on BlogHer today. It made me think. I don't know how much I've written about humor, especially as it relates to my RSD, but I do use it a lot, and I'd consider it to be part of my toolbox. Yes, it's dark humor. And yes, sometimes it's used with a tear-filled voice, but it's important, even vital, to laugh in the face of RSD/CRPS.
There are several reasons I can think of to laugh even when dealing with illness. It depends on what you're dealing with. I'm not one to believe that we can laugh away our RSD. I know others have had serious illnesses clear up, and they attribute that to laughter, in combination with other things. But I don't necessarily believe that happens for everyone. That said, we can use laughter to do many things to help us heal, or at least create a healing environment. Here are a few of those benefits
Put simply, when you laugh, people want to be around you. Humor can be a great tool to help others feel comfortable. It also makes people think "hey, this person could be fun." I can't count the times I've had someone seem scared by my disability or my RSD, and they've opened up to me, their voices have become more relaxed, they start laughing and soon we're sharing an excellent experience. Pain can seem incredibly isolating. It's easy to feel lonely, I still do sometimes. But sometimes it just takes a little humor to make someone talk to you and that person can become a new ally.
More effective healing interactions
A healing interaction is my term for one with someone who can help you heal. That could be a doctor, a nurse, a psychologist, an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist (these people can be very important in the lives of people with RSD), a social worker, a massage therapist, a doctor of oriental medicine or acupuncturist, a physical or occupational therapist, a clergy-member, a friend or a mentor. All of these people can help set the stage for us to heal, by prescribing medications, performing procedures, implanting stimulators or pumps, correcting problems with our bodies, suggesting exercises, directly relieving pain, pointing out harmful thought patterns, helping us find resources, guiding us to think about problems effectively, speaking words of comfort or offering words of friendship. Of course, this list isn't exhaustive.
Humor can help us interact with these people in several ways. First, it can ease tension. I'm certainly nervous before appointments, I wonder if what the doctor's going to do will hurt me. I wonder if they will touch my RSD area. I wonder if they can even help me. With friends, I am sometimes nervous because I'm afraid I'll say the wrong thing. Sometimes I'm even afraid to pick up the phone and call. Humor can defuse that tension.
Humor is also helpful when working with professionals who don't know us well. I know one thing I hate about going into the doctor is I know they want to make me better. But often I have to come back and say "It's still not working well enough." And that can be hard for me. It's also hard for them because they want me to feel better. If I can accept things with some kind of humor, there is still something positive for them. That sometimes helps.
Without distraction, chronic pain wouldn't be survivable. The day-to-day pain is exhausting and demoralizing. And when the pain can't be eliminated, the mind struggles. Distraction gives a break from that pain, even when it's awful. Humor helps distract me when the pain is bad. I've ben known to read Fox In Socks aloud just to get the pain out of the forefront. Funny songs, books, sites and blog entries give me something else to think about. And humor means I smile and laugh which helps trick my brain sometimes.
Humor helps me accept whatever it is that I'm dealing with. If I can laugh, I can eventually accept. And if I can't accept, then I can at least find some random good thing in the situation. Sometimes, that's the best thing I can hope for.
A few ways I've used humor
I've used humor in several ways. I've shown up at the pain clinic in funny shirts about pain. Nothing beats the "RSD Sucks" shirt or the "Yes, I'm STILL in Pain" shirt. I do like the one that says "Pain, the Friendly Reminder that You're Not Dead". I don't have that last one, though I plan to get it. Those shirts help people know that I know being in pain is horrible, I live it every day. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to laugh at it. They make my doctors and other health professionals laugh. And sometimes they surprise me. Someone I wouldn't expect to "get it" does, and I've found a new ally.
Next, I use dark humor. I think that's evident in the shirt example, but here are a couple more. There's the way Johny Cash's "Ring of Fire" has become the ring tone for the pain clinic, since it can be pretty descriptive of RSD "I went down down down and the flames went higher". I've written letters to my nervous system. I've made comments about my bodily mood ring. And I've blog others which I can't currently find.
In all of this, I still acknowledge that I think RSD sucks, but I don't know what I'd do with humor. After a possible breakthrough in physical therapy, I now have an increase in pain again. This reminder of humor is very welcome as a distraction. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to find my copy of Fox In Socks.