This dissertation explores the lived experience of self in 6 women of childbearing years (26 to 42) with multiple sclerosis (MS). An existential phenomenological approach and Giorgi's descriptive phenomenological method were used in order to understand issues of embodiment and the full experience of MS. Each woman had been diagnosed with MS for at least I year prior to the study. The time frame examined was consistent with the entire experience of MS, from onset of symptoms and diagnosis experience. This sample population was selected because there were no extant phenomenological investigations regarding the experience of women with MS in this age bracket.
The following common themes arose in all women: (a) a heightened level of bodily awareness, (b) major occupational and relational shifts, (c) avoidance of support groups, (d) presence of at least one bout of severe mental-health compromise, (e) a feeling that one's thought life could control the course of the disease, (f) a self-initiated shift in control within the disease experience, (g) a stronger sense of self, and (h) a changed description of spirituality.
A process of self-solidification within the disease experience was identified. This was specifically indicated by a move toward self-agency and acceptance. The process was found unique to other studies regarding self in women with chronic illness. This process included a heightened sense of bodily awareness, symptoms, or bodily consciousness, loss of control, a conscious decision to take control of some aspect of the disease experience, a sense of hope, connectedness to humanity, more acceptance of self, and a firmer sense of self.
The personal narratives in this study revealed that the women were unable to communicate certain concerns to their medical or psychological community, such as the need for some level of certainty, an awareness of the etiology of their mental health compromise, and an understanding of which symptoms represented disease experience and which represented normal gender-related bodily changes apart from MS.
|School:||Pacifica Graduate Institute|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-B 73/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Childbearing age, Multiple sclerosis|
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