COMMUNICATIVE WORK AND SHIFTING ILLNESS TRAJECTORIES: AN EXAMINATION OF INDIVIDUALS COPING WITH CHRONIC LYME DISEASE
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Invisible Illnesses are unseen to the eyes of others and require disclosure by the ill in order to seek social support. Invisible illnesses fall under a rather large umbrella that includes both mental and physical illnesses. These illnesses in particular prompt communicative challenges including disclosure and support seeking. This study is guided by the theory of illness trajectory and the concept of work which aims to describe the individual’s experiences of chronic illness overtime. Work describes the numerous intricate tasks couples coping with a chronic illness must manage over the course of an illness. The four types of work outlined by this framework are illness work, biographical work, everyday-life work, and communication work. This study employs a qualitative approach to explore how individuals living with chronic invisible illnesses effectively negotiate the stressors associated with communicative work within a romantic relational context. Using chronic Lyme disease as a specific focus, this study employs a semi-structured interview process to gain knowledge of the patient’s illness-related turning points and perceptions of relational satisfaction at each point in order to investigate how relational partners facilitate or hinder the patient’s coping with changes in the illness trajectory. As chronic Lyme disease persists over an indefinite span of time for individuals, directly impacting their relationships and health related quality of life, it is important to examine the ways in which patients and their support networks cope with the variety of stressors involved in managing this chronic lifelong illness.