If Your Disease Has No “F.D.A.-Stamped” Cure, Try Rational Experiments Rather Than Give Up

(p. 9) My whole family was sick in March with Covid-like symptoms, and though the one test we obtained was negative, I’m pretty sure we had the thing itself — and my own symptoms took months rather than weeks to disappear.

But unlike many of the afflicted, I didn’t find the experience particularly shocking, because I have a prior long-haul experience of my own. In the spring of 2015, I was bitten by a deer tick, and the effects of the subsequent illness — a combination of Lyme disease and a more obscure tick-borne infection, Bartonella — have been with me ever since.

Lyme disease in its chronic form — or, per official medical parlance, “post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome” — is a fiendishly complicated and controversial subject, and what I learned from the experience would (and will, at some point) fill a book.

. . .

If you feel like you need something else to get better, some outside intervention, something more than just your own beleaguered body’s resources, be impatient — and find a way to go in search of it.

. . .


There is no treatment yet for “long haul” Covid that meets the standard of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, which means that the F.D.A.-stamped medical consensus can’t be your only guide if you’re trying to break a systemic, debilitating curse. The realm beyond that consensus has, yes, plenty of quacks, perils and overpriced placebos. But it also includes treatments that may help you — starting with the most basic herbs and vitamins, and expanding into things that, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t have ever imagined myself trying before I become ill myself.

So please don’t drink bleach, or believe everything you read on Goop.com. But if you find yourself decanting Chinese tinctures, or lying on a chiropractor’s table with magnets placed strategically around your body, or listening to an “Anti-Coronavirus Frequency” on Spotify, and you think, how did I end up here?, know that you aren’t alone, and you aren’t being irrational. The irrational thing is to be sick, to have no official treatment available, and to fear the outré or strange more than you fear the permanence of your disease.

. . .

. . . I believe that with enough time and experimentation, I will actually be well.

That belief is essential. Hold on to it. In the long haul, it may see you through.

For the full commentary, see:

Ross Douthat. “What to Do When Covid Doesn’t Go Away.” The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sunday, August 9, 2020 [sic]): 9.

(Note: ellipses and bracketed year added. A few words in the original are italicized, but you cannot see that since my blog formatting has all quoted words italicized.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Aug. 8, 2020 [sic], and has the title “China Wants to Move Ahead, but Xi Jinping Is Looking to the Past.” The heading EXPERIMENT, EXPERIMENT, EXPERIMENT was in bold in both the online and print versions. In the print version it was all in caps. In the online version only the first letter of each word was capitalized.)

Douthat’s The Deep Places book can be viewed as a substantial elaboration of the commentary quoted above:

Douthat, Ross. The Deep Places: A Memoir of Illness and Discovery. New York: Convergent Books, 2021.

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