#HAchat Recap: Once upon a time…telling the story of your health

pamressler: Isn’t storytelling what peer-to-peer health is all about? …that is historically how we shared info. #hachat

Image credit mountainbread on Flickr

All Health Activists are storytellers. Each time you sit down at your computer to write, or explain your health condition to a friend or family members, or even visit your doctor, you are telling a story.  Health Activists are the ultimate storytellers, finding innovative ways to communicate the daily trials of tribulations of living with their condition, navigating the healthcare system, and managing relationships with family and friends.  This week, Health Activists discussed the power of using storytelling in their health communities as well as the Do’s and Don’ts of telling a good story.


How does storytelling enrich communication and relationships?

Storytelling has been a rich tradition in cultures all over the world. Before the written word, stories were how history was passed down from generation to generation. It was a way of preserving tradition as well as a method of instruction.  julianna12369: a story can get a message across so simply where laborious explanations fail. People love stories and often learn by accident #HAchat. Storytelling is an invaluable tool for Health Activists as well as the gateway to the online health community.

KatharineS84: I first got involved in the health community by sharing my story. Letting people into my life w/#cysticfibrosis.  Sharing my story helps make people aware about a disease many are unfamiliar w/, but in story form rather than definition. #HAchat

kimmieCollas T2: sharing my story helps readers “KNOW” that i get it, rather than just hoping i d               o . . . makes the illness more visible #HAchat

PainCHAS T2 – Personal narratives allow the online community to personalize conditions. More than a diagnosis there is a person with a story #HAchat

Personal narratives not only help others going through the same experience or suffering from the same condition, but they help make big medical terms understandable for family and friends.  Personal narratives help break down misconceptions and misunderstandings and promote awareness.


What makes a good story?

In Health Activism, a good story comes from being honest and expressing real emotion.

julianna12369 when a story is REAL, you feel it, you know it. That is important. Let me feel the author is bleeding out on the page. #HAchat

susanmees – Knowing your audience. Everyone wants something slightly different. A good story can be slightly tailored and still relevant. #hachat

3lainess stories about health need hope. Sometimes there’s not a happy ending, that’s ok..but there has to be some hope.#hachat

MakeThisLookAwe : A great story pulls you in so that we feel immersed in the experience… we are right there with the person, in our minds eye #HAchat

That being said, everyone’s style is different. One of the greatest things about Health Activists is that many started writing for themselves; blogs become an outlet during tough times, a way to vent, or to keep family and friends updated on new developments in their health. What’s truly amazing is that through storytelling, Health Activists have become such an inspiration to others in their communities.  Not only do they offer up extremely personal details of their lives for everyone to read, they have become sources of advice, hope and inspiration for others.  .  TiffanyAndLupus Sharing my story helps me rise above my pain. I write with the hope that someone somewhere will read it & learn something new. #hachat

No, not every story needs to have a happy sunny ending. Some stories are dark, especially as it pertains to health. Sometimes there isn’t a next chapter. Some stories don’t have a happy ending.  No one is looking for blind optimism when they read stories, but rather a reason to hope.  Remember that even when your story isn’t positive or happy, readers still draw wisdom and inspiration from your words; they see new ways to deal with pain or hopelessness.  Remember that everyone has a unique interpretation of the world around them, and that by staying true to your Health Activist voice and mission, you will surely have an impact through your writing.


Where else does storytelling come into play in your online community?

One of the best times to tell a story is when you’re at the doctor.  Stories bring a personal dimension to any condition. It helps put a face on a disease, and makes it easier to understand what living with a disease such as lupus or fibromyalgia or diabetes is like.  Sure, you could go to your doctor and read off a list of symptoms and side effects, but these are just details of a larger story.  What are symptoms without triggers? How can doctors begin to make a diagnosis without a snapshot of your overall health and lifestyle?

MakeThisLookAwe IME, Storytelling is *essential* when talking with doctors. It’s how to tell the difference between drug-seekers & real folk. #HAchat

HeyVickieP Stories help w/ doctors better than a list of symptoms sometimes. #HAchat


What should your story focus on?

Finding your voice is important to both your blog and your community.  You have to decide how much you want to share, how often, and to what level of detail.  Some communities are more open than others, and some Health Activists share everything. Others are more guarded due to stigma and embarrassment, and the stories that result from each community will have entirely different tones and messages.  So what should your story focus on?  Health Activists outlined what they like to cover in their stories and why:

KatharineS84 T2.1: Daily routines, fears, hopes, future possibilities, importance of fundraising. #HAchat


TiffanyAndLupus : I try to hold nothing back when storytelling. In sharing my deepest, darkest worries/fears/pains/happiness it resonated. #hachat


HeyVickieP Sharing my mental health struggles in my previous work with peers let them know it’s possible to live with this. #HAchat


MakeThisLookAwe Through storytelling, I’ve been able inform, educate, & inspire other people. It gives value to my pain when I can help another #HAchat


TiffanyAndLupus Sharing my story helps me rise above my pain. I write with the hope that someone somewhere will read it & learn something new. #hachat


Do’s & Don’ts of Health Activist Storytelling

Finally, as seasoned storytellers, Health Activists had some Do’s and Don’ts to share with those just beginning to tell their stories:


Do’s Don’ts
  • DO write strategically: Ask yourself what you’re trying to accomplish with a post:

TiffanyAndLupus T3: You can share your story in it’s entirety so long as you ask yourself what is the point of this story? Is there a lesson? #hachat

  • DO: be honest! KatharineS84: I try to just remain honest and speak from the heart. As long as my intentions are pure, the reader will see that. #HAchat
  • DO: Write. Write. Write. Speak up! Just do it and your audience will find you (HeyVickieP)
  • DO: Keep it simple, sweet, and concise: 3lainess – brevity and create short paragraphs. People get so lost with long meandering posts #hachat
  • DO: Maintain a balance: TiffanyAndLupus: Have balance. It’s okay to share your worries & concerns, but also share your uplifting & happy moments.
  • DO proofread: MakeThisLookAwe: Tips for others – find someone who can proofread & edit! The message can’t get out if it’s poorly presented. #HAchat
  • DO push your limits! @kimmieCollas: T4: push yourself . . . if it feels a little uncomfortable, someone out there NEEDS to hear it#HAchat
  • DO your research! tmana T4.1 Don’t forget research! Even when you know what works (at least for you), learn why, and why it may vary for others. #hachat
  • DO have fun! TiffanyAndLupus T4: Have fun with it! Writing shouldn’t be boring, tiresome, or annoying. When you’re passionate about it; it shows in your story! #hachat
  • DON’T force it. Not feeling inspired one day? Take a day off from writing. Churning out material won’t feel genuine to you or your readers.
  • DON’T be a Debbie downer. You don’t need to be Miss Suzy Sunshine either, but constantly complaining won’t help you or your readers through anything
  • DON’T preach.  No one likes to be lectured. Advice, yes. Judgment, no.
  • DON’T assume that your story is the only story: annatw @tmana Yes your health story is only ONE story – and telling it like it’s The Truth can have negative consequences for others. #HAchat
  • DON’T blog about more than one topic in a post (julianna12369)
  • DON’T push your agenda on others: nursesantos No-No’s include pushing your own agenda, forcing your opinions on others, being negative or caustic. #hachat
MakeThisLookAwe Try not to attack anyone. Give people the benefit of a doubt, that whatever went wrong was not intentional. Be understanding. #HAchat

  • DON’T PLAGIARIZE: TiffanyAndLupus: Dont plagiarize! Dont take someone elses writing/links/etc and post in on your page. ASK first! #HAchat
  • DON’T get discouraged: Dyverse_Steele: do not be discouraged if no one notices or comments do it for you and others will eventually find it too#hachat



What are your do’s and don’ts? What do you think makes a good story?  Email us at editorial@wegohealth.com to share your tips!

Interested in sharing your story but don’t know how? Tune in next Tuesday at 3 PM EST for our next Health Activist chat on starting your own health blog!






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