Why I choose to use humour when discussing my mental illness.

It’s not to everyone’s taste and I can be serious if I need to be. When discussing other people’s mental health I always do it with respect. But when it comes to myself I choose to use humour and a little sarcasm. Why? Because that is what I am comfortable with. From my experience, I also find that it helps other people feel less awkward and they are more likely to feel comfortable about talking all things mental health-related with me. Would I crack a mental health joke about myself to anyone? Of course not. First of all, I would get to know you and make sure you can handle my approach. Then it’s game on!

My mental illness is with me for life. Yes, it is serious and my use of humour is in no way meant to minimise how serious it is. But by putting a funny spin on it I can see the silver lining. Somedays a silver lining is the only thing I have to hang on to.

My husband also uses humour when discussing my mental health. As he too finds it easier to cope this way. For example, maybe I have gone a night without sleep. He will ask me “were you working the night shift last night?” or maybe he will refer to my medicine as my “unihorn suppressants”. If I am having a particularly hard day he will console me with “it is hard work being a unicorn isn’t it?” I love the metaphors and similes we use to discuss my mental illness. It takes the hard edges off it. Suddenly it seems doable, even laughable.

My mental illness is very much a part of me it is what makes me quirky, why I see the world differently, why I am so creative. It is also why I sometimes can’t sleep, get out of bed, wash, why I can’t eat. With the good, there is also the bad. So with the seriousness, there has got to be some humour.

I find that when talking with others who have a mental illness the best way to approach it is to take their lead. If they want to be serious then be serious with them. If they want to talk about it lightheartedly then do that. Most importantly don’t shut them down. If someone who has a mental illness has been brave enough to talk to you about it. Listen, be receptive, ask questions, show you care.

 

Compassion and understanding are the only way to treat others in need. Full stop!

I came across a Twitter account today called @WeAreBeneficiaries they are a New Zealand account and their bio reads:

“We’re a group of artists and beneficiaries demanding a more compassionate social welfare system in NZ.”

I was drawn to them because when it comes down to it we are all just one maybe two unlucky incidents away from being on a benefit. I am acutely aware of the fact that if I had not been married to a someone who earns a reasonable income and we had not been pretty good with our money. I would no doubt be living with my mother right now on a benefit. Being handed the mental illness shit stick is crappy enough. Having to live with my mother on a meagre amount of money would have been terrible. But then I would have been luckier than some who have no support system.

The stories that have been shared on We are Beneficiaries are real, raw, and very sad. There are some nice stories but they are few and far between. They describe situations where Work and Income employees don’t think before they speak, treat people as if they were a number, and put severely unrealistic expectations upon people who are already pushed to their breaking point. Their stories are shared with art-work which I personally think humanises their stories even more.

One that stood out to me was the following;

WeAreBeneficiaries___WeBeneficiaries____Twitter.png(credit Laura from @WeAreBeneficiaries)

Compassion and understanding. Those two words are everything when you are suffering from a mental illness!

Going through the mental health system has many of the same issues that accessing a benefit does both systems could learn a lot by:

Treating people with compassion, being careful about words that are used when speaking to a consumer, never making assumptions, reducing the barriers to access rather than building walls.

At the end of the day, every single one of us could find ourselves needing to use these services. Would you like to be treated with compassion and understanding or as if you were a plague on society?

P.S You should totally follow @WeAreBeneficiaries