Diagnosed: Consolidating an Authentic Self within the Practice of Narrative Medicine

If initially conceived by Rita Charon as a “unifying designation to signify a clinical practice informed by the theory and practice of reading, writing, telling and receiving of stories,” Narrative Medicine quickly outgrew is originating medical setting to encompass a more extended healing environment.

Fortunate to have participated in two of the earliest workshops, I discovered that the practice of narrative medicine integrated for the first time all aspects of my disparate personal and professional life: my academic work in trauma theory and Woolf Studies; my recovery from childhood abuse; my practice of poetry; and my long familiarity with the medical profession Inspired by Rita Charon’s example, I have sought to articulate the silence and gaps in the narratives of the most vulnerable among us—the physically, sexually, and emotionally abused.

This paper will explore perhaps the most compelling opportunity which I have been afforded to embody convey the possibility of such integration to others. At the University of Connecticut Stamford’s Center for Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, I have been able to discuss the relationship between trauma—medical and mental—creativity, and self-silencing. Contrasting poems written at different ages of my life, I have been able to exemplify the reclamation of self from the various diagnoses that had been attached to me. Informed by Narrative Medicine’s practice of close reading, my presentations allow others to share their own experiences at whatever stage in a nurturing environment that encourages personal awareness together with an academic understanding of the effects of trauma.



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