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How I'm Finding Humor in My Chronic Illnesses

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Growing up, whenever we hit a metaphorical bump in the road, my dad would always manage to find something comical about our situation and recite the mantra of our family, “If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.” Now, that’s not to say that crying is a bad thing, but there’s only so much crying you can do before depression starts to creep in.

After losing myself for a while to the grasp of mental illness, this little mantra became a huge part of my life – especially after developing medical conditions, including a seizure disorder and endometriosis. It’s the little things, after all, that make all the difference. You can be really ill in the emergency room, but when the nurse that you always manage to bump into makes a joke about how you need to stop going to such extreme lengths to come and see her, it can make you smile to your laughter lines through the pain. Sometimes, it can become one of the things you remember most from the blur of a memory of that day.

The running joke and nicknames you have for the familiar nurses on the ward can distract you for a moment from the mental and physical pain you’re going through, when you’re nine days into your one night stay. Humor can be a welcome distraction when you need it most.

Whenever I was strapped up onto a trolley in the back of an ambulance after seizures in a new supermarket, my parents would joke with the paramedics about how, really, I was just trying to find out what I could get free at each one and start listing off my successes to date. Humor like this spread relief to more than just our little family, but to the paramedics helping me. I hate to think what they could have had to deal with that day, but being a cheery patient can make their day just a little better. Plus, there’s always the added bonus of them wanting to help you out more if you’ve brightened their day rather than whinged and moaned at them constantly.

But it’s not just when things go wrong that humor is important. Smiling and happiness is important year round, like an evergreen. I try and find reasons to smile in my day to day life with my conditions.

For example, I have a rather large handbag and it’s quite heavy because of all my “in case of all emergencies kit.” I have all essentials for if I end up in the emergency room, for if I bleed badly, for if I’m in a whole lot of pain, for if I can’t get home in time for my medication, for if my blood sugars start to go low…Just to name a few. Over the years I’ve become stuck when I haven’t got things and so I make sure I have them in future. I have a little chuckle to myself each time anybody new handles my handbag:

“Have you got a brick in there or something?”

“You could take somebody out with that!

“What on earth have you got in there?”

Those are some some of the most popular comments to date. It gives me a giggle.

I also find that a lot of my friends and family don’t like using the word “seizure.” I admit myself, it is a harsh and scary sounding word. So, my boyfriend now refers to it as throwing my arms and legs about, which makes me smile.

A few months ago, I came across a group on Facebook called “Endometriosis Memes.” I kid you not, this is the best group I have ever been a part of on Facebook. It’s relatable and just the right amount of supportive, as well as being hilarious. We make memes all around the theme of endometriosis and normally how sucky it is, but in a light-hearted way. Or we find them, and share them with each other. Normally, support groups of any kind can get a little depressing if you surf them for too long (they are people looking for help and support after all), but not this one! I have no idea whether they exist for other conditions, but they totally should because they are amazing. (You’re very welcome for that idea if you go off and create one now.)

I couldn’t count on my fingers and toes how many times I’ve been complemented on my positive outlook in the face of illness. All that I credit to finding humor in my situation. Of course, darkness does take over sometimes but there’s always stars somewhere to guide me, even if I can’t see them for a while. Being negative and down never helps a situation. Finding even the smallest pieces of humor and happiness in life is so important, and I depend on it. As Mark Twain said, “Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.”

Getty Image by SanneBerg

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Originally published: June 21, 2018
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