I feel like I've been hearing a lot about Simon Wessely lately. But I've kept my distance, emotionally. ME in the UK, I don't think I've ever quite grasped what it's like there.
But I read a quote in Nassim Marie Jafrey's blog from Simon Wessely today, and it's gotten me pretty worked up.
“Like it or not, CFS is not simply an illness, but a cultural phenomenon and metaphor for our times.”
Seriously? And this man is ostensibly baffled that people would find this offensive. I followed a link to its source at the ME association website.
Here is his main argument:
“I think finally, fundamentally, it is that they [PWC's] cannot stomach the thought that this might be a, quote, ‘psychiatric disorder’. By which they mean — not what I mean — ‘it’s imaginary’, ‘it doesn’t exist’, they are ‘malingerers’.”
So what does he mean by "psychiatric disorder?
“Psychiatric disorders are disorders of the brain but expressed in a way that you can’t see them. I think that schizophrenia is a psychiatric disorder, Alzheimer’s is a psychiatric disorder, OCD [obsessive compulsive disorder] and autism are psychiatric disorders. Why is Alzheimer’s listed as a psychiatric disorder? Well, largely because it is treated by a psychiatrist.”
And this is where he loses me. What does he mean by, can't see them? They don't show up in MRI's? There's no blood test for them?
Does he honestly believe that the causes of these diseases cannot and never will be seen? Never mind there is already significant evidence for a viral cause of schizophrenia.
What does he think CFS is? "Somatisation par excellence"? The delusion of fatigue? When there is so much scientific evidence against that?
Wessely thinks all his problems stem from the stigmatization of psychiatry. A stigmatization that shouldn't exist but sadly does. People with CFS turn their noses up at psychiatry. They naively demand the search for "biological" causes. People with CFS aren't crazy, but they are in far greater need of therapy than medicine. If they would just understand that mind/body - it's all the same thing! Thus follows, therapy/medicine - same thing!
So why even make a distinction between psychiatry and medicine, other than so psychiatrists can keep their jobs?
Actually he does see it that way:
“Obviously I’m of the view that we should treat these disorders equally, which is, I think, getting rid of the distinction between neurology and psychiatry.”
What? OK, all you psychiatrists, congratulations! You're all neurologists now! All you in your private offices, seeing patients on couches, prescribing anti-depressants one after another in no particular order until you find "the one that works", call yourselves neurologists now! Publish a completely biased and unscientific study about how GET and CBT cure ME, and send it into the American Academy of Neurology for publication. Go try that!
I'm getting out of my depth now, but I have to say, the only way CFS/ME is a "metaphor for our times" is if you use it someway as a metaphor for our times in a novel or a movie. Here in the real world, it's just an illness. Maybe caused by a virus, maybe by something else, but whatever the cause, it can, and will be seen.
I think my feelings right now about psychiatry are best summed up by this great scene from Frasier:
It starts at 12:30 and is only a minute or so:
*Update - A good summary of Wessely's behavior in this letter from Malcolm Hooper
Thursday, August 4, 2011
I am very lucky today because:
1) I drove myself to get my haircut. Made possibly because I finally decided to stop driving all the way across town and go to a salon down the street.
2) I was reading online about ways to cool your apartment without air conditioning. One of my problems is I can open my windows but I never get a breeze. Then I read that you can create a breeze through the "chimney effect" by opening the highest and lowest windows in the building.
My apartment is the second floor of a duplex. I open the front door, walk up some stairs, and my whole apartment is on the second floor. So my lowest window was actually the front door. I got up and went down the stairs, opened it, and came back up. My highest window is a skylight that was put in for roof access. Below it is a bookshelf/staircase with very narrow steps. I had to climb them, and push very hard to lift the window up, and climb back down.
What's great is not just that I was able to do it, but that I knew as I was sitting there reading that I would be able to do it. Most days I am so tired and my body feels so heavy; I would read it and think, "That's nice, I'll ask Jim to do it when he comes over." Most days I sit on the sofa and decide if I want to stand up and walk across the room to turn the fan on.
I'm tired now. If you asked me to get up and do it again, I would be able to do it, but I'd have to think about it. And I'd probably decide I'd have enough for the day and should just rest.
Which is what I'll do now. Hello Satie Pandora station...
3) I was able to write this.