Responses to various comments about ME and FMS

Some of the com­ments are pret­ty old by now, but there are cer­tain themes that come back, over and over again. I’ve decid­ed to answer them once, and that’s it.

ME and FMS are not “lifestyle” dis­eases. Researchers have found genet­ic, neu­ro­log­i­cal and car­di­o­log­i­cal anom­alies, so get off that blame-the-vic­tim bull­shit. We know bet­ter. We’ve done the diet and exer­cise dance. We’ve tried air-clean­ers and remov­ing tox­ins and nat­ur­al cleansers and vit­a­mins and health foods, and while some of them are nicer than the alter­na­tives, they can­not cure chron­ic fatigue syn­drome or fibromyal­gia because they are not part of the cause.

While we’re at it, no, alien abduc­tions don’t cause FMS, either. I know you’re laugh­ing, but there real­ly is site out there that makes such claims. No, I won’t link to it. It’s bad enough that it exists!

“Chron­ic Fatigue Syn­drome” is a total­ly inad­e­quate name for a dis­or­der whose suf­fer­ers expe­ri­ence far, far, more than a lit­tle tired­ness. That’s why we have a new and bet­ter name for CFS, as of Jan­u­ary 2007: ME/CFS, or myal­gic encephalopathy/chronic fatigue syn­drome. The dis­ease has been known as ME all along in the rest of the world, although some­times the acronym was used for myal­gic encephalomyelitis. Per­son­al­ly, I pre­ferred one of the oth­er sug­ges­tions, chron­ic neu­roen­docrineim­mune dys­func­tion syn­drome (CNDS), but I was­n’t on the com­mit­tee.

I would hap­pi­ly rename fibromyal­gia “you don’t want to be me” or “betray­al by entire body, tak­ing your mind with it,” but I don’t think any­body is sug­gest­ing that it be renamed. The name just does­n’t seem ade­quate to its impact, though it’s a lit­tle bet­ter than some of the old­er names, like “rheuma­tism.”

To oth­ers who have said “pre­ven­tion is bet­ter than cure.” Well, yes, and “a stitch in time saves 9.” Yup. I’ve got plen­ty of apho­risms, too. Tell me, pray, how one “pre­vents” dis­or­ders whose ori­gin is unclear? As I said above, researchers have iden­ti­fied genet­ic anom­alies. We have fair­ly good evi­dence that fibromyal­gia, at least, has a genet­ic com­po­nent. We’ve got brain scans show­ing that fibromites’ brains react dif­fer­ent­ly to painful stim­uli, and oth­er tests show­ing that our spinal flu­id has much high­er lev­els of a neu­ropep­tide involved in trans­mit­ting pain impuls­es than non-fibromites.

With that in mind, how would you go about “pre­vent­ing” fibromyal­gia? Advis­ing us not to breed? Many of us have already done so by the time we’re diagnosed—and, of course, that can’t help us when we’ve already got the dis­ease. We can use our own diag­noses as warn­ings that our own chil­dren may have a sus­cep­ti­bil­i­ty to fibromyal­gia, but what then? Smoth­er them in cot­ton bat­ting, to keep them from expe­ri­ence any stres­sors in life that might set off the FMS bomb in their genes?

Being fat does­n’t cause ME or FMS, either, although it’s com­mon to gain weight after devel­op­ing either dis­or­der. I don’t know any­one who is able to main­tain the lev­el of activ­i­ty he or she did before falling ill, and many of the drugs used to treat the symp­toms of these dis­or­ders cause weight gain. Los­ing weight is even more dif­fi­cult for us than for oth­er peo­ple. Telling us that we’d feel bet­ter if we lost weight is not help­ful in the least. I’ve nev­er once heard of any­one who was “cured” of FMS or ME because he or she lost weight—and if it were hap­pen­ing, I would know it, because I pay a lot of atten­tion to these things.

Even if I thought weight loss offered a “cure,” or even ame­lio­ra­tion of symp­toms, I see no rea­son to dis­cuss drugs like Xeni­cal at any length. Any drug or pro­ce­dure promis­ing weight loss will has an easy time get­ting approved because of our soci­ety’s hatred of fat peo­ple. Fen-phen, any­one? “Oh, the drug will kill some patients, or leave them with per­ma­nent heart dam­age? Hell, it’s worth it if there’s a chance of los­ing weight!” The weight-lossself-hatred indus­try has more than enough mon­ey and pow­er to lube their way past any flim­sy lit­tle reg­u­la­tions stand­ing in their way.

Diet and sports and their rela­tion to weight are anoth­er thing all togeth­er, and beyond the scope of this blog. I rec­om­mend you to peruse the worlds of the delight­ful Sandy Szwarc over at Junk­food Sci­ence, who does cov­er that top­ic, fre­quent­ly, thor­ough­ly, and well.

Other FMS/chronic illness blogs/casts?

I’ll record episode 3 as soon as my sound tech (aka Sam, my part­ner) is avail­able.

Right now, though, I’m in the mood to plump up my blogroll. Sug­gest oth­er blogs and pod­casts about fibromyal­gia, chron­ic fatigue, or chron­ic ill­ness, please! What are your favorites? Do you have one your­self? Tell me about it!

My Apologies

I must apol­o­gize for my absence here and the lack of a pod­cast last week! I’ve just got­ten home from a brief hos­pi­tal stay, and I did­n’t have inter­net access there. I have plen­ty of mate­r­i­al to cov­er, although it won’t be on the planned top­ic. Stay tuned!

What does “Fibrant” mean?

It’s a word that I made up, com­bin­ing “vibrant” and “fibromyal­gia.” A fibrant life is one that is well-round­ed, bal­anced, as healthy as pos­si­ble, and has more joy than pain in it. The goal of this blog and pod­cast is to spread fibran­cy and to sup­port each oth­er in main­tain­ing our fibrant lives.

I hope you’ll join me as share what I’ve learned and expe­ri­enced in my 14 years of liv­ing with fibromyal­gia and chron­ic fatigue syn­drome. I’m com­mit­ted to learn­ing more, and to reach out to find as many oth­er peo­ple as pos­si­ble who have some­thing to share as guest blog­gers and inter­vie­wees on the pod­cast. I hope to hear from peo­ple who have chron­ic ill­ness­es, friends, fam­i­ly mem­bers, and care­givers of those with chron­ic ill­ness­es, and pro­fes­sion­als who have spe­cial insights for us.

Namaste,
Cyn