Those who suffer with a chronic health or autoimmune disorder know how isolating it can feel to live with an “invisible” illness. While at times they can appear to be healthy and normal, other times they are plagued with symptoms of their illness as well as the accompanying fatigue, brain fog, and depression. Doctors and family members may not believe these people are struggling with a chronic health disorder and even accuse them of being lazy or whiny.
If you need some validation and comradery, check out the list of streaming documentaries below that take you inside the world of chronic and autoimmune health disorders. You may not have the same conditions as the subjects in these films and shows, but you can probably relate to many of their experiences.
Follow the lives of several people with mysterious and chronic health disorders in this 2018 Netflix docuseries as they try one treatment after another searching for healing. The subjects in Afflicted are very open and vulnerable about their struggles, which is why they criticisized the producers of the film for editing it in a way that portrays their health disorders as psychosomatic. This only served to reinforce the unfair stigma that is applied to many who struggle with chronic and autoimmune disorders.
Under Our Skin
Released in 2008, this Amazon Prime documentary chronicles the disabling impact of long-term Lyme disease. Under Our Skin portrays the emotional and psychological journey of despair by those endlessly searching for effective remedies from debilitating symptoms and uncovers the medical establishment’s systemic denial and neglect.
Brain on Fire
Brain on Fire is a 2016 Netflix original drama based on a true story about a young woman who suddenly and mysteriously starts experiencing a range of neurological and psychiatric symptoms that grow progressively worse. After running multiple tests, her doctors can’t find anything wrong with her until, finally, one doctor diagnoses her with neurological autoimmunity.
My Kid is Not Crazy
Look for My Kid is Not Crazy on Amazon Prime. In this 2016 documentary, you’ll watch children struggle from neurological and psychiatric disorders triggered by a strep infection, a condition known as PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections) and the parents who must help them navigate their frightening and tragic symptoms. You will also see them wrestle with the medical establishment’s skepticism, controversy, and ridicule as they seek out answers and effective treatments. Thanks to research from doctors like Susan Swedo, who coined the condition’s name, we now know that infections can trigger neurological autoimmunity in both children and adults.
After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, filmmaker Matt Embry takes us on his journey of battling not only his autoimmune disease, but also conventional medicine, pharmaceutical companies, and the drug-funded Multiple Sclerosis Society in his 2017 documentary Living Proof. He, along with his family, turn to science for answers when doctors fail him. As a result, he emerges as an advocate for a diet and lifestyle approach that he developed to successfully manage his condition.
Gaga: Five Foot Two
Lady Gaga invites viewers behind the scenes into her life and her struggles with chronic pain, body-wide muscle spasms, and fibromyalgia in the 2016 Netflix film Gaga: Five Foot Two. Gaga allows the cameras to film her as she suffers through a pain flare to show skeptics that fibromyalgia is a real condition that real people suffer from.
Unrest, released in 2017, was created by Harvard PhD student Jennifer Brea. Two months before marrying the love of her life, Brea becomes bedridden with ME/CFS, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, after being struck by a mysterious fever. No longer able to work, write, or read, the filmmaker picks up her iPhone and begins filming her experience and the experiences of the people she connects with around the world suffering from the same condition. She finds solidarity with those who have been ridiculed and dismissed by both mainstream medicine and society at large. Unrest is now streaming on Amazon and Netflix.
Functional medicine for chronic health and autoimmune disorders
Each of these documentaries sadly portrays the common reaction that patients with chronic health and autoimmune disorders receive from the insurance-based system. Disbelieving doctors disregard and even ridicule these patients, accusing them of imagining their symptoms and of needing psychiatric help instead of medical attention.
As a functional medicine practitioner, I take your symptoms seriously. Through extensive diagnostic testing, I investigate the underlying causes of your symptoms and help you implement dietary and lifestyle changes that will support your recovery and remission.
If you’re tired of hearing that there’s nothing wrong with you, contact my office to learn more about identifying and treating a chronic health or autoimmune disorder.