Sunday, 10 August 2014

Chronic Illness is Comedy Gold.

(The death-breath of life.)

Finding yourself face-to-face with a suspicious short and curly in a public loo is comedy gold. Okay so I'll admit, in the moment it's not all that hilarious. There may be much swearing and shaking of weak fists at the perverse nature of The Universe. There may even be a tear or two. But there is a moment when you move from overwhelming despair, wipe the best-left-unidentified goo from your cheek, and onto a moment of laughter. For example, that time in Myers during the pre-Christmas madness when I suddenly realised that I was lying there on sticky white tiles, as a distorted It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, spilled out of the crackling speaker overhead. A kind of hysterical laughing fit takes over at that point. But it's laughter nonetheless. When you've spent a large portion of the last 8 years becoming overly familiar with the communal stench-filled porcelain dotted throughout the state of Victoria, you learn to laugh.

There's a huge component of black humour involved in illness. If you have a chronic condition you quickly learn to embrace that humour. When you become ill you find yourself thrust into a bizarre world that becomes more and more Monty Python sketch and less and less normality, as time goes by. You are one of the unlucky few to discover that medicine doesn't have all the answers. Depending on your disorder you can discover it has none of the answers. And the actual living with illness is so far removed from the clinical details that it can seem like you have been diagnosed with the wrong condition. You can either embrace the ridiculous nature of your new environment or fight it. And for many like myself, the former is a far better option. But laughing at illness can make others uncomfortable, and frequently confused.

I've always had a dry sense of humour and since becoming ill it's taken on a life of its own. I've found that sarcasm doesn't always translate, especially across doctor's desks, or across international borders. Odd times I've made a joke and by the look on the face of my specialist you'd think I just told her I wanted to eat the stapler off her desk. It's a mix of confusion and worry, often accompanied by a slightly uncertain laugh, and tends to be quickly passed over. But even amongst family members and friends it can be hit and miss. I'll write a tweet or status update which in my head is dripping with sarcasm, but many will take it verbatim and send me concerned messages. If I end a passage with "Living the dream" odds are the preceding line or paragraph was sarcastic. Yes waking up on the bathroom tiles with a concerned Great Dane trying to French kiss me is foul, but it's also funny. And the fainting while trying to simply go to the loo, is kind of beside the point. It's not fun, but it's white noise by now. And really if you can't find the funny in being given the rancid breath of life by a giant dog while you try ineffectually to beat her away with your weak arms, you have missed the point.

And I should give a shout out to the poor pharmacy assistant who innocently asked me if the compression stockings I was enquiring about were for an elderly relative. I probably shouldn't have responded by saying that they were for me and that it's what all the girl's were wearing to turn on their elderly clients. Personally, I found that hilarious. Her, not so much. 

My husband and kids get it. They joke about me dying and them inheriting my vast fortune. This horrifies my parents, but leaves us pissing ourselves laughing. But then again we are the family that tormented each other by playing Burning Ring of Fire during our respective colonoscopy preps. They too have lived with my deteriorating health for the past 8 years. Whilst other people flit in and out they are the ones who have lived it with me, picked me up off the floor and wiped the drool from my mouth. They've seen it all and they too use humour to get by.

If you can't laugh about the full body floss (the dual fun of a colonoscopy and endoscopy) what can you laugh about? When you're neurologist is telling you bondage jokes during your tilt table test you have to giggle. When you manage to snort your Florinef into your left nostril rather than swallow thanks to an ill timed cough it is rather funny. When you're trying to put on your constrictive granny compression stockings and lose your grip and punch yourself in the face, that is worthy of laughter. When you are about to head into your pacemaker surgery and your husband makes a joke about The Borg Collective and his hopes that you'll turn into 7 of 9, you snort laugh. And when you realise that you're not going to get better you make jokes about your non-existent inheritance and the fact that your husband has no chance of scoring himself a hot replacement wife after you're gone. 

Because sarcasm and gallows humour is a fantastic coping technique. You need to be able to laugh at illness. To put it in it's place, and make it bearable.

It doesn't mean that I don't cry or feel overwhelmed by everything at times. It doesn't mean that it's not hard living with a deteriorating body, especially at the moment. But it does mean that I can write numerous blog posts about my porcelain lover's pine-fresh breath while a new medication is making me vomit repeatedly (see my short lived dalliance with Mestinon up in the Treatments section). And, after 8 years, I can still laugh.

I may be living a life part pain and sickness, part I Love Lucy and part The Machine that goes Ping, but the bizarro world of chronic illness is filled with comedy gold my friends. Comedy gold.

Michelle



Remember to head on over here to donate to my Clicking My Heels For Dysautonomia, raising money for the Greg Page Fund for Orthostatic Intolerance and Dysautonomia research, at The Baker IDI. Thanks to the generosity of many we've already raised over $2,000, keep donating and hopefully we can reach $10,000.

13 comments:

  1. YES! I agree wholeheartedly. I mean, if you can't laugh at it, what the heck are you supposed to do with it?! My husband and I joke about how he only married me for the life insurance (because I was sick and getting sicker when we tied the knot). The funny thing is that HE is the one with life insurance, through his work, not me! And when we get ready to head out the door for our nightly walks he often asks me, "Ok, are you ready to go for a sprint/mad dash?" I just push past him with my rolling walker and spout some sarcastic remark about how I'm just going to run over him like a steam roller :D Or I'll crack jokes about how I'm going to go do some very physically demanding thing (which I may very well have been able to pull off in my pre-walker days!) and he'll play along as though I actually mean it. We definitely get some funny looks out in public, but I've learned to rein in the sarcasm when speaking to the general population. They pretty much just don't get it, and all it does is mildly alarm them. Poor dears.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brilliant Cassandra.:) It's so good to have a partner who can laugh with you. Mr Grumpy loves to drive me like a crazy person when I'm in the wheelchair and my eldest likes to do his Mosses impersonation and drive me in between couples so he can "part the waters". Gotta get your laughs where you can. Sometimes I think we may need to rein in the sarcasm in public, but sometimes the look on people's faces is just priceless. xx

      Delete
    2. Hahaha, that is great! I love the driving like a crazy person. I bet it startles people to see that to no end, because we have this idea that people in wheelchairs are so fragile and stoic and all that, right? I can just imagine people staring down the aisle after you thinking, "Be careful with that crippled woman!!!" LOL And parting the waters? Classic. Totally classic.

      Delete
  2. Your last paragraph did me in. That is exactly how I will describe my life from now on. Last night, I was trying to get down to my cat's level to see what he had dislodged from his paw on to my bedroom carpet. I ended up face first at his feet. Only my pride was injured, but my cat gave me quite a look! All I could do was laugh. I live alone. My siblings think I'm fainting for attention (for the past 31 years) so they ignore me. I have to laugh or else I'd cry and crying takes away my energy whereas laughter energizes me, even if only for a brief moment. I choose to laugh. Stay awesome, Michelle!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Go for it Suzanne :) Ah cats so helpful in a judgemental sort of way. You are so right it is laugh versus cry and laugh is the much better way if you can manage it. I'm so sorry that your siblings are so uncaring with your situation. We need support from our families not judgement xx

      Delete
  3. Glad to see your humor rise up in this post...I too use humor to deal with any stressors, sometimes much to the discomfort of those around me, that's their problem. I recently had a stereo static breast cancer biopsy. I dont know what it means either, I neither saw nor heard any good music. You must lie on your stomach and drop a boob down a hole and the radiologists raise the table into the air and work from under you (picture Bride of Frankenstein being lifted to the heavens on her belly). As we began I casually stated as I dropped the left girl through the hole that I knew there was a reason I had let the gals hang low for so many years... They were not amused. People, what a bunch of bastards. If I ever get to the Land Down Under, I shall look you up and follow along behind you on your outings with a couple of coconuts to enhance the crashing loo scenes..but of course I would be down too. Hopefully it will only be a flesh wounds...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ugh how can they not laugh at that, Judy? If there's a time you need to lighten the mood that's it. I hope you've recovered from the experience and the news is good. Will keep my fingers crossed for you. xx

      PS I now have a picture of someone following me around with the coconuts, including the sound, stuck in my head ;)

      Delete
  4. Love it Michelle!! Couldn't agree more with every little word in your post! Over the years my family and I have named tubes, equipment and most medical bit and pieces which has really lightened the load and given us a good laugh. Lots of people find it so difficult to understand why & how we with chronic illness find the light side of it all. I know from my experience, life would be a very sad place without making fun out of even the worst situations. Thanks for the read x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that you name the bits and pieces, Erika. My family gets it when I say "is Vera in the car" (Vera being my wheelchair) other people not so much. But as you say that makes it far more bearable :)

      Delete
  5. My husband and I have found our inner snarkiness at pretty much every doctor's appt..... Sometimes a shared laugh does wonders!

    (PS check your FB other folder).

    Take care!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep that shared laughter does make it much more doable :)

      Delete
  6. Well I found it funny being on the bathroom floor being French kissed by a dog, lucky mine is only a kelpie. But I don't see how my specialist didn't find it funny when I told her, nor my kids. Oh well shit happens, move along, nothing to see here
    Sharyn

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you can laugh too, Sharyn. Pfft to those who don't get it :)

      Delete

All who are lovely enough to comment should be showered with cup cakes, glitter and macarons. I promise to use my spoon bending mind powers to try and get that happening for all who are lovely enough to share their words. Those who go the extra step to share posts should really get a free unicorn. Or at least the gift of finding the shortest and quickest line at the supermarket on a regular basis. xx