Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Funny Thing Happened to Me on My Way to the Mailbox

When humor is a coping strategy for mental health, sometimes people miss the joke. Are some subjects simply not funny?

A calendar month of sick days

Alright. I keep miscounting. Today is Day 22 of my dance with Adenovirus. I checked it with the calendar. Thrice. Last week I announced on social media that I had been sick for 20 days, not 26, but both counts were wrong. I had announced the 11th day correctly. How I thought last week that I was sick for a month when it had been only two weeks…well, there’s no explanation for it. I was sick. I’m still sick. This bug will never end.

If you think I’m exaggerating, the doctor cheerfully explained the other day that some people get this virus for six weeks. He had the bedside manner of a grumpy cat. I seem to recall him hissing at me, too, but my memory hasn’t been at its best lately. If two weeks felt like a month with this thing, I can’t wait to hit week six. It will probably sound a bit like this:

Today is Day 989. I’m losing all hope. I thought I was well yesterday, so I stepped outside to get the mail. Butt now I’ve relapsed and will need to recuperate before attempting that again. It’s been at least seven years since I last went shopping for food. I’m thinking of eating the couch. 😉

I posted the above on Facebook first, and I placed a winky there so that my Facebook friends would not leave sad faces in response. I wanted them to know that I was exasperated, but in good spirits. Those who didn’t ignore my post left sad faces in response.

Facebook is a tough crowd. I am usually kidding, but whether it’s political satire or self-deprecating humor, people take me deathly seriously. I’m surprised they don’t realize that I use cheek and wit, though more of the former than the later, to keep depression and discouragement at bay.

If you run into the same problem, I have some theories. It’s likely that people are either too busy feeling sympathy, or too busy assuming you are plying for sympathy, to laugh along when you make light of depression or other mental health issues.

Cheer up.

Coffin humor is an acquired taste to which many people never quite warm up. It calls for an appreciation of sarcasm and cynicism, and an ability to laugh at taboo topics. It requires people to laugh at the absurd in the face of sadness. It accepts that laughter in this case does not come from the belly, but dies at the throat. This is the humor of knowing smiles, smirks, chuckles, and snickers. There is a touch of sadness to the humor, yes, but there is defiance, as well.

It is possible that unless one has struggled with darkness, one cannot understand graveyard humor, or at least trust the joker to be coming from a strong place. I choose not to worry about it. There is plenty that I have written to help people understand me. If they choose not to bother learning how to understand me, then I don’t have to bother explaining myself. My friends know when I’m kidding. My daughters know when I’m kidding. That’s enough.

Long illnesses wear me down. They rob me of hope. They open the door for depression. Humor is but one of many coping strategies I use to fight depression. I wish more people laughed along with me, but I’m more concerned about winning this fight than making my humor more accessible.

Besides, there are worse reactions than sad emojis and sympathy. I’ll take kindness and caring where I can. 😏

I cover coffin humor in my book, Saying “NO” to Suicide. It’s an effective coping strategy. I invite you to read up on it.