“I knew, of course I knew, that life is always more complicated than our narratives.” – John Burnside, A Lie About My Father

Writing an illness is hard. Writing an illness for the humour section is even harder.

I am someone who prides herself on being rather breezy about the whole living with a chronic illness thing. And, as someone who cares so much about that, I sit in front of the computer and fret on that rare occasion that I write something serious about my health.  It is rather important for me to have all of the heavy moments of my illness floating around serenely in a pool of cheerfulness. “Oh, that’s just an agonizing muscle spasm, don’t mind that, pass the chips!” is probably a sentence I have actually spoken to a friend. Is this a coping mechanism? I am sure that must have something to do with it. Kurt Vonnegut once said that “laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” I’m with you there, Kurt. Of course I have my tears (my boyfriend can certainly attest to that), but I try my best to focus on the laughs, especially when I’m writing my illness. I would much rather have people going around saying “she had a bunch of needles stuck in her and she just cracked jokes about it,” instead of “there she goes again, complaining about needles.”

So I visit emergency rooms, I have a battery of tests done, I sit across from doctors who tell me they aren’t sure how to fix me, and then I write amusing little anecdotes about it online. I joke with my friends that I have a new disease every month, and maybe I should get a stamp card so that the tenth diagnosis gets me a free coffee. I log in to WordPress and I write things like “I was sick but that part of my sickness is over now so let’s laugh about it haha.” But, of course, it’s more complicated than that.

It wasn’t funny when I got called into a doctor’s office to be told about Multiple Sclerosis. It wasn`t funny to grieve for the loss of all that could have been, only to find out that grief can no longer be mine because it belongs to someone with lesions on their MRI and my results came back clean. It wasn’t funny when I was told it was another disease, and although I hesitated to begin the grieving process, I naturally began it anyway, only to have that one ripped from me too. It leaves this emptiness in you that should be filled with sadness, anger, denial, but ultimately acceptance. It leaves you on the sidelines while other people – people who are sick the way you are sick but who get names for their sickness – are getting support in the right places and treatment for the right problems. It’s not funny when you are unsure of who you really are.

But writing about that is just an absolute downer. Who wants to hear about a girl who doesn’t walk right and who doesn’t know why? Who wants to hear about a girl who keeps looking back through her medical journal to see if she forgot to write that something down that could have given her doctor answers? Who wants to go to the bookstore and buy a self-help book written by an undiagnosable?

So I write the funny instead. I doodle rainbows and puppy dogs in the margins of a rather serious memoir. I do it for me because it makes things easier and it allows me to tell my story without opening a huge window for pity to get in. But I do it for you too, because the truth hurts and the reason you click on my blog after googling “chronic illness” is because you are just trying to find an end to the pain. Of course, of course, I know that life is more complicated than my silly little hospital narratives. But in the end this is my story and I’ll be damned if I`m going to let some disease get in the way of it being a funny one.

Knock knock…


[Memoir Madness Prompt]

73 Comments on Writing Illness as Humour

  1. vgfoster
    August 5, 2014 at 7:21 pm (7 years ago)

    I sorry you are sick. That sucks. I like your writing style. It’s refreshingly to the point.

    I have a friend who was diagnosed with MS but found out that her symptoms were all from drinking diet cola. She stopped drinking them. Now she’s fine.

    Best wishes.

    • lisermarie2013
      August 5, 2014 at 9:45 pm (7 years ago)

      Diet cola gave your friend lesions on her brain or spine? Geez.

  2. Me MyColon and I
    August 6, 2014 at 7:18 pm (7 years ago)

    Ha. Your muscle spasm comment made me laugh. Good on you for trying to keep a positive attitude, and by positive I mean humorous (the best kind of positive!)

    Also, Who’s there?

  3. ScorpionGlow
    August 12, 2014 at 5:07 pm (7 years ago)

    You should always write precisely what you want to write. It need not deter from your personality and sense of humor. It’s a difficult diagnosis, but the core of who you are should never change.

    • lisermarie2013
      August 12, 2014 at 5:26 pm (7 years ago)

      I agree! It’s important not to let something like your health get in the way of who you really are.

  4. southafricanwhitegirl
    August 12, 2014 at 5:35 pm (7 years ago)

    So sorry you’re sick. And cheated by the not knowing! You don’t need to be cheerful always.

    • lisermarie2013
      August 13, 2014 at 6:27 pm (7 years ago)

      Thank you! I’m definitely not ALWAYS cheery, but I try to be because it makes me feel better 🙂

  5. agirlwhowrites
    August 12, 2014 at 5:43 pm (7 years ago)

    I forget most days that I have Lyme, until a really bad day, and those I usually dress-up in adventures and shopping sprees. I never, ever, ever let is be an excuse. This, sometimes, makes my family upset and my friends uncomfortable- like maybe they think I don’t take it seriously. I like to say I don’t need to take it too seriously.

    Here is to a bunch of good days that hopefully make the bad ones not so bad. *Cheers*

    • lisermarie2013
      August 13, 2014 at 6:28 pm (7 years ago)

      Thanks, girl! I hope you have lots of good days too!

      I don’t see what’s wrong with not wanting to be so hung up on your disease, especially when it’s chronic. Life has to go on even when you’re in pain, might as well make the best of it! 🙂

  6. Rebecca Meyer
    August 12, 2014 at 9:51 pm (7 years ago)

    Humor is so magical because it can distract us from our sadness and unite us. I’m sorry you are dealing with this illness. Being sick is so difficult, but it can teach you things and make you stronger in some ways. Keep writing, keep laughing, and we will be here with you. 🙂

    • lisermarie2013
      August 13, 2014 at 6:28 pm (7 years ago)

      Thanks, Rebecca! I appreciate the support 🙂

  7. gregmercer601
    August 12, 2014 at 10:14 pm (7 years ago)

    Reblogged this on Big Red Carpet Nursing and commented:
    It certainly is! I can’t understand myself haldf the time, let alone others…

  8. Multifarious Metamorphosing Amalgum
    August 13, 2014 at 1:32 am (7 years ago)

    That made me tear up and chuckle at the same time. My mom has MS, so I know how difficult it can be. You’re awesome and I think the discontented hoards could take at least a few lessons from your outlook.

    • lisermarie2013
      August 13, 2014 at 6:29 pm (7 years ago)

      Thank you! That means a lot! Best of luck to you and your mom!

  9. rejectreality101
    August 13, 2014 at 1:58 am (7 years ago)

    Humor is definitely a wonderful cure and distraction. Great post!

  10. Sarena.W
    August 13, 2014 at 7:44 am (7 years ago)

    Reading this brought a smile to my face, yes humor is very important in order to live life healthily, but remember it’s always okay to feel whatever you’re feeling as well 😀

    • lisermarie2013
      August 13, 2014 at 6:30 pm (7 years ago)

      Thanks Serena, I’m glad this could make you smile 🙂

      • Sarena.W
        August 13, 2014 at 6:40 pm (7 years ago)

        “Worry is itself an illness, since worry is an accusation against Divine Wisdom, a criticism of Divine Mercy.”
        ― Said Nursî

        Just found this quote!

  11. missltoner
    August 13, 2014 at 3:53 pm (7 years ago)

    Hi, great to see such positivity from another medical sufferer. Laughter certainly does help. My nurse told me it’s refreshing for them to meet positive and upbeat individuals rather than miserable ones- makes treating us easier apparently. You’ll get your diagnosis eventually. It took me 3-4 years and 4 hospitals to get mine 🙂 hope you don’t mind if I reblog this so others can enjoy it as much as me. xx

    • lisermarie2013
      August 13, 2014 at 6:32 pm (7 years ago)

      I think your nurse is right. I feel like I get way better care from nurses than the people in the beds next to me bitching and complaining!
      I’m glad you finally got your diagnosis even though it seems to have been quite the struggle to get it!
      Also, thanks for the reblog!!

      • missltoner
        August 13, 2014 at 7:18 pm (7 years ago)

        Any time. I happily reblog ‘good sh*t’ 🙂 Look forward to reading more from you.
        Take care x

  12. missltoner
    August 13, 2014 at 3:54 pm (7 years ago)

    Reblogged this on Lauren: That's Swell and commented:
    Found this amazing girl. Another chronic illness sufferer. Hope you enjoy her blog as much I have. xx

  13. seeker
    August 13, 2014 at 4:08 pm (7 years ago)

    Funny is as funny does. Congratulations.

  14. lorilafontaine
    August 14, 2014 at 7:37 am (7 years ago)

    Reblogged this on Just Something Else and commented:
    This post really resonates with me. I’ve also made the ‘tenth illness -maybe I’ll get one free’ joke. 🙂

    • lisermarie2013
      August 14, 2014 at 12:08 pm (7 years ago)

      Thanks for the reblog! Sorry that you are going through something similar enough to make that joke too! But at least you’re keeping positive 🙂

  15. kayceemarie18
    August 14, 2014 at 6:08 pm (7 years ago)

    I had to reblog this. I’m currently waiting on a diagnosis. One of any sort just to feel justfied in my daily struggle and so that i might avoid the sideways looks and awkward stares when I say I’m sick but I look completely fine. I’m 23 years young and doctors discussed fibro but they aren’t sure they think im too young, and they dont trust the disease to be genuine. I’ve done test after test and I’m currently waiting on more results. My options are dwindling but the symptoms are not. I hope you can find some healing. Until then, keep on, keepin on! 😉

    • lisermarie2013
      August 14, 2014 at 8:52 pm (7 years ago)

      Thank you for the reblog, Kaycee! I’m very sorry that you can relate to my story. If you ever want to swap stories and have a chronic illness buddy to chat with feel free to email me at lisa_walters@hotmail.com
      Take care 🙂

      • kayceemarie18
        August 20, 2014 at 3:13 pm (7 years ago)

        I just saw your reply! I would absolutely love to chat sometime thanks for responding 🙂

  16. ocjarman1
    August 17, 2014 at 3:02 am (7 years ago)

    Hey there, Lisamarie!! Your blog really snapped me on the side of my head!! I cruising along with m.s. for about 30 years–both good days, not so good ones & downright frippin’ crappy ones! Recently, I’ve WAY too many of ’em!! Congrats on being FP!

    • lisermarie2013
      August 18, 2014 at 9:19 pm (7 years ago)

      Thank you! Here’s to many more good days for you!!

  17. jill
    August 17, 2014 at 3:34 am (7 years ago)

    Wow… I really needed to read that. Please know that you put into words what so many of us don’t know how to say. Having a chronic illness becomes overwhelmingly depressing at times. Wearing the “funny mask” sometimes seems like the only way to get through. You’re awesome.

    • lisermarie2013
      August 18, 2014 at 9:20 pm (7 years ago)

      Thank you so much. It means a lot to hear something like that about my writing. It’s an honour when I can help someone dealing with a chronic illness find the words that are sometimes too hard to come. I wish you all the best!

  18. theniksterrrr
    August 18, 2014 at 5:14 am (7 years ago)

    I did not expect to relate to this so much. Absolutely lovely x

    • lisermarie2013
      August 18, 2014 at 9:21 pm (7 years ago)

      Thank you very much! I’m sorry you can relate to it, though.

  19. totoryan
    August 18, 2014 at 11:30 am (7 years ago)

    here, have some love from this stranger ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤
    Thank you for sharing!

  20. Lisa
    August 18, 2014 at 5:56 pm (7 years ago)

    I think writing about your illness is not just a great way to cope, but I’m sure it helps other people who are sick cope. Being sick isn’t fun and not knowing exactly what’s wrong is even worse. I suffer from anxiety and depression and write about it a lot. The other day I had a similar thought: “Who wants to read about depression? How depressing is that?” But often, we write for ourselves first and find our readers that way. I hope you find some answers soon! It’s been great getting to know you on Twitter.

    • lisermarie2013
      August 18, 2014 at 9:23 pm (7 years ago)

      Thank you, Lisa! I have spent the last hour at work today reading through your blog and I’m looking forward to reading more. Very glad to have discovered you on twitter! I think it is important to write about your depression, as we have seen this week especially since the passing of Robin Williams, as it gives hope to others who suffer the same. Keep up the awesome work and thanks for checking out my blog 🙂

  21. Paula Reed Nancarrow
    August 19, 2014 at 1:13 pm (7 years ago)

    My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last year, as her mother was before her. It is a disease that is more common in women, and the probability is higher if it runs in your family. Occasionally I wonder if I should get tested for the gene, and then I think, “what the hell for?” There’s no cure and it’s awful. Still, every time I forget something… At any rate, I hope you get a diagnosis that you can do something about. In the meantime – and probably for all time, unless you or someone else needs permission to cry – Vonnegut is right.

    • lisermarie2013
      August 19, 2014 at 6:50 pm (7 years ago)

      Sorry to hear about your mom. That must be very difficult for both of you. If I were in your situation I don’t think I would want to know either.

  22. rubiredsaid
    August 20, 2014 at 11:43 pm (7 years ago)

    I was so glad to see that chronic illness is not disfiguring our faces!
    I think your positivity stands strong.
    Keep going but know when you’ve had enough and need to scream.
    After all you are human too!
    All the best, keep blogging!

  23. Raveesh Agarwal
    August 23, 2014 at 2:51 am (7 years ago)

    Reblogged this on SOCH and commented:
    Writing illness as humour. One I couldn’t resist to not share :-p also at some point of time all of it will go away. Only if you believe.
    A lot of respect. But no disease is without a cure and my mom is a doctor and she has made similar diseases go.

    Laughter is the best medicine though

  24. Loca Gringa
    August 23, 2014 at 2:43 pm (7 years ago)

    Hmm, great article! The list for what’s not wrong with me seems to be getting smaller and smaller :/ My daughter used to say of her work, “I go in in the morning and whether I’m feeling it or not, I screw on a smile and a happy attitude. Eventually after an hour or so, I feel what I am portraying.”

    So, cheers and kudos to us for screwing on that smile 😀

    • lisermarie2013
      September 3, 2014 at 1:10 am (7 years ago)

      Great advice from your daughter! Vonnegut also said “we are what we pretend to be” so I think it’s important to be light hearted about most things. Best of luck to you!

  25. maryannedaley
    August 26, 2014 at 9:04 am (7 years ago)

    Thank you for writing this! I’ve always liked that Kurt Vonnegut quote 🙂 I understand how you feel about not having a diagnosis as well. I’ve just got one for my mental health problems and it does make a huge difference to know what’s been going on. Humour is such a powerful tool for coping. I hope you can find answers soon, and wish you all the best. Lots and lots of love xx

    • lisermarie2013
      September 3, 2014 at 1:11 am (7 years ago)

      Thank you, Mary Ann! (I hope I spelled that properly)
      It means a lot! I’m glad you got a diagnosis and some answers. It can really make the world of difference. Good luck on your journey!

  26. kategresham
    August 26, 2014 at 10:21 am (7 years ago)

    Sometimes we are looking to find someone who understands what it’s like- someone who tells it like it is, because no matter how much a healthy person might try, they can never fully appreciate the reality. Please, sometimes just tell it like it is! That’s not whingeing. You’ll always be funny. And yes, it’s so much easier when it has a name- otherwise it’s too easy to doubt my own reality.

    • lisermarie2013
      September 3, 2014 at 1:13 am (7 years ago)

      Oh I have no problem telling it like it is. Well, I mean, there will always be problems trying to explain exactly what you go through having a chronic illness to someone who doesn’t have one, but I certainly don’t lack trying. It amazes me how much comfort I feel when I am reading something online and realize that this stranger understands what I’m going through. That’s one of the main reasons I started blogging.

  27. ninaskad
    September 1, 2014 at 5:20 am (7 years ago)

    It’s so nice to see such a positive person 🙂
    My mother in law deals with chronic arthritis that is throughout her whole body and on top of that she also has lupus.
    I see her struggle everyday and she also has her good and bad days as well, on her good days I have heard her singing while she is driving but her bad days which seems like she is having more of those lately she stays in bed all day and she also keeps getting calls from her dr with some other kind of disease and it is heartbreaking.
    With all that is going on with her she still can keep a positive look on life and I never hear her complain she is someone I look up to for sure.

    • lisermarie2013
      September 3, 2014 at 1:14 am (7 years ago)

      She certainly sounds like a great role model. It’s sad to hear that she’s going through so much but it’s great to see that she really tries to remain positive when she can. Best of luck to her and to you!

  28. jacksonwhiley
    September 1, 2014 at 5:40 pm (7 years ago)

    “It wasn’t funny when I got called into a doctor’s office to be told that I have Multiple Sclerosis”. This was the turning point in the article and made me sit up and pay attention. I like your writing style. I started a blog about a month ago regarding depression and ways to help minimise its effects. Thats what originally drew me into this post. I thought we had something in common although you are clearly better at it than I am.

    • lisermarie2013
      September 3, 2014 at 1:16 am (7 years ago)

      Thank you so much! I will definitely check your blog out when I get back from my vacation. I’m sure its great. Keep it up, it’s very therapeutic!

  29. Persego's Words
    September 4, 2014 at 12:23 pm (7 years ago)

    Great post, it definitely puts things to perspective. Thank you…

  30. Nicole
    November 19, 2014 at 5:21 pm (7 years ago)

    I just wanted you to know that I really appreciate your blog, and this article. I’m in that weird place of not knowing what’s wrong yet, although it hasn’t been nearly as long for me as for a lot of other people. I’m still at the point where it could just go away on its own and I’ll never know (which is sort of scary in its own way), or it could stick around for a while, or it could go away and come back… So many possibilities. But it’s already affecting my life and my job enough that it’s becoming more obvious that something is wrong to others, so I’m dealing with what to tell various groups of people (strangers, acquaintances, friends, close friends, etc.) when I still don’t even really know what to tell myself. So thank you for writing the way you do.


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