Digital Post by Penny Locke

Over the last 12 weeks in HLTD54H3, I had the opportunity to learn about health and illness as they intersect with Toronto, Ontario, but more specifically, Scarborough; the place and space where I was born, raised and currently live in. This seminar provided me with deeper insights to health and illness by analysing specific ways of storytelling through researching how they are told, different ways health narratives can be categorized and the significance of health narratives are from the patient’s perspective and through the perspective of the medical community. The neat concept about this course is that is the stories all take place within Toronto, Ontario.

This seminar has allowed me to apply concepts learned from Arthur Frank (restitution, chaos, quest, etc.) and use them to reflect on how the community living in Toronto applies to these concepts. But, most importantly, I had the chance to engage with the material myself by applying it through my own seminar presentation with a partner, through blog posts and within the classroom by discussing the course material with my peers and my superior, Dr. Charise. Every week I was challenged to think about the readings or videos I interacted with but the biggest challenge I had throughout this course was creating my own story, more specifically, my own digital story.

Digital storytelling was not something that I ever interacted with nor did I think I would participate in creating one. Let me just take a step back and define what digital storytelling is. In De Jager et al. (2017) article, digital storytelling is explained as a mini audio-visual recording that includes a voice over, photos, other audio clips that intersect with “originally applied for community development, artistic and therapeutic purposes, and more recently adapted as an arts-based research method”.  So, after learning about digital stories, I did grow a love for listening to them and thinking about the significance they create. Digital storytelling allows patients to tell their health and illness stories in unique ways that work for them and others. For example, Daniel Tysdal used poetry to speak about his experiences with mental health and illness by creating a fold-in poem).

Another example that I thought was very interesting was watching a University of Toronto student, Chika Stacy Oriuwa, make her own digital story called “Woman, Black”. Chika aims to discuss her experiences discrimination as intersectionality of race, medicine and gender plays a role in her life. Her video stood out to me because it showed me a story of a very prevalent problem happening within health and illness but it was not an article or a book that I had to read to find out her story, she made a video of herself it allowed me to start visualizing her in this situation and reflecting on how people just like Chika faces these situations but their story is unheard of. The course content provided material that draws relevance to the patient’s narrative and how important it is to learn and listen to their stories because everyone’s experience with health and illness is different, but there are people who share similar experiences.

My experience while making my own digital story was interesting. I chose to dedicate my story to a writing prompt that I did during one of the seminars. The prompt was about ‘scars’ and what scars do we have as individuals. I immediately thought about scars in a metaphorical way by thinking of how they were created throughout my years at the University of Toronto Scarborough. I had no idea what the university had to offer before coming here nor did I know what I was getting myself into, so that is where my scars began. I experienced mental illness previously so I understood the symptoms. After learning to cope with my experiences previously, these feelings began to arise again and it was from being overly stressed out for days and weeks about assignments, exams and my marks. Throughout my first and second year, I had no idea what I was doing, my marks were poor, I did not understand what I wanted to do after learning all this valuable information and so I felt super anxious and depressed all the time. So, I felt like I could relate to this writing prompt a lot. The process of creating a voice-over for my audio clip was definitely a work in progress. Dr. Charise motivated me to just sit down and write. She said, “just do it”. So, I did. I sat at my desk and dedicated a day to writing a two-three minute spoken-word/poem-like piece that spoke about scars metaphorically and figuratively. I then came back to piece, read it out aloud, made some changes and brought it to class and had my few of my peers read it so I could get some feedback. After their feedback, I was able to visualize the photographs I wanted to use and the videos I wanted to include and because the seminar was a small group of females, I felt extremely comfortable talking it through with them since we were all struggling with similar challenges but successful in others. In the back of my head I was always able to keep an open mind because I learned to value patient narratives, so I imagined my peers and I as all patients in the University of Toronto. The most significant feedback I got was from Dr. Charise as she guided me in writing a piece that had a nice flow, but she challenged me to think deeper to MY story. So, here I am, completing my first digital story.

This digital story was a first attempt at something completely new to me here at the University of Toronto. It taught me to step out of my comfort zone and apply myself to something I spent several weeks reading and learning. Being a Scarborough girl, I value different ways of storytelling now because I know many people who are living within this space that have trouble telling their story which then places them into unfortunate situations. I ended my video with a quote written by the Immaculate Heart College Art Department Rules that kept me motivated throughout this course which was, “The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all the time who eventually catch on to things”.