5 Tips on How to Write an Illness Memoir

5 Tips on How to Write an Illness Memoir 

“Nothing is quite so isolating as the knowledge when one hurts, nobody else feels the pain,” Robert Murphy.


What can we learn from illness memoirs?

Recently I have been ill with a severe adverse response to a certain osteoporosis infusion medication. I wished that I could have spoken to someone else who had experienced what I had gone through. A search of Google did not reveal any personal writing about the same experiences. There was much medical literature available on the internet but it was too clinical and did not address my personal issues.

When we face serious or chronic illness or disability we are thrown into an unknown, insecure and uncharted world. We leave our world of health and security and are thrown into a place where nothing is known and has to be learnt. Writing about our illness experience gives us back our power and with it creates a voice. We often lose this voice when our bodies are ill or diminished in some way. The therapeutic process of writing examines the shock of trauma of illness; we the writers, can be observers to the situation of our lives and can reflect and grow. We write down the words of our experience and in doing so develop resilience in ourselves through the process of writing. When we review our lives through personal writing we develop strength and a pattern to face illness or death.

The two main reasons for writing an illness memoir:

  1. To assist the writer to gain control of their illness and hopefully heal.
  2. To help others with similar illnesses and their families to understand.

A personal narrative in the form of an illness memoir has been long considered as one of the most important methods of advancing personal human issues. A personal story speaks loudly and can shine a beacon into a dark and frightening area.

Imagine- if you found a lump in your breast and were shocked to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Your doctor and medical team might be helpful and supportive but, another person who has experienced the same as you would comprehend your deepest fears and anxieties. You might search out a memoir of someone who has battled breast cancer and won. This can  be a metaphor for your own struggle.

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