How might writing about our illness affect how we experience it? Ann Wallace explores this in her piece, “A Life Less Terrifying: The Revisionary Lens of Illness,” which describes how her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis did not fit her personal identity, but how writing about her illness facilitated the creation of a new identity. She explains how in writing, “we need to stop when we want to walk away: turn around, walk back, look again from new angles, even enlisting our friends to ask what they see. Sometimes this kind of re-vision is easy, but often it is work, for it entails a willingness to let go of what we first thought was true.”
In “Anorexia Narratives,” I investigate essays written by women diagnosed with anorexia and find how the disease goes beyond the physical, but also affects personal identity and sense of agency. Francesca’s words echo Ann’s in healing from the illness: “I write about what is painful to me. This process transforms the pain into something meaningful, possibly even beautiful. It physically removes it from the prison of my body so that I can look at it with perspective and share it with others” (Taylor 204).
In these two pieces, we see how illness may force us to revise our life narratives, and how writing can provide a mechanism for healing—allowing us to see not just who we are, but how we might become.
Ali Grzywna graduated with a Bachelor of Art in English at Wellesley College and now works as a research coordinator in Orthopedics at Boston Children's Hospital. She began Tufts Medical School Maine Track in Fall 2016.
© 2016 Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine