“Out Patients” Wu
Elise Wu is trying to portray the factitious subculture. A culture of people who fake their illnesses to receive care and attention. Wu, who faked her illnesses is trying to recover from the behavior. Her first findings of this community is through a doctor, one she doesn’t trust is helping people in their best interest. She finds her first group of people that are victims of factitious disorder, someone they know, or love is manipulating them. This group is being advised by the same doctor that she distrusts. Just based on this doctor and group she is demotivated to recover. Two years later she returns to her route of recovery finding a group that is suffering from the factitious disorder. She calls these people “FDers”, although she is part of this group it feels like she’s looking on the outside in. To become part of this group she must provide her real identity which she fakes. Wu finds it ironic that most people are probably doing the same.
In the group, she identifies a lot of the tactics she also used to use as an “FDer”. She uses flashbacks to give us an idea of what she went through. One flashback is of her being observed by a group of medical students and a doctor. She realizes now that the doctor was hinting at her fake illness to the students, stomach pains that would come and go. As she realized this in the hospital she quickly tried to be discharge and change locations. Something “FDers” often do when they are found out.
Wu uses this language of “coming out” to describe telling people the truth about fake illnesses. This “coming out” is serious to “FDers”, they need to know who to trust, who would believe them and who will not be angry. Wu notes that after years of being in the group she’s become numb to these stories, that her empathy might’ve run out.
A lot of Wu’s footnotes are explanations for things that are not obvious to the reader. Some of her notes are also to increase the knowledge of her reader about certain words or phrases she uses in the text.
It was interesting to see how someone who suffers from the same disorder portrays those who are going through the same thing. A small part of me expected a story to be a bit different. I thought the community would be Wu’s safe space and a place where she doesn’t feel horrible about the things she’s done. But I was surprised when she got “bored” of the community and sought help from her old therapist. In a way, this group is great for those who have the disorder to realize they are not alone. But it could also make someone feel too safe that they don’t seek the help they need.