How to find your funny and escape the daily grind of living with chronic illness
Written on September 2, 2015 by Dr. Laurie
“One thing about being in comedy, [is that if] something truly awful happens, and you’re on your way to the hospital in an ambulance, you can still think, ‘Well, maybe I’ll use this later in a routine,'” he said. “There’s always going to be that positive side.” ~ Matt Iseman, quoted in Everyday Health
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to be on a panel with Matt Iseman, a stand up comedian who lives with RA. (He is also the host of the television show America Ninja Warrior but that’s another story.)
Matt, even when he is describing the pain and difficulty of his RA, is a funny guy. He brings a light touch to talking about his illness, and it is inspiring to listen to his story.
One of the people who attended the event was a blogger who lives with the AS version of RA, and she wrote about her impressions in her own blog in a tribute to Matt Iseman’s humor:
Humor has been described by both anecdotal and research evidence as contributing to well being. When we laugh we release hormones that reduce stress, and even our experience of pain lessens.
But what I have been wondering about is how we get from the daily grind of dealing with chronic illness, and living with unpredictable levels of pain, to having a light hearted approach of seeing the humor in our lives.
I don’t think for most people that is an easy shift. But as I watch people who bring that perspective of seeing what is off kilter and funny, I realize it is a shift worth practicing.
So here are my ideas about how any of us can introduce more laughter into the story of our lives.
Hang out with funny people. Humor, and a perspective that can see what is silly, is contagious. If you don’t know anyone, watch some funny people on TV or the radio. Listen to a worldview that can take our dire difficulties and put a spin on them that amuses or entertains.
Find your own brand of humor. No two people laugh for the same reason. Humor is very personal – so spend a little time listening for what makes you smile, or better yet laugh out loud. Then keep paying attention. Is it the world view of not-taking-everything-so-seriously? The physical humor of the banana peel slip or the dog playing the piano? A musical rendition of a whimsical side of life? Once you zero in on your style, find more of it. Don’t settle for something that is “supposed” to be funny unless it works for you.
Begin cultivating your story telling with that perspective. It is one thing to have someone else make you laugh – and that’s good medicine. We all need at least a daily dose of that. But the deeper gold is in creating your own funny story. Getting the viewpoint of how could I see this as an amusing anecdote? What will help most is finding a willing audience – even if it’s only your cat. Tell the story out loud with a witty edge. Maybe it will work best for you to write an entertaining paragraph rather than perform it at dinner. But find a way to express your comic side.
Some of us tend more to the serious and responsible view of ourselves and the world. We don’t move easily to the playful and jocular response. But it does a world of good, not only for our own sakes, but to spread a little fun in the world around us.
Let me know how it goes!