I will be the first to admit that it makes me unreasonably angry and hurt when anyone believes that my medical conditions are phsycosomatic. I feel a sense of riteous indignation that the blood tests, X-rays, glucose tolerance test, MRI and gastroendoscopy I had to endure to find out what is going on in my body are not proof enough for someone to believe that I am suffering because I don’t “look sick”. The idea that I have celiac disease because I want it or because I’m so stressed that my brain is giving me stomach aches leaves me enraged. That I have fibromyalgia because I am stressed emotionally stings like you would not believe.
Yes, psychosomatic manifestations of anxiety and depression are real and horrible experiences for an individual to go through. I don’t go through those. I have diagnosed, measurable chemical imbalances and deficiencies. I didn’t have a blood test every month for 7 months to show that my progesterone was always low because I am stressed. I had the blood tests because I’ve had an irregular period since I was 15 and had a miscarriage last year. I didn’t have a GI shove a scope down my throat while I was under general anesthetics because I was stressed and jumping on the gluten-free band wagon. I had the scope after my blood test for celiac antibodies came back at 87%. Normal range is below 10%. I don’t take a medicine cabinet full of supplements for fun. I take them because I was diagnosed with deficiencies and need them. I wasn’t diagnosed with fibromyalgia because I’m stressed, I was diagnosed because I exhibit all of the symptoms and have been for 10 years. I know that the damage from celiac disease is a huge contributing factor toward the development of FMS, they are comordbid if not causative.
I don’t have a restrictive diet because I want to. I have it because I have to. I cut out sugar because I would rather cut it out than be on medicine to prevent diabetes after I was diagnosed with insulin resistance. Sugar imbalances also trigger migraines. I had an MRI. I did the glucose tolerance test. It sucked. I cut out gluten and oats because I have to or else my immune system will continue to attack my small intestine. I cut out cows dairy because I cannot digest lactose and have hystemine reactions to something (likely casein) where I get migraines and systemic reactions (also known as anaphylaxis). I cut out legumes because I cannot digest them thanks to the damage to my small intestine. Whether I like the flavor or not does not matter. All of these foods are measurably dangerous to my body.
Stress acts a a catalyst and worsens FMS. It also worsens IBS. It also triggers migraines. Does stress cause my symptoms? No, but it is a very effective catalyst. It releases hormones that really mess up the already screwed up chemical balance in my body.
That is my angry little rebuttle to the idea of it being psychosomatic. I am not angry because I don’t like being judged or questioned. I’m not angry because it is wrong of someone to ask. I’m not angry because I think everyone should be able to just accept that what is wrong with me is invisible. I am angry because the only reason that my invisible illness became so bad was due to not being taken seriously until it was too late. Every person that jumps to that perfectly natural skepticism unknowingly sticks a dagger into the very root of why I got so bad in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, skepticism is necessary when dealing with anything, especially with so many self diagnosing tools floating all over the Internet. The key is to use skepticism reasonably and be aware that your skepticism is very likely going to hit a nerve with people like me. My anger stems purely from the very hard experience of ever worsening health and having to change to a different doctor to have anything taken seriously. It is the feeling injustice that my suffering isn’t enough to remind me that I was caught too late. Without knowing it, every person that asks me if it is psychosomatic reminds me of how unfair and crappy an outcome I get to live with. I am 24, I already do not get to have a normal experience of early adult life, and you’ve reminded me of my completely unnecessary life sentence.
I don’t need you to believe that I am suffering for me to feel the pain I go through. I will go through it regardless of your knowledge, acceptance or belief. Your opinion of my invisible illness has no power to change it for better or for worse. If you don’t take me at face value, how I react will depend on your role in my life. If I barely know you, it won’t matter. If you are a friend or family, it will hurt quite deeply. Not because you shouldn’t be a skeptic, but because it shows just how little you trust me. By asking, you are stating that you do not believe that I have really seen the doctors, or conversely that you know better than my doctors.
Those who experience chronic illness do not want it. Yes, there are many of us that want to get better but self sabotage. There are others that haven’t come to a point where they can really try to change. There are also those who do everything they can. No matter what, the suffering is real, the emotional impact is horrible and finding an improvement in quality of life is an incredibly hard and arduous commitment. The illness is real and so are the obstacles to getting better. I personally try my best to really make a difference and move forward, I can’t always, but I try. I am severely hindered by my GI track, because I still have absorption problems. I don’t know what is happening to my joints and the balance I was starting to achieve has all but shattered after getting sick then having a celiac reaction.
So please, before you issue out your daily dose of skepticism, be considerate and realize that skepticism is meant to find out the truth of things. If the truth is that it is not psychosomatic, take it as it is. Accept it. Your skepticism won’t change anything but your relationship with whoever it is you refuse to believe.