Illness narratives are useful to patients, the family of those affected, and healthcare workers because the narratives help people understand what a person is going through, essentially helping them make sense of a condition that may be unfamiliar to them. It also helps the sufferer explain what they are feeling. These interactions and levels of acceptance and understanding play a role in the healing of the individual who is affected by a disease. With illness narratives, a person may learn to adjust to their illness and gain higher levels of self esteem. Illness narratives are beneficial for both the teller and the listener and at the end of the day, both sides will feel less alone and more become more understanding.
For the MTV True Life video, I chose “I Have Narcolepsy.” The episode follows two girl that suffer from narcolepsy which is a neurological disorder that causes people to sleep often and at inappropriate times, but is usually uncontrollable. Both girls also have episodes cataplexy which causes whole body paralyzation and causes them to collapse. Their lives are heavily affected by their condition and they spend their time daily trying to control a nearly uncontrollable condition. One of the main concerns discussed in the documentaries is the use of medication to control narcolepsy symptoms. The physicians encourage the use of the drugs, while the friends and family of one of the women are concerned she is overusing the drugs and hopes for her to quit in a more cold turkey manner, while the other girl is denying the use of drugs due to side effects and the mother wants to force the drugs on her. Therefore we see the same condition, but different approaches to treatment in the documentaries. I feel this documentary involves the concepts of the sick role, rights and responsibilities, and cultural stigma. I feel with such a chronic illness such as this one, the patient definitely has the right to play the sick role and regulate it based on how they feel because they may change from day to day. I also feel its important for physicians, family, and friends to honor their choices in terms of medication. If medication is the only way to make them feel better, without overdoing it obviously, I think it is appropriate in this case to take medication. At the same time, I understand the girls concern about the toxicity and side effects that come with taking medication and if she feels it would make things worse, I think its her right to not have to take it. This illness is not one that is commonly seen or understood, so in Western culture if people were to see someone just fall asleep instantly, most people may mistake it for passing out, a seizure, or something else. The illness narrative is important so that people understand the signs of results of narcolepsy. This documentary is mostly related to the Chaos type of narrative because of the extremity of narcolepsy and its large impact on daily life and the fact that the women feel like the illness will always control their lives, but at the same time I feel its also a bit like a Quest narrative because the girls and their families are on the journey to find a way to control their life hindering symptoms.