Pauline first became ill when she was fifteen. What seemed to be a urinary infection became joint pain, then life-threatening appendicitis. After a routine operation Pauline lost all the strength in her legs. Shortly afterwards, convulsions started. But Pauline’s tests are normal: her symptoms seem to have no physical cause whatsoever.
This may be an extreme case, but Pauline is not alone. As many as a third of people visiting their GP have symptoms that are medically unexplained. In most, an emotional root is suspected which is often the last thing a patient wants to hear and a doctor to say.
We accept our hearts can flutter with excitement and our brows can sweat with nerves, but on this journey into the very real world of psychosomatic illness, Suzanne O’Sullivan finds the secrets we are all capable of keeping from ourselves. –Amazon.co.uk
I’m not sure how I came across this book, I think it may have been a post on social media. Anyway I checked my library and was able to reserve it. One of the reasons is because of my depression and stress-related epilepsy. Today we treat depression in many ways and one is to do with how we think and how we can change it, if not with tablets. Same with certain illnesses tablets are used to control it. For me I should reduce the amount of stress in my life otherwise my body could react with a seizure and this seems to be coming in different forms. I remember the neurologist looking at me when he said you ‘looked stressed’ after telling me my diagnosis and I was thinking ‘well yeah, you’ve just blown everything out of the water to what I thought was wrong’. Plus I couldn’t accept what he was telling me, but who can? After all is knowledge a good thing?
We all think having a diagnosis is a validation to what is wrong and yet these last 3 months it’s completely turned everything on its head, every slight headache, twinge I’ve panicked and ‘googled the symptoms’ and linked nearly everything to the tablets or the diagnosis and after talking to friends and reading this book realised how much damage I am actually doing to myself. I grew up with epilepsy and the stigma and it’s not gone away, to no fault of anyones. Yes some of my views are perhaps outdated but its been like a shadow from my childhood that’s never disappeared.
‘saying that “It’s all in your head” perpetuates the notion that psychosomatic illnesses are ‘imagined’. I don’t agree. It’s time that we all realised that it IS all in your head, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real.‘
This book goes through several cases majority of them different but a lot linked to seizures. The author goes on to explore how people react to situations and how the body can react. In some cases the body is actually trying to protect us when we fall ill, like a warning sign, which I think happened to me last year. One thing it looks into is stress and how its managed.
With social media such a big part of our lives and tv before that painting a picture of how our lives should be, we put a lot of unnecassry stress or create anxiety in oursleves. This book looks at how in some cases when we think we have everything, sometimes that pressure to get it or keep it maintained can cause illnesses and this intrigued me. In the past it would be how big your house was, how much material possessions you had to show your wealth, these days on social media we promote ourselves to show people how good our lives are when in fact perhaps they’re not. We communicate so differently now that we can find it difficult to reach out and ask for help or it can be seen as an embarrassment if we do and that’s why most of us struggle with our mental health. The man should be the bread-winner and when he’s unable to he beleives or is seen as a failure and the list goes on.
‘Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart.’ -Carl Jung. Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1961)
To think our subconscious can sabotage our daily lives with something from the past is not as silly as it sounds. It’s just these days we keep hearing ‘it’s in the past you should let it go’ ‘stop letting it affect today’ But what if this is coming up because something that is happening now is reflecting that and we are going back to something familiar and it’s actually that, that we need to deal with first?
‘But society has not fully woken up to the frequency with which people do the opposite – unconsciously think themselves ill.’
We can’t tell what each other is thinking or how certain conditions/illnesses affect us. Every one deals with things differently. After reading this book I’m wondering if my period pain is just in my head. After years of pain, right since the beginning, has never subsided and I wonder if my brain, on realising it is happening instantly increases the pain. What if I took another approach in the way I deal with it, would it disappear. When I saw a gynecologist over 15 years ago she turned round and said there wasn’t anything physically wrong and that I just suffered bad periods. perhaps that is what I am doing with the epilepsy and depression. I’m so worried I will be ill I actually make myself ill in the process? I’m not saying that all the tests I’ve been through are for nothing but perhaps I’m looking at this the wrong way and when I get to see a therapist this could be something to look at. We shall see.
This book is an interesting read. The sources she uses and the cases she discusses brings to light that we are a complex being. I’m not saying that this book is to cure people but its an interesting look at how our minds can work in times of stress and how our bodies are in a sense trying to warn or protect us from danger.
If you read it let me know what you think.
Thank you for reading