Friday, 19 February 2016

The Loss of Self

I haven't written in a while with exams and everything, but one of my coursework essays was for my health,self and society class. I made the decision to write mine in relation to chronic illness. it was titled 'Critically discuss the loss of self when suffering from a chronic illness.' I thought it would be appropriate to chuck some of it in my blog. Don't worry i'm not gonna put it all, just the good bits and ill do another one with more later. A large aspect of chronic illness that is often not considered by others is the loss of self the individual suffers from. They struggle to retain who they are and to not be defined by their illness.
Chronic illness is a very disruptive experience, or as Giddens (1979) states, ‘a critical situation’. He proposes ‘we can learn a good deal about day-to-day situations in routine settings from analysing circumstances in which those settings are radically disturbed.’ Ochberg (1994) stated that individuals live their lives in the context of ‘storied forms’, this can also be considered a narrative or biography. Every individual writes a ‘narrative’ of their life, it conveys their sense of self. When an individual is diagnosed with a chronic illness it disrupts their narrative and the person they are may fade away. The illness profoundly challenges who that individual is. It is the same as the idea of a bald man desperate to communicate his identity through his hair. The narrative is a way the individual can express their experience of illness. Narratives are of vast importance in the study of chronic Illness as a way of understanding the efforts individuals make to deal with their life and problems of identity that their illness causes. When an individual suffers from a chronic illness, everything seems the same, but it is not. They desperately try to conceive as sense of normality, but often fail. They are determined to appear to all others as leading a normal life, with no regard of the cost to their health. They do this because of the stigma attached to illnesses that are visible and noticeable to others.When an individual excludes themselves from their social group they socially isolate themselves and thus cause a loss of self. When they restrict their lives in this way, social isolation is almost guaranteed. Beyond family and work many chronically ill people will be socially isolated; they are simply not the person they once were.Their medical treatment is a major factor contributing to the isolation. This is due to the treatment taking place when the individual is alone and it causes their attention to be focused on themselves and not others. This experience of loneliness that they go through is one of much suffering.Those who are chronically ill are often not aware of how much their condition affects their lives. One woman can believe that she is often clumsy and that is why she drops things or in my case when i was under the impression that my fingers were swollen because of my weight or become of water retention. These individuals make intrepid efforts to live a normal life, even if it risks their relationships with others and their health. They feel if they do not live up to the expectations set for them by others, then they also fail to live up to the expectations set for themselves. Society dictates that to be a human being you must be able to function to the fullest extent, when an individual fails to do this they apologies to others and thus they are apologising for their existence in this world.

There are three phases of disruption that occur in the unfolding of a chronic illness. First there is the disruption of assumptions and the behaviors that were taken for granted. This stage involves the individual paying attention to their body and any changes they were not conscious of. The second is a fundamental re-thinking of the individual’s narrative and self is involved. Lastly, they respond to the disruption and accept their situation has changed.
In a study carried out by Kathy Charmaz “Loss of Self: a fundamental form of suffering in the chronically ill”, she discussed how several women in her study felt that being able to drive their cars was very important to them as it was one of the only ways they could be independent. It was one of the only ways that their lives were not restricted.  Unfortunately, due to their arthritis and types of medication they would no longer be able to drive, and this reminded them that their lives are becoming increasingly restricted. A task that a normal individual takes for granted, is now being denied to them.When someone tries to return to normality and fails, they feel a kind of grief for their lost self. When they decide that they are incapable of living with a chronic illness in the way that they hoped, they discredit themselves. They start to view themselves as failures and a burden to those around them, and stop others from intervening in this spiral out of control as it leads to a loss of self.
The loneliness caused by social isolation is more noticeable in those who live on their own. This is because they have a lack of social contact, resulting in a call from a relative or friend having enormous significance to the individual. This is comforting to them and assures them that their self-loss is not absolute, and they are valued as a human being. Some chronically ill individuals have disabilities that are not visible to others, they suffer discreditation because of them still participating in society and their illness being unknown to everyone else. For example is a diabetic was to attend a party in order to ‘keep up appearances’ they would have to avoid various food and alcohol and this could result in her being watched and judged by others who are not aware of her disease. This can be mortifying for the individual if they are confronted in a public place and therefore cause them to be ashamed of themselves. Even when the presence of the individual’s illness is recognised, issues still remain as others might not believe them. For example having diabetes is a good enough reason to not meet the social obligations of a party such as eating and drinking. When an individual suffers from a chronic illness and alleges they are in pain or tired or another symptom, this could be met with the accusation that they are using it as an excuse.

The chronically ill suffer from a loss of self because of the circumstances and environment under which they experience the illness. To suffer from a chronic illness is incapacitating and devastating and therefore is an attack on the self. This then leads to the individual assuming a limited life, which leads to fewer chances for them to fully form a valued self. When the chronically ill restrict their life it leads to social isolation, that then leads to them living a limited life and these both restrict opportunities for a constructive validation of their self.