A husband wakes up in the morning and tells his wife ‘I’m really not feeling very well today. I can’t get out of bed. I have an ear infection. I have a sore throat. I have looked up all my ailments on the internet and I might be dying’. ‘Go to the doctor’, his wife says whilst thinking, ‘Not man flu again’. Mysteriously the husband musters enough energy to go the surgery and the wife looks perplexed when he comes back and says, ‘The doctor told me I have bacterial infection and that I should take antibiotics and rest in bed for a couple of days’. The wife can’t understand it and thinks, ‘I thought the whole man flu thing was psychological and now the doctor says my husband has a bona fide medical reason for being ill. The human body is very strange.’
We may never get down to the bottom of what causes man flu even though I am sure many a Phd has been written about it) but that’s OK. But this week I wanted to introduce you to Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) – the condition that I have been diagnosed with. This is an extremely serious condition – which even a man might think is more serious than man flu. The symptoms vary greatly and can include blackouts, extreme pain (so that you cannot walk upstairs), paralysis, seizures, partial vision, and memory and concentration difficulties like me.
We go back to the same couple – Man flu husband and Perplexed Wife visit a specialist (they have been to the GP but the GP cannot treat this condition) – the wife is very supportive of her husband and hopes desperately that something will be able to help him because she knows that his life has become unmanageable. Her husband explains his condition to the consultant and he carries out lots of tests and then says ‘We can’t find anything wrong with you – I’m going to call your condition Functional Neurological Disorder so that I can feel that I have done something for you. Depending on what your ailments you might need physiotherapy, occupational therapy, medication or psychotherapy. Expect to experience derision from the medical profession, friends and family alike who think that you are just making it up. I will refer you to another specialist who you might be able to see in 6-12 months time.’ Perplexed wife comes out of the consultation and thinks, ‘I do not understand the human body – but I don’t think these doctors do either’.
That is my rather biased account of FND. I have learnt that specialists don’t necessarily think that the condition is brought about because of psychological reasons but there are lots of, currently unknown, reasons for why this illness occurs. It has also come to my attention (from Facebook groups – where else?) that people with this condition also have another bona fide conditions such as epilepsy (like me), CFS, arthritis and others. Thus my non-expert conclusion is that the rather all-encompassing condition of FND might be related to the other comorbid condition and even if it isn’t it seems a bit of an oversimplification to give people with such a range of symptoms one label for their illness.
I had said that I would write to you last week but unfortunately ….. I forgot. And that’s the thing with me – I’m OK at picking up the kids from the bus stop every day but if something is irregular like this blog has now become I have to be reminded. Otherwise I forget.
I told my neurologist that I have been feeling really tired on my new drugs and so this week I had another EEG to see what was happening in my brain (the results will come in a few weeks). I also had some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to understand my thinking patterns to try and challenge in the hope is that this will reduce my cognitive symptoms (however, as I have said, I am a bit skeptical that this will work). I’m really praying hard that I will find the magic key that opens the hidden door to a life filled with normality and gratitude. I’ll be in touch if anything interesting happens!!!!