This paper explores experiences of 16 people claiming to have recovered from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) using the concept of liminality.
Liminality describes the status of those falling between socially recognised and medically sanctioned categories, and illuminates both the experience of illness and the process of recovery from ME/CFS.
The liminality experienced during illness was akin to that described by Turner with a degree of communitas among sufferers. As recovery progressed, participants stressed the percentage to which they had improved, and compared themselves with peers and themselves prior to the illness.
Recovery did not mean transition into a post-liminal phase, but involved a new liminality, characterised by straddling boundaries between illness and wellness.
Participants continued strategies such as rest, pacing and meditation. This second liminal state included difficulty in communicating the experience convincingly, and estrangement from the ME/CFS community.
Thus, recoverees moved from the liminality of illness to a second, and less legible state of sustained liminality in recovery, described as having one foot in the ill world, one foot in the well world. This suggests that more needs to be understood about the recovery experience to assist those making the transition toward wellness.
‘Betwixt and between’; liminality in recovery stories from people with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), by Brian Brown, Kate Huszar, Rosemary Chapman in Sociology of Health & Illness 39:2 2017 [Preprint: February 27, 2017]