True Life: I have Orthorexia Nervosa

The episode of True Life that I watched was about three young people to have a disorder called orthorexia. This disorder is when you have a big obsession with food, so much that it starts to take over your life. Although there were three people I thought that it would be easier to focus on one person, so I chose Lauren. She was overweight as an adolescent and later developed anorexia. She realized that she could no longer live that way because it was unhealthy, so she used a new form of diet. At twenty years old she would only eat around 15 foods that she deemed were “safe”. She was very into planning her meals at the beginning of the day and when she ate what she planned she would feel very good about herself. Her disorder was mostly a secret, especially to her girlfriend for almost 4 months. In the end, she didn’t really improve much even though she tried to see a therapist about her problem.

The type of narrative I classified this as was chaos, because it interfered with her social life. She said that she didn’t feel normal, and that she wishes she didn’t have to worry about food like she does. When going to parties with her friends she feels that it is very hard to turn down her friends when they offer her food that she won’t eat, and finds it hard to fit in. She also said that she is sick of putting food first, and having it as a priority. I think that a big part of her problem is the stigma that our culture puts on being overweight. If being overweight wasn’t looked down upon, she probably wouldn’t be having such a hard time dealing with her weight. So many young people feel that they are inadequate because of their weight, or how they look, and it’s all because the way we think we are “supposed” to look. Lauren’s experience with her medical professional didn’t work out to well for her because she realizes that she has a problem, but she isn’t willing to change the way she eats because she is too fearful of gaining weight. She knows she has a problem, and owns up to the fact that she does, but she just can’t change the way she eats at this point in her life.

True Life: I Have Diabetes

This episode is basically the story of three younger people who have diabetes. One is forced to move back in with her mother when her medical bills pile up, another is having troubles adjusting to college life and drinking with diabetes, and the third is diagnosed with diabetes during pregnancy. What ends up happening, is that the first has to work long hours to ensure that she is able to pay her bills, and conflicts with her mother before finally becoming financially stable. The college student must balance his drinking with his illness, and although he becomes sick on occasion from drinking, he continues to do so, while monitoring his blood sugar. The pregnant woman has complications in birth due to her diabetes, which compels her to induce a forced labor to have her child early. All of these individuals have aspects of the three types of narratives, but they mainly fall in the restitution and chaos categories. They see diabetes as an affliction that they can never be cured of, but something that they can manage with careful monitoring. The first two are able to deal with their illnesses, and recover normalcy in their lives, making them fit into the restitution category, even though they can never fully recover. The third however, is show to be unable to deal with this illness and is brought back to the emergency room multiple times.

There is no real stigma attached to people with diabetes, due to it mainly being manageable and non-noticeable in everyday life. These people are expected to monitor their blood sugar, keep track of what they eat and to give themselves shots of insulin if necessary.  They all experience medical professionals in a similar manner. The doctors basically tell them how they are doing with their diabetes and what they could do better. While the illness narratives help these three people put their illness in perspective, it does not play the same type of role that narratives for alcoholics or cancer patients might play. Whereas these the alcoholics and cancer patients might form support groups as mentioned in the lectures, diabetes patients don’t see their illness to the same degree, they see it as more of an irritation and annoyance that could hurt them, rather than something directly against their health.

True Life: I have Diabetes

Type/Use of Narrative: I believe that this episode followed the chaos narrative, since the three individuals followed in the episode will have to deal with diabetes for the rest of their life. I feel that the part on Kristyn followed a quest narrative as well as a chaos narrative, as she is shown to be working quite hard in order to pay for an insulin pump which will improve her condition. For Matt and Jen, I believe that there is no quest narrative and it is entirely chaos, as both choose to ignore their condition and their health in favor of lifestyle choices (alcohol and unhealthy diet choices, respectively) I believe that this narrative is used to highlight the frustration all of them feel when dealing with diabetes, and the limits it places on their actions.

Culture and Stigma: I believe that cultural stigmas are most easily seen with Matt’s case. On the one hand, many people close to Matt are scared for him and his health, worried that his alcohol use will give him a strong enough blood-sugar rush to cause a coma or seizure. On the other hand, Matt is under constant pressure to go drinking, even though it is much more dangerous for him to do so than for the average college student. The culture of college drinking combined with Matt’s refusal to accept the limitations of his condition are strong enough for Matt to choose to endanger his life.

Experiences with Medical Professionals: Kristyn, Matt, and Jen have all had extensive experiences with medical professionals. Kristyn is in debt due to the cost of her treatments and medications from visiting professionals. Matt also has frequent visits with medical professionals as his drinking habit regularly induces diabetic seizures. He is constantly reprimanded for his drinking habits, especially because his A1C test (which measures his average blood sugar levels for the previous three months) is far higher than it should be. Jen is also constantly reprimanded, especially because her refusal to give up fast food has forced her to switch from oral medication to insulin injections, not to mention the fact that Jen is pregnant and her blood sugar levels can impact her unborn child.

The Sick Role: All three of the individuals in this True Life episode have a hard time accepting their role as an individual with a persistent, debilitating, chronic condition. Of the three, Kristyn is most accepting of her role as a sick individual, and is primarily struggling with the financial burden of diabetes. Matt and Jen have a much harder time accepting their illness. They refuse to recognize the fact that their illness places limitations on their lives; instead they continue on with their habitual lifestyle which is unfortunately detrimental for them as diabetics. Because they have a hard time accepting the reality of their situation, they have a much harder time dealing with their condition than does Kristyn.

I believe that illness narratives are useful for the patient because the full extent of their condition and the trials they face can often be hard to determine without the explanations of the patient. Additionally, talking about one’s illness is often an important step in the road to recovery, because it can help the patient to come to terms with their condition and find emotional/social comfort in dealing with their illness.

I have Diabetes

This episode of True Life was about three Teenagers and their challenges with Type I and Type II Diabetes. Type I diabetes is when the body does not produce any insulin. Type II is when the body produces insulin but the body does not use it properly. The first person was a guy and he had just finished up his sophomore year of college. He had Type I diabetes and he had to take insulin shots daily. His hemoglobin A1C level was about 7 when he found out he had diabetes and got it under control. Hemoglobin A1C is a test that shows your glucose readings over the previous three months from the doctor visit. Normal Hemoglobin A1C levels should be between 4 and 6. Therefore, his reading was not that bad. However, when he got to college, he began to drink excessive alcohol and this caused it to go to 8, which is not a good thing.

The other two people on the episode had Type I and the other had Type II. One of the girls was pregnant which puts the baby at a high risk for sugar through the placenta and also puts the baby at higher risk for being overweight (Crandel, Zanden). The other girl used an insulin pump and it costs her so much that she had to move back in with her parents just to pay for a new one.

I think that the stories that the people told were considered Quest Narratives because they were all telling their stories and how they were going to live a better life while dealing with diabetes. Quest Narratives always views the illness as a tough journey but also the opportunity to improve based on certain lifestyle changes (Lecture 2). For these testimonials, they were just that. All of them were working towards making their diabetes in better shape by eating the right kinds of food and carefully monitoring blood sugar levels. Throughout the episode, they went to several doctors appointments.

They all seemed to have pretty good experiences with the doctors. The doctor focused a lot on what they were doing socially. For example, doctors often asked if they drank alcohol excessively, if they ate out a lot, if they were getting enough rest, etc. There was not much culture emphasis within the video. Each one of them seemed to handle the diagnosis and treatment quite similar. They obviously believed in taking medication because they all took meds for their diabetes.

They also did not discuss a lot about when they were first diagnosed with the illness. Therefore, the sick role is quite difficult to discuss in this case. However, I am a Type II Diabetic myself and I had several symptoms when I suspected that something was wrong. I had frequent urination, headaches, fatigue, my hands were shaking when I waited too long to eat. As far as the sick role, it was my responsibility to seek medical attention for these symptoms.

Narratives are important for the patients, family, and healthcare providers because they are ways to describe how intense the medical situation is and how the patient feels about the symptoms they have been having and the overall situation.


Crandell, Zanden. Human Development. 2009. (160-165)

Lectures 1 and 2

True Life “I have Diabetes”

I’m an Alcoholic

The True Life episode I chose to watch centered around two
individuals name Casey and Christina. They both are dealing with extreme cases
of alcoholism. Casey is a twenty one year old woman from Boston. She just moved
to Las Vegas.  She has already lost
multiple jobs due to her drinking and is essentially living off of her friend. Casey
started drinking at the age of 14. She has gotten multiple DUI’s and drinks
every day.  At one point in the episode,
she states that she has been drunk for the last seven days straight. Drinking is
destroying every aspect of her life. She knows this is happening yet doesn’t
seem to be able to take steps to deter the inevitable. Christina is a 24 year
old woman from Northern California. She started drinking when she was 16 and at
the age of 22, she began drinking every day. She states that she is dependent
on alcohol and can’t go a day without it. Like Casey, She has gotten a DUI. At one
point in the episode, she drinks the morning after a night out to “cure” a
hangover. In the end, Christina was proactive and seemed to have turned her
life around. She’s now engaged and has maintained her sobriety for 2 months.
Casey on the other hand, went the other direction. Her father offered to pay
for rehabilitation but she refused. She stated that her problem isn’t that bad.

I believe that Casey’s case correlated well with the chaos
narrative. Her attempts to combat her disease were futile and in the end, her
addiction continued. She never truly seemed to want to get better. Christina’s
case matched up well with the quest narrative. She seemed to have truly gained
valuable life experience through her struggle with alcoholism. Her acceptance
and realization that she had an illness, seemed to empower her and give her the
ability to act proactively.

The episode didn’t show any direct experience with medical
professionals. Both individuals went to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings as a form
of treatment. Casey disregarded most of the valuable information given at her
meeting while Christina seemed to benefit greatly from hers. I believe
Christina took on more of the sick role and that greatly enhanced her chances
at achieving sobriety. AA is an example of the shared narrative in which people
share similar experiences in order help recover and understand how others have
beaten or coped with their like disease. The shared narrative was very useful
for Christina.  It’s actually what seemed
to turn her life around. Her new found love also played a big role. Illness
narratives can help family members deal with their loved ones problem. Illness
narratives also provide healthcare professionals with a viable pathway to treat
and cure individuals with a wide variety of diseases.

True Life: I have Orthorexia

(While I was watching the episode a commercial for Midol came on and I rolled my eyes at the cultural construction – hehe)

Anyway, I watched the episode True life: I Have Orthorexia which follows three young people and their lives dealing with an eating disorder focused around an obsession with healthy eating. This is neither bulimia nor anorexia, but may contain elements of both. The stories follow the same basic pattern: they grew up with normal eating patterns, but some event or change in mindset lead them to become obsessed with their healthy eating for various reasons. All three take steps to improve their habits and selves, but the disorder will always be a struggle.The narratives given are in the style of restitution or quest, where finding a cure and making an effort to restore health is primary; Western ideals (namely body image) are prevalent. Different medical interventions occur, mainly in the form of therapy and stress-relieving techniques. The goal is ultimately to improve one’s self while managing the disorder.

The first example, a stay at home mom named Spring, will not eat any cooked foods and ultimately eats the same foods every day. This takes a toll on her social and home life. She actually avoids social situations because of the pressure placed on her to eat and cannot eat a normal dinner with her family. A similar situation occurs with Andrew, who is convinced processed food will give him cancer, and Lauren, who receives much grief from her friends and family because of her rigid eating habits. The stress and weight loss accompanied with the cultural emphasis on dining together takes it’s toll, however, they initially avoid admitting to the sick role. As a means of healing, all three see some form of therapist or professional such as dietitian to help them come to terms with the extremes of their beliefs.

Illness narratives are useful for patients/family/healthcare providers because they expose an experience that cannot be quantified in terms of a blood test or medical scan. The effects of disorders such as orthorexia nervosa may been seen in the form of low blood sugar and body weight, but that does not give any clues as to how to properly treat the disorder. When Spring admitted to her mom she was purging, her mother was able to use her own knowledge to help her heal, legitimizing her experience.

True Life: I Have Narcolepsy

The episode I chose to analyze was called True Life: I Have Narcolepsy. In this episode two girls are followed, Julie, 16, and Katy, 25. Both suffer from the conditions narcolepsy, sudden overpowering sleep, and cataplexy, sudden loss of muscle control. I believe that in this True Life, both Julie and Katy are giving quest narratives, but Julie struggles in some parts of the episode and gives somewhat of a chaos narrative. Narratives can be very helpful and important to patients, family, and healthcare providers alike in helping each other understand what the other person is feeling. The only way to portray what you are feeling- you must tell others who surround you and seek help when necessary. Some examples of these from the lecture are when people are suffering from mental illnesses such as postpartum depression and PTSD. The only way to get help is to tell others how you are feeling.

Katy had been suffering from these conditions since she was 15 years old and was already on a large amount of medication when the episode began. Her boyfriend was very concerned about her health on the medication, and wanted her to quit. Katy decided to quit cold- turkey in order to appease her boyfriend, and struggled greatly after doing so. Katy tried to stay off the medication for some time, but could barely get out of bed in the morning; which caused even more problems with her boyfriend. After arguing and almost breaking up, they decide to come to an agreement that Katy did need to take some medicine, but a more controlled amount. We are told that she did manage to cut the dosage amount nearly in half. After doing so, she began to live a much more normal every day life. The only time Katy mentioned going to a medical professional, she overslept and missed her appointment.

Julie, on the other hand, had only been diagnosed with the conditions for about four months and was not yet on an a.m./p.m. medication schedule like Katy. She was very afraid of the side effects and, to me at least, it seemed like she did not even have any interest in getting help. After some convincing from her mother, and after falling during a cataplexy attack and hurting herself, Julie decided to go see a doctor. The doctor told her that she was unlikely to grow out of her condition, especially without treatment, and suggested she started taking medications. Before agreeing to take the pills, I would say Julie’s narrative was one of chaos, but then when she agreed to try and improve herself it became a quest narrative. She began feeling better and the symptoms of her condition slowed down greatly. Julie’s mother also suggested alternative forms of healing, and decided a chiropractor could help stimulate Julie’s brain and help bring her back to normal. At the end of the episode we are told that Julie had no cataplexy attacks in months, and was doing much better.

I believe that culture does not have a very good understanding of narcolepsy and cataplexy. People seemed very concerned and uncomfortable when they would be around Katy or Julie and an attack would occur. It also seemed that Julie was somewhat embarrassed by her conditions at first, but at the end of the episode opened up to her fellow classmates about them. Furthermore, Katy’s boyfriend helped her with basically every thing at the beginning of the episode, but then slowly became less and less empathetic towards Katy. He did not understand how she felt, or understand the possible effects of asking her to stop her medicine cold- turkey.

Finally, according to the lecture, the sick role is the practices, rights, and responsibilities that come with being a person suffering from an illness. This includes things like submitting to the care of a professional and sometimes being excused from regular responsibilities. I believe that both girls used their rights and responsibilities to try and take control of their conditions and keep themselves safe. Julie was slow at this at first, with not wanting to get help from professionals, but eventually learned that it was a way to get help. The only thing about Katy, is that she has a responsibility in controlling the amount of medication she was taking, though, and seemed to have a lot of trouble doing so.



True Life: I Have Narcolepsy

True Life: I Have Diabetes

This episode followed three young people that are afflicted with Diabetes and how they are learning to accept the sick role that is associated with the condition. Kristyn is a 25 year old that has racked up debt due to medical expenses that weren’t covered by her insurance. Because her pancreas does not produce any insulin, she needs a new insulin pump that will cost her over two thousand dollars. This insulin pump is essential to her survival as it administers insulin to her body throughout the day. She has to move back home and work almost eighty hours a week to cover the expenses. Consequentially she isn’t getting enough sleep, which is detrimental to her health. Matt is a college student that doesn’t want to give up his lifestyle because he has Diabetes. When he drinks, his blood sugar sky-rockets, which can result in a coma, seizure, or even death. He has already experienced numerous diabetic seizures. His A1C test which is an average of his blood sugar for the past three months is beyond what it should be, as he consumes alcohol 4-5 days a week. Jen is pregnant and has Type II Diabetes, meaning her body produces insulin but not enough. She originally doesn’t need insulin injections but takes oral medication. As a result of her diet choices, which regularly includes fast food, she is put on insulin. Everything she is doing is affecting her unborn child, and a blood sugar that is too high can be fatal to babies.

This episode identified with the chaos narrative, as they will live with Diabetes the rest of their lives and diabetes to them is a permanent state. Jen even commented in the episode that this was something that she would always have to deal with. Within this narrative, all three are frustrated with their condition and do not want to sacrifice their lifestyle for it. There is a stigma associated with Diabetes, particularly strong for Matt. His roommates are concerned about his lifestyle choices and his alcohol intake leading to a seizure, while some of his other friends are constantly pressuring him to drink. Kristyn also experiences a stigma when she and her mother go to eat and her mom taunts her by eating sweets in front of her. The three regularly need to seek medical attention for diabetes, and Matt is constantly reprimanded for his drinking habits and Jen for her eating habits harming her baby. They also are experiencing a common struggle with accepting the sick role, mainly in acknowledging their health is abnormal. Kristyn seems to have a pretty good hold on this while Matt and Jen don’t seem to grasp that unfortunately they are affected by this condition that comes with limitations, which to them can be socially isolating.

Illness narratives are useful in that they provide patients with culturally acceptable explanations for their actions within the context of their ailment. They also help the patient adjust to their disability and feel empowered, while the listeners or family help patients feel less isolated and help them live with their illness.For the people in this episode, there is not really a resolution in terms of their recovery, but they are working towards the acceptance of having Diabetes.

True Life: “I have an Embarrassing Medical Condition”

The True Life episode “I have an Embarrassing Medical Condition” provides us with narratives of two girls living with chronic medical conditions.  Allyssa who is eighteen years old is suffering from Tourette syndrome and Krystal who is also eighteen years old suffers from hyperhidrosis.  Both narratives would be categorized as chaos narratives as both girls have chronic conditions and attempt to explain their struggles fitting in with their peers and the social isolation brought about from their illness.

Allyssa was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome when she was fifteen years old.  She commonly experiences uncontrollable outbursts which includes yelling and swearing.  Allyssa also experiences fainting ticks, self-choking ticks, hitting ticks, and ticks were she stops breathing and requires assistance from others to start breathing again.  She has been prescribed five medications by her doctors which she takes daily.  Three of the medications treat the ticks associated with Tourette’s syndrome and the other two medications are for anxiety and depression.  Allyssa stated that the medications make her feel light headed and also make her feel as though she is not connected to this world.

Because of the embracement she feels when she experiences these uncontrollable ticks and the care she requires while experiencing these ticks Allyssa does not venture out of the house as much as she would like to and has become more isolated than she would like.  She stated “It’s like taking a two year old to the mall without a leash” and she becomes embarrassed when people stare at her. The friends she made prior to the onset of her condition have remained her friends and assist with her care.  Allyssa has experienced limited success in obtaining new friends since her diagnosis and expresses great fear for what will happen to her when she leaves her friends and family to go to college.  She has fears about fainting and falling on her head but also has fears of being excluded from people socially.  She is afraid people will see her as a “freak.”

Once at college Allyssa explained her illness to her dorm mates openly and honestly.  She made numerous jokes about her illness and invited laughter of her condition from others.  She did this to ease their tension about the illness and assumed the comedian role amongst her new college friends.  This has brought a new group of people together who are willing to assist her with her illness.

The other narrative involved an eighteen year old girl from Florida named Krystal.  Krystal suffers from hyperhidrosis and was afraid of letting her friends know about her condition.  She believed there was a social stigma attached to “sweaty girls” and did not want to be teased.  She altered her appearance by transitioning herself from looking “preppy” to looking “Goth”  The dark colors of Goth fashion helped hide her sweat marks but she never felt comfortable this this new fashion.  Krystal visited a plastic surgeon to receive a treatment that would reduce her sweating but found that the treatment was too expensive.  She then decided to inform her friends of her condition and why she always wears dark heavy clothing and her friends accepted her for who she was.

Illness narratives help to empower people suffering from illness by providing an outlet for their suffering.  The use of narrative may also help people suffering from illness make sense of their suffering by putting their experiences into words and chronological order.[1]  This may help family member and health providers understand what they are experiencing and help health care providers in discovering diagnosis.  For other’s this is information we can all learn from.  It may inform someone going through a similar illness that they are not alone.  For someone like me, who has never known anyone with Tourette’s syndrome, it has provided me with new empathy for their suffering.

[1] Lecture, Tazin Karim. “Illness Narratives,” online lecture viewed July 24, 2012.


I watched the true-life episode I have post traumatic stress disorder. The episode follows the lives of three different veterans all from the Iraq war. Each veteran is in a different stage of recovery and implementation back into society. One soldier has returned home and tried six different types of medication and none have helped. This soldier is drinking heavily to try and beat this disorder and rarely sleeps. Fortunately this person does have a night security job and is trying to start an organization for soldiers like him. The next soldier has been receiving therapy and medication after attempting to commit suicide in Iraq. He seems to be doing the best emotionally out of the three but it having trouble finding work and leading a “normal” life. He may have to move out of state to find a job and leave his support system of doctors and therapists at his veteran affairs hospital. He struggles after seeing so many of his fellow soldiers die. Lastly the third veteran who has been home for almost five years is struggling because a DUI arrest is not settled and he is unable to enroll in therapy. He arrest was a direct link to his psychological disorder and repeatedly tells officers he was in Iraq and killed many people. He moves house-to-house sleeping on friends couches and considers himself homeless. His lack of medicine and therapy seems to contribute to his problems and he will “snap” when put in a stressful situation.

Their story of PTSD is at first a chaos narrative and hopefully it an become a quest illness narrative. They face strong psychological battles including suicidal thoughts and terrible nightmares. Their rehabilitation is a constant battle and can improve with time and therapy. They benefit from being the teller and having someone be the listener like a therapist. Also being around other veterans helps them because they can share thoughts with people with similar struggles. Being able to express their feelings make them more comfortable and not so isolated.

Each veteran has different experiences with medical professionals. The three stories illustrate how hard it can be to be enrolled in treatment, but how beneficial it is once enrolled. The stories also show that medicine alone is not the answer.

Unfortunately I believe our culture is very unaware of the challenges soldiers face when returning home. The episode says that we are aware of the war they fight overseas, but not the intense war they face with PTSD. I wish our culture did more for veterans to reward the substantial sacrifice they make when defending our freedom.

For the families, I believe they can understand their role in supporting the recovery. The veteran benefits from strong family support and the family benefits by helping heal their child. I think the goal of the one veteran to start an organization for holistic healing of PTSD is supported by the community and local health care professionals.

I think that this illness is terrible and sad that some veterans have difficulty returning home. Hopefully the disorder can be treated and veterans will be healed and not just drugged up on pills. I think the only preventative measure is to not be in combat, but that isn’t realistic for members of our military.