Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Wakely’

SJUKDOM | Det är ingen hemlighet att Winston Churchill led av återkommande perioder av depression. Han t.o.m. döpte dem till ”The Black Dog”.

History Today, februari 2013

Men Churchill är naturligtvis inte den enda personen i historien med någon form av psykisk ohälsa. Andra berömdheter är Florence Nightingale, Charles Darwin och Abraham Lincoln.

Frågan är om det idag skulle vara möjligt för någon att bli vald till president eller regeringschef om han eller hon led av någon forma av psykisk ohälsa, oavsett hur lindrigt. 

Ett avslöjande skulle i USA genast sätta igång diskussioner om lämpligheten av att t.ex. ansvara för USA:s kärvapensystem.

Men som Jerome Carson och Elizabeth Wakely skriver i History Today är det inte bara elände:

[I]t may also be that, despite some hindrances and setbacks, the mental suffering experienced by Lincoln, Darwin, Nightingale and Churchill actually facilitated and contributed to many of their successes and achievements. Such a theory of a creative malady is well known in its application to those in the creative arts but less so for those in other disciplines and in public life. At the outset it is important to bear in mind the caveat expressed by the psychiatrist Anthony Storr: ‘In a subject in which so much is controversial, it behoves the psychiatrist and the historian to be modest in their claims to psychological understanding.’

In a conversation with his personal physician, Lord Moran, during the war years, Churchill commented:

Black depression settled on me … I didn’t like standing near the edge of a platform when an express train was passing through … I don’t like to stand by the edge of a ship and look down into the water. A second’s action would end everything.

Lord Moran in turn informed Churchill:

The Black Dog business you get from your forebears. You have fought against it all your life … You always avoid anything that is depressing.

Rather like Lincoln, Churchill was also quite successful in battling his depression episodes. His coping strategies included cerebral and artistic pursuits, such as writing and painting, and more physical ones, such as bricklaying, along with over-indulgence in food, alcohol and cigars.

While there is little disagreement that Churchill suffered from depression, there is more dispute over whether he may have had bipolar disorder.


Resentment of authority and difficulty in dealing with hostility or animosity often leads depressives to seek out opponents in the external world and Hitler was the man upon whom Churchill could release his aggression. He had, too, an unwavering belief in his own invincibility and his own destiny:

This cannot be accident, it must be design. I was kept for this job.

This is perhaps a bipolar blurring of the line between fantasy and reality. As Lord Moran said:

It was the inner world of make-believe in which Winston found reality.

When Churchill told Lady Violet Bonham Carter, ‘We are all worms. But I do believe that I am a glow-worm’, he encapsulated self-abasement and self-glorification in a single phrase.

Seemingly never given to introspection, it may also be that Churchill’s own experience of depression enabled him to understand and sympathise with the deprivation and hardships the people suffered during the war years. His radio broadcasts to he nation certainly appear, on the whole, to have given hope and the will to endure. However Anthony Storr is convinced that it was manic aspects of Churchill’s mental illness that were critical to his success:

Had Churchill been a stable and equable man, he could never have inspired the nation. In 1940, when all the odds were against Britain, a leader of sober judgement might well have concluded we were finished.

Bild: Tidskriftsomslaget är History Today, februari 2013. Fotot på Churchill är taget av den berömda fotografen Margaret Bourke-White.

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