Women vs. Hysteria No More…

Posted on June 30, 2016

I am supporting Jennifer Brea’s ‘Canary in a Coal Mine’ documentary.

I hope you will too.

I don’t have a best day of my life (there are many). But I sure as hell have a worst day. And it’s not the day I acquired my illness. The worst day of my life happened 265 days later. At the Cleveland Clinic. In the office of a renowned Neurologist. A distinguished man who carried himself like my dad. The entire day felt like a trick. I had gone home to the Cleveland area for the holidays. My parents and I thought a visit to this doctor couldn’t hurt. We could not have been more wrong. It hurt the worst. He told me directly that I was faking my illness. And for a moment, perhaps because he looked like my dad, my parents believed him. I tried to believe him too.

I could tell you the specifics of the day, but those specifics don’t matter. What does matter is someone named Jennifer Brea exists in the world, and she is telling my story through the lens of a documentary called ‘Canary in a Coal Mine’. Perhaps she is telling your story too:

“Jennifer, a Harvard PhD student, was signing a check at a restaurant when she found she could not write her own name. Months before her wedding, she became progressively more ill, losing the ability even to sit in a wheelchair. When doctors told her it was “all in her head,” she picked up her camera to document the world of millions of patients medicine forgot.”

I am a TED Resident. I am so fortunate to have been gifted office space in TED’s corporate headquarters to bring my dream to life. Alongside the TED the Residency program, TED also has a Fellows program to support many incredible dreamers. A few days ago, I was beckoned to a tent where TED Fellows talks were being streamed, “Liz, you can’t miss this talk”. Jennifer was discussing the attribution of complex medical symptoms in women to hysteria, a phenomenon that has happened since the dawn of time. Needless to say I was floored. Needless to say, it’s days later and I, a dreamer with a Social Security Disability budget, feel desperate to help. And I am hoping you will help too.

Jennifer is in the final stages of “Canary In A Coal Mine” a documentary that delves both into this phenomenon as well as her diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (something I have also been diagnosed with). She needs support in bringing ‘Canary In A Coal Mine’ to the masses. I don’t have much to give, I’m only giving $5 (remember, I’m on a SSDI budget). But I have an idea. If her story is also yours, will you give five dollars? I genuinely believe this film has been made in service to women, and will become a resource to many of us, helping to tell our stories.

I think of my grandmother and her fibromyalgia.

I think of my mom in law, who was sent to a therapist after visiting the hospital for chest pains.

I think of every woman who could and should embrace psychological intervention, not as treatment, but as a support symptom to prevent exacerbation of biologically based symptoms.

I am someone who embraces and requires the support of a beloved therapist. And I am someone who began to resent the emotional and behavioral support I require, because of one dismissive Neurologist who led me to believe that something was wrong with me. He led me to believe I was unfixable. I now know the truth; I wasn’t broken. The system was. December 12, 2012 lit a fire under my ass to which the world has never seen. And I believe I’m not alone. Jennifer Brea’s fire needs to crackle and breathe and consume and grow. Jennifer Brea needs our help.

If this is your story, will you give $5 to Canary in a Coal Mine?

If you are someone, who, if only for a moment, doubted a loved one, will you give $5? December 20th of 2012 wasn’t just the worst day of my life. It also gutted and continues to torture my parents. And suddenly, for the first time, I am starting to believe that a small gift to Canary in a Coal Mine will help my parents see the purpose of our experience… That the odds were stacked against them as well, and they can work to prevent this from happening to other families.

I now consider myself to be a Jennifer Brea SuperFan and plan to write much about her. So prepare yourself. If you follow me in any capacity, you will know when her TED Talk comes out. You will know when the film is released. And you will come to know the impact of her work.

And to Jennifer, if there is anything I can do, please let me know. I say this selfishly. You have given me a gift. You will save lives. You will change the world. Mad-Fucking-Props-To-You-Fellow-Fighter. Stoke those flames.

What Others Are Saying

  1. Jill November 4, 2016 at 5:42 am

    You write so well. God bless you and your life story. I found you through googling about Ellen. Your blog has made me cry and smile. What a lovely writer.
    Can you kindly send me an email @ jmarish2816@gmail.com ? I would love to send you something. -God bless you, one beautiful soul!

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