Laughter As Therapy

Some of the most saddest people on earth are also the funniest. Funny, that.

Spike Milligan

Stephen Fry

Robin Williams

Jim Carrey

Paul Merton

Catherine Tate

David Walliams

Ruby Wax

Caroline Aherne

Kenneth Williams

All have had a depressive disorder.

I can understand how some people would struggle with the concept of funny people being depressed but the fact is that being funny doesn’t necessarily mean being happy. Humour is often a way of coping with life and the shit it throws at you – a defence mechanism, if you like..

I write funny posts. Correction, I try to write funny posts as well as serious ones but you may have noticed that even my funny ones are sometimes about difficult subjects? It’s a release for me. The sting of a bad memory isn’t quite as sharp when I’m putting a humourous spin on it. That said, some things just aren’t funny and never will be.

Humour was a lifeline to me when I was growing up. Watching comedy like The Kenny Everett Show or The Young Ones went some way to lifting my mood after yet another diabolically crap day at school. I laughed so hard I was in actual pain and sometimes my laughter bordered on the hysterical – which was a bit freaky – but I think it was in lieu of the tears that I hadn’t cried at school. That’s my theory, anyway.

Or I am indeed certifiable?

 

For me, the humour is there but it gets lost in translation if I try to verbalise it, so I write it down. I’m funnier on paper, or screen, in my case as I HATE writing with a passion. Maybe if I’d have been able to make people laugh at school, I wouldn’t have been bullied so much? As it was, I did make them laugh. The problem is that they were laughing at me, instead of with me.

Research shows that children laugh about 300 times a day whereas adults only laugh around 15 times a day.

I have laughed three times today. THREE!

This needs addressing, no?

Humour is medicine.

Write that down and stick it on your fridge door or laptop.

The sciencey bit..

Physical Benefits of Laughter

  • Improves brain and heart function
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Boosts immune system
  • We create disease – fighting antibodies
  • Increases oxygen levels in the blood
  • We heal faster

The way I see it, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by putting this to the test. So instead of putting on a film that makes you sad or on edge – put on a comedy.

Buy yourself a funky notepad (with unicorns on it, if that’s your bag) and rate how you feel, before and after the film.

Think of laughter as therapy. No, I don’t mean the kind of therapy where you sit in a circle and laugh like sodding hyenas for no reason at all. I mean funny books, films and TV.

I’ll give you three examples of what tickles my funny bone..

The 86 Fix by Keith A Pearson

It’s hard to believe this is Keith’s debut but it is and it’s hilarious. If you’re a certain age – you’ll need a change of pants or Tena pad.

It’s basically about mid-life, time travel and the 1980s. That ticks three of my boxes. It was most probably written with male readers in mind but I generally find male humour funnier than female so it works for me.

When it comes to films, Blazing Saddles is up there with the VERY best. There is a little high-pitched fart part way through and I usually lose it at that point. If you can watch this scene and not laugh, you’re dead to me.

Last of all we come to TV..

Dinnerladies is one of my all time favourite comedy programmes. Victoria Wood was a comedy genius. She was an observer of northern life and could take the mundane and make it knicker-wettingly funny. Victoria took her ‘flaws’ and made them funny. Her death was such a huge loss to the world of comedy but it’s the likes of her that inspire me to put a humorous spin on my own life.

This scene NEVER fails to make me laugh.

My examples may not be your cup of tea. The point is that there is something out there to suit everybody’s taste. So get looking and get laughing ha ha ha?

“Do you do sugar free muesli?”
“No. This is a canteen, not a ground sheet at Glastonbury.” ~ Dinnerladies

 

 

 

Guess Who’s Back

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Therapist: ‘I’d like you to imagine your worry is a tree’

Me: ‘Tree? I have a bloody forest in my head, love!

My therapist laughs and so do I but my laugh is manic whereas hers is not.

It’s what it feels like in my head. On my worst days it’s gnarled trees and demons. If my mind was a novel, it would be a Stephen King one.

Fear.

I’ve known Fear for as long as I can remember. It’s always been with me. The bastard was there when I was born, watching and waiting for the moment when it could scare the crap out of me.

I don’t know what it’s like to live without anxiety. I’ve had panic attacks since I was a little girl. One minute I’d be fine, the next my stomach would lurch and I’d feel sick. Sometimes I would be sick. It would often happen after I’d seen something unpleasant on TV. My chest would feel tight and the room would spin. I remember feeling this way whenever Panorama came on. To this day, I can’t watch it.

Two years ago I had my first nocturnal panic attack.

I woke up in the early hours utterly convinced I was having a heart attack. It became the norm to wake up with my heart pounding. Things reached a crisis point in February when my heart started beating erratically at about 5am one morning. It wouldn’t slow down despite triple-bagging my Chamomile tea and deep breathing. I ended up in Accident and Emergency and once again I was convinced that Death was coming for me…

He wasn’t. Obviously. Or I wouldn’t be typing this.

It was a severe panic attack. I was given a beta blocker and sent on my way.

That day my anxiety went orbital. I genuinely thought I was losing my mind. The drugs made me so ill that I lost half a stone in two weeks. I chose to come off the medication and CBT became my only hope.

CBT has been helpful because it’s all about changing your thoughts. Medication is great (when it works) but it only deals with the symptoms, not the cause. CBT has given me some useful distraction techniques aside the old worry tree.

Two weeks ago I noticed the good days were starting to outnumber the bad and I was controlling the panic more. I wasn’t waking up with my heart going nuts every day and dared to think that I’d got this thing beaten.

‘I think I’ve turned a corner!’ I proudly told the therapist after giving her my scores for how anxiety is affecting my life.

‘You’re doing really well’, she soothed down the phone.

I told her that I’d taken up ironing again after a 10 year hiatus. I hate ironing with a passion but figured it might help me if I imagined the creases were my fears which were disappearing with each glide of the iron. The therapist was impressed and I think she wrote it down because she went quiet. Either that or she was updating her Twitter..

Got a right one here #loon #needacareerchange

This week the symptoms have been creeping back in. I’m back to the 4am waking up with my heart pounding. This morning it was 4am then again at 5.30 and I know I’m not breathing properly which is why the palpitations are back.

I feel SO disheartened.

However.

I know setbacks happen with anxiety. I know it’s a long way back from where I’ve been. As soul-destroying as it is to relapse, it’s a normal part of the recovery process.

Some days I wish they give me a lobotomy.

I feel too much.

I think too much.

There is just too much mind-traffic.

The Boy and I came up with an analogy which helps him describe what’s going on in his head as being autistic he struggles to describe how he feels. We say his head is like a motorway and on a good day it’s running smoothly and traffic is flowing. On a bad day it’s congested and people are peeping their horns in frustration. My personal version (for grown ups) includes lots of wanker signs, road rage and multiple collisions. Of course, there are fatalities because my thoughts are catastrophic ones.

It drains you. The happiness goes out of your life as if you have a Dementor circling around your head only you have no wand. But wait, I DO have a wand. It’s in my head. An imaginary one along with the imaginary thoughts that torment my mind. So I whip out my wand and send those thoughts spinning into oblivion.

EXPECTO PATRONUM, MOTHERF*CKERS!

Obviously, Harry Potter didn’t call them motherf*ckers but I bet you anything he was thinking it…

I hold onto the thought that I’ve been here before and things have got better.

I hold onto that thought tightly when Fear threatens to overwhelm me.

I know that worrying about symptoms and constantly body scanning triggers panic attacks so I try to acknowledge the sensations but refuse to take it to the next level because that’s where the shit happens. That’s what Fear wants me to do because then it can control me and I’ve had enough of it controlling me.

I will no longer run from it.

I will look it in the eyes, smile and say.

‘Hello, Fear, you bastard.’

‘I’ve been waiting for you.’

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”~ Frank Herbert – Dune

Image Via Creative Commons

Papa Tont

 

Autism, Creativity and Me

Myth – People with autism lack creativity

Some of the most creative people on the planet are known (or suspected) to have autism.

It’s a common myth that autistic people lack creativity. It is true that some have specific interests and struggle with abstract concepts but that’s all part of seeing the world in a different way. In every area of the arts you will find people who have autism.

This study was published last year.

For the study, researchers looked at responses from 312 people – 75 of whom had a diagnosis of autism.

Participants of the study took the Alternative Uses Test where they were asked to think about uses for an everyday item such as a paper clip or a brick. This test is used to measure divergent thinking –  a thought process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions.

In line with previous research (which showed that people with autism score lower in these tests) it found that while they came up with fewer responses, the ones they did come up with were more unusual and creative compared to non-autistic people who commonly saw an alternative use for a brick as being a weapon or a door stop.

It highlights that autistic people are able to think ‘outside the box’ and come up with ideas that are incredibly creative.

Iris Grace

Iris Grace expresses herself through art. Her paintings have been sold to private art collectors here in the UK and all over the world.

What’s special about Iris?

Well, she is six years old and autistic.

http://irisgracepainting.com/

Iris’s life changed when she met Thula the cat in 2014. Animals often have the power to reach the autistic child in a way that no human can…It is truly a heart-warming story.

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The Boy

The Boy struggles with creativity art and crafts wise. He will only draw what interests him and 95% of his drawings are of stick-people whereas most of his peers’ drawings are more detailed and formed which is appropriate for his age group. Having said that, Katie from the hilarious http://hurrahforgin.com/ draws stick-people and she’s doing quite well from it, as did Lancashire lad L. S Lowry!

The Boy draws his obsessions and those obsessions started with numbers. He had a habit of drawing stick- people with their ages above their head which made me wish I’d knocked a few years off myself. Opportunity missed there, methinks!

His current obsessions is Ninjago and owls.

Being used to his stick drawings I was absolutely delighted when he produced this at Christmas..

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The Owl Babies

The Boy first became obsessed with owls two years ago when The Owl Babies was read out in his class at school. He fell in love with ‘Bill’ because he’s the smallest and cutest. The teachers soon realised that owls were the answer to keeping him calm or providing comfort when he went into meltdown so they provided him with one to keep on his desk. Fabulous, eh?

Such is his love for these creatures that he was able to produce this beautiful picture which we’ve now framed. I know what effort it must have taken for him to do it and I couldn’t be prouder.

Art and Me

I’m creative person – a visual thinker and once upon a time I loved to draw.

My first work of art was to scribble all over my bedroom wall which really impressed Dad who’d just painted it. OOPS!

I was a crayon sniffer at school (is that weird?) and was fascinated by the variety of shades – my favourite being crimson. I like that word, crimson. It was the same shade my face used to go when I had to read out loud in class. *twitch*

Few subjects held my attention at school but art was one of them. I didn’t get the technical jargon and I’ve never stood with a pencil at arms length but I just loved being able to create something. It made school bearable but as we morphed into teenagers (therefore, gobshites) the art teacher became inept at controlling the class and in those last few years even art couldn’t provide me with respite from the bullying.

My love of art was inspired by Eldest Brother who was (and still is) a talented artist who reached A level standard. I admired him a lot and wanted to be like him, so I started to draw..

My art teacher said my work was OK but stylized. Cow.

I didn’t do very well at school. There were too many distractions of the sensory kind and an inability to perform under exam situations meant that I left with nothing to show for it. However, my art exam was done in a more relaxed atmosphere and I was able to produce work that I was proud of which ended being displayed on the wall. It was of a girl and it was an expression of myself and I was proud of it mainly because I achieved sod all else.

I don’t know what happened to that painting but it was in the same style as this one that I did a few years later.

80's Style

Obviously I was heavily influenced by the 80’s Not sure when I painted this…

Technically, it’s crap but that’s not what art is about to me. Art is expression. It’s looking at a blank canvas and creating something. In art, I found something that I wasn’t completely toss at and I liked how it made me feel.

I haven’t done any drawing or painting at all for eleven years. The only painting I do these days is up a ladder with a roller ha ha

Art is a good way of misfits, such as myself, to express themselves and for those like Iris Grace, it’s way of unlocking a silent world.

Maybe The Boy will develop a love of art and maybe he wont and either way it’s OK because I know he will find a way to express himself in whatever way is right for him.

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”Thomas Merton – No Man is an Island

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