…………………………it is also the best defence mechanism. I say this not to be negative or to undo all the benefits of laughing because without it a life in chronic pain would be no life at all. We look forward to moments in our day where we can laugh, and joke and smile. Usually because this a short period each day that we feel human and normal. Chronic pain is all too often a very lonely and isolating illness/disability so being with others who really do make you laugh and enjoy yourself help immensely.
You will however also find that many people with Chronic Pain, and especially me use laughter as a defence mechanism. What I mean by this is do not always be fooled by the smiles on our faces. For me many times each week it is a case of laugh or cry and not because I’m sad or deliberately trying to fool the ones I love (most of them see through it after 13 years now anyway) but because the pain is such that even to move my fingers to type is excruciatingly painful.
I was speaking this week to a couple of people who were discussing my stubbornness. There is I was told a fine line between determination and stubbornness, it is a line that I know I firmly walk on the side of the latter. To be able to do that you need to develop a number of defence mechanisms to hide how you are really feeling. I have become very good at gritting my teeth, putting a smile on my face and carrying on. If on the exterior everything appears ok 90% of the people you meet will not delve any deeper. This isn’t because they do not care it can be that they are busy or have their own things going on that you haven’t noticed. My problem is that my stubbornness can lead to me unnecessarily increasing my pain, I don’t want to put people out, or create extra work for them, or be a “burden” so I do silly things then smile on through it. This determination has however allowed me to achieve many more things since my car accident than I ever deemed possible and will in the future I hope help me to continue to do so. For many years I gritted my teeth each day and went to work even though I knew it went against the amount of pain I was in (it was counter balanced by my mental wellbeing), it always has been and always will be important to me me to be contributing in someway to society or my community and I have lost my focus really as to how I do that. Having been unable to to work for the past year, and it looking increasingly unlikely that I will return the good old smiling defence mechanism really has been hiding a massive inner turmoil.
What I have learnt recently though is that this isn’t unique to people with pain or any sort of illness really, it is just human nature to hide things from others with a smile and a laugh, sometimes that is fine, sometimes though that person is hoping that you will see through their smile. I am learning that with the help and support of many people. I am also learning that for me asking for help isn’t a bad thing, it isn’t giving in or accepting defeat it is just changing the way I see and do things.
Having a genuine laugh is a good thing and great medicine though!