Laughter Is Good Medicine: Levity in an MS Life
If laughter is the best medicine, then I have a functional pharmacy.
I love to laugh and enjoy humor. If you are a friend of mine, then you know my dry wit. I use that wit to shield anxiety and fear. I ease the tension by creating humor. I have met many a solemn doctor only to leave them chuckling. It is fulfilling to leave others with a smile. A friend once said this should be my peace-keeping mission.
My disease is progressing. This has manifested in elevated pain levels, consistent fatigue, and cognitive deficiencies. While I have learned to adapt, the process breaks my heart. MS is a beast. But it does not define me. This is a lifelong companion so I must find ways to coexist.
I have the ability to trip over air. I am cool like that. My mother says to walk slower. If I walk any slower, I will lose time. I recall being in the grocery store perusing greeting cards. There were pretty Christmas displays throughout the aisles. In true MS fashion, I crossed lanes and wove right into one. I stood as the rolls of tape made their way across the floor. Embarrassed, I picked up a roll and said, “Found it!” In my own way, I tamed the beast.
I once found myself at an MRI without shoes. It was a hot summer day and my husband had driven me to the lab. I am not sure why I missed this key fact before entering, but alas, I noticed. As I sheepishly approached the counter, the woman looked to my feet. A bit nervous, I blurted out that nothing matched (as if that were possible — there are two shoes). She burst into tears and I felt better. At that moment my forgetfulness was not scary, but rather, served as a conduit for smiles.
Laughter is known to increase endorphins. These naturally occurring hormones are released when we experience joy. Studies have shown that endorphins can reduce pain and stress. Laughter has also been shown to increase our pain threshold. I can attest to this. So aside from improving our psyche, we can also improve our physical health.
As my disease progresses, my need for levity has followed suit. What began as deflection is now almost innate. It helps me navigate what would otherwise leave me leveled. While those days exist, my overall being is not dominated by my painful experiences. Although there are times it comes close. On those days, I trade humor for tears. I tap into the sadness and the fear I try so hard to manage. And I let go. There is a time and place for every emotion.
Navigating any illness is challenging. So often our lives are hijacked without warning. We are forced to repeatedly adapt to conditions most would be unable to handle. Humor has allowed me to let go of some of that stress. It has offered an alternative to suffering. I derive such joy in making others smile. It is quite the juxtaposition. Humor affords the ability to laugh at what I would also cry over. It invites a perspective that I would have otherwise missed. And in some infinitesimal way, it assures me that I will be OK.
Now if only I could remember shoes.
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