One of the most difficult aspects of dealing with a chronic autoimmune disorder such as Hashimoto’s low thyroid is how isolating it feels. Autoimmune disorders are “invisible” illnesses —you may look healthy and normal when in fact you’re suffering from fatigue, brain fog, depression, and other symptoms. It’s common for doctors, employers, and family members to disbelieve the person with autoimmunity, or to insinuate they are being lazy or complaining too much. I am here to tell you that you are not alone. This issue is so problematic that some filmmakers have turned it into the subject of their films in order to provide validation, understanding, and insight.
Following is a list of streaming films that bring you into the world of chronic health disorders. You don’t have to have the same disorders as the people in these films to relate to their journeys.
This 2018 Netflix series records the lives of a small group of people with mysterious chronic health disorders as they try one treatment after another and struggle with despair. Afflicted has drawn significant criticism from the subjects of the film and many viewers for being edited to make the subjects’ disorders look psychosomatic — the single largest stigma people with chronic health disorders struggle with, so keep that in mind when you watch it. However, the subjects are very open and vulnerable with their journeys.
This 2008 Amazon Prime film explores the disabling consequences of Lyme disease and the ongoing search for remedies that work. Under Our Skin chronicles the emotional and psychological journey of hopelessness and hope, the ongoing search for a cure, and the denial and neglect that are still systemic in medicine today.
Brain on Fire was released in 2016 and is a drama based on the true story of a young woman who begins to experience severe neurological and psychiatric symptoms that progressively worsen yet has doctors tell her nothing is wrong with her. Eventually one doctor diagnoses her with neurological autoimmunity.
My Kid is Not Crazy chronicles the trials of parents whose children suffer with neurological and psychiatric disorders caused by a strep infection, a condition known as PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections.) Parents must deal with not only the awful symptoms their children struggle with but also medical denial and ridicule. Research has established PANDAS and neurological autoimmunity in both children and adults is a valid disorder.
Living Proof is a 2017 documentary that follows one man’s journey from his diagnosis with multiple sclerosis and his battle with his health, inadequacy of conventional medicine, and the stronghold pharmaceutical companies have over thwarting effective advances in managing the disease. The filmmaker and his family look to published scientific studies for answers when doctors fail him. In the end, he is able to manage his disease and become an advocate for non-pharmaceutical approaches to successfully managing multiple sclerosis.
Gaga: Five Foot Two is mainly a glimpse into Lady Gaga’s life, however she includes her struggles with chronic pain, muscle spasms, fibromyalgia, and her search for relief. Gaga gives viewers a look at her in a raw state of suffering through a pain flare in this 2017 film. Lady Gaga wanted to show her battle with chronic pain and fibromyalgia because of the rampant skepticism that exists in the medical community and the population at large.
Unrest, 2017, was created by an Ivy League doctoral student who suddenly became bedridden with ME/CFS, or chronic fatigue syndrome. She lost her ability to work, write, or read, so she began chronicling her disease through videos on her iPhone and included videos of other sufferers from around the world. They suffer not only from debilitating symptoms of the disease but also ridicule and dismissal from medical doctors and society at large. Unrest is available on Amazon.
A common thread that runs through these documentaries and that you have probably experienced yourself is the skepticism, disregard, and ridicule that patients with autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism experience. You may have been accused of fabricating your symptoms, needing psychiatric help instead of medical help, and being told over and over nothing is wrong with you.
In functional medicine, we take your symptoms seriously. We do not accuse you of making them up to seek attention. We run the right tests to discover the underlying causes of your symptoms and help you create a diet and lifestyle plan to support recovery and remission.
Ask my office for more information about managing a chronic health or autoimmune disorder such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.