Revealing and Concealing Ill Identity: A Performance Narrative of IBD Disclosure

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Health Communication


Revealing a hidden, chronic illness is a risky and vulnerable act. Ill individuals often remain socially stigmatized, and those who live with invisible illness must legitimize their ill identity since they infrequently look sick. For individuals with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), disclosing one's illness carries unique challenges because of the grotesque and taboo nature of the disease. To this end, the bathroom or "water closet" is more than a functional place-it is a space to hide one's ill identity. For many, the point of departure from safety to vulnerability occurs when there is a desire to disclose. In this descriptive essay, revelation of an invisible illness, IBD, and disclosure to others are explored as embodied and situated communication. Through performance narrative, the author shares stories of her disclosive moments to inform others about IBD, explores how the water closet can be a metaphoric boundary, examines various strategies used in revealing hidden illness, and offers possible implications for IBD disclosure to the self and relationships with others. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

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