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How sitcoms help my bipolar disorder

Wednesday, 22 October 2014 Becky Irvine

Becky blogs about she uses humour to make it easier to live with bipolar.

Hi, I’m Becky, 16 years of age and have been diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder. I was hospitalised for 9 months and have since been discharged. What I want to show is the way I use humour from my favourite comedies to combat the internal pain people with mental health problems can go through, even when it becomes completely unbearable.

I’m now in the stage of recovery and because I have bipolar disorder, there are plenty of ups and downs. Sometimes I will wake up and realise things aren’t quite right but I’ll look in the mirror and say a really daft insult to myself out loud - and this allows me to just laugh, rather than ruminating and thinking it’s my fault that I don’t feel ok. It’s not. I know there are bad days, but I also know I can get through them. A little bit of sarcasm helps stop me from putting pressure on myself and remind me that the bad moments won’t last forever.

Saying this sounds a lot easier than actually putting it into practice. It takes time, but as we all know, time is something we have to find a way of dealing with even when it can be excruciatingly long. When I feel that time is passing slowly, I like to keep in mind the comedy series ‘Black Books,’ whose main protagonist Bernard has a disdain for conventional living. In one episode, he’s on the phone to his mother and you watch him get really frustrated even though he’s only been on the phone for 11 seconds and subsequently hangs up! This, to me, epitomises the way time can be distorted when we are unwell. This doesn’t last forever though. We can laugh at ourselves, thinking of the absurdity of feeling we’ve been up for a week when it’s only been a few hours.

One thing I have to watch out for is indecisiveness. I can never put my mind to one thing, I’m always moving about going from one thing to the other. Edina from ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ is a mother who is always wanting more from her life and can’t stop huffing and puffing about what to do. In one episode, she can’t even sleep normally and ends up ‘sleep jogging’. This reminds me of pacing around the living room, throwing books out to read but never actually deciding on anything. I laugh when I think about her and recognise our similarities. This helps to remind me that there are many others who have difficulty putting their mind to something.

Having bipolar disorder, I have to be on a combination of medication, which leads to a few side effects such as tremors, blurred vision and a dry mouth. These can be frustrating, but my dad and I make light of these by putting my side effects in an imaginary dating profile. Some of the “attractive” qualities are as follows: have to chew chewing gum to keep my saliva producing; have to apply lip balm at least twenty times a day; and have bad vision so my date would have to wear bright colours! ‘What a catch!’ some might say sarcastically. But this displays the good self-esteem I have and helps me view myself in a positive manner. I can make fun of myself and still be happy with who I’ve become.

I am not trying to say that mental health problems like bipolar disorder are hilarious – I would never try to do that. All that I’m saying is that seeing the lighter side has really helped me and they do say that laughter is the best medicine! There are many different forms of humour, and you just need to find one that keeps you optimistic.

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