Bipolar 2 From Inside and Out

Posts tagged ‘humor’

Distract Me!

I recently saw a meme that said being happy was different than being distracted from sadness. I couldn’t deny that they are different. But it seemed to me that it was saying that being distracted from sadness was a bad thing. And I don’t believe that, necessarily.

Sure, happiness is better than sadness, and something to aspire to. But it’s not always possible, especially for those of us who struggle with bipolar, depression, and other mood disorders – despite what the positive thinking people say. (I don’t think that “smiling depression” is a good coping mechanism to recommend. It denies reality and doesn’t help someone realize that they should seek out the help they need.)

But when I’m down in the depths, distraction helps. Unless I’m in the total Pit of Despair, it short-circuits my overthinking, relieves (at least for a while) my brooding, and even gives me something I can smile at, if only momentarily.

Where do I find distraction? First, there are other people. There’s my husband. He has the ability to make me laugh at the silliest things. We sometimes toss a soft toy back and forth at each other, exclaiming, “Eeee!” It’s really a stupid game, and not one we play every day, but when you’re not expecting Eeee to fly through the air and bop you, it’s definitely distracting. We giggle like fools.

Another one of my go-to distraction providers is a friend named Tom. He’s a singer-songwriter and improv comedian who has dozens of different songs and jokes I’ve never heard. If I’m too much “in my head” and can’t get out, I can call Tom. Once when I called him, I just flat out said, “I need to be distracted.” “Look at the grouse! Look at the grouse!” he instantly replied. I had no idea it was from a Three Stooges routine, but it was absurd enough to ease me closer to where I needed to be.

That’s an important point, too – the ability to ask for distraction. It’s good to have people around who respond and help. Sometimes a calming voice is all it takes. My Uncle Phil has the most soothing voice, and he has many times centered me by distracting me with stories about anything – using computers for business, tarot cards, religious stories, or whatever. My friend Leslie grounds me by expounding on esoteric subjects – epigenetics, for example – if I ask her to. We’re perpetually told to reach out when we need it. This is just another way to do that. If you don’t want advice or commiseration, reach out for distraction.

Of course, there are other distractions like music, television, movies, and even pursuits like gardening. Doing something you have to concentrate on, like needlepoint, keeps your mind focused, and can be a great distraction if you are able to do it. And there are the cats. They’re so completely unconcerned with whatever’s troubling me that they can’t help but draw my attention away from it too.

I’m not saying that one should distract oneself to the exclusion of working on one’s problems. That way nothing which is necessary gets done. We all know that dealing with our difficulties is the path out of the pit.

And I’m not saying that distractions always work. Dan used to tell me terrible jokes to try to jolly me out of my depressive moods. When that didn’t work, he would tell the same joke again in hopes, I suppose, that I had merely misunderstood it and would think it was funny the second time. At that point in my life and my illness, not even Eeee would have gotten through. I’d have let it bounce off me. Or hidden it so he couldn’t try it again.

I’m hardly going to say that distraction can replace therapy and medication. But as an adjunct, I can’t see the harm in it. If you’re at a point where you’re able to, look at the grouse!

Jenny’s Back!

Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) is back with a new book to accompany her wildly successful Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and Furiously Happy, plus the coloring book that I can never remember the name of.

Her new book, Broken (in the best possible way), which debuted at #3 in the New York Times, takes Jenny’s weird and out-of-the-ordinary sense of humor and adds more laughs, as well as more serious material.

I haven’t counted how often she talks about vaginas and “lady gardens,” but I bet someone will. And f-bombs abound. (Hardly surprising, since the most requested way for her to sign books is “Knock, knock, motherfucker!”)

Note: If you’re at all a sensitive soul or offended by certain types of language, steer clear of the chapter on “Business Ideas to Pitch on Shark Tank.” It’s raunchy even by Bloggess standards, which means it’s beyond simply raunchy. Of course, if you were a sensitive soul who objected to certain types of language, you probably wouldn’t have picked up this book in the first place.

Jenny’s previous book, Furiously Happy, dealt a lot with struggles against depression and anxiety – Jenny’s own and other people’s. The new book goes into those subjects in more depth, including a personal narrative of using TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) to deal with her treatment-resistant depression. There’s even a picture of her using the device.

She also reveals her own “really serious and raw stuff” – experiences with avoidant personality disorder, imposter syndrome, ADD, OCD, tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis, anemia, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. So be ready for a bumpy ride.

There are also sweet, sad, funny chapters about her family, and especially how they are dealing with her grandmother’s dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. And there are chapters that are not sweet, funny, or sad, where she rails against insurance companies and their unhelpful (to say the least) ways. These chapters and passages, I am certain, nearly every reader will identify and agree with.

And, lest you think this is a complete departure from Jenny’s funny stories, rest assured that there is plenty of what Jenny herself calls her “baffling wordsmithery,” including times she lost shoes while wearing them, dog penises and condoms, attic vampires, arguments with her husband Victor, embarrassing moments shared with other people (those who inadvertently say IUD when they really mean IED, for example), roller skating monkeys, dubious beauty treatments, the perils of being an editor, the perils of cooking and cleaning, taxidermy (of course), and high school proms.

As for the title, a broken lawn ornament (not Beyoncé the chicken, thank goodness) leads Victor to explain the Japanese concept of kintsugi. According to this practice, philosophy, or art form, broken ceramic items such as vases or teacups are repaired with a fixative mixed with gold powder, which creates something new, stronger, more artistic – and beautiful at the broken places, a theme which runs throughout the book.

What sets Jenny’s books apart from other humor books and from other books on serious illness, especially serious mental illness, is her ability to connect – both readers to herself and readers to each other. Her humorous chapters are over-the-top funny and many evoke a sense of “Yes! Me too! That could/did happen to me!” Jenny even includes instances when people have shared their own stories of faux-pas with her and by extension, with all her readers.

Her serious chapters are educational, descriptive, and occasionally searing. She tackles tough topics with fortitude and forthrightness, educating as well as illuminating. Far from being a textbook on serious mental illness and chronic illnesses, though, her stories bare the truth and present the subjects powerfully. They give hope and understanding as well as connection.

Connection. That’s Jenny Lawson’s superpower.

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