Women's Narratives of Living with MS in the Family Context: Reconciling Complex Experiences, Integrating Complex Identities

Part of book or chapter of book English OPEN
Reynolds, Frances (2004)
  • Publisher: University of Huddersfield
  • Subject: HQ | H1 | R1

This study explored women’s strategies for living with multiple sclerosis and\ud whether/how they maintained satisfaction with life amidst loss of physical\ud function. The family context emerged as a complex influence on participants’\ud process of managing illness and identity. Four narratives are examined,\ud provided by women in mid-life, with husbands and teenage/adult children.\ud Participants described many positive strategies for resisting domination by\ud illness, whilst also revealing numerous struggles, particularly in relation to\ud being a mother and wife who has MS. The narratives could not be easily\ud classified as they contained many contrasts and tensions. For example, the\ud women described receiving much care from family members, but also clearly\ud provided much care in return; they saw themselves as having special needs but\ud also great strengths; they often presented themselves as strong, but at certain\ud points admitted being overwhelmed by their situations; some oscillated\ud between seeing their illness, or their families, as the most stressful aspect of\ud life. The stress of illness varied to some extent according to the responses of\ud family members. Participants accepted that MS inevitably affected everyone in\ud the family system, but they simultaneously worked to protect other family\ud members and to minimise its intrusiveness. Coping with illness did not only\ud reflect individually chosen strategies. The women drew upon stories handed\ud down from parents and other family members about their ways of confronting\ud adversity. The numerous tensions within the women’s stories of coping with\ud MS show that illness is socially embedded and illuminate the complexity of\ud lives and social identity.
  • References (3)

    Crossley, M. (2000) Introducing narrative psychology: self, trauma and the construction of meaning, Buckingham, Open University Press.

    Lazarus, R. and Folkman, S. (1984) Stress, appraisal and coping, New York, Springer.

    McAdams, D. and Bowman, P. (2001) Narrating life's turning points: redemption and contamination, in D. McAdams, R. Josselson and A. Lieblich (eds) Turns in the road: Narrative studies of lives in transition, Washington DC, American Psychological Association.

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