Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

From Test to Testimony: Resilience after a TBI Diagnosis

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

From Test to Testimony: Resilience after a TBI Diagnosis

Article excerpt

An autoethnography is a qualitative method that uses the researcher as the source of data. Custer (2014) describes autoethnography as a method that involves three key elements. Autoethnography helps researchers transform their views of the past into useful information for the future. It can help researchers become vulnerable by reflecting on the naked truth that is embedded in past experiences and memories. Lastly, autoethnography can create and welcome change through subjectivity. Buckley (2015) suggests that autoethnography is one form of research that allows researchers to be participants of their own research. Other selfevaluation methods that allow researchers to be participants of their studies include autobiographies and narratives. Unlike those other qualitative forms of research, autoethnography allows researchers to examine themselves in relation to culture around them. This relation to culture and evaluation of self allows researchers to examine the reasoning and cause of resulting feelings, thoughts, and actions (Jones, Adams, & Ellis, 2016). For example, I am an African American, young, Christian female who lives in a small city with little to no awareness about traumatic brain injury (TBI); therefore, my cultures include being an African American, being young, being a female, being a Christian, and living in a small urban area. The examination of myself and the reasons/causes of my thoughts are all somehow connected to all the cultures I have listed. Although someone may share my feelings about TBI, no one will have the same connections I have with my different cultures.

Other forms of research aim to protect their participant's feelings of embarrassment and fear by transforming their personal experiences into quantitative data or masking them by sticking to prompts. Autoethnography is a very vulnerable research tool because researchers must recap their personal experiences and tell their truths which may result in self-harm or bring back very painful memories in order to gain a bigger reward, change in culture (AllenCollinson, 2013). I cannot lie, there have been many times during this research process that I had to cry, questioning whether I really wanted to do this; I even thought of not publishing at all. It took a lot of encouragement from my family, my husband, and my professors for me to do this. Some of these painful memories and effects of my TBI have resulted in even more memory loss and overthinking. There are many times that I cannot remember important people, events, or details of my life. I get so frustrated inside and then I try to find a coping mechanism such as ignoring or finding something else to think about. But honestly, what hurts the most is that I try to take as many pictures as I can with my family, especially my son, because I cannot ever be sure that I can remember certain events as the days go by. I chose autoethnography to get to the bottom of my frustration with this lifelong illness because it is the stronger choice of research, in my opinion, to use for extreme trauma and other life-changing experiences.

According to Ellis (2004), an autoethnography is a work about personal experience and the relationship of this experience to the larger culture. Autoethnographic storytelling often comes from and causes moments of personal change and insight. In this particular autoethnography, I choose to concentrate on two important parts of my story: my car accident and how it has impacted my present life. I started to collect data by asking my parents questions regarding the accident. Although autoethnographies are primarily based on self, they may include others to help describe and explain a recalled event. Because I was only 6 at the time of the accident and my TBI resulted in some memory loss, I had to ask my parents (mother, father, and stepfather) questions during this study to lend insight about the event surrounding my accident.

My mother and father, never married, had broken up when I was 5 years old. …

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