There was a brilliant piece on October 18, at The New York Times, in the Opinion section, by Peter Kramer. The title is “Why Doctors Need Stories” and it came to my attention via the Facebook page of The Postpartum Stress Center.
Peter makes some excellent points in this rather lengthy opinion piece but this paragraph, found near the end, sums it up nicely:
“I don’t think that psychiatry — or, again, medicine in general — need be apologetic about this state of affairs. Our substantial formal findings require integration. The danger is in pretending otherwise. It would be unfortunate if psychiatry moved fully — prematurely — to squeeze the art out of its science. And it would be unfortunate if we marginalized the case vignette. We need storytelling, to set us in the clinical moment, remind us of the variety of human experience and enrich our judgment.”
Psychiatry treats the mind. The mind is what drives us, it is where our stories reside, where our choices are made. So it would seem obvious to keep the stories of our lives as part of the study, yes?
As research moves more toward numbers and the data including them, however, stories are being – as Kramer puts it – squeezed out. The art is fading. But it is, at the same time, making a comeback, fighting for breath in a stranglehold of data.
This is why our stories matter. While our words may not ever appear on the pages of the New England Journal of Medicine or be held in the hands of a renowned physician, they will be held and read by mothers who are walking the path we once walked. Every single story, every single word – it matters.
Tonight’s chat will explore the art of storytelling – multiple aspects of choosing to do so. It’s not easy to share our stories but we do it because we wish we had been able to read stories like ours when we fought in the dark.
Join me on Twitter at 830pm ET as we explore the art of storytelling as it relates to Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders. We’ll cover all the standard questions – the who, what, where, why, when, and how. See you there!