The Invisible Kingdom Pdf Summary
A landmark exploration of one of the most consequential and mysterious issues of our time: the rise of chronic illness and autoimmune diseases
A silent epidemic of chronic illnesses afflicts tens of millions of Americans: these are diseases that are poorly understood, frequently marginalized, and can go undiagnosed and unrecognized altogether. Renowned writer Meghan O’Rourke delivers a revelatory investigation into this elusive category of “invisible” illness that encompasses autoimmune diseases, post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, and now long COVIDynthesizing the personal and the universal to help all of us through this new frontier.
Drawing on her own medical experiences as well as a decade of interviews with doctors, patients, researchers, and public health experts, O’Rourke traces the history of Western definitions of illness, and reveals how inherited ideas of cause, diagnosis, and treatment have led us to ignore a host of hard-to-understand medical conditions, ones that resist easy description or simple cures. And as America faces this health crisis of extraordinary proportions, the populations most likely to be neglected by our institutions include women, the working class, and people of color.
Blending lyricism and erudition, candor and empathy, O’Rourke brings together her deep and disparate talents and roles as critic, journalist, poet, teacher, and patient, synthesizing the personal and universal into one monumental project arguing for a seismic shift in our approach to disease. The Invisible Kingdom offers hope for the sick, solace and insight for their loved ones, and a radical new understanding of our bodies and our health.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant firsthand account
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on March 19, 2022
Overall: a captivating account of managing chronic illness, leavened by a less-successful effort to introduce rigorous scholarship to the story.
I was mesmerized by the first section of The Invisible Kingdom in which the author recounts her physical decline and her maddening attempts to be heard by the medical community. Care providers trained in western medicine, she tells us, tend to focus on specific symptoms and diseases, don’t look at the whole patient, and are only too willing to dismiss anything that doesn’t fit neatly into their paradigm. Driven by pressure from the insurance companies and the huge conglomerates that employ most doctors, these care providers simply don’t have the bandwidth or, perhaps, the ability to address the needs of those with chronic illness. For the author, unable to climb out of bed and wracked with pain, the implied need to cajole or flatter doctors into paying attention is simply one more exhausting hurdle.
Many of us, especially women, have had our complaints casually dismissed as “you’re just too type A” or “you need to have a positive mindset.” This first section of the book is utterly relatable. When Meghan finally discovered alternative medicine and found providers who listen to her, I cheered. Okay, at least one of them was an outright quack, but I understood her desperation.
The next section switches into term paper mode. I appreciate the author’s efforts to bring in research, just wish she could have managed that in a less heavy-handed way. There are too many passages like the following (and, please note, my example is fabricated and a gross exaggeration, though it captures my sentiments while reading this section):
“I learned that 2+2 is 4. I spoke to Professor XYZ from Illustrious University, who told me ‘yes, we have determined that adding two cookies to two cookies will result in a total of four cookies.'”
My estimation of the book dropped at that point, but I persevered, a good thing, as the style soon reverted to a reasonable hybrid of first person opinion informed by research and studies. For example, Meghan points out that long covid is already impacting the chronic illness landscape, and describes approaches that institutions might implement. She also rails against those who try to find something uplifting and morally empowering about sickness. Clearly, this is a hot button for her, but that chapter is longer than it might have been. We get it: never suggest to a sick person that their illness has ennobled them in some meaningful way. The author lost years of her life to debilitating illness; there is no recovering that lost time.
As a side note, the book also offers a deep dive into Lyme disease, and explains why it’s so hard to diagnose. This ambiguity opens the door to medical scamming, a phenomenon that is becoming increasingly common.
Occasional hiccup aside, this is a book well worth reading, on a timely topic that is particularly relevant to a world now dealing with a massive increase in chronically ill young adults.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on May 27, 2022
Initially, I borrowed this from the library, but after reading 5 pages, I bought my own copy. I am indebted to Terry Gross from NPR’s Fresh Air for interviewing Meghan O’Rourke on an afternoon that I was doing errands in the car and listening to the radio.
Someday, I may write my story of chronic illness but it won’t look like Meghan’s. Still, because of Meghan, I now have the language with which to speak it.
2 of the many passages I highlighted:
“My body had failed me; my body was now not failing me. Perhaps all along my idea of failure had been wrong. Perhaps my body had been working hard to keep me as well as it could despite a serious, life-altering infection, and I needed to find a new story about it. A story that allowed for the contingency of identity, of health, of hope. One that saw survival of any kind as a form of strength. What I had experienced was life itself, the body straining to survive despite the odds.”
“I have experienced both normal fatigue and pathological fatigue, which is altogether different from tiredness or physical exhaustion. It is a feeling that my body’s most essential energy functions have screeched to a halt. I suspect I understand the language of illness more intimately than do many of the researchers who study disease; I am a native speaker, you might say. For me and others who have been seriously ill, the idea that we could confuse these symptoms with the normal aches and pains of life is laughable. When I was very ill, I could barely walk down the block, and fatigue blacked out whole days; it felt as if my body were made of sand, and as if molasses had invaded my brain.”
4.0 out of 5 stars One author’s battle with undiagnosed chronic illness, plus general advice/info
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on March 1, 2022
This book is divided into three main parts, with 20 chapters, and a total of about 270 pages, not including the Notes section.
In Part One – “Obstacles”, O’Rourke covers several different topics. In the Introduction, she briefly describes her own personal struggles with undiagnosed illness, including Epstein-Barr virus. She explains the scope of the problem of undiagnosed chronic illness, and gives some examples of the wide variety of chronic illnesses that are still widely under-recognized today. There are chapters in this section discussing autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue, long-COVID, and the doctor-patient relationship. O’Rourke also discusses alternative treatments, and society’s tendency to view women as hypochondriacs. Throughout the book she describes her personal journey, as she battles with fatigue and undiagnosed chronic illness; sharing the painful memories and the lessons she learned.
Part Two – “Mysteries” goes into more detail about various aspects of chronic illness. O’Rourke covers specific autoimmune issues, the mind/body connection, positive thinking and psychology, battles with Lyme disease, and dealing with uncertainty.
In Part Three – “Healing”, O’Rourke focuses more on treatment and recovery, and what reforms might be needed to be able to more accurately recognize signs of chronic illnesses in patients in the future. She discusses long COVID, how chronic illness can change you psychologically, and what wisdom can be learned from suffering through chronic illness.
Overall, I found this book to be pretty interesting, if only slightly less informative than I had hoped. The author spends around half of the book recounting her personal journey and struggles, and mixes in more general information about chronic illnesses throughout. There is some decent information here, but be aware that this is less of a scientific discussion or medical journal; and more of a personal story about what it feels like to struggle through these illnesses.
About Meghan O’Rourke Author Of The Invisible Kingdom pdf Book
Meghan O’Rourke Author Of The Invisible Kingdom pdf Book was born January 26, 1976 in Brooklyn, New York. The eldest of three children born to Paul and Barbara O’Rourke, she had two younger brothers. Her mother was a longtime teacher and administrator at Saint Ann’s, an elite independent school in Brooklyn, and later became headmaster of the Pierrepoint School in Westport, Connecticut. Her father, a classicist and Egyptologist, also taught at Saint Ann’s and Pierrepont. O’Rourke attended St. Ann’s through high school. She earned a bachelor’s of arts degree in English language and literature from Yale University in 1997 and a master of fine arts degree in poetry from Warren Wilson College in 2005.
The Invisible Kingdom pdf, Paperback, Hardcover Book Information
- ASIN : B097XDLS7F
- Publisher : Riverhead Books (March 1, 2022)
- Publication date : March 1, 2022
- Language : English
- File size : 1873 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 336 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #41,647 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- #10 in Immune Systems (Kindle Store)
- #23 in Biographies of Medical Professionals (Kindle Store)
- #56 in Immune Systems (Books)
- Customer Reviews: 4.5 out of 5 stars 431 ratings
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