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Netflix Docuseries “Afflicted” is Terrible

We anxiously awaited the release of Netflix’s docuseries, “Afflicted,” on Aug. 10 and are appalled by the dismissive, psychosomatic lens through which the patients are ultimately portrayed.

The casting director had said that the “intention is to look at these experiences through a compassionate lens and give voice to those struggling for answers and acceptance.” We had hoped to see this reflected in the finished product. We are disappointed and outraged at the lens with which these illnesses were viewed.

First and foremost, we want to share our unwavering support and appreciation for Jamison Hill. It took enormous courage and self-sacrifice for him and all the other chronically ill subjects of the documentary to share their stories with us.

Secondly, we urge each of you to put your health first. Viewing the episodes might not be in your best interest depending on your situation.

As for how to respond, we have no one answer. As always, the strength of our community lies in its diversity. #MEAction exists to help strengthen your voices and help facilitate your ideas.

We have collected some ideas seen in the community and added some options we feel might be helpful.

1. Instead of sharing Afflicted, share the voice of people with ME and/or other illnesses portrayed in #Afflicted.

– Share Jamison’s own words in this New York Times article. https://www.nytimes.com/…/modern-love-means-never-having-to…
– Recommend viewing Unrest which can be seen on Netflix as well as many other streaming platforms. https://www.unrest.film/watch/
– Read Julie Rehmeyer’s book https://www.julierehmeyer.com/throughtheshadowlands/
– Watch Forgotten Plague https://www.amazon.com/Forgotten-Plague-Ron-Da…/…/B01AT28FS2
– Share any other medium that has moved you that features the person’s own voice

2. Make your opinion clear on IMDB and other review formats.
https://m.imdb.com/title/tt8792570/

3. Write to Netflix https://media.netflix.com/en/contact-us

4. Use caution when sharing Afflicted which might inadvertently lead to increased views.

We will continue to explore all options and update you as soon as possible. #pwME #MyalgicE #chronicillness

~

Below is the interview that #MEAction conducted with Jamison prior to the release of “Afflicted.” Jamison is the author of the popular blog dealing with issues around ME, Jamison Writes.

What is the series about?
I believe it’s about people living with chronic illnesses like ME and Lyme, which are mysterious to a lot of people, especially those of us afflicted by them.
How did the producers find you / decide to include your story?
I think a friend in the M.E. community recommended that the casting producers check out my blog. That’s how they contacted me. Then I had to do two rounds of interviews via Skype. I was feeling much better then but the interviews were each over an hour and I remember thinking that if they asked for more I was going to throw in the towel. Luckily they liked my story and moved on to interview my family.
What was the filming process like?
It was pretty intense. Last summer the film crew came to my house three separate times. They also filmed my sister attending last year’s Stanford ME symposium. Otherwise I basically just went about my normal, albeit chaotic life, and the film crew tried to be invisible. Though that was pretty much impossible. At one point I found myself trying to eat with a camera literally on my chest. Another time I was bathing and one of the cameramen was right there filming beside me. Of course I consented to these things because I wanted my story to be told as accurately as possible, even if it meant sacrificing my privacy. Plus, having been filmed for Forgotten Plague, and other film projects, I wasn’t fazed by most of it.
What does the film mean for the community? What is its significance?
I think that remains to be seen. It could be huge — more awareness and research funding for ME. That’s my hope and ultimately why I agreed to do the project. But we’ll see, at the very least it’s going to get some people talking about illnesses that they know little or nothing about. I’m just not sure how many people or in what light.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I just want to make it clear that I was not paid to appear in the film, nor was my family. I think the film crew bought us lunch a couple times but otherwise we decided to give our time and energy to the project for free. I’m really grateful that my family was willing to do that because it wasn’t easy on them.
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19 comments on “Netflix Docuseries “Afflicted” is Terrible
  1. Cindy SS says:

    Given the changed context after the release of ‘Afflicted’, Cindy has asked that this comment be shifted or removed. Thanks! — Ed.

    1. Andrea Duke says:

      Please tell Jamison to contact Dr. John Chia in Torrance. Ca. He is the BEST in the Country for ME\CFS. He has been treating me for 14 years and I have been in remission of about 80% for the last 4 years. I’m living as normal a life as possible. His number is 310 784 5880

  2. Elaine says:

    I think they could learn a lot about CFS/FM and autoimmune conditions by reading my book, “Canaries In The Coal Mine” by Elaine Marie Graham on amazon!

  3. I was very disappointed by the amount of time given to Jamison, and therefore ME/CFS. And too much time spent on quackery.

  4. Niamh says:

    Thank you and your family for donating your time and little reserves of energy to this it must have been exhausting. It brings a lot of hope with it that people might at least watch it on Netflix and get an idea of our frustration and daily battles and micro aggressions we encounter day after day and keep going! Thank you!

  5. Jason says:

    I am alone myself because I don’t relate to anyone since my 15 month tour in Baghdad as a medic. When I came back home and started sharing my stories I noticed none of my childhood friends wanted to hang out anymore. They just couldn’t relate. So now I’m out to hang out with those that don’t relate.

    1. Jason,
      If you have myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, check out our support group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/211058135999671/

  6. Tom Meservey says:

    I watched the series and it was difficult because the subjects were ridiculously self-absorbed and crazy. They need to get out of their heads, eat a sandwich, stop getting shitty tattoos, get a job, and do something for other people. FFS! The utter waste of time and resources by those people is breathtaking!

  7. Ben S. says:

    The politics of representation in this series is terrible. Like most Netflix feature productions it presents the subject as entertainment for the uninitiated voyeur. The way that participant’s narratives are edited and framed means illnesses like ME/CFS will continue not to be taken seriously. As troubling, some of the subjects come off as self-indulgent and opportunistic.

    Does ME Action really want to endorse and/or advertise this series w/o disclaimer?

    This series pales in comparison to the many documentaries that are presented from the perspective of those who live with chronic illness. Someone needs to do a critical analysis of this series and contrast it with these other films.

    ME activists should realize that just because someone approaches them with the promise of presenting a compassionate and sympathetic version of their story, unless the filmmaker is intimately involved in the social worlds that they document that is not likely to happen.

  8. Heather says:

    I have been dealing with and have sought treatment for chronic fatigue for the last decade, though I have never officially been diagnosed with CFS/ME. I’m not entirely certain that I do have actual CFS/ME, though I do have many of the symptoms, although not to the degree that many sufferers do.

    I watched the Netflix program with some idea of what the ill people feel: the dismissal of their own reports about the state of their own health, the suspicion that it is psychosomatic or perhaps even deliberate manipulativeness. So I was profoundly disappointed to see that the producers chose to portray each victim in such a prejudiced way. At first, it showed promise. By the final episode, it became obvious that they did not believe that any of these people had a real illness, other than perhaps mental illness.

    Had I been on that program, I’m sure that they would have portrayed me as such. I do have a history of depression which is why, after running initial blood tests that come back “normal”, doctors assume that depression is the cause of my symptoms and prescribe me antidepressants and think they’ve “solved” my problem. It doesn’t matter that I tell them that it doesn’t feel like depression (unless I think too much about how my normal life has slipped away due to the fatigue and brain fog), it counts for nothing. Unlike those in the documentary, I have never refused the antidepressants and have tried many of them and even combinations of them to no avail. The last one I was prescribed for my chronic fatigue had a common side effect of fatigue! Unless you’ve gone down the route of antidepressants or known others who have, you might not understand why someone refuses to accept that is the answer. The documentary makes it seem like they just refuse treatment which might help them.

    There was ZERO compassion for the subjects in this “documentary”. It honestly seems that the entire purpose of the movie was to cast alternate health providers as a bunch of quacks and chronically ill people who can’t be healed by modern medicine as a bunch of crazies who don’t actually want to get better — they just want attention. I feel bad for the ill persons who thought that participating in this movie would help bring attention to their rare conditions and maybe get doctors to care about those who have it.

    And if I hear that phrase “when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras” one more time, I might literally scream. Duh. Of course doctors should rule out the most likely ailments first. The problem is that when they rule out horses, they don’t bother checking to see if there are zebras. They assume you are crazy and hearing things and prescribe you antidepressants. If they would just look for the darn zebras, maybe we’d have a chance at getting better.

  9. Amelia Clarke says:

    I think regardless of the portrayal, these people and their stories shine through and gets to the viewers heart. I believe the show may prove to have been a great idea as Netflix brings a massive audience and you never know how one random viewer may have a connection or knowledge to help these people. Even above there is a comment mentioning an amazing ME doctor. I think it’s easy to see where it’s Netflix casting doubt and see through that and feel for these people. It’s worth getting their story out to a large audience as these shows often bring momentum as the viewers want to help. All their stories touched me but Jamison’s did especially. I hope he finds the help he needs.

  10. Tamara says:

    First, I just wanted to thank ME ACTION and those who write such informative articles. You help so many of us and help protect us from receiving anymore harm.
    After 11 years of having my Mecfs dismissed as another exhausted and hysterical woman, I’ve learned to avoid those who disbelieve and put my health first. So I will not be watching this Netflix series and hope others will consider not watching it also.
    Secondly, I want to thank Jamison for giving his energy and sacrificing his health to share his story in the hopes of helping to educate the public of our disease. I look forward to reading the articles or interviews he shares.

  11. MJ Gunden says:

    Jamison commented: “They also filmed my sister attending last year’s Stanford ME symposium.”

    I also attended that symposium, and it was the single most hopeful experience of my two decades with ME/CFS. Did the film makers choose to interview any of the true experts presenting there? Apparently not. I recall that there was a TV crew there, and all I saw them do was follow Jamison’s sister around. They seemed to pay little attention what was being presented. Even in the snippet they showed of her at the conference, the shot they used made it look like there weren’t many people there. To the contrary, there was a full house of engaged patients, caregivers, clinicians and eminent researchers.

    It is a terrible series, and Netflix should pull it. I binge watched it on Sunday, and as others have mentioned, while waiting for something worth watching I gradually realized that it would not be forthcoming.

    This seemed to be an agenda-driven documentary; I don’t know whose agenda or even what the agenda is. But it was really clear what that agenda was not. There are many ways to lie, and this was a sophisticated and apparently calculated big lie.

  12. Ingrid says:

    There are striking similarities between all the sick “patients” in Afflicted: none of them seem to pay (or even to contribute in any way) to their medical bills while racking up recklessly ruinous bills, most of which are for alternative non-evidence based “treatments” . Let me tell you, if you are paying your own bills and your own accommodation, you will not allow yourself to lay down and die (stellar example of someone like this is Vicky Beeching who, despite her chronic fatigue and immune illness is an activist and author) and get to the root of the problem in a reasonable way and not waste your family’s and medical professional time with complaints that are over the top (like going to the ER because you have stomach ache and nausea, or because you think you have an embolism while someone with a real emergency should be saved) and you definitely will not spend thousands of dollars on unproven “treatments” like hypobaric oxygen. I’m not saying that all individuals who have chronic illness do not legitimately suffer, or that there may not be a yet unexplained but valid medical cause, but it does not appear that these individuals fall in that category and actually rather cause harm to the cause since they seem completely wrapped up in the identity of learned helplessness/victim mentality. When doctors suggest alleviating some of their depression or anxiety with pharmaceuticals, they do now want to accept this treatment either, far rather preferring to suffer as martyrs while their family members, spouses and lovers are enablers who are wrapped up in the toxic self-absorption of the “patient”. The cause is psychopathological and is a twisted means of seeking control over their out of control minds by way of their highly regimented and ritualistic health routines, which may involve controlling their nutrition, supplement and other people very rigidly. It’s a real pity because I do agree that there are chronic illnesses that may still be poorly understood but that does cause real suffering. I’m just not sure these patients fit the bill.

  13. Sergio says:

    This show pissed me off. I see no push in any of them to overcome their “illness”. If any of this people were actually sick, it was lost on the hypochondriac craziness of the others.

  14. Michelle says:

    I really enjoyed the show. As a person who does not have any of these issues, sure, the thoughts run through your mind that maybe some of these patients are having psychological issues, but it also raises the question that maybe they aren’t. I appreciated how the show tried to weigh both sides of the question.

    Even if some of the patients are experiencing physical manifestations of a psychological problem, why is that a bad thing? It is just as plausible a theory as the alternative. I can speak from personal experience that I have suffered physical symptoms due to depression and anxiety, everything from colonic spasms, to headaches, to back spasms, fatigue. Thankfully I have improved, thanks to counseling, medication, and my faith in God. Of course I’m not 100%.

    That being said, there definately needs to be more research out there to get some answers. The reason that people resort to using holistic therapy is because western doctors rely on data and facts. Until there is research geared toward understanding this then doctors will always be in the dark.

  15. Kay says:

    Please seek help for Anxiety and or mental illness. Eat protein for energy go outside…

  16. Linda says:

    I hate to be the bad guy here…but. I am a chronicly ill person living with if not all, at least half of these physical issues.

    I had a traumatic event happen in my life 2- years before I’ve become the shell of a person
    that I have always been.

    I believe a traumatic event sent these peoole into an initial accute severe depreession state accompanied by anxiety tgat tgen turned into chronic severe depression that must be treated with the correct prescribed by areal phyciatrist not some Eastern Medicine guru. You all need to STOP. It is not easy.. in fact its the hardest thing you eill ever do. I know brcause that is what happenned to me once I got off the hampster wheel of doctors/diagnosis/treatments/nothing works/Google symptoms/ wish I could get back to being myself.

    Cases in point: Jameson worked his ass off to be a music guy, or what ever, it doesn’t matter it was when the reality sunk in that he would have to face being an adult, following through on his commitments that reality hit him smack in the face. A tramatic incident.

    When the spainish girl (actor) finally hit it big after working her entire life BAM!!
    Too much change/anxiety..

    When the gay girl moved in within 2- weeks of meeting her new girlfriend online, BAM,
    oh man… what if she doesn’t love me? 2- weeks after meeting, seriously? Major
    worries/anxiety

    They all became cronic after suffering a major life changing event. A major one.

    They need Xanax and deal with it like everyone eles. And stop with all of those supplements!

    Be HONEST with yourselves insteaf of believing your own BS. Believe me, if any
    of them were as sick as they claim they’d be being treated by real doctors with
    real diagnosis. Blood doesnt lie! $25K for stem cell infusions?! $300.00 for
    1- hyperbolic chamber session.. Jesus H Christ spend one week with me, for free and I guarantee you’ll be just fine. Rediculius.. all of them.
    Beth, a cutter since age 9? Been in psychiatric institution but has refused meds for depression.
    Granted, her parents look creepy as fuck, but her brother is super sweet. Just take the damn depression meds girl ain’t nothing wrong with that! Give them a couple months if they dint work by then stop. You’re willing to do a $25K stem cell treatment (which is just bullshit btw) but you wont try an antidepressant? What? Afraid it may work?

  17. Sandra says:

    I have endured Chronic Fatique for over 27 years. My intial research also lead me to know that my condition is a result of having had mono. The onset of mono can induce C.F. suffice to say, I am a retired 67 year old woman who chose to whether the severe symtoms and work around them. I rarely allowed myself a pity party to spend a day in bed, though at times the layers of fatique and pain got so intense it was a struggle to get up. I do not think the person Netflix chose with Chronic F demonstrates the majority of people like myself, who with determination and a willingness to live life can participate in both a working environment and other normal activities. I have friends and family members who are polio survivors, cancer survivors and other malidies. They walk, drive, work, use scooters to get around and( Yes) get thru each day. I also know a MS patient who attends a group gathering weekly and though she does not stand or have the lower extremity use she does for herself. My opinion of the guy in Netflix program is very poor. He is laying in a bed allowing himself to atrophy. Yes, the condition is very ReaL, Yes the fatique is painful, Yes the side effects can bring on other symptoms and yes diagnosis is tricky. My first round with it docs thought it was MS. I wish that this man who is still young. should try to help himself. I did not see that side shown. So with so many people in our world with having medical chronically conditions. This guy should consider himself fortunate that he can overcome this if he wasn’t obviously so deliberately helpless. Yes, I have a very strong opinion of him. In the next special from Netflix or other networks I hope they will show how determination and willful strides to overcome conditions are possible. Thanks for listening.

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