I love John’s humour. I love listening to his show. He plays – i’d guess – to mixed audiences – some of who have experience of mental health problems and some who don’t. The first time I heard his show he asked if there were any service users in the audience – I think I was the only person to put up my hand. So the amazing thing is that what John does crosses huge boundaries. And it’s a testament to his humanity that you always feel like you’re in safe hands. There’s never a point in the show where you’re laughing ‘at’ someone – you’re always laughing ‘with’. This is very important.
John will have far more formed thoughts than me on the matter, but I think that laughter is very precious. I think it happens at a point where barriers have been dissolved – even if only for a moment. When you’re laughing with someone, you’re sharing. (When you’re laughing ‘at’ someone you’re building barriers instead…..). For me, this is why I do ‘you-tube comedy therapy’ when I’m depressed. Because what disappears when you’re depressed is the sense that you share anything with anyone – and laughter brings back that feeling of sharing.
Living with a mental illness or two is demanding and serious. That’s not more obvious than when you’re on the ward. But in those most demanding times people reach out to share. When I worked in Accident and Emergency, a stressful and demanding job, the dark humour was what we shared at times when we struggled most. On the ward this also rang true. If I shot my mouth off and said something stupid because I was high I never minded the embarassment – the best thing was the feeling of people around me laughing with me. We laughed that first morning on the ward about having starey eyes, and we laughed when I was filmed for a training video, and watched a bit of the footage back, then arrived back on the ward hollering about how ‘I look like a fucking psychiatric patient!‘……. When we were having a good laugh that didn’t involve staff we felt even more strength and support from each other.
I danced for 6 weeks on the ward, and people smiled on their way down the corridor. But the evening I couldn’t cope and sat curled up on the floor they stopped on the way past to check I was ok. It’s fine to laugh with abandon and then change to a different mode of being when it’s necessary to be serious. It would be a shame not to laugh at all because you assume that a ‘difficult’ life should be serious the whole time. Those stolen moments of laughter keep us going.
2 thoughts on “The Humour In It All (Elle)”
You are so right Elle. Life without laughter somewhere in it doesn’t bear thinking about. You and John are so wise to use it as you do. You cheer me up.