…Then Why Can’t You?
I saw this video on youtube today and it annoyed me so much. It was posted earlier this year so apologies for only commenting on this now, but I don’t watch television and I’ve been very ill for most of this year. The video is of an interview with Martine McCutcheon about her battle with ME, and how she recovered. You may have friends and family members who have heard her story of recovery, especially as there have been stories about her pregnancy in the last few months. It’s more than likely that someone will tell you to do what she did, after all, if Martine McCutcheon can recover from ME than why can’t you? Well, for a number of reasons actually and here I will outline just some of them so you can stave off those kinds of unhelpful suggestions while expending the least amount of your precious energy and health. But first the video…
Anger at Martine McCutcheon
Before I even saw this video, I had read a number of news stories about her struggles with ME. I want to say that I actually like Martine McCutcheon and I can totally relate to how an illness wreaked havoc in her life; so many ME/CFS sufferers have experienced the same thing. But the woman is out there doing so much more harm than good with these interviews she keeps giving about recovering. There has been a lot of anger expressed by people in the ME community at the things Martine has said. But it is not her fault; she has been given a diagnosis by medical professionals and is just relating her experiences. There are so many PWME who are not aware of the complexity of the illness and the way it can be misdiagnosed. Anyone who has defended her has also been met with anger. I’m not defending her, and I wish more than anything that she would just shut up, but she obviously wanted to make some kind of a comeback so she could earn a living. I think we would be better suited directing our anger at the idiots that diagnosed her and those that perpetuate these kinds of misunderstandings. She has done nothing wrong.
Was She Misdiagnosed?
In the video she begins well, yes ME is a misunderstood illness and the symptoms she describes are very ME-ish, and I applaud her for wanting to raise awareness about the illness. But what the hell, Martine! I couldn’t stop cringing as soon as she began talking about the causes and onset and said “sadly a lot of athletes or anybody that pushes themselves beyond their limits, and when I was doing the west end show, you are like an athlete, you have to be on form all the time and I think a lot of heartache a lot of unaddressed issues I hadn’t dealt with, just running to the next role, running to the next job, it kinda manifested in like a dis-ease…”. This statement perpetuates the myth that ME is just a form of exhaustion from over-doing things or that type A personalities are prone to getting it and that takes us straight back to the days of ‘Yuppie flu’. I want to address what she said about athletes and ME because this is something that annoyed me last year when Action for ME posted an article about how Olympic and World Champion canoeist Anna Hemmings was the new Ambassador for Action for ME. Every few years you get an athlete, and even an actor like Martine McCutcheon, who comes out with a story about how they beat ME, and this absolutely gives the wrong impression about ME. It is highly unlikely that most athletes do in fact have ME. There is something called Overtraining Syndrome, which has similar symptoms to ME, but that an athlete can actually recover from with adequate rest. The other thing is that low levels of exercise are beneficial for people suffering from Overtraining Syndrome and can lead to a quicker recovery, but for people with ME that same exercise would make the condition worse. So, can you see how it would be disastrous for an athlete to say they had recovered from ME, when they had in fact recovered from Overtraining Syndrome? I’m not saying Martine had Overtraining Syndrome, but there is a real need for better diagnosis by medical professionals. Check out the below video for a better explanation of ‘What Causes ME?’