The episode of True Life I chose to watch revolved around the lives of three young individuals who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. The first individual was Josh, a 22 year old uneducated young man who suffered from this illness. Josh admitted to such things as hearing voices and feeling the emotions of animals. He had been prescribed medication by doctors to aide him with his illness, but refused to take the massive amount of pills that he felt would turn him into a “zombie.” Instead, he resorted to smoking marijuana in order to calm himself down, but many times just ended up increasing his feelings of paranoia. From his description of his illness and his carefree and almost happy attitude, it was very obvious that Josh portrayed his story as narrative quest rather than a horrible illness. He claimed that he liked “talking” to animals and the other voices that spoke to him in his mind.
The second individual was Amber, a 19 year old girl attending her Sophomore year in college. Amber had also recently been diagnosed with Schizophrenic disorder, but the effects seemed much more subtle and less obvious with her. When the illness first started she was hospitalized and claimed that the drugs they gave her helped a lot. She expressed this sickness through restitution narrative, seeing herself as simply a patient who needed these drugs to return to her former self.
The third and last individual was a young man by the name of Ben. After his high school career was over, Ben began to hear voices in his head, one particularly by the name of “Marcus.” Marcus would instill suicidal thoughts into his head and convince him to do things that he otherwise would not have. Ben felt his life, friends, grades, and everything else slip away from him as Marcus became more and more prominent in his life, so he too decided to take his medications. Between all the pills he was prescribed, Ben explained that he took 15 a day, and would at times throw them in all together and feel very much like a zombie for hours. For this reason, Ben’s narrative was one of chaos, and he didn’t really see much hope in getting back to his former self.
These three individuals have definitely experienced the effects of being outed and shunned by society. All three admitted to no longer having any affiliation with their old friends, and spending a lot of time alone or with their families. They realize that people hear the word schizophrenia and think “CRAZY.” They know that the social stigma of this disease is restraining, and holds them back from being normal individuals. Amber, unlike the other two, has more of a grasp on reality and knows she wants to get out of this rut. She even said that the kids sitting next to her class would never know she’s the “crazy girl,” and she does her best to fit in and excel in her academics. Ben and Josh on the other hand had more of a laid back accepting attitude, they accepted their sick roles and allowed it to take over their lives. They knew that once they had accepted it, they would have to stick by the social expectations of the sick role and be deemed “crazy” by society.
As I discovered in this weeks lecture the method in which a patient describes their illness, or in other words their narrative, not only says a lot about the patient but about the societal expectations of the illness as well. As stated in the article of the Social Science and Medicine article, the narrative is a cultural form of expressing one’s illness or suffering. Narratives are particularly important in chronic illnesses because they are a means of “understanding the attempts of patients to deal with their life situations and and the problems of identity that illness brings with it.” How a person portrays their illness shows their strengths, weaknesses, and even their hesitations and beliefs of the social stigma that comes with said illness. As mentioned in lecture, if a persons narrative is chaotic they see no hope in recovering and so their healing process may prove ineffective, a person whose narrative is one of restitution has more hope, and sees this illness as just a temporary rut to get over, and so on. Their attitude that is portrayed through these narratives will allow those around them such as family and doctors to determine the type of treatment they should receive, and even how effective this treatment will be.
1. Social Science and Medicine. “I am not the type of woman who complains of everything…” Social Science and Medicine 59 (2004) 1035-1045. http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp204-us14/files/2012/06/Werner-Chronic-Fatigue-Syndrome-in-Norway.pdf
2. Karim, Taz. Lecture 4.2http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp204-us14/week-4-lecture-2/