Today is the twenty-third day of WEGO’s National Health Blog Post Month. Here is today’s question: Teaching the Teacher: What’s something you taught your doctor related to your health? MY ANSWER: I’ve taught my neurologist and her staff about having a sense of humor despite illness.
Neurologists, Radiologists, OBGYNs Don’t Address Emotional Pain
For the chronically ill, checkups and going to the hospital are somber occasions. My journey with Prednisone has been a rollercoaster. Perform well on my Myasthenia Gravis (MG) tests and I go down 1 mg. Perform poorly and I can go up by as much as 5 mg, which also causes me to gain weight. In addition to having MG (a neuromuscular autoimmune disease similar to MS), I also have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). And I come from a family of cancer survivors. So I’ve spent much of my life in the hospital. I now know more about illnesses than I ever wanted to! I joke that I have a Masters from U of AI, University of Autoimmune. But in all seriousness, one thing doctors don’t usually address is the emotional consequences of chronic pain, fatigue, and uncertainty. How do we survive this? It’s not normal to be in pain 24/7. Certainly, faith, therapy and having a support network of family and friends have helped. But one powerful tool that’s kept me from losing my mind is having a sense of humor. Laughter is, arguably, the most overlooked tool for surviving pain.
How to “Vacationize” Hospital Visits
At one of my hospital visits, I decided to “vacationize” my checkup because I spend almost all my vacation/PTO days in the hospital. I decided to have a Hawaiian vacation. I wore a lei around my neck, put a flower in my hair, and took pictures at different places in the hospital like I was site-seeing. Hospital staff even played along; nurses asked me questions like, “Are you enjoying your stay?” I honestly can’t remember the results of that visit (whether I went up or down on Prednisone) but I do remember having a good time. After the visit, I went to The Tiki Terrace with my mom. We took some great pictures, and I put an umbrella in my drink because no vacation is complete without the requisite “umbrella in the drink pictures.”
One thing I learned is that we have to force ourselves to laugh at our hardships; it doesn’t come naturally. It’s far easier to be angry or even bitter. But laugher is necessary for survival. I previously blogged about a time when I was bedridden and my close friend Pat brought over the greatest hits of Dave Chappelle. I laughed and laughed. And I felt less lonely.
Laughter and Pain
When I’m watching Bill Cosby, Carol Burnett, Katt Williams, or Chris Rock, I start laughing even when I’m in a “life sucks” mood. And somehow laughter makes me feel better. It doesn’t magically take away the pain, but it makes it bearable. Without a sense of humor, I might become bitter multitasking MG, PCOS, asthma, and Bipolar Disorder. Life with chronic pain, emotional or physical, is absurd. Laughing at it turns that absurdity on its head and says, “I refuse to let you win!”
I’m not sure what I’ll do at my next neurology checkup in February. Maybe a Disney-themed vacationized visit? Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post as I continue the WEGO Challenge.