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A narrative exploration of the experience of recurrent major depression Dyer, Brenda Lee

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to explore in narrative terms the lived experience of people who have suffered from major recurrent depression, and have recovered or are in recovery. How people construct this experience was investigated through both the form and content of their oral narratives. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven participants who had received a diagnosis of depression, had experienced at least two depressive episodes, and had been free of depression for at least one year. The interviews were analyzed using the holistic macro narrative form analysis of Gergen and Gergen (1983, 1988) to locate story lines (form) and valued endpoints, turning points, narrative stance and themes (content) common to the narratives. A Romantic plot structure of repeated encounters with the problem of depression, and the growing wisdom of the heroic protagonist was identified in all seven of the narratives. The differences among the narrators' perceptions of their change process were accounted for by Frank's (1995) typology of illness narratives, and a further categorization was made into questautomythology (n = 4), quest-memoir (n = 2) and quest-manifesto (n = 1). The seven narratives can be seen as a resistance to the culturally preferred illness narrative of Restitution/Comedy since all narrators experienced recovery from depression as a continuing and incomplete process. Common patterns include early childhood experiences of abandonment, fear, and/or powerlessness, a lifelong search for belonging and connection, and a turning point in midlife which resolves this search and is accompanied by depression recovery. Agency is an important aspect of both the search and the turning point, but it is coupled with the greater capacity of the narrator to experience connection with others.

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