You may have caught the media interest surrounding the militantism of some of the ME community’s spokespeople over the last few months.  It started with an article in the BMJ which decried the use of violent threats and insults to medical and psychiatric researchers who are attempting to find answers to the mystery disease which is ME/CFS – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  The much maligned Professor Wessely, a main contender in the psychiatric corner of the ME/CFS debate, has been repeatedly villified and demonised: you do not have to search far across the internet to discover just how despised this man is among some sectors of the ME/CFS community.  And even in the BMJ, he cites a section from a hate mail to him as follows: “I hope that you die and your death wil come soon.  I’ll follow your casket on a pale afternoon and what while you’re lowered unto your deathbed and stand over your grave till I am sure that your dead” – which, from my own humble experiences of some of the messages from a few choice unsubscribes from my list, doesn’t exactly inspire you to keep going back for more!
 The Microscopic XMRV Virus
However, of equal objection according to this militant part of the ME/CFS mouthpiece, is the research into purely medical avenues which would seem a proverbial shot in its own foot.  Research that has sought to replicate the breakthroughs with the retrovirus that indicated in its initial research that 68 out of 101 sufferers had been infected, failed.  The fallout of this kind of finding provides a feeding ground for those that are still on a mission to derail even the merest suggestion that this condition is not physical.  And sadly, Professor Wessely’s understandable but perhaps more retaliatory than reasoned response is that this segment of the ME/CFS fraternity “have personality problems. They are damaged and disturbed with an obsession about psychiatry.” (BMJ vol 342 p 1395)
So disillusioned and intimidated are some researchers that they claim to have been chased out of their chosen research field to take up posts in lesser controversial areas of medical research, one even claiming he felt safer now working in Iraq and Afghanistan!
The debate overflowed into the broadsheet newspapers a couple of weeks later to which came some very sensitive letters from sufferers of ME/CFS who have found this whole militancy rather distasteful and in fact, disgraceful.   I wonder what sends one small section of a community into melt down in this way?  Does suggesting they have a personality disorder help the ME/CFS cause?
This bipolar approach to ME/CFS is so poignantly indicative of the either/or debate that rages through modern medicine.  We’re on a high one moment that there is a medical breakthrough in this field, and then a low the next when evidence cannot be replicated.  We are on a high when practitioners of the mind element of this condition report phenomenal success and then on a low when the successes of that too, cannot be rolled out to all sufferers.
The moral of the story seems to be, that the treatment of illness is an art not a science: that we have all been shoe-horned into believing there is a single traceable cause for each disease that, if we treat with the right magic bullet, will reach the spot.  We have been brainwashed by the tide of popular medical research into believing ‘they’ will find the answers, and thereby have given up our personal responsibility.  We are looking for answers outside of ourselves.  We are looking for someone else to pick up the pieces of our lives for us so that we can carry on living the lives we’ve become accustomed to.  We have become so out of touch with our own hearts, minds and bodies that, we have surrendered to the ‘higher power’ that is the medical profession, and placed a faith in them to fix our ills and woes. And this ethos at times spills over into our world of therapy as clients want us to just ‘fix them’.
The Mind Body Spirit Triad

The Mind Body Spirit Triad

I don’t mean to discredit the huge breakthroughs that have come about through conventional medical research, but I do wish to ask each and every one of us whether we have scratched the surface and looked any deeper than the symptoms.  Because it is my belief that behind most physical disorders there is a spiritual root: not a psychological one that only reduces our being to measurements yet again.  By spiritual I mean our sense of identity, our sense of belonging, not only to a community, but to our family, and indeed to our very selves.  This is where healing takes place.  The awareness of this is what makes a good doctor, a good therapist, a good researcher.  Stripping spiritual meaning from a set of results strips the heart and soul out of the human condition.  I wonder if more funding for PsychoNeuroImmunology Research would help bridge the gap in the either/or debate and lead us to making meaningful sense of the evidence? 


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