Fibromyalgia “Syndrome” (FMS) is a condition in which inexplicable and widespread pain, fatigue, or general physical distress occurs within an individual. As described by the blog “Fibromyalgia + The Type “A” Personality= Chaos, Frustration and Near Insanity!”, this pain can take many forms including prolonged flu-like symptoms. These episodes are sporadic and entirely unpredictable. I personally am skeptical (but not wholly unconvinced) of this illness’ disease status under the biomedical paradigm. While I don’t think this perspective is irrational or overly callous (the blogger presents her illness, real or not, as an objective sort of crazy), I recognize that my perspective stems from my particular social education under a system of biomedicine, and that this may bias my understanding. I am also aware that I am not alone in this sentiment, and that this undoubtedly can affect an FMS sufferer’s illness experience. The half-crazy stigmatization that accompanies FMS may affect a sufferer’s Narrative, his or her Experience with the illness, or that individual’s ultimate derived Meaning. If there are no objective biological markers for diagnosis, physicians and those friends and family of the sufferer must rely exclusively on that person’s subjective narrative; a narrative that might, like the author’s of the aforementioned blog, sound somewhat unbelievable. Though I don’t think the treatment of FMS is entirely influenced by a doctor’s perception of his or her patient as “crazy”. More forgivingly, I think that the unavailability of effective treatment methods might force a physician (or any subscriber to the ideology of biomedicine) into a certain denial of FMS syndrome as disease. I believe a physician’s longing for efficacy invariably colors the illness’ treatment in this way. What must be understood is that such “efficacy” is defined under the paradigm of biomedicine which might unreasonably confine a condition like FMS to too narrow a range of treatment options.
This social influence on disease perception is unfortunate for the FMS sufferer. I imagine there is a profound sense of helplessness that accompanies a condition like FMS, and that this sentiment can severely undercut one’s ability to heal. The video Placebo: Cracking the Code is rather convincing in its assertion that the perception of being treated can be stronger than the inherent value of the treatment itself. The depressed woman in the film’s second section was convinced that she had been taking active and effective anti-depression medication, and it was arguably this belief that led to her condition’s remarkable improvement. It is my belief that there is still a chemical-psychological basis for this phenomenon, but that quantifying and assessing it is beyond our current biomedical capabilities (whether this phenomenon can be replicated artificially, I cannot say). This is exactly why I say that our blogger’s condition is so dismal. If she does not believe there is a cure for her pain, she’s already lost half the battle.