Convergence of Academic LIfe and Illness Narrative

Dr. Rose Richards understands all too well the convergence of her illness story and an academic career. She has been ardently writing stories and completed a Philosophy doctoral dissertation, which was an autoenthnographic study of her own experience writing about chronic illness.

In this profile sent to me she writes. ” This type of research has a very particular pull for me because of my own health background. I developed kidney disease at eight months after contracting hemolytic uremic syndrome. I began treatment for this when I was seven. After a childhood and adolescence of doctor’s visits, medication, blood tests and a very restrictive diet I had a kidney transplant in 1991. ”

The academic writer generously credits the inspiring autoethnographic work of Andrew Sparkes and Carolyn Ellis.  Also, she is careful to acknowledge the influence of Arthur Frank and Arthur Kleinman‘s enormous contributions on the role of illness narratives.

In her dissertation abstract, Richards presents a series of core questions she addressed. Naturally, in this blog and thousands of others, more individuals are also struggling to answer and understand these similar issues:

How do I tell my story of chronic illness once I have had an organ transplant?

Can my story change?

How do I describe myself: The well, the ill, the impaired, the disabled, the afflicted?

Do I describe myself living in no man’s land?

Dr. Richards, understands that the process of writing about an illness is chalk full of problems, including the danger of simplifying the story line.  Like so many others that have experienced an illness or heart stopping event, we do understand this message she forwarded.

” I came to see that I did not have to choose between well and ill, but could occupy a third space where I could be both and neither. I found this liberating. It explained to me who I am post-transplant. It also showed me that stories are dynamic and one needs to bear that in mind when telling them. They ought not to ossify.”

 Send me your story.

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