Posted in Illness Narrative, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Flat Tire, Speed Bump…Your Call

How we speak about something gives it meaning.  Not only do words give meaning, but the words you use determine the power behind the event.  The Eskimos have many words for snow because there are different types of snow and in order to express themselves accurately and clearly to others they must use the correct verbage.  Many of us are generalists when we speak.  Our hope is that when we speak others will get exactly what we’re speaking about, and unfortunately when expressing yourself in regards to a health challenge, that may not be the case.

Let’s take the experience of “pain” as an example.  You may express to someone who you’re in pain.  Universally, others may think about the pain they experience with a toothache or a headache.  So what would happen if you became more specific about the “pain” you’re experiencing.  Is there a difference when you read “I’m in pain”, and “I’m experiencing a piercing pain”?  Do you think the person you’re telling about your pain will react differently to the first expression of pain than the second?

It’s about creating a context for your experience.  Is your diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness a flat tire on your journey or is it a blow-out?  Is your experience of a health challenge like going over a speed bump or doing a Thelma and Louise off the cliff?  In each of the previous descriptions how you express your illness experience evokes different experiences in those hearing your narrative.

There is nothing we want more in life than to be seen and heard.  Following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness many people feel isolated.  Part of that isolation is because others aren’t aware of your situation.  When you speak in generalities other’s responses will follow suit.  When you speak more specifically you internalize the experience and can take actions that will alleviate the intensity of the experience or move you in the direction of getting better or well.

Don’t believe that if you speak more pointedly that you’ll invoke some sort of negative energy within your body.  The truth is that being authentic about your experience is freeing.  It allows you to take action because you have something honest and pure to respond to on your journey to wellness.  What do you want others to know or what do you want to know more deeply?  That’s the question that will guide the context of your experience and your illness narrative.

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