Although your average knock knock joke could send me into despair, humour, for me especially, helps me accept what I go through.
I’ve always tried to make light of things, right from when I was young. I remember taking the piss out of myself for wearing glasses when I was in primary school (pink, thick rimmed NHS glasses, the kind that would make hipsters squeal). I remember sharing with my friends the embarrassing moments of sexual activity that you wouldn’t necessarily read about in More or Just Seventeen. It was way to talk about the not-so-great things in life by putting a funny twist on it. So when I finally came to terms with my mental illness, taking the micky out of it was one of my ways to cope.
I lived with intense emotions, reckless behaviour, this powerful feeling of emptiness, and suicidal thoughts, all alone. I opened up to a selected few. It was received with stigma and lack of empathy. I was alone and I couldn’t accept what I was going through. Getting help for Borderline Personality Disorder is a long, drawn-out process, but once I was on the track, riding along with it was much easier than running from it.
The joy of humour, especially the self-deprecating kind, is that it can rip away at the indignity, the fear and the humiliation that can dominate your approach to the world. This was my way to cope. This was my way to be open. This doesn’t mean that I find mental illness humorous, far from it. Searching for humour in mental illness and insulting the mentally ill are completely different things. One helps dissolve the stigma by being open and the other promotes it. In those torturous moments of an episode, my little imaginary book of jokes is thrown straight into the bin like a piece of mouldy bread, as I ride the feelings of loss of control, paranoia and worthlessness. Then I come out of it (for a while) and make some flippant remark about how I fail to regulate my emotions, like a testing four year old. I do have to respect that it may not work for everyone – indeed it probably won’t, but we all have our ways, and mine is to make quick, slightly ‘r u ok, hun?’-like comments about my mental health in an attempt to not isolate myself. It may make some people do that kind of one second laugh that comes through the nose. It may make some people worry or think I am in danger, or it may make people press the unfollow button on Twitter because they’re sick of reading my self-deprecating tweets. But it may make some people realise that they are not alone, that there are others experiencing these things, that there are others out there who they can talk to or get help.
Some may find self-deprecating humour to be self-defeating or a severe lack of self-esteem. It can seem pitiful and unattractive. But the ability to laugh at yourself and your idiosyncrasies, may create a space for you to let down your guard in a safe environment.
When we do this, just for a moment, the big old stigma barriers may come down slightly while we laugh.
*adjusts fake moustache*