It's been a long time since I picked up any book and read it straight through but I did so with "My Imaginary Illness." Any patient who has felt silenced, ignored, or judged by medical practitioners will find a sister sufferer in the pages of this book. This is a powerful work that should be required reading in all of the helping professions, in their schools and in their professional development. It reminds us that medicine is not a perfect science, that everyone from patients to specialists need to do more than look at test results: people do not fit into tiny boxes despite general similarities in the species. When Atkins' symptoms did not fit tidily into one of those boxes, she was labelled as seriously mentally ill and treatment was often unilaterally withdrawn. Then, when she didn't fit tidily into any of the psychiatric boxes, she was marginalized again.
A lesser person would have written from a point of bitterness. Atkins avoids this place. She describes her years of experience clearly, sharing her feelings without damning. She does so in a way that leaves readers space to form their own judgments, have their own reactions. She does not tell us how to feel: she opens the door for us to feel. She acknowledges that the system failed her in many ways but also acknowledges the people who helped her, the aspects of the same system that continue to keep her alive and functioning as a professional, a partner, a parent, an entire person.
Atkins' writing style is clear and avoids fancy jargon. She provides definitions and explanations the few times the medical terms are needed but keeps the language straightforward the rest of the time. While I recommend the book for medical professionals, anyone can read it, relate to it, enjoy it, and learn from it.