What happens when you experience symptoms that can’t be measured, tested, or diagnosed – let alone treated? In Ill Feelings, Alice Hattrick begins with her own and her mother’s experience of long-term unexplained illness, where symptoms are relegated to the status of “feelings”.
Over the course of the book, her focus widens to a societal and historical view (incorporating the experiences of “women of note”: Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf, and more), to form a “collective biography and memoir” of illness without any definitively identifiable cause. The team at Scribe were kind enough to send me a copy for review.
On the whole, I loved Hattrick’s insight and ideas in Ill Feelings. She gave me a lot to chew on; I’ve scribbled down notes like “the structure of medical care is based on mistrust“, and “the experience of illness and the experience of medicalisation are linked, but not the same”.
I was hoping, though, for more of a case study format, which might have made the various narrative threads easier to follow, and I’ll admit I embraced the skim for some dense sections of medical jargon.
Hattrick’s discussion towards the end of what this means and what might change with the emergence of long-COVID was fascinating, and I hope she writes more on that specifically in future.
Ill Feelings is not an easy read, but it’s an interesting and worthwhile one for anyone interested in the intersection of gender and disability.