ME and Julie: a study in narrative of illness experience and therapy in a Myalgic Encephalomyelitis sufferer

Jonathan Skinner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This article uses what Atkinson and Walmsley (1997) refer to as an ‘autobiographical account’ to explore the themes and relationships between narrative, illness experience and therapy in a Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) sufferer. Julie is a chronic ME sufferer, having lived with ME for the past 12 years. Her life-story over those years, as she presents it, casts our attention to the intrinsically personal nature of her ‘illness experience’ and to her distinctively artistic therapeutic responses to her condition. Julie’s autobiographical narrative reveals how ME has penetrated both her body and her sense of self, her limbs as well as her dreams; as though it were a parasite feeding off her fight to regain health. In terms of narrative, Julie’s ME illness progresses from past to present, but never to the future which lies beyond contemplation. Despite this denial of the future, Julie does think of ME as a liminal phase which is to be coped through. As both spatial object and temporal event, Julie conceptualises her ME variously, dealing with it on a day-to-day basis, increasingly turning to landscape painting as a form of escapism which parallels her former physical outward bound activities. This personal therapy, so this article concludes, constitutes both narrative performance and narrative text (as canvas), both of which can only cautiously be independently interpreted by the (inter)viewer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-40
Number of pages8
JournalAuto/Biography
VolumeVIII
Issue number1 & 2
Publication statusPublished - 2000

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