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Why I Would Rather Make People Laugh About My Illness

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I have always been one for comedy; since I was a little girl I have always aimed to make people laugh no matter what the embarrassment for me. So when my body started to let me down it became the easiest outlet for me. I’d rather joke about my kidneys not working than face up to the fact that this is something that I will have to fight for the rest of my life.

See, the thing is (I’m sure anyone with chronic or invisible illness will back me up here) mental well-being goes hand-in-hand with how your body is coping, and for a lot of us that is far from well. I am full of anxiety and over six years of steroids didn’t help this. The title of the article refers directly to me actually; I am a nightmare for pretending everything is fine to the outside world while actually I am struggling either with my kidneys or with my mental health. This is the thing — I pride myself so much on being able to make people laugh that I would rather make a joke at my own expense rather than admit that things aren’t fab. Don’t get me wrong, I talk to my nearest and dearest about the problems I face, but I’ll still try and get a laugh even if I am crying to them. I never want to feel like a burden.

The premise of my comedy is simple: if I make people laugh, they are less likely to ask me if I’m OK or feel sorry for me, because do you know what? I am not OK, but explaining to you that I had to have life-changing treatments so I can carry on living isn’t going to make me feel any better; actually, it is going to drag up a lot of issues for me. I guess in a way it is a form of self-defense? It is easier to pull a funny face in a photo than admit you don’t recognize yourself because of your steroid induced moon face, or to tell people your legs look like “corned beef” because of your scars rather than admit they make you feel unattractive at 23 when you should be a confident woman. Finally, my firm favorite is telling people my eggs are fried instead of talking about how much a treatment I had at 17, that might have made me infertile, affected me.

I have grown so fond of people like Caitlin Moran and Dolly Alderton who use comedy in their writing to address topics of conversation that people might have been scared away from if it was approached in any other way. So I guess that’s where I find most of my inspiration; their work also encourages me to accept my body no matter how unconventional it may be. Comedy also shows me that it works when people are uncomfortable. If I joke about nephrotic syndrome people are hearing about it but in a way that introduces them to my issues without freaking them out.

So what I’m saying really is it’s OK to admit that you are not OK even if you want to use comedy as a way to get through it. You are the most important thing. When we are already so frustrated at our bodies for doing what they do, we do not need to neglect other parts of ourselves. I’ve always spoke to my specialist about how all this has affected my mental health. I’m not saying it’s helped much, but it’s good for them to know what’s going on. You are all worth so much self-care, and remember, even the girl who is trying to make you laugh is struggling. Always be kind and never be scared to speak up. There is no point fighting to get into remission constantly if your mental health isn’t letting you live. Making people laugh may be my ploy.

Originally published: September 14, 2019
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