Tag Archives: Research

migraines and NSAIDS and dissertations, oh my!

Well, it has been a week of migraines. My normal med, Fioricet, wasn’t working but was still giving me the “saps all my energy for a day” side effect, so I called my neurologist. Of course it took over a day for him to get back to me and then it was to tell me to take the NSAID powder he had given me a sample of. Interestingly, my memory of the instructions were that I was only to take it before the migraine became full-blown. So, I took it and so far it seems to be working. I’m dizzy and it tasted awful, but it seems to have at least temporarily knocked out the major pain of the migraine. I’m still left with the fun fogginess and dizziness that are the lovely side effects of all of these meds. However, it is better than the mind crushing pain of the migraine. So now I’m back at my desk preparing to respond to the email interviews that I began this week. (Hence, the “dissertation” part of this title.) The migraines have slowed me down, but I’ve used the foggy moments, during which time writing is not an option, to organize my notes, collate some of the collected data, and enter sources into my Sente database. Hopefully, I can write a post soon on my digital workflow. For now, suffice it to say I have made great progress in my (finally re-approved by the IRB) research study, thanks to the help of my participants, who have been wonderfully forthcoming in answering surveys and now interview questions. To any of you who read this, thank you so much! I’m so lucky to have a set of participants who believe in the importance of this research. It really keeps me going through these times of my own personal difficulties.

why I fight

And when I say fight, I mean research and write. For me, fighting (in the sense of working to accomplish something) is particular to who I am–a scholar, a writer, a teacher. As many of you know (or will discover from reading my blog), my research deals with psychological trauma. I research trauma because I believe that the people who have experienced trauma matter. That they deserve to have their voices heard. That their experiences have not been in vain.

While watching a rerun of one of my favorite television shows, Criminal Minds, something important occurred to me. My research focuses on those who experience what I call “personal” traumas. All trauma is personal, so when I say “personal trauma” I mean people who have experienced trauma as a result of individual acts of violence like sexual assault, childhood abuse, and domestic violence. One of the reasons that I focus on them is because of the stigma that is still associated with these traumas. For a long time all traumas and their aftermath, PTSD, were stigmatizing. Soldiers returning from war were seen as malingerers rather than as victims of the trauma of war. Since Vietnam PTSD has become a recognized psychological disorder and since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there is greater public awareness of psychological trauma and with that awareness comes less stigma. However, it is important to note that the lessening of stigma does not alleviate the pain of trauma. The pain is real; it remains a living memory that haunts the individual who has experienced it. People who experience trauma during “public” acts of violence, like war and terrorist events such as 9/11, are more accepted as “real” sufferers. Their stories are less taboo, and their experiences tend to be validated more. Validation certainly helps. In fact, validation and awareness help to alleviate some of the sense of alienation felt by those who have experienced trauma. In spite of that, the reality of the trauma and the suffering that it engenders does not go away.

The fact that I focus on personal traumas and thus do not focus on the trauma of war compels me to write this post. While I am not researching and writing about soldiers and veterans who blog about trauma, their experiences are not unimportant to me. In fact, one of the reasons that my dissertation deals with blogging about trauma is due to reading the blogs of soldiers and talking to them. My original dissertation idea actually focused on veterans. I wanted to study narrative ability in people who’ve experienced trauma, and I hoped to conduct my study through the VA. Unfortunately, my qualifications do not include a PhD in Psychology, and the IRB isn’t keen on letting rhetoricians study protected populations. As a result, I returned to an earlier research idea conceived when I began stumbling on trauma blogs. I was researching blogging and continuing my research on trauma when the two somehow converged. I became interested in this counterpublic (to use Michael Warner‘s term) who were loosely connected through their strategic use of blogging. The subgenre of the trauma blog became the research topic for my dissertation, yet I chose to exclude the blogs of those traumatized as a result of war or terrorist attacks. Partly this was practical, I needed to limit the number of blogs that I used in my analysis. The other reason for this choice was more ideological in nature. Drawing attention to those who speak out about traumas that are still highly stigmatized will hopefully lessen the stigma or, at the very least, draw attention to these survivors brave enough to speak out.

In the future I hope to apply the same research strategies to the blogs written by veterans.

struggling with ethical dilemnas

I find myself in an interesting situation this morning: considering the ethics of what I do.  Much of the time my work is with vulnerable populations.  However, the majority of my research participants self-disclose online, which means that they have already agreed to divulge information about their personal experiences.  That being said, I find rich information, regarding experiences of people involved in traumatic situations, in my face-to-face life as well.  The challenge is: how much of their information can I disclose?  Obviously, I would leave out identifying information unless I had their explicit permission to do so.  However, is it ethical for me to quote them without permission?  My conclusion, influenced by the advice of a colleague, is to hold off on sharing information privately disclosed prior to gaining permission.  The challenge, then, is how do you ask someone who is maybe not as familiar with blogging, if you can quote them on your blog.  This, I feel, is relevant to my research because my particpant bloggers are divulging sensitive information and should they divulge information regarding others in their blog without permission, am I being unethical including it in my research?