Fig 4 Edinburgh Royal Infirmary – Gormenghast
As with so many people in life, who research specific topics, their interest comes from personal experience
I qualified as a medical doctor in 1980, just before my 23rd birthday. I had raced through A’levels, med school, and the age of 25 was only the third woman to practice as a neurosurgeon in the UK. At the time, British neurosurgeons prided themselves as the last bastion of male supremacy, firmly holding the line against appointing women trainees. No pressure!
By the time I was 28, I had published a dozen research papers, and was on my way to be the first woman appointed in neurosurgery since the 1950s. It was not to be, I developed bipolar disorder and crashed ingloriously out of neurosurgery and any chance of a career in medicine – such was the stigma and prejudice surrounding mental health problems.
After two further episodes, spending more than a year in various hospitals, three mental health sections and having wasted my thirties trying to stay well enough to work, I finally admitted to myself that maybe I had to deal with my problems.