Narratives of Parents Living With a Child Affected by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis
Background and Aims Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) remains a poorly understood condition, shrouded by debate, stigma, and uncertainty. Unsurprisingly, the little available research suggests that caring for a Child or Young Person (CYP) affected by the condition can be extremely challenging. While the majority of available literature is quantitative in nature, there is some qualitative research examining the impact of having a CYP with CFS/ME on parents. However, there currently appear to be no studies examining the narratives of parents living with a CYP with CFS/ME. Therefore, this research aimed to hear how parents narrate their experiences of living with a CYP affected by CFS/ME, paying attention to how they construct their identity, and the contested condition. Methodology This research drew on a qualitative approach that explored the narratives of the participants. A purposive sample of five parents of CYP affected by CFS/ME (5 mothers) was recruited for a single semi-structured interview. The interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and analysed using a narrative approach to explore what participants said and how they narrated their accounts. This was then situated within the social and cultural contexts that shaped them. Analysis and Findings Multiple readings of the narratives allowed me to develop a summary of each individual’s narrative account. These were presented, after which similarities and differences across narratives were considered. Analysis identified six areas of collective focus: ‘stories of onset and diagnosis’, ‘stories of battle’, ‘stories of finding the person/people who can help’, stories of impact’, ‘stories of seeking social support’, and ‘stories of coping and adjustment’. Participants’ narratives were heavily influenced by dominant societal discourses surrounding CFS/ME and motherhood, and could be seen as a response to these narratives. Consequently, participants offered particular constructions of the condition, themselves, their CYP, and others that they had come into contact with. These findings are discussed with reference to their potential bearing for clinical practice, strengths and limitations of the methodology, and directions for future research.