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Dx: Diagnosis and Writing


diagnosis: from the Greek dia ‘apart’ and gignōskein ‘to know’

A diagnosis is always differential; it is an act of recognition of otherness. To seek, to receive, to identify with a diagnosis is deeply personal and inevitably political, affecting our relationship with ourselves, others, our surroundings and our place in society.

How does it affect our relationship with writing?

Leonora Operation.jpeg

© Leonora Carrington / Artist's Estate.


Call for Submissions:

Our standing call for contributors is always open, but we are currently interested in writers' reflections on diagnoses with a physical component. 

interview / artwork
Steve Finbow
“Mr Finbow was admitted as an emergency on 13th February 2003 with an episode of vomiting. This was followed by severe epigastric pain, which radiated to the back. He was considered to have an acute abdomen. Interestingly, his amylase was not raised but his diagnosis of acute pancreatitis was upheld by the development of Grey, Turner and Cullen’s sign.
Scarlett Ward
Multiple Sclerosis is not a pathogen or a bacteria; it is almost tempting to describe it as a delirium of state that my own blood cells exist in. They mistakenly identify my brain and spinal cord as attackers. There is no external 'other' I can point to; I am a child with a biro pen defacing my bedroom walls. (I am the bedroom wall. I am the ink-stained fingers. I am the parent who shouts, 'look what you have done to yourself!')
word and sound
Emma Gomis
It was 2013 when I hit my head. All my muscles contracted, my disk bulged slightly, I was put in a neck brace and on a steady diet of painkillers. It took seven years to find a doctor who understood my affliction. Seven years of confusion, frustration, and pain. Seven years of psychiatrists putting me on different medications for PTSD, post-concussion syndrome, anxiety, any label they thought could offer me relief, any pill that could numb my distress.
Jenn Ashworth
Jenn Ashworth, a novelist, short story writer and Professor of Writing at Lancaster University, was unexpectedly diagnosed with a brain tumour just before Christmas 2022, after minor symptoms prompted an investigation. Although the tumour was benign, it had to be surgically removed. In the following months Jenn underwent drug treatment and a 13 hour surgery.
Georgia Poplett
I was born jaundiced, so my mother says, but a short stint on a windowsill sorted that. Of more concern was the fact that she was jaundiced, and fitting, and swollen. She was deeply unwell, in the grips of a rare (and, in 1997, often fatal) liver and blood clotting disorder called HELLP Syndrome. After two weeks in hospital, the consultant said he was going away for the weekend. And if she wasn’t showing any signs of improvement by Monday, he would blue light her up to intensive care.
Rebecca Holmes and Jess Jasper
Jess: I’m sat here at my desk, I’m looking at 13 notebooks of all different sizes and styles that hold my experience of life. I named the first one ‘Thought Book’ because I did not want to limit what I could store in it – they contain images, doodles, museum tickets, poems, short stories, rants, quotes that I loved, postcards – anything that I was keen to treasure, process or revisit. What about yours?
Harold Cooper
It’s a peculiar sensation, to understand that there is a name for what you are. I don’t remember how the conversation started – or, indeed, any details beyond the fact that it happened. What I do remember, quite vividly, is sitting in my class at school the next day (in my regular seat, near the back of the room), understanding that I had something called ‘Asperger’s syndrome’. I remember being pleased with the knowledge, and a sense that life as a whole just made more sense.
Stu: My output is very prolific. I’m writing all the time, and prior to understanding about ADHD, it took a lot out of me in terms of energy. I felt compelled to do it. It was the only way that I could express myself, but I found it took a lot of energy. I'm just trying to think through why that might be and maybe it’s because of the focus and the need to express yourself properly.
Josephine Taylor
This short creative piece presents time focused explorations from labour time to the seasonal patterns, to generational time, and to breaking free from rhythmic patterns, exploring the cyclical rhythms of my experience of bipolar as a condition that is attune with different and often disruptive planetary cycles.
art / writing / practice
Jacqueline Taylor
I feel like I’ve been on this adventure for a very long time. Which one? Writing or neurodivergence? Well, this writing journey feels like a long time for sure. Epic almost. And definitely an adventure. I produced stuff I never envisioned in-between and at the edges of writing and language.
This conversation started when I asked the question "Are you a writer with a diagnosis”? on social media and Kate Mascarenhas answered. I found our short conversation fascinating and realised I wanted to know more, and Kate very generously agreed to an interview.
Caroline Pedler
'This activity of translating an intangible fear into a tangible outcome was cathartic, and on a creative level, helped me silence the critical commentary of the publisher’s eye, and momentarily released me from the pressure of it. It was here that I wanted to be, with something real and meaningful.'

Open Call for Contributors


The Dx: Diagnosis and Writing website seeks to publish a range of responses to the broad question: what has the experience of seeking, receiving or living with a diagnosis, medical or self-identified, meant for your writing practice, whether that be creative, academic, journalistic or other? Practice is meant here in all senses of the word, from daily rhythms and practical challenges, to finding a voice and a language, as well as negotiating and articulating the politics of writing, privately and publicly, in light of the diagnostic process. 


The Dx: Diagnosis and Writing website will showcase contributions on a continual basis, and act as the starting point for further exploration and creative output, as Diagnosis and Writing is seeking to be an ongoing inclusive interdisciplinary project, multi-modal in its output. Our aim is to not to be peer reviewed, but we welcome reviews and suggestions.


Abstracts: send us a paragraph outlining your ideas and the format in which you would like to present them. Please include a suggested timeline for completion, and any accessibility needs. You might also wish to include a bibliography. 

All responses are welcome, but some areas you might wish to explore are:

  • Diagnoses as a catalyst or motivation for writing, perhaps as part of ‘recovery’, of understanding, or of controlling responses to the condition;

  • The legitimisation or confirmation of diagnoses;

  • Self-diagnosis, social diagnosis, self-care and personal research in relation to medical of ‘formal’ diagnoses;

  • Rethinking of the body; confronting the possibilities or limitations of bodily experience; liberation from the body;

  • Diagnosis as ‘constraint’ or as liberation from physical and formal constraints, particularly as this might relate to ‘traditional’ versus experimental writing practices;

  • Scientific and social models of diagnosis and care; DSM versus cultural or social definitions;

  • Pacing of life, writing and other social functions before and after diagnoses;

  • Figurative representations: analogies, allegories, metaphor, myth, folklore and other cultural practices of understanding diagnoses;

  • The impact on ‘voice’ and ‘style’, before and after diagnoses;

  • Physical impacts on being able to write, to speak, to communicate. Finding other ways of ‘writing’;

  • Combative writing: exploring the notions of ‘battling’ an illness;

  • Diagnoses as offering new patterns, as a ‘quiz’ or a ‘puzzle’ to be solved or understood;

  • Writing from the ‘perspective’ of organs, neurons or disease; 

  • Diagnosis and medication.

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About the Editors

Eva Aldea

Eva Aldea is a writer, editor and lecturer in creative writing at De Montfort University. She also teaches literature and theory for University of London. Meeting fellow writers while doing an MFA in Creative Writing fuelled her interest in the impact of diagnoses on the writing process. Her first novel Singapore (Holland House Books) is out now.

Gareth Farmer

Gareth Farmer is a poet and lecturer in English literature at the University of Bedfordshire. His academic work focuses on poetry, poetics and experimental literature. His latest collection of poetry, Kerf (87 Press, 2022) explores woodworking, writing and impact of being diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at the age of 40.

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