In this autoethnography, I outline a framework for understanding illness as deviance, contextualizing general sociological theory on sick role dynamics to the specific case of chronic conditions that manifest with visible physical differences. I demonstrate two distinct ways in which chronic conditions can foster labeling and stigma. First, I explore how social norms can result in sanctions for showing physical evidence of chronic conditions. I describe sanctions I have experienced for violating conventional ideas about youth and female beauty, and associated behavioral expectations. Second, I explore how double jeopardy can result from failing to meet usual social expectations for sickness. I describe sanctions I have experienced for violating ideas of what abilities a person with a chronic illness should possess, and how they should behave in relation. I conclude by illuminating how normative social discourse can simultaneously sensationalize and efface people with visible chronic diseases.
Chronic Conditions, Illness Management, Presentation of Self, Deviance, Autoethnography
I am grateful to my partner in life and research, Dr. J Sumerau, for zir critical feedback and phenomenal support throughout the writing process.
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Recommended APA Citation
Nowakowski, A. C. (2016). You Poor Thing: A Retrospective Autoethnography of Visible Chronic Illness as a Symbolic Vanishing Act. The Qualitative Report, 21(9), 1615-1635. https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2016.2296