Monday, February 1, 2010

A Random Insult

I don't usually pay much attention to anything Kathryn Flett says in her weekly Observer Column. Leafing through the Sunday magazine has become a bit of a habit, one that I should probably lose in order to save precious brain space for for more nourishing fare. She is one of those who had an illness (she believes was M.E.) that laid her low for three years, recovered from it and
now says:

"Though it manifests physically, I strongly believe there is a psychological component to ME – a point of view that will entirely fail to endear me to the soi-disant community of ME sufferers which occasionally seems slightly more interested in trying to persuade the still-largely-uninterested medical profession to take it seriously than in, say, trying to get sufferers to take more responsibility for their own individual recoveries, by any means necessary."

She clearly anticipates some kind of response from the "soi-disant community", and perhaps that is the whole point of putting out something like this - it will upset people and presumably get a bit of attention coming her way. It isn't called Yuppie Flu these days, and the illness is now taken much more seriously by the medical profession. The recent news of Lynn Gilderdale, who had severe M.E. for many years, has highlighted (for those who were unaware) what the reality of what this illness can be. But we are still, apparently, up for grabs and it's still ok to disrespect people with M.E.
For Kathryn Flett's information:

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (which is not the same as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) is a neurological disease which has been recognised by the World Health Organisation since 1969 as a distinct neurological disorder, characterised by damage to the central nervous system. Even where some recovery is manifest, it is a lifelong disability where relapse is always possible. Check out the Hummingbirds Foundation for M.E. for more information, and then consider whether an apology might be appropriate.

Of all the people I have known with this disease, I have not encountered a single one who has not done everything in their power to bring about recovery. Persuading the medical profession to take M.E. seriously is just one of the things we do, and many of us also see this as a duty that is laid on us - so that others in the future do not suffer as we have done.

29 comments:

nmj said...
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Reading the Signs said...

NMJ, I can't really work out what it is she actually wants to say: I got over it, so anyone who doesn't just isn't trying hard enough kind of thing. And in the context of - what?

Cusp said...

Columns/features like Flett's purport to be an amusing, intriguing or enlightening insight into the writer's life and thoughts. Sadly, they are usually written by people who are either uninteresting, attention seeking or have the knack of cobbling together the correct number of words to earn a schekel. As time goes by the material becomes more and more sparse and repetitive. There are loads of them: some up market, some down market, some popular and some obscure. All drive me crazy. In some ways our blogs have a similar intent but are often better quality and far more interesting.

Flett has really nothing left to say: she was a New Romantic, her mother was a beauty, she once had 'M.E.', she has a failed relationship behind her and lives by the seaside with her kids trying to scrape a living...blah, blah, blah. That is all she has to say now and she repeats it in varying giuses over and over and over.

She reminds me of another journo/biographer who used to work for Time Out and now writes biogs of (mainly female) pop stars. She also often pops up on TV as a talking head. She was part of the same early 80s set as Flett and I had the misfortune to meet and interview her when I was writing my dissertation. She was so stuck up her own propelling pencil and so in awe of herself because (at that point) she worked at T.O. it was a wonder she could see the paper or screen she was writing on. She really thought of herself and her opinions as being of the greatest importance. She still holds herself to be an afficianado on female singers of the 60s even though she has often not actually met them. Shame the first edition of the biog. she was writing when I met her was so full of inaccuracies that it had to be heavily revised before the 2nd edition was published (can you hear me miaowing from there ;O)..sorry !)

Flett strikes me as being cut from the same cloth, along with other late 70s/early 80s people like Robert Elms, Tony Parsons and Julie Burchill. They're all from the same old tribe and all are now spouting their same tired old stories in their puffed up, know-it-all way. At least Burchill still has a genuinely wicked sense of humour and still knows how to tickle the fancy and irritate in a naughty, slightly laudable way.

Pay Flett no heed. She's only trying to earn of living and so spouts the same old tripe.

For me the only similar column which was ever worth reading for me was by William Leith

nmj said...
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nmj said...
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Reading the Signs said...

Cusp, yes, I did like William Leith - and remember Patrick Marber when he did a column for a while? KF had the odd moment, years back, when she nailed some small thing or other that seemed worth giving one's attention to. Nothing wrong with the actual details of her life etc. - but the writing of it is glib and lifeless.

Nevertheless, I do pay this particular thing heed because she has a platform and her words are taken in by many people. They may well just be leafing through on a sunday as I do, out of habit and because it doesn't demand anything of one. But the words are taken in, absorbed at some level - and I want to react to the untruth of what she has, at our expense, put out there.

NMJ, we're back to the murky business of how people define this illness, which is why it's good to lob in the WHO definition. KF is one of many who claim to have had ME and got over it. I would like a pound for the number of times someone has banged on about themselves or someone they know who used to have it and is now "cured". It does the rest of us no favours, as we know.

I also watched and was moved by the Panorama programme, and wondered if she might be watching too.

nmj said...
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Zhoen said...

I don't know the columnist, and am gratefully warned off.

However, many real diseases have an emotional component, like Crohn's and asthma and epilepsy, to name just a few. But whether this is cause, effect, or just another symptom, is difficult, if not impossible to tease out. And the more studies done on anxiety disorders - very emotional diseases - the more the seem to be organic brain disease.

In short, there may be an emotional component, so?

nmj said...
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Reading the Signs said...

NMJ, I think that Zhoen is making a valid point here, for one may say that every single illness has a "psychological component" just as one might say that every single psychological illness has a physical one. KF was lobbing this in as though we were a special case, which is what made it pernicious. And as I read it, Zhoen is asking what point she was actually trying to make.

Rushing out to doc's now

Cusp said...

Dear Signs, I do take your point re. the influence that Flett could have on the lazy Sunday reader but in the end I think that her column is a piece of fluff and given the timing of it --- with all the coverage of the Gilderdale case --- anyone of any intelligence should be able to discern the truth and and grim seriousness of M.E. If they can't or won't then I cannot be bothered to waste my energy on them.


Hope it all went well at the docs

nmj said...
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Reading the Signs said...

Just for the record, folks, I notice that I am using the word "lobbing" rather a lot. As in, to lob something in. Interesting. But I am not a columnist being paid to write this here stuff, so soddit, is what I say, it's my blog and I'll lob if I want to.

Funny things these magazine columns are. I suppose if you do it for years and years it can turn your head a bit. Thing about Julie Burchill is that I always felt she was kind of putting on a show. And unlike KF she never stayed put anywhere for too long.

I will be watching the Observer letters page with interest.

trousers said...

Hi, signs, just wanted (apart from saying "hi") to say that I'm with you - and nmj - on this. It must be all rather frustrating and wearying.

Reading the Signs said...

hello Hosen, good of you to chip in with this. It's obviously something that touches members of the M.E. "community", but important that a few others stand with us now and then.

nmj said...
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Nicola said...

I think it's the not being believed that is so distressing. In case it's of interest, here is what I feel is a very sensitively written review by Hilary Mantel which broaches the subject of psyche and soma. I feel we are too hung up in the West on the separation of body, mind and spirit. Surely they all have an effect on each other?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/jan/30/siri-hustvedt-shaking-woman

Hello Signs x

nmj said...
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Reading the Signs said...

Hello Nicola - how you doing? Thanks for the link - I also saw it as I get the Saturday Guardian, though I tend to skim-read the Sunday papers. The mind-body connection is a given, as far as I'm concerned. Doesn't, of course, make the physical less physical, doesn't make the non-physical less real, and something that generates in one realm may tangibly manifest in the other. I'm probably about to burble - brainfog, sorry, but would echo some of the things NMJ has said here. Nice to see you.

Kahless said...

Hello Signsie

Its me!
I'm back!

lol!

Those woman's comments made me think..

- like sometimes the worst homophobics are closet gays

- like some non white people can be the most racist

- like some disabled people can be the most prejudiced against other disabled people

I have seen it first hand.

I dont know what I am trying to say but there is a theme here....

it is so sad.

My mother "had" ME for 2 years when I was in my teens. Did I ever say that? I am not sure she had it to be honest when I have read over time yours and Cusps and others stories. I must say I did have my own "prejudicisms" in my mind, which I never voiced, because of my mum and the impact it had on me, but have since become more knowledged through reading yours and Cusps and others blogs. You have informed me.

I hope you are doing well.
xx.

Reading the Signs said...

Hello lionface, good to see you. I don't think you ever did mention about your mum's health. The thing is - if she got over it after two years it was probably not ME but summat else. Such a bloody minefield, this, full of confusions, misinformation etc. Not to say that she wasn't *properly* ill during that time.

I think I do know what you mean, about people within a "community" turning against each other. Is one of the reasons I've never been much of a joiner of groups.

Nicola said...

nmj, I apologise if I upset or offended you or anyone else here; that wasn't my intention. I think I was just trying in my clumsy way to open up the debate. I don't have ME, but, like Mantel, have endured the pain of endometriosis for many years. GP took me seriously, consultant said 'I can't find anything physical'. In my fragile and vulnerable state I read the probably unintended implicit message.
Perhaps my previous post is also indicative of my searching for an explanation for the ME-like symptoms which, despite tests, continue to baffle the doctors and are currently afflicting a beloved relative.
For me, writing remains a way to give voice to that which troubles (and gives joy).

Nicola said...

On the latter, ie the joy, thank you Signs.

nmj said...
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Reading the Signs said...

Nicola, I don't feel there's any reason at all for you to apologise, and (for the record) you certainly haven't upset or offended me. There is a difference between saying "it's all in the mind" and exploring mind/body connection.

I have heard/read discussions about the effect of certain ways of dealing (or not dealing) with emotional stress, and how this might connect to certain cancers. But the difference is, I suppose, that no-one could actually argue with a cancer-sufferer that the cancer wasn't there.

Speaking strictly for myself: I feel that certain elements (to do with emotional/psychological wellbeing) in my early life contributed significantly to my getting ME later on. But that doesn't make it any less of a physical reality.

nmj said...
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Reading the Signs said...

Hi NMJ, we seem to have been here at the same time. Absolutely with all that you've just said - nailed it eloquently, and with clarity (something I increasingly struggle with).

nmj said...
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