We all have memories of things or times that we cling to from our childhood that fill us with nostalgia. For me, some of those things include the tv shows my mom watched. I've always had an adoration for the shows MASH, Golden Girls, Designing Women. I don't have distinct memories of these as a child, I just know I watched them with my mother and that adoration carried through into adulthood. When I watch these beloved characters of these shows, I'm reminded of my childhood - a time before I was sick.
Golden Girls resonates with me as the four women in their golden years tackled everyday issues and brought light to important issues - even that of invisible illness and rare disease. I believe the first time I heard of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), it was through Golden Girls as the character Dorothy was diagnosed after seeing multiple specialists and even dismissed as being stressed and old until one day she finally received the correct diagnosis. This episode, Sick and Tired, aired in 1989 and yet there still isn't enough known about this severe invisible illness. Individuals with ME/CFS are still at risk for being treated as though their symptoms are psychological in nature not biologic.
|Jennifer Brea and husband, Omar|
ME/CFS tends to develop after an infection and is more prevalent among women than men. It's a spectrum disorder meaning one can have varying levels of functioning ability and severity of symptoms. With any invisible illness, some individuals are left bedridden while others are able to appear to function without issue in their daily lives and one day is not necessarily like the next.
- Significant physical or mental fatigue
- Post-exertional malaise
- Debilitating pain
- Sleep and cognitive dysfunction
- Neurological impairment
- Sensory sensitivity
- Severe immune dysfunction
|Jennifer Brea researching connections with ME/CFS|
For those of us with an invisible illness, I believe we can relate to one another without having the same diagnosis. We may share symptoms but we share much more than that. We share the pain and heartache, the physical and financial burdens, and the upheaval of our lives. We share the stigma of invisible illness that remains misunderstood by others outside of our illness communities.
Together we are stronger and louder, regardless of the diagnosis. I encourage you to watch UNREST and look into the world of ME/CFS so that we may better understand and improve our ability to advocate for rare disease.