HeadWise HeadWise: Volume 4, Issue 4 - Page 30

with migraine subsets, including familial hemiplegic migraine. Based on Darwin’s writings, some researchers have theorized that the scientist was suffering from depression. Darwin wrote to one correspondent, “We have just returned home after spending five weeks in Ulswater; the scenery is quite charming, but I cannot walk, and everything tires me, even seeing scenery. . .What I shall do with my few remaining years I can hardly tell, I have everything to make me happy and contented, but life has become very wearisome to me.” As Pickering noted in his book, Darwin – unlike other depressed patients – was able to perform tasks during those reportedly “depression” periods. Although living as a recluse, Darwin was quite productive in his writings, including the publication of On the Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871). His productivity in writing despite his disability could be attributed to the care of his wife. Following their marriage, Darwin became an invalid. He stopped attending scientific meetings and social events at friends’ homes. With Emma’s help, he was also able to avoid visitors to his own home. Emma was his shield from social interactions which made him ill, and also served as his caregiver. It appears that Mrs. Darwin enjoyed caring for invalids, and Charles became more dependent on his wife. This process has been described as the “concubine syndrome” which is most often seen in female patients. The patient’s chronic illness, including headache, is used for secondary gain by a significant other, such as a spouse, parent, lover, or child. Emma was a facilitator for Charles’ disability. Darwin’s illness improved as he aged, a scenario often seen in migraine. He became more productive during the last decade of his life. On April 19, 1882, at age 73, Darwin died of coronary heart disease. He had suffered a heart attack several weeks earlier and lingered. However, his headaches continued through this last illness. In a letter to Thomas Huxley, his son Frank wrote, “He remained in a condition of terrible faintness and suffered very much from overpowering nausea, interrupted by retchings. He more than once said, ‘if I could but die’.” According to Emma’s memoirs of his last years, Darwin’s final words to his family were, “I am not the least afraid of death – Remember what a good wife you have been to me – Tell all my children to remember how good they have been to me.” And while Emma rested, he repeatedly told his children, Henrietta and Frank, that “It’s almost worth while to be sick to be nursed by you.” Darwin’s story reflects not only his productivity despite illness, but also the impact of chronic illness on an entire family. His recurrent headaches altered the roles of his wife and children, and their social interactions. The headaches had a life of their own within the family dynamics. Because of his headaches, Darwin no longer ventured far from home and did not return to his