Narrative sickness

My continued illness has me ruminating still about the story we constuct to explain our symptoms. Once we decide to enter into the medical-discourse game by going to a doctor, it becomes important that all the symptoms we think to mention fit the etiology of some disease. The details of self we share must conform to the story of some sickness, otherwise we will not experience the closure we’re looking for, we won’t be liberated from the panic that is the random ebb and flow that really is our life by having a formulaic plot to conform to; we won’t have a future for ourselves that we can recognize, envision, elaborate, and accomodate.

That is where the heightened self-awareness that stems from (or constitutes in some epistemological way) sickness becomes a real problem — the self-awareness makes us dredge up more and more symptoms, which become more and more difficult to fit into the narrative; we want to scrutinize ourselves into becoming a special case, transcending the formula that we yearned for — the contradiction that binds us is thus revealed: we want a predictable, conforming life to save us from the terrors of uncertainty, the chance that we might be somewhere unpredictably awful tomorrow; and at the same time we want to be more important as individuals than any formulaic story that could be told about us, that is, we want to believe we are capable of anything, even of inventing a wholly personal illness for themselves. Hence, hypochondria as a social norm, and the secret fantasy of having a syndrome named after you.

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