body, it stops our breathing and speeds up our heart; it releases tension and communicates feelings. If we can collapse with laughter, is it not just as possible that the body can do even more extraordinary things when faced with even more extraordinary triggers?…”
Bill Bryson, in A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003) Chapter Twenty-Five:
“…Darwin’s own grandfather, Erasmus, had paid tribute to evolutionary principles in a poem of inspired mediocrity called The Temple of Nature years before Charles was even born…
…it wasn’t until 1842…that Darwin finally began to sketch out the rudiments of his new theory. These he expanded into a 230-page “sketch” two years later. And then he did an extraordinary thing: he put his notes away and for the next decade and a half busied himself with other matters. He fathered ten children, devoted nearly eight years to writing an exhaustive opus on barnacles (“I hate a barnacle as no man ever did before,” he sighed, understandably, upon the work’s conclusion) and fell prey to strange disorders that left him chronically listless, faint, and “flurried”, as he put it. The symptoms nearly always included a terrible nausea and generally also incorporated palpitations, migraines, exhaustion, trembling, spots before the eyes, shortness of breath, “swimming of the head” and, not surprisingly, depression.
The cause of the illness has never been established…Often he could work for no more than twenty minutes at a stretch, sometimes not even that.
…He became something of a hermit, seldom leaving his home in Kent, Down House. One of his first acts upon moving to the house was to erect a mirror outside his study window so that he could identify, and if necessary avoid, callers.
Darwin kept his theory to himself because he well knew the storm it would cause…”