If my life with mental illness were a mixed drink, it would be Jungle Juice. Which is basically a bunch of random booze poured into a tub with unpredictable results.
It’s the sort of thing that makes a party a bit wilder, not only for the risks but also for the fun. Yes, I did just imply that life with a mental illness could be “fun.” It certainly doesn’t make it worth it, and most of the time I’m pretty pissed off about having to go through all of this. But I’ve found that taking just a few minutes a day to look at my life and marvel at the absurdity of it can help to make it a little more tolerable.
By the way, I’m not just talking about being able to have fun in spite of the craziness. On occasion, it can be precisely because of it.
As I mentioned in my introductory post, I have Bipolar II, anxiety, and adult ADHD. My husband, the Dude, is a recovering drug and alcohol addict with PTSD, anxiety, next to zero self-esteem, and schizophrenia. In my family, mental illness is rampant, directly affecting most of my dad’s immediate relatives. Among them are Bipolar I and II, depression, eating disorders, cutting, suicide attempts, and ADHD.
You’re probably thinking, “That’s horrible! How dare you imply that there’s anything okay with it?” And you’re right – it's pretty bad, and it’s not okay. These are serious problems with often tragic consequences, and nobody would ever choose them. But we don’t get to choose. It happens, and there’s nothing we can do about it besides finding the best treatment we can. Part of treatment and recovery is embracing any bright side we can find, no matter how tiny.
Despite our problems, I always loved getting together with my dad’s family growing up. His grandparents were all Italian immigrants. I don’t want to perpetuate any stereotypes here but, well, we’re really into food, speaking with our hands, talking over each other, and having exaggerated reactions to pretty much anything. We might be shouting at each other one minute and laughing over a plate of bracciole the next. The only constant is the level of noise. This would be exhausting for many people, and too much of it certainly can be for me, but there’s a certain oddly appealing energy in our dysfunction.
We also all seem to be wildly creative, with musicians, artists, crafters, and writers among us. In addition to writing, I'm into DIY projects, cross-stitch, jewelry making, and many other random creative endeavors. Back in our D&D days in college, the Dude was the best Dungeon Master ever, coming up with some pretty complex scenarios and brilliant NPC dialogue on the fly.
Is this connected to the mental illness? Quite possibly. Check out this article from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). I especially like this quote from Dr. Fredrik Ullén: “Thinking outside the box might be facilitated by having a somewhat less intact box.”
That’s putting it mildly. Our boxes have been broken down and run through the compactor!
Here’s another great example of hilarity originating with mental illness. It’s what the Dude and I refer to as “Weird Shit,” a collection of his sayings and short conversations that are often nonsensical, occasionally brilliant, and always funny. It usually happens during waking hours when his brain is not quite clear, and sometimes he does it as he’s falling asleep. I have over 1,200 individual instances that I’ve written down since 2010.
Is mild psychosis funny? Certainly not if anyone’s in danger, and I would never find amusement in anyone else’s predicament. But I follow the Dude’s lead, and he has a great sense of humor and tremendously enjoys it when I read them back to him later. And come on, how could you not laugh at this stuff? Some examples:
One of these days, I’m going to try to outsource my flatulence.
It’s like sparks and waves and wavy little lines and shit, with like Bob Ross floating by on happy little paintings.
Even the homeless wear stilts.
I’m going to go get you water. Does it need to be in a container?
It would be nice to have a bit of cheese and maybe some Fruit of the Loom.
Roughage, roughage, roughage. It’s like PAC-MAN in your colon.
I’m always worrying about what to wear on my feet. Do ducks wear feet?
I’ve never heard of anyone withholding sausage gravy from someone just because they didn’t have any biscuits.
That’s on par. Or is it Ron Paul?
Even in everyday conversation, he makes me laugh a lot. So although we really are dealing with some very serious issues, that’s not the full picture. If you can find any humor in your situation, try not to worry about how outrageous or offensive anyone else might find it. Getting through the day in whatever way you can is the priority.