Surviving with a long-term
The destination and map I had used to navigate before were no longer useful.
(Judith Zaruches, cited in Frank 1995: I)
This chapter focuses on the potentially traumatic effect that serious chronic or physical illness can have on a person's life. Research is reviewed which demonstrates how physical illness can shatter basic 'ontological' assumptions (related to time and routine narrative configuration) that a person holds about him/herself and the world around him/her. In particular, this chapter draws on research I have conducted with people living long term with an HIV-positive diagnosis. Although living with such an illness can have potentially devastating effects, the primary challenge for the individual is to reascribe a sense of meaning to his/her life. This is achieved through the use of different forms of narrative which enable the individual to make sense of his/her experience. The various forms of these narratives are documented in this chapter. The research is discussed in the context of more general work on 'illness narratives' in the social psychological and sociological literature.