True Life: I Have Diabetes

The medical condition I am going to talk about is diabetes.  Kids, teenagers experiencing this illness feel isolated, different from their friends, out of the loop so-to-speak.  There are things they cannot do that their friends can because of their diet and medication restrictions. They have to acknowledge that they have this problem, see a physician, and be excused from their regular responsibilities at times. They are set apart. They do however at some point have to accept their disease, deal with it, and do what they need to do to keep it in control.  It is ultimately, their responsibility for their health.  That can be an overwhelming task for a teenager.

This influences the management and treatment of diabetes, because kids do not always want to follow the regimented routine of diet, exercise, shots and medication required by this disease. They want to be like others kids.  It is hard for most kids to accept. This makes management of the disease difficult for physicians, because non-compliance can be an issue with teens.

There is a deep connection between belief and healing.  These kids have to believe they can control their diabetes, follow their diet, and take their insulin (if that is required). The power of positive thinking and believing you will recover makes a big difference. In “Placebo: Cracking the Code” the boy with the warts on his skin was cured of a disease is uncurable most of the time.  Also, it was strange how the woman with depression was “cured” with placebos.  With me, I had breast cancer, which could have gone either way, but I had to believe in the positive and I believe it made a difference in my recovery.  I thought it was sad in the movie about the man who found out he had cancer and died and the cancer was not bad enough to have been the cause of his death. 





Fibromyalgia as defined by the Mayo Clinic “is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues.” This is extensively minor in comparison to what was described in the blog we read for class, written by a woman who suffers from Fibromyalgia.  The symptoms she described were heavy on the pain (chronically) and were a range of anything (& everything) from severe and concerning to bizarre and stressful, and everything in between. Even more confusing, is trying to find accurate information about it (most sites are either very scarce or overly detailed). The symptoms can vary so much from patient to patient, & from day to day, that no one is even really sure what it is, how its caused, or how to treat it. It is incredibly hard to diagnose, is often misdiagnosed, and in order to be diagnosed one must experience the chronically widespread pain for at least three months.  Once diagnosed, its often treated with a myriad of pain medications, sleeping pills, therapies, and/or at home remedies.  Living with Fibromyalgia, as with most chronic conditions, makes it difficult to function normally.  This is made even more difficult by the inability of others to fully understand what you are going through, and how you can look or seem so normal yet be so sick.  It’s an incredibly frustrating experience.  Its certainly not for the weak of heart. At least not in a society such as this.

Most of the treatment regimens used for Fibromyalgia are medications or other biomedical treatments typical of western medicine, as discussed previously (one of the medications prescribed to help treat Fibromyalgia is also used to help treat seizures b/c it focuses on the neuropathways & was suggested to me as an add on at one point, which shows the span of theories & treatments used). These don’t necessarily work because, there is no actual set of symptoms to be treated. Which is why most patients treat each individual symptom as it occurs, and simply learn to manage or deal with the untreatable.  I would like to see a more holistic approach to this condition.  It would be interesting to see a shaman’s approach.  Or how a placebo would fare?

I found the Placebo video really interesting.  I’m a firm believer of ‘mind over matter’ & that the brain is an amazing organism, capable of even more amazing things.  But placebo surgery still plagues me.  It made me wonder if it would work for conditions other than pain.  But the example that completely got me was ‘the elephant boy’. He was born with an incurable skin disease, and was hypnotized to have his skin clear.  coincidence or fluke? Either way, its pretty amazing that his incurable disease was cured!  These, along with the depressed lady who felt so much better she was sure she got real medication not placebo, are all perfect examples of the connection between belief and healing.  Not that I needed to watch a video, or learn about placebos to know this. From my own personal experiences, I know that if you have a positive mental attitude, going into surgery or when dealing with a medical issue, your outcome is always that much better!


Mayo Clinic:



Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain is pain that has persisted for an extended period of time. The point at which acute pain becomes chronic pain is not well defined; 3-6 months is generally defined as the length of time the pain must persist before it is considered ‘chronic’, although this transition point is essentially arbitrary, meaning there is no specific reason why 3-6 months was chosen as the duration necessary to define chronic pain. Some also make the distinction between pain which is caused by the activation of nociceptors (the nerve receptors which signal the presence of ‘pain’), and pain which is caused by neurological damage or malfunction. Culture can play a huge role in the illness experience. Because it is often difficult to determine the cause of chronic pain, the presence of the illness rests entirely on the patient’s word. It is not uncommon for the patient to not be taken seriously when they complain of their pain, since some physicians believe that the individuals with chronic pain actually have a mental disorder and are just trying to gain attention for themselves, and are not actually in pain. (Werner – “Illness stories on self and shame in women with chronic pain”) This has a significant effect on the self-esteem and psychological health of the individual with chronic pain. Despite the fact that many believe that poor mental health can cause ‘chronic’ pain, it has been found that the opposite is actually true, and that chronic pain often leads to a degradation in mental health.( Fishbain, David A.; Cole, Brandly, Cutler, R. Brian, Lewis, J., Rosomoff, Hubert L., Rosomoff, R. Steele (1 November 2006). “Chronic Pain and the Measurement of Personality: Do States Influence Traits?” Pain Medicine 7 (6): 509–529.) It has also been found that once chronic pain is managed through therapy, mental health often makes an improvement. (JESS, P.; T. JESS, H. BECK, P. BECH (1 January 1998). “Neuroticism in Relation to Recovery and Persisting Pain after Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy” . Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology 33 (5): 550–553. )

I believe that this can make management and treatment of chronic pain very difficult, since it can be hard for the patient to convince anyone that they are actually in pain and not lying about it. This further complicates the patient’s health, as not being believed in this manner is often discouraging.

In regards to the connection between belief and healing, I believe that individuals who maintain a positive attitude are often healthier. If they believe that they are being treated, then they will be more confident that they will recover and be healthy again. In the case of arthroscopic surgery for arthritis of the knee, it was found in clinical trials that essentially the entire benefit of the surgery was a placebo effect. (Placebo: Cracking the Code)






Fibromyalgia is described as wide spread muscle pain and spasms and the symptoms can vary on which areas of the body they affect, which is virtually unlimited. The author of the article even stated that it feels like ‘someone is reaching in and ripping out my spine’. This intense pain is unpredictable and seemingly not unprovoked, making it hard to control. The pain ranges from dull pains, sharp pains, burning and itching sensations, needle pricks, and stiffness. People with this condition are plagued by a number of other medical ailments including insomnia, mood swings, irritable bladder, and anxiety and panic attacks. Because the symptoms of Fibromyalgia vary so greatly among those affected, it is considered only a syndrome and not an actual disease. This directly affects the management and treatment of this disease because the syndrome will be hard to diagnose with so many symptoms present and cannot be controlled by following a strict medical regimen. The patient also has to effectively convince a physician that they are in fact experiencing pain from this condition, and pain is difficult to describe without a point of reference to previous experiences of pain, which would differ from patient to patient.

The author also states that it is incredibly frustrating when people don’t understand how sick she can feel when she looks so ‘normal’. This cultural stigma affects the illness experience because people don’t understand that Fibromyalgia is a real illness. Characteristic of a chronic condition, Fibromyalgia may not be taken seriously if you cannot convince people that you are experiencing genuine pain from such a condition. Like the MadTV sketch mocking Restless Leg Syndrome in lecture this week, chronic conditions are often made fun of in American culture as the legitimacy of chronic diseases is hard to prove.

I feel that belief and healing are in fact connected and that if you have a positive outlook on the healing process, you will in fact get better. The placebo effect describes how if you believe and expect for something to work, it will. It is ultimately our minds that create the medicine and we are psychologically able to cure ourselves. I haven’t had any personal experience with placebos, but the video described two patients recovering from leg surgery and other medical conditions through placebos, which proves that even if placebos do not have any therapeutic value, it is our minds that allows us to heal if we believe we will.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome is when someone has the urge to move their legs because of an unwanted sensation. It’s funny to me because I used to think of this disorder as socially constructed, and something that people just used as an excuse until it started happening to my mom. She would wake up in the middle of the night and just have to walk around because the sensations in her legs would make it hard for her to sleep. I also have these sensations sometimes, and although I don’t have to get up and walk around, I fear that one day I might have to. However, because there is no cure or I feel that biomedicine doesn’t have that much of an influence on it. I think culture has a bigger influence because with everything, once a group of people complain about something it becomes a disorder and then the medical and pharmaceutical field tries to come up with treatment for it. The form of treatment for restless leg syndrome is to reduce stress, and try to find ways to relax your muscles. There also are a few medications that people can take if it gets too bad, but I think that a lot of times pharmaceutical companies just put out new drugs because they can make money off of them.

To me, belief and healing are connected in a lot of ways, i’ve always believed the in the placebo effect. I think that if you believe something will work, it has a lot better chance of working than if you don’t believe in it. I think this goes for everything including doctors, because if you believe the doctor will cure you and you have a good attitude about treatment, the likelihood that you will recover is greater. Just like in the video, a man’s knee surgery is cured by a fake surgery. I learned about this in anthropology 320, and it’s stuck with me ever since. Our own belief in certain things can be helpful in ways we have never imagined.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is an illness experienced by some American woman right after giving birth. Soon after a woman has given birth to her new baby, her hormone levels experience an immense amount of fluctuation that can lead to the onset of severe depression. According to the Mayo Clinic this depression is associated with symptoms such as insomnia, lack of joy in life, severe mood swings, difficulty bonding with the baby, thoughts of harming yourself or the baby and feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy.

According to the lecture, the biomedical community has stated that postpartum depression is a recognized form of depression that can be caused by a hormone imbalance. However a problem arises because there is not a specific medical examination that can test for this depression. This invokes questions of legitimacy amongst the members within our society. Within a cultural context, society looks at this depression as just an excuse for mothers that are too lazy or irresponsible to take care of their children. For the woman that experiences this illness, there can be a sense of comfort knowing that there could be a cause that is outside of their realm of control that is influencing this depression. But in turn, the negative stigma placed on woman from a cultural perspective can add to these feelings of inadequacy and shame, elongating the time required to move past these symptoms.

Support from Western medical practices could aid in the treatment of this illness. Having doctors that recognize the signs and symptoms provides a sense of trust and comfort within the woman to seek medical treatment options such as medicine that can be taken or mental exercises to regulate hormone control and influence positive thinking  and better mental health. However, having a society that provides a negative connotation on this illness could make is difficult for a woman to feel comfortable enough to seek medical attention and therefore lead to months and years of experiences with this illness.

The phrase, “seeing is believing” ties in very well with the coorelation between belief and healing. A strong enough belief in the healing practices being received, whether it is medicine, prayer, rituals, spiritual cleansings or whatever the treatment may be, can result in the physical observation of positive outcomes. In the YouTube film, “Placebo: Cracking the Code” this phrase is demonstrated a multitude of times. In the case about the two gentlemen that received a fake surgery on their knee, the trust and faith that they had in medical system and belief that surgery would in fact cure their knee problems lead to actually experiencing the same amount of healing as the patients that did undergo real surgery. A negative effect however of the placebo effect was seen in the case of Sam Lunde. He was patient that had cancer back in 1970s and during those times, patients that had his particular strain of cancer were often thought of as absolutely being positive to die. Even after surgeries were performed and as much of the cancer was removed as possible, most patients still died soon after so that is what Mr. Lunde’s doctor informed him off. A few weeks later, Mr. Lunde did die so there wasn’t much surprise to his passing. However, once the postmortem autopsy was performed, Mr. Lunde showed very little signs of cancer within his body so it was determined that Mr. Lunde did not die from the cancer. It is believed that being told that he was going to die and him believing what he was told is what lead to his death. Both of these stories prove that a strong enough belief, whether it is positive or negative, in the overall healing of a person can manifest to a physical observation of those beliefs.


Mayo Clinic. Postpartum Depression. 2012.


One of the links for this week’s lecture was a personal blog written by a woman who suffers from the subjective medical condition known as Fibromyalgia. She explains what she has to go through on a daily basis and how it has affected her life. On top of that, she describes how others close to her are affected by her Fibromyalgia.

As one of main drug companies selling medicine to treat the symptoms calls it, “Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic widespread pain and tenderness for at least 3 months.” That company is Cymbalta. Fibromyalgia is not something that can be tested for making it hard to diagnose. In diagnosing Fibromyalgia, the main thing doctors focus on is the pain the patient is suffering or has suffered. After reading the woman’s blog it seems that there is a lot more to this medical condition than just pain.

The woman that is writing the blog explains how the current definition of Fibromyalgia is much too simplified and needs to be revised. She goes on to described many of the symptoms she’s had due to Fibromyalgia. There are a few too many to write all of them of down so I’ll just describe a couple. Some of her symptoms include irritable bowel syndrome, development of allergies when before none existed, flu like symptoms that may or may not last for just a day, and symptoms of a heart attack that turn out to be false.

Much like post-partum depression, Fibromyalgia can be viewed as a way for women to relieve themselves from child rearing. Others can either believe them or not. By believing that their symptoms are real and not a manifestation, others can better understand Fibromyalgia. However, by identifying the symptoms as a real thing, you may be enabling the person to create new symptoms. As I have said before doctors have a hard time diagnosing this medical condition. It seems that people that suffer from Fibromyalgia show symptoms of other medical conditions or illnesses. Doctors may prescribe a medicine that may help one or a few symptoms, but it would be hard to treat all of them at once. Cymbalta, a medicine aimed at helping people with Fibromyalgia, is mainly used to treat depression. So it seems that one thing that may be effective in curing all of the symptoms is a Placebo. The Placebo effect is that when something has no known therapeutic value actually makes people feel better. How the pill affects you is determined by your mind. I think Placebos could be way to treat people with Fibromyalgia, much like the woman who was cured of depression in the class video. If the medical condition is truly all in the person’s head then a placebo, if they believe it will work, can rid them of their condition.


Restless Leg Syndrome is a condition in which a person’s
limbs become extremely uncomfortable during periods of inactivity. It is most
commonly associated with lying down and sitting at night time. The disorder is
also known to effect individuals during the day as well. Culture and
biomedicine have a large effect on the illness experience of Restless Leg
Syndrome. American culture seems to be more accepting of “conditions” like RLS.
Internationally, RLS is not as accepted and often looked down upon as a fallible
disorder. Even in the U.S., as indicated in lecture, RLS has a garnered a good
amount of skepticism. People question the validity of the disorder, in my
opinion, because there is not an accurate or precise way to technically
diagnose it. Patients come in and describe symptoms, and are essentially
diagnosed based off those symptoms. There isn’t a way to test for RLS.
Diagnosis is strictly based off the patient’s description of his or her

In terms of biomedicine, there are drugs on the market for
RLS. Iron deficiency is sometimes correlated with RLS. A common treatment
centers around taking iron supplements which has improved the condition in some
cases. However, the treatment has not been consistently proven effective.
Doctor’s recently have also treated RLS with Parkinson’s disease drugs. This
type of treatment affects dopamine levels and is believed to have a calming
effect geared towards the extremities. In my opinion, the cloudiness and grey
areas surrounding the science and behind RLS greatly affect how RLS is treated
and perceived. The medical community has not committed or agreed upon an
effective treatment of RLS and therefore the jury, I believe, remains out on

I believe there is an enormous and currently unknown effect
behind belief and healing.  We have studies that clearly indicate the effects of placebos, yet we don’t know why they are so effective. What causes a person, biologically, to heal from fake surgery as in the film? Why would taking a pill that has no physiological or chemical effect on a person, cure one’s depression? Personally, I have had a number of
sports related injuries. Having a positive attitude and belief that I would
return to full strength, certainly aided in my healing process. Understanding
the depths of the immense effect belief can have on healing and health is
something the science has been unable to understand thus far.


Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder in which the individual may alternate between periods of depression and mania, with the occasional normal period in between. Those in a depressive state typically will sleep often, feel depressed, have a lack of motivation, and in rare cases may have delusions. Those in a manic state feel euphoric, energetic, have little need for sleep, and is often considered the opposite of their depressed states. However, in both situations, there exists the rare chance for delusions and hallucinations.

I would say that culture is insensitive to those suffering from this disorder. In our culture, we are quick to dismiss these people as “crazy” without thinking of the inability of the sufferers to control their own mood swings. This may often make the sufferer think there is something wrong with them and begin to blame themselves without realizing that they have a mood disorder. I myself had a friend’s uncle have schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and for years he had been in trouble with the law. In many cases he was in trouble for things that were out of his control due to his disorders. He would often see hallucinations, and the more trouble he got in, the more stressed he would become, and the worse they would get. The police dismissed him as a “troublemaker”. It took years for anyone to identify him as suffering from mental disorders due to the negative associations of his conditions.

In my opinion, belief is the main healer. Despite any doctor, pill, or surgery we may have, if we don’t believe in it and don’t maintain a positive attitude about it, we won’t get better. The film “Placebo: Cracking the Code” shows that belief may be one of the most powerful healers. The story about the depressed woman is a good example. She was given a placebo antidepressant to cure her depression, and it completely worked on her, to the point where she refused to believe she was given a placebo at first. I believe this is due to the human mind being unable to use itself to heal; we have to refer to an outside source or healing method to “know” that we are getting better. Placebos allow that to happen. Especially the case with depression or bipolar disorder in which the person may blame themselves irrationally for things. They can’t will themselves to get better, but should they believe that they will be treated, it will benefit them. As shown above, the man’s hallucinations became worse the more trouble he got into. And simply being labelled as a troublemaker only served to cause him to blame himself more. However, when he finally received help, he was able to reduce the affects of his conditions, and today is in a much healthier mental state than before he was treated.


Fibromyalgia is a complicated disorder because there are no true biological signs of it’s presence. As seen in the blog post given as an example of living with the disorder, fibromyalgia can cause any sort of physical discomfort that seems humanly possible. This includes but is not limited to severe aching muscles, irritable bowel syndrome, dry skin, stiffness, burning and tingling sensations, chronic fatigue, insomnia, and poor vision. Basically, the disorder is severe chronic pain that makes daily tasks extremely difficult.

Culture plays an important role in fibromyalgia because it is often equated to the historical concept of a woman’s “hysteria” and the manifestation of a desire to escape the role of homemaker, child bearer, and other responsibilities in order to fulfill the image of the damsel in distress who needs to be cared for. This makes it exceptionally difficult for men to come forward and manage their own experience with the disorder because the condition is thought of as being unmanly. In our culture, it is typically very degrading for a man to succumb to the female role in any way, so the way they manage their diagnosis tends to differ. Biomedically, a cure-all for fibromyalgia would have to tend to too many areas of illness. Symptoms can be treated individually, such as anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants.

I think the lack of a cure and various ailments makes it very difficult for an outsider to take fibromyalgia seriously, much like one would view an illness like depression. Without any real evidence to go off of, it would be extremely difficult to treat the condition or convince others that it is not “all in your head”. I do believe that at least a portion of the disorder may be affected by personal beliefs, and a way to test this would be to perform placebo experiments on sufferers of fibromyalgia similar to the tests that were done on people suffering from depression. Results similar to the woman who was miraculously cured of her depression may actually occur, as even placebo surgeries have been shown to be effective. Personally, I have typically limited my use of medications such as pain relievers because I found myself to be “immune to the placebo effect” and therefore, the number or type of pill has always had limited effect on decreasing my pain.