Health And Wellness

I’m Tired Of Being Promised False Cures For My Chronic Illness

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woman with chronic illness

It’s not often that I truly get my hopes up — at least, not when it comes to my chronic illness. But recently, I allowed myself to believe that a treatment protocol could alleviate my symptoms completely.

It wasn’t an unreasonable assumption. I read personal testimonials after personal testimonials. I studied the literature. It’s not like I was expecting an essential oil or an herbal tea to fix me. Instead, I allowed hope to rise that the root of my problem could be resolved with trauma therapy.

I have PMDD, which stands for premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Many people who are diagnosed with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) have a history of childhood trauma. Research supports this. Yet, I have participated in my own trauma therapy using EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It was incredibly helpful for me and for my interpersonal relationships.

But do you know what it didn’t do? It didn’t cure my chronic illness.

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What is RTT?

In fact, my therapist never promised this would happen at all, and yet readers began telling me about another type of trauma therapy designed to help sufferers of PMDD find relief through another therapeutic treatment. The treatment is called Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT). It combines methods from psychotherapy and hypnotherapy to help clients change their lives.

It sounds good — in theory. Yet, the more I read about RTT, the less certain it seemed. For one thing, RTT training does not require an advanced degree. Certificates in Rapid Transformational Therapy can be obtained in as little as 6 months of online study. My EMDR therapist was a state-licensed psychotherapist with additional training in trauma therapy. Additionally, while EMDR has peer-reviewed studies showing its efficacy in treating trauma, RTT offers anecdotal studies from RTT practitioners and clients.

The problem with promises

The problem isn’t that some practitioners hope to help people with chronic pain find relief. The problem is that they are targeting a vulnerable population with the promise that PMDD can be healed.

From everything I’ve read, the only hope for a “cure” is menopause. I am 40 years old so that’s not exactly encouraging. I’m likely looking at another 15 years of this disorder if no scientific advancements are made.

When I first saw a program that promised relief from PMDD, I felt the hope rising almost against my will. I began to think about what my life might look like if half my month wasn’t spent dealing with the management of pain and hormone fluctuations.

Yet, doing independent research soon deflated my hope. RTT is not a cure for PMDD, and there’s no evidence to say that it is effective at all in its treatment. Certainly, no peer-reviewed studies back up the claim that it can heal PMDD in a mere 8 weeks.

In fact, it’s easy to see why so many women find relief with this treatment — not for their PMDD but for trauma. Most women — most people — have trauma of some kind that remains unhealed. Trauma therapy is life-changing. I know that from my own experience.

It’s entirely possible that women in this anecdotal evidence are finding relief from trauma symptoms and attributing it to chronic illness relief. If you don’t know the difference, you might assume one has been helped when really another problem entirely was alleviated.

Would I risk hundreds of dollars for a promised cure that no evidence backs up? Frankly, if I wasn’t a single mom on a budget, I might give it a try just to see if it could help. But many of us don’t have the luxury to throw away money on a promised “cure” that no evidence backs up.

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Alternative treatment fatigue

I am tired of being promised cures for my chronic illness. I’m tired of having people tell me what worked for them only to find out that it won’t work for me. My hormone sensitivity won’t allow me to utilize birth control to alleviate symptoms.

Antidepressants alleviate some but not all of them. I’m not a great candidate for surgery, and if you think I’m not open-minded enough to try homeopathic methods, you’re wrong. I’ve used chiropractic care, Thai and regular massage, yoga, naturopathic solutions, Chinese herbal remedies, and enough vitamins to run my own independent pharmacy.

I’ve funneled time, money, and energy into finding relief, but I get discouraged when I see promises of a cure when I know there actually isn’t one. It’s misleading and worse, it preys on the hopes of people like me. People who are regularly in pain. People whose lives are hard enough without being promised false hope with a hefty price tag.

A better plan than chasing cures

While I want to trust my own judgment, and that of the experts, I found myself turning to the people in my life to see if I’m being unreasonable. Should I give another treatment a shot, despite no peer-reviewed studies validating its’ effectiveness? While some thought I could give it a try, the best advice I received had nothing to do with a cure.

When I’m in a PMDD cycle, my executive dysfunction is severe. My orderly house is thrown into chaos. Dishes pile high. Counters are cluttered. Laundry becomes overwhelming. The grass on my lawn runs rampant, growing at an alarming pace. I’m exhausted, sometimes in pain, and often too depressed or overwhelmed to even begin to tackle ordinary tasks.

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My friend breaks down the cost of the treatment protocol. It was expensive. Instead of rolling the dice on something I’m absolutely certain may help a little but not actually provide the relief I need, she suggests a different protocol entirely — increased social support.

She’s not talking about meeting up with friends more, although that couldn’t hurt. She suggests that I begin budgeting for increased support during my challenging weeks. I could get someone to mow my lawn and trim the hedges, clean my house when I can’t manage, and even hire childcare professionals so I can take breaks as needed.

I could use the money on getting a massage or paying for meal delivery rather than throwing it away on another false promise. While I don’t have unlimited resources, this already sounds like a better idea than risking another questionable treatment.

Magical thinking and chronic illness

There’s always going to be that little bit of worry that the one thing we don’t try is the one thing that works. At least, that’s how I often feel. It’s why I went so far in so many holistic directions, hoping that one of them would be the secret key that unlocks a smoother life for me. I wanted to find a treatment that would return me to my pre-chronic illness self.

I wanted magic beans. A potion. A spell that would work. I wanted a fairy godmother to show up and wave her magic wand without the midnight curfew. I wanted to be “normal” again.

Instead, I’m learning to live with a new normal — one where half the month I am a hard-working go-getter with energy enough for 10 people, and the other half of the month, I’m curled up like a comma in my bed waiting for time to pass so that I feel like myself again. I want to believe that a cure is possible. I want to believe that this therapeutic intervention could actually help.

But I’ve learned from bitter experience that sometimes people are just trying to sell you something. Hey, we all have to make a living. Just don’t promise me hope and then take it and my money instead.

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Crystal Jackson is a former family therapist who writes across genres to encompass blog posts, poetry, short stories, children's books, and literary fiction. 

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.