Keywords: Chronic illness, patient empowerment, self-care, PTSD, coping mechanisms, journaling, resilience.
Citation: Schneider L. Book review: Chronic Resilience. J Participat Med. 2013 Sep 18; 5:e37.
Published: September 18, 2013.
Competing Interests: The author has declared that no competing interests exist.
I was very happy to review Chronic Resilience by Danea Horn. I suffer from three different, unrelated chronic illnesses, so this book was especially relevant to me. I have read many books, articles, research papers, and blogs tailored to the individual with chronic medical conditions. Chronic Resilience is the first book I’ve read that highlights the strength gained when going through a traumatic event, and teaches the reader to apply it to living with a chronic illness. (This coincides with a trend in the psychosocial community to look at PTSD not as a “disorder,” but as the gaining of “post-traumatic resilience” — strength achieved through surviving trauma and adversity successfully, and learning new skills throughout that experience.)
Horn educates the reader about this special resilience via “journal prompts” — suggestions for self-exploration — along with the stories of others with chronic illnesses and the skills that they found they possessed during the course of their illnesses. It is important to note that the way in which she presents these journal exercises doesn’t feel like at all homework, or a like a typical journaling assignment from a therapist. All of the journaling exercises are presented in context with the subject matter. They bring to light the resilience that we as humans develop when faced with adversity, but often forget about when the long complicated names of diagnoses, test results, and the fears of what the future may bring are piled upon us.
The Chronic Resilience unique journaling exercises help to make you the focus of the book. I found the most important activities to be in the first few chapters, as these helped me become not just the reader of the book, but an active participant in the process. I wasn’t just learning about others’ experiences of their inner resilience; it honestly felt as if my saga had been woven into the stories presented. I had expected a chapter about each woman who had graciously volunteered her story for inclusion in this book, but was delighted to find that Horn had seamlessly integrated the challenges faced by these women within each chapter. A different woman’s experience is used to illustrate each lesson of human resilience. By combining these narratives with the emphasis on a specific aspect of resilience, along with the journaling prompts, Horn helps the reader to identify her own strengths and beneficial place in her own life.
Horn speaks specifically about taking ownership of your health. She emphasizes the necessity of caring for your body, listening to its cues, knowing when to slow down, and learning your new limits. Most importantly, she emphasizes that ownership is not “becoming” your illness; eg, being “a cancer patient” or a person who “suffers from fibromyalgia.” Ownership is learning what is within your control, becoming educated about your condition (from valid sources), assembling (as Horn calls it) a “kick-butt medical team,” and seeing a counselor when you feel overwhelmed by your diagnosis or its limitations.
Overall, Horn’s book is a refreshing breeze in the mire of self-help books about dealing with chronic illnesses (those typically heavy with platitudes, “positive affirmations,” lists of impossible rules to follow, and the “chin-up buttercup” rainbow and unicorn imagery.) She provides lists of helpful resources throughout and lists many interesting and relevant references. Although this book wasn’t written specifically from the e-patient perspective, it does directly address how to become a participant in your health care and how to successfully communicate your needs, fears, concerns and questions to doctors, family, and friends. Horn has done a beautiful job of teaching us how to be human, in spite of the obstacles we may have in our lives.
- Horn D. Chronic Resilience: 10 Sanity-Saving Strategies for Women Coping with the Stress of Illness. San Francisco: Conari Press; 2013. ↩
Copyright: © 2013 Lori Schneider. Published here under license by The Journal of Participatory Medicine. Copyright for this article is retained by the author, with first publication rights granted to the Journal of Participatory Medicine. All journal content, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. By virtue of their appearance in this open-access journal, articles are free to use, with proper attribution, in educational and other non-commercial settings.