Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Storytelling (6)

Interesting blog post here from BMJ - discussing the way we use metaphors to understand and describe illness. I left a comment and only later realised the author of the piece is a psychiatrist; my comment has not been published so perhaps he is of the Wessely persuasion, who knows (or perhaps he simply has not had time, I prefer to think that is the reason, but one never knows, these days). Professor Wessely, as we know, takes metaphors and illness a step further and actually declares the illness to *be* the metaphor itself. Quoting him from the Times, the weekend before last: “Like it or not, CFS is not simply an illness, but a cultural phenomenon and metaphor for our times.”

Yup. All getting a bit Elaine Showalter.

It's worth noting that there are, of course, fine psychiatrists - and psychologists - who fully understand that ME is neuroimmune and don't give us more grief to cope with than we already have - ie coping with the illness itself.

I also want to flag up Hillary Johnson's Osler's Web website. I still remember receiving my copy of Osler's Web in 1997, my brother had posted it to me from USA. It's funny, in my head the book is orange, but in reality it is only the spine that is orange, the cover is black and red with a little white - but my memory is of opening a package with an orange book inside. I went to Hillary's blog last night to follow up a comment I'd left earlier and was delighted that she mentioned she had very much enjoyed The State of Me, she calls it 'classy writing'.

In 1997, the year I opened an orange book that was not really orange, I'd only started thinking of the possibility of writing a novella - never imagining I would cope with a full length novel - about the illness. There is, interestingly, orange - the colour and the fruit - in The State of Me. It features a fair bit, no idea why. (Swans do too.)

This extract describes Helen Fleet's 21st birthday:

She has lots of cards with a dual message: Congratulations on the key of the door! Get well soon! She thanks everyone politely. Her arms and legs are injected with poison. She doesn’t have the strength to peel an orange. Her mother has made beef stroganoff (the cows haven’t gone mad yet) and fresh cream meringues. Helen has her birthday meal on a tray in bed. She has a sip of champagne. Jana sits with her and makes her put on her new lipstick. Helen feels like a clown, a grotesque invalid wearing bright red lipstick and titanium earrings.

* My comment on BMJ blog has been posted, so I am glad, not being censored, after all.


nmj said...

From MEActionUK, 2007

Interesting to see a journalist’s words to SW in 2003:

“I’m sure there is a lot of psychiatric literature on how denying another person’s reality triggers all sorts of deep hostile responses”.

if you put this phrase into a search of the document, you will see the context... chilling...

nmj said...

Reading MEActionUK doc above was intrigued about a letter to the Scotsman newspaper in 2003 that Prof Wessely actually had removed from archives - it apparently shows him in poor light and was written by Dr Margaret Cook, former wife of the late Robin Cook MP. I googled 'Wessely + Margaret Cook' and easily found this link; it gives the whole text of the letter that had rattled SW. No wonder it irked him, another doctor brilliantly exposing him for what he is in one of the main Scottish broadsheets: link here:

And these letters in reply to SW's reply (which I cannot find).

So almost 10 yrs ago, SW claimed in his defence that he wd be delighted to find a diagnostic marker for ME...

Pull the other one, Prof, it’s got bells on... you are an illness denier, pure and simple - your behaviour towards PWME is inexplicable and unforgivable. Same goes for all those psychs who have been influenced by you.

Charlotte said...

Following this with interest. It struck me how terribly wrong it is that you might have more chance of being listened to/taken seriously about your illness in these self-appointed rarefied circles of "experts" than if you didn't have it.

These recent attacks led by Wessely et al are presumably all too resonant with the current government's wholly ideology-driven insistence on self-help and "personal responsibility".

All the best