Why Using Humor to Answer 'Are You OK?' Helps in My Mental Illness


We live in a society where “How are you?” has become a greeting instead of an actual question; it is sometimes said in passing with no real expectation of an honest answer. Those times, it is asked only out of social nicety, and from my own personal experience, I can say that when you have a struggle with chronic mental and physical health conditions you get tired of saying “I’m good thanks!” when you really just feel frustrated saying the words.

Sarcasm and satire have always been my favorite style of humor, and the thought of being able to smile and give someone a quirky answer that didn’t taste like acid on my tongue was very appealing. Humor has been my saving grace; even in the midst of depression I can normally still see the funny side to things, and during the bad pain days, I can be amused at my own misery and melodramatic tearfulness.

So with the above in mind, I set about thinking up some new answers to reply with when heedlessly asked: “How are you?” Generally, one of two things happens — the person stops and laughs, or they just don’t even notice what you said. But sometimes, something surprising happens — a conversation starts up! No matter the end result though, it can be amusing and you don’t have to feel like a liar.

These are some of my favorites:

1. I’m awesome from my ankles down.

2. I didn’t read my name in the obituaries today, so I figure I’m not too bad.

3. Upright and still breathing!

4. Good, but I’ll get over it.

5. Fine so far, but there is plenty of time for everything to go wrong yet!

6. Tilt your head and stare at them for a second, narrow your eyes, look puzzled and say “Why do you want to know?”

7. I hear good things, but you should never trust rumors.

8. Smile over the top sweetly and say, “I’m so happy I have to sit on my hands to keep myself from clapping.”

9. Look nervous and reply, “My lawyer says I don’t have to answer that question!”

Is humor a magic panacea? No, it cannot obliterate the trials we face or the traumas we may have been through. It is true a simple smile doesn’t cure our depression or anxiety, and laughter certainly doesn’t take away chronic pain or other health problems. However, the one thing I have always found is this: when I can embrace the issues I’m facing with a sense of amusement, then that mirth can help to dull the agony that would otherwise take over. It does not cure the problems, but it does make it easier to cope and live alongside them.

I would encourage everyone to find the lightheartedness in the darkness in any way they can. It can be difficult, but it is worth it.

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Thinkstock photo via max-kegfire

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