I am skeptical about pretty much everything there is to be skeptical about. It is my instinct to want proof, plenty of evidence, scientific rigour and for a hypothesis to at least become a working theory. The scientific definition of theory is not the same as the lay usage of the term and in science anything called a theory is accepted as true. I invite you to consider the theory of gravity. I am not inclined to magical thinking, though I am not immune to it and from what I have read on the human brain, I would not be human if I were. Magical thinking is a very human trait but the human brain has also evolved the ability to be skeptical, thankfully. You'll notice I'm not thanking any gods for that.
Skepticism and magical thinking are both most likely to be applied in the realms of religion and medicine. Religion is not much a part of my life but medicine is in the sense that I live with a chronic illness and have lived with it for most of my life. Unfortunately it is an illness about which not much is known and this leaves it open to the many ideas of those who find alternative medicine appealing. If I only had a dollar (that's the inflationary version of the old saying) for every time someone I've met is convinced that some juice, royal jelly, herb or vitamin will cure me. In fact I'd need that dollar to be paid out because alternative medicine is expensive. I could spend millions trying out all the possible cures, non of which have ever been found to permanently cure anyone of M.E. and many of which have not actually been scientifically proven to cure anyone of anything, other than some of the obvious things like if you have scurvy try taking some vitamin C.
Scurvy has been ruled out in my case, but a few years ago I had to break up with my massage therapist because she began selling some miracle purple juice concentrate. She was convinced it had restored her to her natural level of energy and vibrancy and that it would do wonders for me too. I am quite capable of saying no, but it can still get awkward. The response of someone who truly believes in their medicinal magic cure is generally that if you are refusing to try it you clearly don't really want to get well. I am a very patient person but this tries my patience.
After that month of horrible headaches I recently suffered, I saw my doctor who confirmed what I suspected, which was that my neck and shoulders were really tightly locked up. I am quite prone to that and it had gotten so bad that it was causing pain all the way up through my head. I went for therapeutic deep tissue massage, the kind that really hurts, and after a couple of rounds of that it released the tension and successfully brought me back to my normal level of headaches. I will continue to go for maintenance massages to help, along with some gentle stretches and exercises for my neck and shoulders, but I once again have had to deal with a massage therapist who wants to suggest alternative therapies to me to treat my M.E. Have I tried alkaline water, Traditional Chinese Medicine, or meditation? No, no and yes. I politely listened to the long list of treatments I might consider, the books I might want to read and the things I may wish to eat or drink in order to obtain my optimum level of health. I am good at politely listening, smiling, saying 'oh well isn't that interesting', and then doing exactly as I please. As a massage therapist he is excellent. I think that people who work in the field of helping and healing want to do everything they can to help so they make suggestions about things they think might work and they step a little beyond their realm of expertise.
But I have an excellent doctor whom I trust, who wants me to be well, does not benefit in any way from my not being so, and who would not discourage me from anything where there is evidence it could improve my health. He does not prescribe a long list of pharmaceuticals as there is little there which can help me either, other than a few things to address some symptoms, so it's not a matter of his being involved in a certain system and supporting Big Pharma. In fact he is very reluctant to prescribe things so I feel quite certain that what I do take is well considered. I have troubles with sleep but I am not prescribed any sleeping meds and I have pain but I keep the pain medication minimal too and stick to over the counter medications to moderate it. Such decisions are personal decisions to be made between patient and doctor and may not be the same for every case of M.E.
I am not skeptical about there being ways in which I can adjust my life style, my self care, my diet or sleep habits. In fact, what is known of M.E. is that the most effective way of living with it is lifestyle management. That doesn't mean the same things that a person without M.E. might do will always work for me, and in fact most levels of exercise except for mild to moderate, are detrimental to someone with M.E. I'm sure you can imagine how I feel about the "helpful" advice I sometimes receive from well meaning people who suggest that I need to exercise more or that my problems stem from not being fit, as opposed to understanding that my not being fit is a result of the M.E.
I don't wish to rant forever, but sometimes I write about M.E. because what I do wish to do is help people to understand what M.E. is and improve understanding of it so people with M.E. can achieve the same level of understanding from the general public as people living with MS. I wish to offer my own experiences as support to people who may be suffering from M.E. themselves and who may read this.
Below is an excerpt from the website of The ME Association, which is UK based. Source Here
Main Symptoms of CFS/M.E.
- Muscle symptoms include exercise intolerance and post-exertional malaise (i.e. feeling shattered the day after undue physical activity), pain/myalgia (present in around 75% of people) and fasciculations (visible twitching of the muscles which sometimes includes blepharospasm/eyelid twitching).
- Brain and Central Nervous System symptoms include cognitive dysfunction (problems with short-term memory, concentration and maintaining attention), clumsiness, disequilibrium likened to ‘walking on rubber’, and word finding abilities. Problems with control of the autonomic nervous system results in palpitations, sweating episodes and symptoms associated with low blood pressure/postural hypotension (e.g. fainting).
- Symptoms which suggest on-going abnormalities in immune system function include sore throats, enlarged glands, joint pains, headaches, problems with temperature control and intermittent flu-like feelings.
- Other symptoms which frequently occur in ME/CFS include sleep disturbances (often increased requirements at the onset followed by an inability to maintain a full night’s sleep), alcohol intolerance (a very characteristic feature, particularly in the early period of illness) and irritable bowel symptomatology.
- Some people also develop emotional lability or mood swings and features of clinical depression as time goes on.
-End of excerpt
There is a saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and I find this to be the case with the so called health information that is disseminated through popular media, particularly in women's magazines. I flipped through one such magazine at the doctor's office today and came across a blurb that informed readers that studies show slouching causes fatigue and depression so we should all be sure to improve our posture. What a forehead slapping moment! As someone who has suffered from both, I can assure anyone who cares to know, that fatigue and depression CAUSE slouching and there seems to be a serious case of confused cause and correlation involved here. The moment someone advises me that the cure to all that ails me is to start walking around with books on my head to improve my posture, you can be sure I will have a blog post to write!