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Jen Brea's Outrageously Successful Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME) TED Talk

Monday 30 January 2017


From Health Rising:


Jennifer Brea
Jennifer Brea

Jen Brea's Outrageously Successful Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME) TED Talk

By Cort Johnson
January 20, 2017

"It doesn’t matter what you once were - you can't do it anymore." Jennifer Brea

There's no need to embellish chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS; ME) stories. Shakespearean in their depth, ME/CFS stories can be so disturbing that some people will undoubtedly look for ways to dismiss them. Healthy, active, successful people, after all, don't suddenly end up in bed for decades for reasons doctors can't explain. At least not in most people's reality.

That's why telling our stories in a calm, matter of fact but forceful manner is best. Adding a touch of humor is really good. Talking to the audience like they're in your living room - is even better. Including their concerns in your story - now, you're really talking. Jen Brea does it all in her outrageously successful TED talk on chronic fatigue syndrome.

By itself her story is powerful and moving. The shocking collapse of the young, active PhD student: healthy one day, disabled the next. The seemingly ordinary infection, the exhaustion, the strange neurological symptoms, the years in bed, the innumerable lab tests, the fruitless doctor visits, the conversion disorder diagnosis (by a neurologist not a psychiatrist), the terrible relapse after exercise, the lack of help from the medical profession. Jen's nightmarish story with her always evocative visuals (including a moving one of Whitney Dafoe in pain) will undoubtedly wake up many.

For those who missed the boat the first time around, Jen's masterful punch line - that what happened to me could happen to you, and not just if you have ME/CFS - should capture them. Her assertion that being a woman means being in danger of having an illness downplayed or turned into hysteria or anxiety will resonate. The idea that what's happened to ME/CFS is part of a broad historical trend that any woman could be touched by someday is a powerful one that could help enroll many.


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