Before you go all nuclear on me saying ‘how dare you make fun of people with psychiatric disorders!’, check my two previous posts about my rules for finding the humor in mental illness: rules for finding the humour in mental illness and 13 One-Liners About Being Crazy. Mean-spiritedness, degradation are NOT my M.O.s

The two most important tenets in my rulebook:

    1. If you don’t have mental illness, it ain’t your rodeo to ride in. I live with multiple mental health issues. It’s up to me if I want to joke about them or not. If you have mental illness, you have the same choice.
    2. I don’t make fun of people with mental illness. Yes, I may make fun of myself, but mostly I discover the humor in the situations I find myself in because I have mental illness.

Why bother finding the comedy in pain? The overarching reason: for me, it is healing.  I hope you have some giggles as you read these and as you giggle I hope you heal (just a smidgen).

Ok here goes. Warning: some corny, really corny jokes ahead.

  1. Mental illness runs in my family. Which is sort of weird, because my parents weren’t very athletic.
  2. I’ve never had paranoid delusions. Somebody told me I did, but I know they’re lying.
  3. I’m lucky, I have very little side effects from my medications. They can fit right into my pocket.
  4. In the beginning my eating disorder meant I had dessert before my entrée. But then it got serious and developed into compulsive overeating – as opposed to apathetic overeating.
  5. Hallucinations are when people see things that aren’t there. I totally understand that.  An ex-psychiatrist of mine had them. I know for a fact, she never saw me. I don’t know what she was seeing, but she definitely didn’t see me!
  6. I’m on Zoloft and Epival and many other planets.
  7. I have psychotic breaks – my car stops at all delusions.
  8. I have an anxiety disorder…which means my anxiety orders dis and dat.
  9. I’ve faced mental illness. Stuck my tongue out at it, shook my fist at it and finally gave it the finger.
  10. What does it mean when people say “I don’t believe in drugs for mental illness”?  ‘Cause they seem pretty real to me. I think those people might have a delusional disorder.
  11. It makes perfect sense mental illness runs in my family. I’d run too if I had a family like mine.
  12. Where do they get these names for psychiatric drugs? No wonder we don’t like taking them. They sound like a bad storyline from a Star Trek sequel. You know: Captain Zoloft and his commander in chief Colonel Paxil are involved in negotiations with the Prozac Nation and the Lithium Liberation Army.
  13. I still have psychotic breaks from time to time – which are very different than coffee breaks. You don’t get paid for psychotic breaks.

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© Victoria Maxwell

Fair warning: the following self-penned jokes may not make you laugh. Some are real groaners to be sure. Some of you may even find them in poor taste. No one should make jokes about being crazy. But I live with multiple mental illnesses and have so for years. Since I’ve been there done that, I say I have the right to crack said jokes. For more of my rules for making fun of mental illness, check my previous post here.

When you read them, think me, a mic, my bipolar, anxiety and psychosis at bay, and a very kind audience. No hecklers, please. Well, hecklers be damned. If I can deal with mental illness, I can deal with hecklers, right?

On a serious note: these are not meant to dismiss the very real pain that we face when dealing with psychiatric illness. It’s meant to help us live with that pain a little more easily.

Laughing helps me heal. Or at the very least it helps pass the time and offers a micro distraction when depression or anxiety has a choke hold on me. I hope it does you too.

  1. I have bipolar disorder. I keep it in the bottom drawer with my underpants so I always know where it is.
  2. I take psychiatric medication–it’s better than stealing it.
  3. I have generalized anxiety disorder, but it sucks because it affects me specifically.
  4. They say mental illness runs in my family. But in my family, we’re all pretty lazy, so it just sort of meandered its way through the generations.
  5. I don’t do drugs. I do therapy. Unfortunately, therapy isn’t as fun and it’s just as expensive.
  6. I live with mental illness–which makes my husband really jealous.
  7. I have bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety, disordered eating, and psychosis–which are more friends than I had in elementary school.
  8. I never say I’m bipolar. I like to scream it at the top of my lungs while running around naked at the supermarket.
  9. I’m really lucky. I have very little side effects from my meds…they’re less than a centimeter tall.
  10. I have an anxiety disorder…which means I get panicky when I’ve done something out of order.
  11. What exactly is a serious mental illness? As opposed to those what? Carefree, happy go lucky ones?
  12. I have a lot of people who believe in me–which sort of scares me because I always knew I was real.
  13. I have rapid cycling bipolar disorder, which is weird because I can’t pedal that fast. In fact, I don’t even own a bike.

Which one is your favorite? Do you have one? Tweet it out. Or share it in the comment box.

© Victoria Maxwell

Wait I know what you’re thinking. You can’t make fun of mental illness. You’re right. YOU can’t. Unless you’ve been there. Stay with me.

By far, the most effective, accessible and economical health tool is our funny bone.

I’m not a big fan of country music. Though I have been known belt out a bad rendition of Dolly’s iconic ‘Jolene’ in the kitchen. That being said, I love Country Queen Reba McEntire’s quote: To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.

I couldn’t agree more. There are times when having a mental illness just begs for some levity. Recovering from any chronic illness, maintaining mental health, heck, just plain o’ living requires some kind of sense of humour.

Finding ‘the funny’ helps me put things in perspective. Humour helps me heal from the missteps that inevitably occur when I’ve been manic or euphorically psychotic.

  1. Only if You’ve Been There, Done That

If you’ve been there, done that – you can joke about it. If you haven’t you can’t. It’s that simple. Those of us who have tread this journey have the right to make (or NOT make for that matter) jokes about it. No one else does.

If you’re Scottish (which I am – in part), Jewish or from Wisconsin (or which I’m neither) – you’re free to make jokes about your experiences and your clan. Other wise be kind. Laughing at someone else’s expense doesn’t make you funny, it makes you an a**hole.

  1. Laugh with Us Not At Us

True, I don’t want you to make fun of me about being crazy. But I do want you to laugh with me when I make jokes. I know it’s counter-intuitive.

The humour I employ is meant to get you laughing. It’s meant to help loosen you up, so you feel more comfortable talking about mental illness. The humour I use is to help highlight the erroneous stereotypes and dispel the myths of mental illness. It’s meant to provoke reflection and spark discussion.

  1. Timing is Everything

They say timing is everything in comedy. It is. Using humour in the healing process, timing is everything too.

Laughing prematurely when I’ve yet to process a painful event, isn’t helpful. Cracking a joke before enough time has passed can make me feel worse.

There are very real losses, and often tragic experiences that comes along with living with a psychiatric disability or loving someone with one. Humour isn’t meant to minimize this. But humor, appropriately timed, well placed can go a long way to help heal.

Go by the old adage: “Comedy is tragedy plus time” (a quote attributed to Mark Twain, Carol Burnett, Steve Allen among others).

Allow yourself some time before finding the humour in your depression or psych ward stay. But be sure to find it. Or at least look for it.

To laugh WITH me, check out my video about all the crazy labels we get called.

Recently, I was standing at the check out line at my not necessarily so friendly local 7-11. I usually giggle at the Hollywood tabloid headlines: ‘Oprah Delivers North America’s First Alien Baby’ or ‘Brad Pitt Is Really a Girl’. But what happens? Nothing. Instead, I cop an attitude; surreptitiously buy 4 jumbo-sized Snickers bars and a family sized bag of Doritos so I can lay into a self-induced carbohydrate coma.

Then worse: I’m watching my favorite rerun of ‘Friends’ – the one where Joey screams and scrams because Monica’s dancing with a frozen turkey on her head. And I don’t laugh. I always laugh when Monica has her head in a frozen turkey. Crap…I laugh if anyone has their head in a turkey. Or I thought I would.

My shrinking sense of humor is the canary in the coalmine – the alarm signaling clinical depression is slithering around me.

I have to get to work. Find humor in something, anything or risk falling into the ‘no laugh, no color, everything tastes like cardboard, not just chicken and who cares anyway’ kind of zone. Because humor is my lifeline to my vitality, to hope, to the idea tomorrow will be better or at least not worse.

Interestingly, it’s the foraging and fighting for my sense of humor that’s the remedy. Not necessarily finding it. Rediscovering my sense of humor is a by-product of my willingness to look for it. Something about looking for ‘the funny’, that act of faith there is some, somewhere, though I can’t sense it, expels bits of cemented depression from within. The rummaging around allows a little light in, and slowly, very slowly, my funny bone moves back into place.

First? Seek out what I call ‘memory or phantom laughs’. Those times when I know normally I’d be giggling but instead, I’m just remembering I would; that ‘if I weren’t so depressed I’d be laughing’ feeling. Bittersweet insights, but helpful ones. Memories of laughing are better than no laughing at all.

Second? Size doesn’t matter. I don’t worry about the BIG guffaws. I’m on the lookout for anything making me remotely smile, just want to smile. What makes the corners of my mouth stir slightly; my cheeks subtly lift?

That’s my body telling me I’m near my funny bone. And bones don’t disappear; they just get weak. The solution? Fortify them, anyway I can.

So I rent my favorite movie: ‘Big’, watch ‘Two and a Half Men’, flip through People magazine’s issue of ‘Worst Dressed Stars in Hollywood’. (How can anybody with that much money, dress badly – don’t they all have stylists?)

When I do this, it doesn’t mean things all of a sudden seem hilarious, but it’s a distinct advantage over curling up on the sofa, listening to weepy Vince Gill songs about a cowboy who looses his woman, job and dog. That’s definitely not a humor ‘honer’.

When I feel inklings of depression or even when I’m deep in its clutches, I set aside time every couple days to give myself a chance not to laugh outright, but to witness things I know are funny to me. Eventually the lighter side gets the better of me. Not right away, not for long, but it’s a start.

Implementing this ‘laugh-able’ strategy doesn’t eradicate depression of course; I’m not that naïve but it can make it more bearable.

Once I’m out of the darkness, I fortify that funny bone with some kind of humor every day. It may sound simplistic. But to this day, my relentless pursuit to find something, even marginally humorous everyday is one of my best coping tools to date. My sense of humor is as valuable to me as the medication I take and the therapy I do to stay well.