Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Ignorance isn't bliss - it's toxic!

Here we go again.

Sorry this blogpost may not be very thorough, spellchecked or rational.

Just seen this in today's online Daily Express in Dr Rosemary Leonard's column "Getting to the Heart of Medical Matters":

Q After a flu vaccination my 45-year-old son began suffering muscle weakness, fatigue and lethargy. Numerous blood tests and visits to his GP followed and he was told he was suffering symptoms of ME but no help was offered.

Can you guess the content and suggestions?
Of course you can. No peeking.

1) the flu vaccine it is unlikely the jab is to blame as it does not contain any live viruses.
2) cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), counselling and physiotherapy can be helpful along with painkillers for muscle pains and also antidepressants which can help boost mood.
3) One of the most beneficial treatments is graded exercise where the patient has a specific programme to slowly increase the amount of activity they do each day.
4) Reducing stress
5) a healthy diet
6) reducing alcohol

I'm not denying there will be nuggets of help there in among the old misguided anti-fatigue measures. But the lumping all diagnosed M.E./CFS cases under the same hallucinatory umbrella is getting us nowhere nearer to awareness of the severity of the disease in many cases. Nowhere nearer to a diagnostic test. Nowhere nearer to effective treatment. Nowhere nearer to a cure for any of the neuroimmune illnesses that fall under the influence of NICE's idea of M.E./CFS.

My own M.E. (yes, that's anecdotal, I know, I know!) symptoms, even before diagnosis and while still able, intermittently, to work, were ALWAYS worse after the annual flu jab (as a T1 Diabetic in the "at risk" group) and I always got a panoply of bad (non-flu?) viral infections both before and after the jab. It was the week following my jab in 2005 that I collapsed and became bedridden and housebound for the best part of a year and from which though improved, I have never fully recovered.

My GP sent me for 2) CBT and 3) GET. At an NHS "CFS/ME Clinic". So patient "fully compliant".

Even the OT admitted by the end of 6 months or so, that it wasn't helping me to be cured or really improved. Why? Because it was clear to her from the off that I wasn't depressed. Wasn't "frightened of doing too much". Wasn't "deconditioned". Didn't harbour those "false illness beliefs" so beloved by those who think the root causes of M.E. include psychological difficulties.

I couldn't even make the excruciating journey to the last GET feedback session because it was making me more ill. The OT could see I was motivated to return to work and my happy, successful, joyous fully functioning previous life. I had to be all but forced to take early retirement, for goodness sake. On what planet is that a "lifestyle choice"???

I had low dose amitriptyline (antidepressant) to help with relaxing painful muscles alongside painkillers like aspirin, ibuprofen and paracetamol. They did nothing for me but make staying awake even harder, weight gain, fuzzy headedness, etc even worse. So in the end they were discontinued. After all, my mood had never been low.

My mood had never been low, that is, until rationally I worked out the state of play with M.E.  No, I, like so many others, did not choose this diagnosis and knew nobody with it until much later on! Then, seeing my career, my freedom, my credibility as a fully-functioning citizen, my very truthfulness questioned by society as a whole, my mood did dip at times, understandably, till I understood I wasn't alone with this variable but very characteristic set of suffering symptoms (of which "fatigue" is quite low down the list, thank you!!!)

I had been eating healthily for many years, most of my adult life, as an insulin-dependent diabetic. That's a "tick" for number 5.

Number 6? Well, after collapsing with M.E, one glass of wine had me so dizzy, sick and disoriented, my central nervous system obviously knew what it didn't tolerate any more without me voluntarily reducing intake. I could tolerate the occasional glass of wine, or lager, even once or twice a spirit like brandy or vodka at Christmas before M.E. raised its much maligned head. So 6) reducing alcohol is hardly an issue to aid recovery for some of us either.

4) Reduce stress? Don't make me laugh (I've actually been known throughout my life, and every illness and circumstance as having the best positive attitude and a wacky warm GSOH)

Tell 4) to doctors, nurses, specialists, consultants, the DWP, ATOS, utility companies, landlords, and every last well meaning delusional who will thrust this article in my face to "help me cope".

I'm coping as I always have and always will. Was my diabetes down to "illness beliefs"? Was my shingles down to "illness beliefs"? Was my recently discovered tachycardia, ectopic beats & cardiac arrhythmia due to my "illness beliefs"? Was my bout of giardia in Bolivia, which may or may not have triggered my immune system's meltdown, my "illness belief"? Is the space in the teeth of my lower jaw (where I now know my great grandfather had an extra tooth) down to my defective "illness beliefs"? So what's the likelihood I've suddenly developed something that has no possible physical cause?

I'm coping. Pacing. Enduring. Hoping. Thankful. Optimistic.

But when are you going to actually treat my cardiovascular, immune, autonomic, cognitive disease? When are you actually going to prove you're listening to 250,000 people in this country and so many more worldwide? When will children and young people with M.E. stop dying from something you say  has no Proper Robust Reason?

When will you cure me, or just fess up, shrug at me with a look of condescending pity and hand over the cyanide pill? (N.B. Jokey sarcasm alert - you can go on dismissing my M.E., but you will NEVER change who I am inside!) :)


  1. FWIW, I have found relief from the fatigue with omega 3, vitamin D3 and Vitamin b12 supplementation. I take oral flax(seed) oil, oral d3 both from nature's bounty or puritan's pride (only one I trust to be both effective and cost effective) and the b12 shots from the doctor's office.

  2. Very informative for someone like myself who knows very little about this awful debilitating illness.

  3. What a brilliantly insightful description of the 'hazards of having M.E.' when it comes to - getting taken seriously,diagnosed, treated (huh!) and generally misunderstood both by the medical profession and society at large.
    I read this with nods, grins, shaking of the head and some laughing out loud too. Love the warning poster.It's sentiments are so true. Please consider getting some printed for public use as all ME sufferers would thank you for making it known how we feel!