By Llewellyn King in White House Chronicle.
We all know about the dark side of the holidays: the pain of the lovelorn; the stress for the recovering alcoholic; the torment of parents who cannot provide gifts, even homes, for their children. Then there are those who bear loss: loss of employment, loss of a parent, loss of a partner and, most sad, loss of a child. And there are those who are shut-in, alone, and possibly hungry; others are in pain, physical pain that defies amelioration.
In the holiday season, my thoughts are about those who suffer from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Its sufferers are walled off in plain sight, jailed by a disease that has no known cure and promises only suffering — by the day, the month, the year, the decade.
The government estimates that as many as 1 million Americans and another 17 million people worldwide are imprisoned by ME. Little is known about it, and nothing about the causes. It is understood to be a disease of the immune system, but there are those who want to believe, and have convinced some governments, that it is a psychiatric affliction. It is easier for government institutions, like Britain’s National Health Service, to believe in psychiatric nostrums than to treat and research the terrible suffering of the sick, the physically sick.
ME patients can be bedridden for years, unable to tolerate light or sound, and must rely on families or friends for basic needs. Sometimes they may seem a little better, but they cannot do the things of normal life. They are vulnerable to collapse after exercise or just normal activity.
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