False Health Beliefs

False Health Beliefs

Content: This post mentions death and can be triggering for people with emetophobia


A couple of months ago, a dream almost came true. I woke up one morning, and to my surprise my legs were strong enough to walk me to the bathroom without crutches. I was even strong enough to not lean against the walls for support. Even though I was a little dizzy and nauseated after I had my breakfast, it wasn’t as bad as it usually is.

The day continued following this pattern, my usual symptoms were there but less intense than on an average day. Some of them, like nausea, dizziness, pain, brain fog and fever, were mild to the point were I assumed that I was just experiencing what all people feel like in a regular day. On a rational level I knew that this assumption was wrong, because a lot of healthy people don’t feel like they have a fever and a flu every day, but in my excitement to feel less awful than what I’m used to I refused to recognize that thought.

Happy as I was, I started thinking that something inexplicable but amazing had just happened. I was getting well now, my body had miraculously healed itself. Maybe I was just ill because of my own thoughts, like some people had tried to convince me. I desperately wanted to get healthy and recover from this horrible disease and in that moment, where some of my main symptoms were suddenly losing in strength, some old voices started chanting in my head. I could hear the voices of doctors and other healthcare professionals telling me that the symptoms will be alleviated or even disappear if I just challenge them. I heard the echo of all the so-called researchers and other people who have built their careers on promoting the biopsychosocial understanding of my disease, where the idea of “false illness beliefs” is central.

In that moment, it didn’t matter to me that I knew that the PACE trial and other similar studies are flawed to the point of scientific misconduct and cheating. Neither could I parse the fact that biomedical studies are telling us that the false illness beliefs theory isn’t true. I was even prepared to ignore the fact that I have tried gradually increased physiotherapy and that it made me more severely ill and disabled. All these statements from people who have been convinced that my symptoms would go away if I just challenged them were echoing louder and louder inside me, and I couldn’t resist the impulse to be a little bit more active than I usually were.

I truly thought that now, this time, increasing my activity level a little will turn out great. After all, it wasn’t a big raise in activity level, just a small one. Convinced that magic suddenly exists, I was thrilled.

The following day, I woke up with a high fever and my heart jumping around. My pulse and blood pressure monitor yelled at me about irregular heartbeats, I could hardly talk and my partner had to take me to the bathroom in my wheelchair. The whole day was a struggle to not throw up, since I easily get dehydrated and faint if I start doing so. I was in full-blown Post-Exertional Malaise, and my legs couldn’t carry me. My body had checked out. My brain had checked out.

Inside me, the echo saying that I would get well if I only challenged my symptoms persisted. The contrast between the echo and reality was brutal and I felt like a big failure. Like I had been fooled and betrayed by healthcare, myself and my body.

It has been more than two months since this happened, and I’m still not nearly recovered enough to uphold the activity level I had before my attempt to increase it. All previous times where I have overexerted myself like this and not recovered within two months have meant that I’ve never recovered to the level I had before the overexertion. I fear that it will be same this time. I fear that I pushed myself one step further down in this hell called ME.

However, the echo inside me is still there. I’m a patient at the most prominent ME-clinic in Sweden, and all the people working there have deep insight in what science says about ME. They are opposing the idea that I could exert myself well from this disease. Despite that, and despite my knowledge about how flawed the biopsychosocial model’s understanding of ME is, the old voices still own me. Sometimes I fear that the voices of the biopsychosocial school will end up killing me.


This post is based on the post Falska friskhetstankar. While reading, please keep in mind that I’m not a professional translator and that I have a quite severe case of ME.


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