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Is It Healthy to Use Humor to Cope With Mental Illness?

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Humor is the thing I use most to cope with my mental health difficulties. I feel it works for me, but I find myself questioning whether or not it’s healthy when used regularly.

I often make a joke about myself or situations. This in no way means I consider mental health to be a joke, but it’s my way of managing things. That old saying, that laughter is the best medicine — I really think it’s true at times.

Often, some of the funniest people you meet are the ones who have deep struggles with their mental health. But do we use humor in a negative way to hide how we really feel?

I know I’ve spent a long time trying to cover up my difficulties by making jokes and just generally messing around. So, in a way, I can see how using humor could be unhealthy. There are times when I struggle to really get across how I’m feeling because I’m so quick to go to my primary coping technique, which is humor.

There are also times I know I may not be taken seriously, again because I soften things by trying to make it into a joke. I believe the people close to me are able to see through this a bit more now, and I’m trying to reduce how much I do this.

I don’t want to change the part of me that jokes around, because one of the most important things to me is making others smile and laugh. But, I’m slowly learning to adapt and keep that side of me, whilst making sure I don’t cover up my difficulties by using humor.

Balance comes into this aspect of my life, but this is something I really struggle to find. I’ve slowly started to show my vulnerabilities more throughout this past year, which I think helps others see through my joking around and see that I’m struggling.

Laughing and joking is a huge part of who I am, and I’ve discovered this by trying to figure out my own identity. It’s something I’ve realized is actually really important to me. Humor has kept me going through a lot of difficult times, but I can see it has also become a barrier to showing others how I really feel.

So, answering whether using humor to cope is healthy — I feel it is, at times. Other times, it can be taken too far and can hide problems, which can then result in not dealing with things at all. I’m completely guilty of taking humor too far, and that’s something I will continue to work on. However, I know I want to carry on laughing and joking about things because, for me, it really helps a lot of the time.

Humor can be the best, especially through difficult times, but finding the right balance to keep it at a healthy level is important. I’m in no place to say I’ve found that balance yet, but I am trying. And that balance will be different for everyone and vary in different periods of our lives.

If you’re using humor to cover up your difficulties and feel it’s becoming unhealthy, please try to reach out to someone. Your voice should always be heard, even if you find it difficult to fully express how you feel.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to see through a person, and humor can cover up a lot. It’s often the people who come across happiest, laughing and joking, who are fighting the deepest internal battles.

The ability to make others laugh is amazing, but not at a cost to your own health.

Photo by Jessica To’oto’o on Unsplash

Originally published: January 21, 2019
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