How do you cope when you’re stuck with a chronic illness or life-changing surgery? For me, it’s got to be humor; not just chuckling at random jokes, but deliberately making it a point to crack jokes or create memes about IBD or my ostomy. Why?
For two reasons:
1. As long as I’ve got a smile on my face, I know that I’ll be able to get through whatever Crohn’s Disease tries to throw in my face.
2. I have a choice to either laugh about my situation or cry, and I’ll always choose laughter!
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Always Remember… Be Sensitive to Suffering
There’s a time and place for laughter and toilet humor, so keep in mind that not everyone finds jokes about IBD funny or appropriate.
I can certainly understand how some people could feel offended by certain jokes, cartoons, memes or puns when they’ve had their life disrupted by illness, so be mindful if you’re posting these jokes to a wide audience.
Now, I do want to be clear that telling jokes and raising awareness should rarely be mixed unless you know that the audience will understand the humor.
Posting a joke on Facebook about having gas with Crohn’s to 1000 “friends” who can’t relate to IBD is probably a poor decision, but posting the same joke in an IBD support group is likely to garner many laughs and likes because the people in that group can often relate to the joke in a non-threatening way.
If your goal is to spread awareness, be mindful of the fact that jokes likely won’t improve public understanding of IBD or ostomy-related concerns.
Making Light of Your Illness Can Show Resilience
I was moved when I watched a video of a cancer patient dancing before heading into her double mastectomy. To me, it showed that Deb (the woman in the video) has incredible resilience and strength, even in the face of a very serious illness (cancer!) and procedure. I want everyone who’s faced with similar health challenges to be this strong:
When I went in for my second surgery, I’m told that I was asking to do the Harlem Shake with the nursing staff (I was still relatively stoned from the anesthesia, so I don’t remember a thing).
Fully conscious or not, it shows what kind of attitude I had about my situation, and my entire experience could have been quite negative had I not laughed at the situation.
Similarly, there are many ostomates who give their stomas silly names, and I see that as a great way to help them cope with their new life.
It’s pretty cool to see someone bouncing back from a major surgery by calling their stoma “Squirt” or “Little Devil”, since that could be the first CRUCIAL step towards acceptance.
Laughter can sometimes be the best medicine! I’m not talking metaphorically here, I mean that laughter can provide similar benefits to some drugs: It can help to reduce pain [SOURCE], improve your immune system [SOURCE], and reduce inflammation [SOURCE] , yet we don’t need a prescription or insurance to include laughter in our daily lives!
Kids Adapt Amazingly Well to Poop Jokes
Whether you have a sick child or are sick with children, kids find situations to be a lot easier to handle when humor is added to their routine.
My kids share my sense of humor, and we often joke about my ostomy or going to the bathroom. Being sick through most of their childhood made it hard to be a good dad, and making light of a situation (even while in pain or during a bought of nausea) helped to keep them calm about my illness.
For me, laughter was a way to connect with them through a difficult period in all our lives.
Joking Doesn’t Minimize the Seriousness of an Illness
Does joking about “moonface” reduce the chances of side-effects from Prednisone ? Nope.
Does laughing about an embarrassing ostomy moment prevent those embarrassments from happening in the future? Of course not.
Does cracking a joke about how old I feel solve my joint problems? Never.
But… it sure as hell makes those situations a little less terrible.
When I write a silly meme about Crohn’s Disease, I don’t do it to shame anyone or to minimize the severity of IBD (I know exactly how brutal IBD can be!), I do it because laughing about past situations can be empowering; it shows that I’ve been able to overcome some pretty shitty obstacles (no pun intended) and came out with my sanity and humor intact.
That’s a huge win as far as I’m concerned, and if others feel the same way, they can laugh along with me!
I also see toilet humor as something that can bring the IBD community together, because lets be honest, it’s hard to open up to people when you’ve got an illness like Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis.
If humor can be a gateway that allows you to connect with others, then it can be valuable tool.
We Aren’t the Only Ones Having All the Fun
Joking about illness, symptoms or side-effects from medication isn’t exclusive to IBDers, and you can easily find loads of lighthearted humor in any chronic illness camp. Reading the comments after many of these humorous posts can easily bring a smile to my face:
- Humor and Laughter May Influence Health IV. Humor and Immune Function; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2686627/
- Effects of laughter and relaxation on discomfort thresholds; http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00846422
- Matsuzaki T, Nakajima A, Ishigami S, Tanno M, Yoshino S. Mirthful laughter differentially affects serum pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine levels depending on the level of disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2006;45(2):182-186. doi:10.1093/rheumatology/kei081