It’s amazing to me how people who deal with mental illness can be stigmatized as being weak, ’cause I’m like, Really? Really, doods? Do you actually have the teensiest clue what it’s like? I manage OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) impulses and anxiety. It wasn’t enough for me to have chronic neuropathy throughout my body. I wanted a mental illness, too, for shits and giggles.
Working through physical disabilities is challenging and then some. Accessibility limitations, chronic pain with associated fatigue, and people saying the most ridiculous things to me as “possible cures” are all part of my regularly scheduled life. However, as difficult as those things are, for me the mental stuff feels way more like constantly lifting hand weights. It takes up so much of my capacity and spoons, and if I had to prioritize, it would often be my mental health over my physical comforts. That’s just me, though.
But today I want to talk about the most common word people use to describe me: funny. I make people laugh. It’s my jam. I’ve chosen to be a humour author as my career. Even when I write serious themes, I always bring it back to something to chuckle about. Why? Probably because (1) I love doing that and (2) if I didn’t go to the whacky place, I’d not still be alive today.
Oscar Wilde said, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” I would probably lie in that gutter and make up goofy stories about a couple of the stars. Meet Blinky and Twinkles, two star-crossed lovers, who find that expression a bit odd since they’ve not moved from their orbits in five billion lightyears . . .
Now I need to do a flash fiction about Blinky and Twinkles.
I wrote Life in the ’Cosm while in a great deal of physical pain. I’m now writing The Stealth Lovers, a prequel, while having to go through therapy after an unspeakably horrible 2017. Last month I had a terrible day with debilitating anxiety, and I remember taking out my laptop to write a chapter in The Stealth Lovers. Oh, I was a mess that day. Writing often soothes me, though, so that’s why I’d chosen that activity. A few days later, I reread the new chapter . . . and laughed my butt off. I said aloud, “How the hay did I make it that funny? I remember how badly I’d felt!”
The mind is sort of a miraculous thing. It let me bypass the PTSD that overtook me and led me to a spot in my brain where I could escape to be ludicrous. You’d never guess the state I was in that day by reading the words on the page. And you know what? That alone made me feel damn proud.
Somehow, someway, I can still choose to be funny. Heck, I’m sorta funny even when I’m in therapy—not as a way of covering up what I have to say, but because I tend to find humour even in the worst situations. I still get my point across so I can be treated, but I just express myself in this creative fashion.
Mental illness is weakness? Yeah, that doesn’t compute for me. We have to be strong AF to function at our best potential. And you know, meeting with a medical professional who’s a virtual stranger and admitting your deepest secrets so you can get better takes a shitload of guts. Wanting to care for one’s mental health is probably also one of the most intelligent moves anyone can make. There’s nothing feeble about any of it. Badass warriors, we are. One of these days, I’ll paint myself in woad. (But I’ll spare the world seeing me naked. Yeah, you’re welcome.)
We’ve seen it’s not uncommon for comedians who are completely hysterical to have come from tragic or difficult circumstances. Or, they can be people who deal with mental illness. Robin Williams, my all-time favourite, battled with severe illness and demons. But I celebrate him for all the times he chose the funny. Because he chose the funny, he gave himself a reprieve and some joy, and then gave us treasured memories for a lifetime. Gosh, I miss him. (Why does it always feel like it’s still “too soon” when it comes to talking about Robin Williams?)
Whatever battles you might face, I hope you can find the support you need with medical intervention and great people who have your back. Then I hope you can find the funny, whether you write it yourself, listen to it, watch it, or binge-read it. There’s something about the funny that’s like nectar for the soul.
Dont you find?
Cait Gordon is the author of Life in the ’Cosm, a story about a little green guy who’s crushing on the female half of his two-headed colleague. Cait is currently working on a prequel to ’Cosm called The Stealth Lovers, a rom-com military space opera. When she’s not writing, she’s editing manuscripts for indie authors and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors are writers with disabilities and/or chronic conditions. She also really likes cake.