why i use humor to cope with chronic illness

Why I use humor to cope with chronic illness

Chronic illness isn’t funny

I don’t know why you would write something like this

This is in poor taste

I don’t appreciate people laughing about illness

This reflects badly on Fibromyalgia because people will think it’s real

These are just some of the comments I get on my humorous chronic illness posts, and I always find these comments interesting. I understand that sometimes people are in a place where they can’t find humor in illness and the absurd. And yes, it is absurd how people with chronic illness are treated, both by doctors as well as by friends and family. I deal with this absurdity by mocking it, because the only other way I can deal with it is to be angry all the time and that’s not healthy.

I survive the daily grind of my illness because I find humor in the ridiculousness that is my life. The other day I wasn’t feeling well and I responded to a text from a friend in a somewhat emotional manner. A few hours later I realized that in my fog I hadn’t sent the text to my friend, I sent to the parent of one of my kids’ friends. A parent I did not know well. I could have cried about how my illness has made me an idiot, but instead I called up my friend and laughed about how I made an ass out of myself and how I’ll never be able to look this person in the eye again. That is how I cope, because if I didn’t laugh I would cry.


Last summer I had the wonderful experience of needing my gall bladder removed, but not being prioritized as an emergency. I was sent home from the ER to just survive until my surgery date, and of course my husband had to go out of town the next week leaving me home alone with my kids. After days of being wracked with pain from gall stones and puking my guts  out I called up my Dad and begged him to save me. He made the two hour trip to take me to the ER and help convince the doctors that my gall bladder had hit emergency levels (doctors never believe me when I’m alone). Thankfully a sympathetic surgeon bypassed the jerk ER doctor and was willing to do the surgery. During all this there were many attempts to get a hold of my husband who was in the middle of nowhere without cell phone signal. I was panicked about the idea of having surgery without him there. I was panicked about what I was going to do with my kids after surgery with no spouse. I was worried that I was inconveniencing everyone with the whole mess. As I waiting for an operating room to become available I started joking with the nurses about what I disaster I was. I was pretty drugged, and when they came to prep me for surgery they wanted me to wipe myself down with some sort of solution, but I kept falling over. My clumsy attempts had both me and the nurses in stitches, and I stopped worrying about everything for a few minutes. It wasn’t really a funny situation, but laughter was what got me through it.

Living with chronic illness is hard. Sometimes it can feel like every day you’re fighting a battle with you own body, and then there’s the battle for legitimacy with doctors, family, and friends. This can weigh on you, but laughter can release that weight. It doesn’t fix everything, but it makes life just a bit easier to bear. Humor can be a comfort, a reminder that illness does not control everything.

When it comes to blogging I don’t pretend that my sense of humor is run of the mill. It’s satire and that comes with a bit of a dark flavor which is therapeutic to me.  I enjoy making people look like idiots for not thinking Fibromyalgia is real (because anyone who thinks staying in bed all day every day is fun is an idiot), and I enjoy being funny while doing it. I don’t pretend to be a top notch satirist (if I was I’d probably have a job with The Onion), but you have to be either dense or willfully ignorant (ie not reading beyond the headline) to not understand the humor in my blog posts. So I write in a mocking/humorous tone because illness and people’s response to it deserve to be mocked. The truth is that it hurts when people think I’m lazy, lying, a faker, or an exaggerator. So I channel that hurt into humor and making fun of people makes me feel better about their false judgments.

What about you, have you found ways to cope using humor?


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4 thoughts on “Why I use humor to cope with chronic illness

  1. Shelley, if I didn’t use my sarcasm, and outrageous sense of humour to keep me soldiering on I would be one very sorry specimen of humanity. Some days laughing at my misfortunes clumsiness especially, is all that gets me through the day. Ignore the naysayers, keep it coming girl, I love your humour. With love and humour Linda Sandford xx

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