Having a Sense of Humour about Our Mental Illness
When we suffer from depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, it can be really easy to get swallowed up by our disease and begin taking ourselves and our diagnosis very seriously. After all, for some of us, these conditions can make us fundamentally question our existence – it can be a life or death experience for us. For the rest of us, our condition can at the very least negatively affect our outlook on life.
So how can we combat all of this negativity surrounding ourselves? Having a sense of humour about our condition – however backwards or wrong that may seem to us – can provide us both relief and perspective on ourselves.
My friend Sam was taken to the emergency room because she was feeling suicidal from her depression. She used jokes at the hospital to help herself cope with what was a very stressful situation for her. Even when she asked for some water when she was thirsty, she was making jokes, “Are you sure I’m allowed to have this? Are you sure I won’t try to drown myself?”
How else can we laugh at ourselves when we’re suffering from such debilitating diseases? Let’s take a look at a few ways we might be able to pull this off.
Anxiety’s probably the easiest of these disorders to find ways to make light of. Self-deprecation is one of the main ways to create humour about ourselves.
I have anxiety about being in large groups of people. I’m not comfortable about being in them, I don’t like speaking in them. Groups just make me feel out of place. I feel like the spotlight’s on me when I’m in a group. I feel like I’m on stage.
Just by stating some facts about myself and laughing at them, I can start to relieve some of my tension about being in groups.
“Look, you guys know, I clam up when I’m in a group. Don’t try to have a conversation with me.” Hahaha. “You can invite me along to the party, but I’m not going to talk to anyone.”
These are quick and easy ways to disarm yourself and those around you by putting yourself and your problems out there in the open, and then dismissing them quickly. By acknowledging your problems, you’re being honest about yourself. By laughing about them, you’re showing that you can see yourself from another perspective. By laughing at yourself, you show that you’ve got some level of control over your condition.
With bipolar disorder, it might be possible to make jokes about the way your mood shifts. If you’re feeling down, you can joke about how it’s all right because tomorrow you’ll be going on a shopping spree. If you’re feeling manic, you can joke about how it doesn’t matter because you’ll be in bed resting – all day – in a few days.
Recognising and admitting to the worst parts of our illnesses can demonstrate several things about ourselves. One, it shows we’re separate from our disease, that we’re able to remove ourselves from our conditions. That’s an important step, not identifying with your illness. Two, admitting to what our illness does to us allows us to be honest about what we’re suffering from. Three, we gain perspective on ourselves and our disease by looking at ourselves in this way.
Depression – at lease to me – seems to be a little bit harder to laugh at. I’ve been so depressed that I’ve been suicidal. I’ve been depressed many different times in my life. I’ve lost a lot to depression.
But when I think about it, I can still find something funny that I do when I’m depressed that I can laugh about.
When I’m feeling depressed, I spend a lot of time on my couch. Usually wearing a comfortable sweatshirt, I’ll lay there with several pillows and a blanket. Often I’ll pull my hood up over my head. It makes me feel safer. Sometimes I’ll even pull pillows over my head.
Often, when I pull pillows over my head, I’ll forget that they’re there after a while. I might sit up and there will be a pillow balancing on my hooded head. It will move side to side when I move my head and I don’t take it off. My wife calls it my pillow hat and she gets a good laugh out of it. I’ve learned to laugh at it over time, even though it makes me feel safer and more comfortable. But I can imagine how ridiculous it looks on a grown man. So I laugh about it.
Being able to laugh at different facets of my mental illness has helped me become more comfortable with talking about my problems. It’s also helped me gain perspective on myself and my diseases. Laughing at myself has – in a small way – made living with mental illness a bit easier for me.
Author Bio – Jason has suffered from depression and anxiety for over twenty years. He can be contacted on his Facebook.