Are you a WOMI (a woman with a mysterious illness)? Or a MOMI (a man with a mysterious illness)? A person of any orientation with an autoimmune disease? Or chronic fatigue syndrome (which research is beginning to suggest may also be an autoimmune illness)? Or who is not responding to treatment, or has no fix, no cure, no clear pathway to healing (maybe even if healing occurs for others with the same symptoms or diagnosis)?
If so, Sarah Ramey’s The Lady’s Handbook for her Mysterious Illness may give you a new vantage on your healing journey. As may her coining of the terms WOMI and MOMI (we can add POMI for all Persons with any other orientation).
This Handbook is also for anyone who is a health care professional in any field or specialty, or who is studying to become one. This book will give you an insider’s view of what chronic illness and medical care can feel like.
Far More than a Memoir
Sarah’s Handbook is a memoir.
It’s also much, much more.
The first three friends I told about it all had reservations that it sounded like it would be a downer. Or a story by someone who is tormented by their illness.
It was neither. While it can indeed be difficult to read about another’s journey, and Sarah’s medical traumas will be all too familiar for most, it shares helpful insights and conclusions. It is deeply insightful. Compelling. A literary art form written by a BFA and a musician.
I loved her sense of humor and writing style so much I couldn’t put it down.
The Lady’s Handbook will help you better put together the bits and pieces you have started to gather on your journey. The seeing of patterns that aren’t yet recognized by most medical professionals. The experiences of treatments that should work but don’t work for you, or work only for a while, or make you worse. And why it’s not in your head. And not your fault for not trying hard enough.
There are no painful descriptions of childhood trauma, although Sarah touches on trauma as one of many types of events that can trigger onset of a chronic illness. She also writes a little about adverse childhood experiences [ACEs] as risk factors.
The patterns Sarah highlights are similar to the ones I write about here on my blog That’s part of why I liked it so much and recommend it so highly.
Sarah doesn’t go into much depth about the role of trauma but you may recognize it on her healing journey. Such as when her sense of humor comes through (social nervous system) and when her oh-so-appropriate anger and rage emerge. Along with some of the shifts that happen as a result.
You may also be somehow relieved (despite hoping) to find that Sarah has not come up with any magical, quick fixes . Even as she has improved and has gained huge and helpful perspectives and tools now for how she works with her health. Her discoveries deeply validate the path you’ve likely been on.
Sarah expresses the interest, motivation and deep willingness to try anything and everything that might help her heal. This is characteristic of so many of us because it’s what we do when our lives are on hold (or worse). Ultimately she tries a slew of therapies that turn out to be helpful in some ways but not with her health. They focus on positive thinking and figuring out your role in being sick. These ultimately and understandably became utterly unacceptable. I mention this because this is very different from the approaches and trauma therapies I recommend, which work with our nervous systems and more as underlying drivers of symptoms.
Like Having a New Best Friend
After reading Sarah’s book I felt as though I’d found a new best friend. A fellow reader and friend of mine’s response was, “I feel that way too!” And when I told the other friend who had recommended Sarah’s book to me, her reply was, “I want to be part of that group too!” A third new friend has scheduled Ramey in a podcast called Unfixed that will air February 15th, 2021. Maybe you’ll joint this “fam” group of ours too :-).
Excerpted List of WOMI (MOMI & POMI) Symptoms
Sarah’s Handbook includes a list of symptoms. You will very likely recognize many of your own here (see the excerpted list, which only gets to the letter “H.” Or download the full list below).
The list of symptoms are what Sarah describes as clues. Many will have preceded our getting truly ill, or be part of our predominant set of symptoms once we are more sick or debilitated.
The list represents clues that the medical system, in its current mind frame, is largely missing or dismissing. Clues from early mild symptoms that to our doctors can seem like “no big deal” because they are common, may not give abnormal test results, or are not “that” debilitating. Some of these symptoms I never recognized in myself, despite my 20 year journey. Reading them, I recognized similar patterns to Sarah’s, seeing early signs when I looked back, and even some I had missed despite my career in medicine. Symptoms of a big belly, “coat hanger pain,” and my body’s reactions to the sleep interruptions in my medical training were just a few early clues of my own system going awry years before my ME/CFS started.
I see these clues as indications that our nervous systems and immune systems etc are starting to fall into dysregulation. They can therefore help nip potential illness in the bud and guide us in what to do for prevention or to slow onset or worsening. These are things we can recognize and do for our kids as well.
An excerpt of Sarah’s list of symptoms includes:
- “The more than 100 Autoimmune diseases”
- “Allergies (to any- and everything—from dust, to pollen, to cats, to perfume, to mold)”
- Bowel strictures
- Chest pain
- Coat-hanger pain
- Cognition problems
- Cold extremities
- Alternating constipation & diarrhea
- Dairy intolerance
- Day sweats
- Decreased libido
- Double vision
- Dry mouth and eyes
- Fatigue on waking in the morning
- Flulike symptoms, permanently
- – bladder infections
- – ear infections
- – eye infections
- – sore throats
- – viral infections
- Gluten intolerance
- Heart palpitations
- High stomach acid
- Low stomach acid
- Hypersensitivity to
- – emotions
- – light
- – loud noises
- – smells
- – foods of all kinds
- – medications
Early Clues from WOMI 1 to 5 (MOMI & POMI too)
Many of these symptoms are part of a path we experienced before we became sick. Or that started to add up as we got sicker. Sarah presents a continuum of phases for Women with a Mysterious Illness (WOMIs) that we may experience. That we may go back and forth to and between on our journeys. She describes them in her book:
- WOMI 1
- WOMI 2
- WOMI 3
- WOMI 4
- WOMI 5
Sarah’s descriptions will fit just as much for men (Men with a Mysterious Illness or MOMIs) and people of any orientation (POMIs).
WOMI, MOMI and POMI: The New Lexicon
WOMI, MOMI and POMI.
This may become the new lexicon among us:
“Hi, I’m a WOMI 1 or 2ish these days. I’ve been a WOMI 4 and 5.” How about you?
Learn about Chronic Illness from a nervous system perspective (example of ME/CFS that applies to other symptoms and diseases), my summary of trauma as a risk factor and why it’s not in your head, a post on onset triggers, plus posts on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Adverse Institutional Experiences (AIEs) which include gender bias