The episode of True Life that I watched dealt with cases of extreme social anxiety. One particular case followed throughout the episode is very much a chaos narrative because the woman in question never truly recovers and eventually relapses back into her old ways. The woman, Nonie, suffers from severe social anxiety. She cannot hardly go out in public without having a panic attack. At 21, she still lives with her parents, and cannot keep a job to support herself because she is so anxious about strangers. Her mother urges her to see a therapist, but Nonie resorts to pills to avoid talking to a stranger. For a few weeks, she believes the medication is working, but after a while she becomes once again depressed. She stops taking her pills and loses yet another job, falling back into her old ways and changing very little. The sick role in her case is that she truly believes that in her condition, she cannot work, should not go out in public and should stay home. She has no real experience with medical professionals because she is terrified to speak to them. At one point, she saw a doctor and was prescribed an antidepressant yet she was too scared of meeting the pharmacist to go fill her prescription and so went untreated. Nonie has very few friends, which, in today’s society, is looked upon as strange or abnormal. This only makes her condition more difficult. If she views herself as the label that society gives her, it will only increase her depression and make it harder for her to get better.
Illness narratives are especially important, I believe, to healthcare providers because they help them to deduce the cause of their patient’s pain and to determine whether that patient is ill. These narratives may also be useful in assuring other patients with similar symptoms that they are not alone or that the pain is not all born of their own imagination. However, these narratives may be of little use to family. They may occasionally provide insight into the afflicted individual’s suffering, but there is little to be done unless the individual is a small child in need of looking after.
Isaksen, Lise Widding, Kirsti Malterud, and Anne Werner. “’I am not the kind of woman who complains of everything’: Illness stories on self and shame in women with chronic pain.” Social Science & Medicine 59 (2004): 1035-1045.