Help Me Recover So I Can Finish My Book!

In October 2019, I plummeted from a state of robust health back into the maw of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS)—the very illness that prompted me to start writing my book-in-progress American Breakdown: Notes from an Industrialized Body. My work ground to a halt. For the past two months, I have been unable to lift my hands to the keyboard, even in bed, where I spend all my time when I’m not at healthcare appointments. The book is under contract with one of the Big Five publishers, and I’ve been writing it with the help of a generous advance, but as you may or may not know, advances are parceled out in pieces and the reality is that the money I received upon signing my contract won’t cover this unexpected convalescence and medical care.

The last time I was this flattened by fatigue was in 1989. The illness was derided by the press as “yuppie flu.” Even my own doctor told me I was “just depressed” and refused to sign the paperwork waiving the requirement that I work for my welfare assistance.

There’s no longer any question that ME/CFS is a real, debilitating, and all-too-common disease (with over a million sufferers nationwide). In 2015, after an intensive research review, experts at the Institute of Medicine called ME/CFS “a legitimate, serious, and complex systemic disease… that dramatically limits the activities of affected individuals.”

American Breakdown blends memoir, history, science, and social criticism to explore the health hazards of unfettered industrial capitalism through the lens of my experience with ME/CFS and the multiple chemical sensitivities that often accompany it. Now I need your help to do something profoundly anticapitalist: step away from the cult of productivity so I can focus my attention on being rather than doing. Your contribution will help pay for rest and medical expenses so that I can recover my health and return to the book whose message I am so passionate about getting out into the world.

If you’d like to read more about American Breakdown, you can do that at my website. To read my essays linking capitalism with health and healthcare in America, check out “The Butterfly Effect,” which won a Pushcart Prize, and “Exposed: The Mammogram Myth and the Pinkwashing of America ” which was published in Orion.

One of the things creative nonfiction writers say to comfort ourselves when something bad happens is, “Everything is material.” I don’t know for sure when I’ll again achieve full recovery, but I do have an idea how… and it’s going to make a great story. I would be so grateful for your support.


Jennifer Lunden
Portland, ME

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