Imaging and Imagining Illness | ANNOTATE

Imaging and Imagining Illness | ANNOTATE


The way we see, and imagine illness, can have a profound effect on how well we’re able to live with illness. That was true of me when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis using a medical image. That image changed how I saw myself. When I was in seminary, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis – an autoimmune disease. My physician diagnosed me using MRI scans. What I noticed was that he was very good at looking at those scans, and diagnosing me, but wasn’t very good looking at me, in the eye, when we spoke. The MRI scans distracted him from the real, living person, sitting in front of him, who needed comfort and healing. I’m fascinated by how we understand chronic illness, in our contemporary culture, and not only how we understand it, but also how we see, or visualize illness. Traditionally, doctors are the ones who define illness, and then look for it, using things like medical imaging technologies. Medical images break a person apart to focus on disease, and then patients are left wondering how to put the pieces back together. That got me thinking, what resources can I draw on to help make sense of my illness, outside of medicine? And one of those places I looked to was visual art. And I’m lucky enough to have a sister – Darian Golden Stahl, who is a print artist – and she now incorporates my MRIs into her art. And she creates these really wonderful, full-body images, that are placed in a space to give them context. And her art says more about how I experience illness, than MRI scans could ever do. Darian helps me to reimagine my illness, what it means to live with illness, and she changes the way I see myself, and she changes it for the better.

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