narrative medicine for individual health & wellness, community enrichment and informed care
A warm welcome! Herein lays an invitation and initiative: A literary project infused with personalized experiences, a sense of how we share in our humanity, and evidentiary support for the use of art in medicine – thanks to the ever-growing collection of letters written to diagnoses, deficits, difficulties, and differences by everyday people, like you. Hereto exists a place where you can find assistance in the act of writing to heal and in connecting further still – to your perfectly imperfect self and to our budding community of healers and helpers.
May this project speak to you, encourage you, inspire you. May you find reasons – here – to read, write, learn, connect, and share.
In Service & In Spirit of Our Collective Health,
Brianna A. Schiavoni, LCSW, LISW
Counselor, Coach, Healing Arts Instructor
Ready to browse our little library of letters?
About the Project:
I elected to launch the Dear Diagnosis project in January 2018 but its roots extend well-into adolescence. I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 14. At my first follow-up visit, my endocrinologist asked to see my newly purchased medical ID bracelet, which read ‘Diabetic’. He frowned and asserted, “You’ll have to order a new one.” But why?! I asked. “Because it does not define you, Brianna. You get to define it.” This, I later learned while studying psychology, was narrative medicine; and what Dr. Schatz did for me that day – priceless. Years later, when I grew tired of wearing jewelry in addition to my medical equipment – I had it tattooed onto my forearm for emergency purposes (alongside a friendly reminder meant to bridge the gap between my mind and body): Diabetes 1 (I am > than my ⌃ highs and v lows).
Life is hard enough without diagnostic labels, chronic conditions and consequent complications; without the literal and figurative costs associated with access to quality healthcare, social-care, and the emotional-care and safekeeping of oneself. Hard enough and yet – to make matters worse – we as human beings are hardwired to formulate our identities through stories we tend to tell about our problem- saturated lives.
“But, Brianna, you are not the problem.
The problem is the problem.”
“But, Brianna, you are not the problem. The problem is the problem.” Another nugget from narrative therapy offered to me by a particular counselor with whom I chose to work during a particularly tough time. “Go and write a letter to diabetes,” she suggested. “By objectifying your problem, you might begin to see it from a new perspective. You might find it easier to navigate your path forward. To rediscover your own unique talents, values and abilities – in turn.” That is what I did, and this is what it became: the seedling to this very special project, written at a particularly pivotal time in my own journey to health and happiness.
That letter changed my life. It helped me to realize that while I’d kept busy crafting the skills necessary to be of support to others in need, I’d failed in attending to my own grief and loss, my own anger and injury; my own suffering and solitude. It prompted me to evaluate what truly was in my control and to consider which of my own unique skill-sets might best support my own growth and gain. That letter served as a catalyst for liberation and metamorphosis. It was the first of many.