Patient Narratives

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"Narratives" or stories have been used throughout the history of the human race to allow and help people to express themselves in ways that promote personal growth and enhance physical well-being. Even in the simplest of contexts, narratives are a core factor in the advancement of the humanity/society and all of its facets. An illustration of this can be seen in the transfer of a family's lineage, history, and values from generation to generation. This allows for the recipient of this information to have a greater knowledge of his/her own family and the history surrounding it. Oral narratives and writings, such as journals, stories, or speeches to others are stress-relieving mechanisms that can reduce the external stress. The narrating of one's thoughts definitely does not initially affect the external stressors one is facing. Narrating does, however, allow one to share these feelings with others and to organize one's thoughts around these issues. More significantly, narrative opportunities such as these, work to encourage and advance constructive contexts in which individuals such as a mother and daughter or father and son can openly communicate any differences, worries, or problems one might be having with daily living. A more important and serious issue interlaced with narratives is the "personal issue of telling stories about illness…" (Frank, ch.1 pg.2) Narratives are the beginning to the process of healing.

By definition, the term "healing" is best understood as a natural process by which the body repairs itself. Although rather simplistic sounding, healing's true definition or meaning is a much more complicated issue. When analyzing healing, it is imperative for an individual to not view the words "healing" and "curing" as the same words. Healing raises much deeper, hidden issues than curing does. I once was talking with a buddy about his recent misfortune of breaking his leg. After tens, if not hundreds of hours put in to rehab, he had his leg cast removed in a much anticipated doctor visit. After the doctor removed his cast, the first words out of his mouth were, "I'm healed!" Normally, a statement like this would cause no fuss, or evoke any further debate. But today it is time to turn things straight. Unfortunately for my buddy, his statement was far from the truth. He was not healed, but cured! Medicine, fortunately for him, was able to cure him. But medicine did nothing to heal him from the multiple breakdowns and personal angst caused by his broken leg. Healing goes much deeper than curing. A cure is almost a "quick fix" in a sense. If someone was to burn their hand, the cure for this would be something along the lines of burn cream or ice. But when someone has something severe happen to them, such as a life threatening illness or disease, healing must take place in order for that person to recover. My point is that deep illness interrupts life in all aspects. To start the healing process, one must find a new equilibrium or sense of who you are in relation to the people around you. This calls upon the ever-healing powers of personal narratives to allow for insight into what is going on in your life.

"Stories have to repair the damage that illness has done to the ill person's sense of where he/she is in life, and where she may be going." I'll people have to learn "to think differently." (Frank, ch.1 pg.1) This can be learned by an ill person by hearing themselves tell their story to others and in turn, understand the listeners' reactions and experience their stories for themselves. When an ill person tells a story, it is incongruent to telling a story when they are not ill. "The story was told through a wounded body." (Frank, ch.1 pg.1) The need of ill people to express and tell their stories to create a new "equilibrium" as stated earlier is essential to their recovery. More imperative is the need for listeners of the story to understand that it is told not only about the body, but through the body....
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