“I have an embarrassing medical condition”

The two types of medical conditions discussed in this episode of True Life are Tourette syndrome and Hyperhidrosis. In this episode, Melissa is a young girl who suffers from Tourettes, and who is facing the challenge of leaving for college and living on her own. When it comes to Tourette syndrome there is definitely social stigmas attached to it. At the beginning of this episode Melissa addressed one of these stigmas by saying “I’m not doing it on purpose.” Sometimes people who are not educated about the disorder believe that people with Tourettes act as they do to get attention. She also addressed this in the episode by saying that the people who did not know her well thought she was faking it. You can also tell how this alienation affected her because she stated how she just wanted to be “normal.”

Throughout the episode Melissa seemed to experience many different moods. At some points she seemed to be frustrated by her Tourettes and the associated judgement she faced, while other times she seemed empowered by the acceptance she felt from family and friends. The illness narrative that Melissa used in this episode was the Chaos narrative. Since Tourette syndrome is a chronic condition associated with social stigmas, this narrative is the most useful when describing this illness. Since the episode illustrated how Melissa suffers from Tourettes while successfully living on her own at college, it seemed that the purpose of this narrative was to empower others who suffer from Tourettes to learn to accept themselves, and live their life free from the stigmas and judgments associated with Tourettes.

The other young girl in this episode, Krystal, suffers from Hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating. In an attempt to mask her condition she chose to wear long sleeved black sweatshirts in order to hide her sweating. She was viewed as strange because she always wore sweatshirts while living in Florida. She was masking her condition because there are definite stigmas attached to sweating such as poor hygiene. Therefore, she chose to suffer from being alienated due to her choice of black sweatshirts rather than her actual medical condition.

Krystal plays the sick role by first realizing that she is suffering from some sort of medical condition, and then after doing some research seeking medical treatment. Krystal’s experience with a medical doctor seemed to be a positive one because she seemed to have left the doctor’s office hopeful that there are possible treatments for hyperhidrosis. The type of narrative she used to discuss her illness was the Chaos narrative. She seemed to be using her narrative to address how she suffered socially and physically, which may help others who suffer from this condition to feel less alienated. She also seemed to be using her narrative as a way to inform other individuals who suffer from this condition that there are certain treatments, such as botox injections, that can help individuals with hyperhidrosis live a happier, healthier life free from alienation.

Illness narratives such as in this True Life episode can benefit the” teller”, or the individual suffering from this condition, by allowing the individual to make sense of their own illness through expression. Also, the individuals who express their illness through an illness narrative can benefit by feeling empowered. It was clear in this episode that both individuals felt empowered by the end of their narrative. Both girls also seemed to strive to empower other individuals who suffered from these medical conditions. This is a good example of how the narrative serves not only to benefit the “teller,” but also the “listener,” who can benefit by feeling less isolated, encouraged to share their story, or by feeling inspired to serve as a role model on how to live with this illness. The different benefits of illness narratives mentioned previously were displayed in this week’s lecture, “Understanding Illness.”

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