Thursday, 1 May 2008

Blogging against disablism

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2008

I am not quite sure what I want to write about for Blogging Against Disablism Day, so I'll just slip in a quick introduction, as this is a new blog. I am likely to blog about my various hobbies/obsessions/interests, specifically sewing, fat acceptance, disability, etc. I am a single-ish mum (in that I have a boyfriend but we don't live together or anything) working part time due to disability for a Jewish charity. I am currently very into sewing, which I started as a combination of frustration about being unable to find nice clothes which fit, and an ethical reluctance to buy clothes which have been made by people on 2p an hour. I have fibromyalgia, chronic severe depressive illness, ADD, plus not-officially-diagnosed autism, OCD and PCOS. I suppose that brings me to my subject...

When I went to my GP to request a referral to a specialist to investigate my suspicions that the severe fatigue, pain, migraines, IBS, etc that I have had for more than half my life might add up to fibromyalgia, she said "well, there is a lot of debate as to whether fibromyalgia is psychological, and you DO have mental health problems..."

One less obvious part of disablism is 'diagnostic overshadowing' - particularly often relevant to people with mental health diagnoses, this refers to the tendency of many medical professionals to dismiss any new problem (or request to reinvestigate an earlier problem) as part of the main diagnosis. For example, I have fairly strong OCD tendencies and I have also experienced fairly moderate psychosis at a couple of points in my life. Because I have a diagnosis of depression, and the antidepressants sort of work, the doctors either say there's no point addressing the OCD or that it is probably just me assuming that perfectly normal insecurities are in fact a bigger problem than is really the case.

Another example of this is the bizarre idea that if someone has a formal diagnosis of PCOS, it is not possible to concurrently diagnose fibro, or vice versa. Yet there are strong indications that the two are overlapping and probably related conditions. Both seem to be linked to insulin resistance, both are common in autistic people and other non-NT (neurotypical) groups such as ADDers.

Of course, this is not strictly speaking a disability issue - it is possible for someone who is not actually disabled to have two coexisting problems which may be subject to diagnostic overshadowing. An obscenely high number of people who don't actually have an existing illness, but who happen to be omg!fat, are diagnostically overshadowed when their supposed healthcare provider refuses to treat or investigate actual health problems until they lose weight.

Nonetheless, in general, diagnostic overshadowing appears to be essentially a result of not taking disabled people (whether we have mental or physical difficulties, or both) seriously. Oh, don't worry, the pain in your legs, bowels and head are simply a result of your faulty thought processes! I'll leave (because I have run out of steam and should probably go to bed) with the Fibromyalgiac's Serenity Prayer:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can't change,
The courage to change the things I can't,
And the wisdom to hide the bodies of doctors who said,
Don't worry! You're fine! It's all in your head!


Ruth said...

Thanks for joining in on BADD 2008. I'd never heard the Fibromyalgic's Serenity Prayer before but have met one or two docs it might apply to :)

Mal said...

Ahhh fantastic prayer. And soooooo apt! I'll learn it off by heart for the next time I see my GP and Neurologist.

Sadly this is something so many people have to put up with. If they can't pinpoint anything then you're imagining it.

Sounds like an atrocious plug here but it's really not. Read my BADD blog, it might give you some ideas.

Anonymous said...


That's great.