Last night I attended a sold out screening of the documentary Unrest (including a Q&A with director Jennifer Brea) at the Broadway Cinema.

The film begins as Brea herself is struck down with a mystery malady whilst studying for her Ph.D at Harvard University. The illness robs her of her mobility, her concentration and of the active life she shared with her husband, Omar. Inexplicably bedridden, Brea starts filming her experience from her duvet as she tries to work out what is happening to her.

After a few misdiagnosis (including the incredibly ignorant and dangerous ‘it’s all in your head’) Brea finally discovers she has myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). Sadly, however, there is currently no known cure for the illness and not nearly enough recognition for victims from both the medical community and from society in general. With this in mind Brea starts to talk to other sufferers of ME via the internet and, eventually, begins a new wave of activism in an attempt to alter the status quo.

Unrest is a wonderful film. Brea’s story is heartbreaking and watching her progress through her illness was eerily familiar to my own experience with ME (struck down as a postgraduate and bedbound). Stories of other sufferers are woven into the narrative beautifully and you begin to get a real feel for the devastation millions of victims and their loved ones suffer through on a daily basis. One such person, Jessica Taylor, recounts that she has grown four inches in the years she has spent bedbound after developing ME as a fifteen year old. She wonders what standing up at her new height would feel like.

After the film Jennifer Brea took part in a Q&A and the audience were able to ask her questions about the film and her activism. Given that the audience included many people with experience of ME, the session was an emotional one. However, Brea answered everything compassionately, talking intelligently about illness and the mistreatment she, and many others, are fighting against. Overall, it was a wonderful night and I would implore anyone and everyone to seek out Unrest and to check out the #MillionsMissing campaign.

To read a short story about my experience with ME, click here.

2 thoughts on “Unrest

  1. As someone with CFS myself, I appreciate it when things come out that tell people exactly what it’s like to live like we do. Over here in the US, information about these things is often oppressed, and the only people getting the information are the people who are directly affected by CFS, and their loved ones. The public seems to be largely uneducated about CFS, and that’s not counting all the misinformation that goes around.

    To me, the worst part is not only that it’s not recognized a lot here, but it’s the fact that people make flippant comments and really downplay what we go through. They act like you’re just tired, and a little rest or a little exercise will fix it or improve things. And the way it comes out makes it sound like they view that it’s your fault that you have CFS or continuing CFS. And they have an attitude that maybe if you’d just try a little harder you could get rid of it.

    The main problem, to me, is that people don’t want to understand, that they choose not to understand.

    Would this be available in the US perhaps?

    1. Yes, all you’ve said is so true. People so often don’t see victims of CFS/ME at their worst (as we’re often in bed in a dark room!) so education is needed to show the wider population how the illness works, and the damage it does. A film like Unrest is long overdue I think, I just hope as many people as possible see it (getting onto the Best Doc Oscar long list will no doubt help with this!) It is a US film so I’m sure it’s available across the pond, although I don’t know where exactly. Perhaps have a look at the official Unrest website linked to at the bottom of the article for more info about showings near you.

      Thanks so much for the comment! 🙂

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