Emerging Blogger: Sarah

The emerging blogger series is aimed at community building through giving mental health bloggers who are early in their blogging evolution the opportunity to have their work seen by a wider audience.  It’s also a way to introduce you as a reader to some newer members of our community.

This post is by Sarah from Between Two Poles.

outstretched arms holding a black face mask

Photo by John Noonan on Unsplash

Taking Off the Mask

I saw the live-action Aladdin last week with two boys I babysit. One of the boys is ten years old and the other one is seven. We had the following conversation on the way home:

D (10): Who do you think was the funnier Genie? The cartoon or this one?

Me: Well, Robin Williams played Genie in the cartoon movie, and he is one of the funniest people to ever live.

A (7): Why doesn’t he go on America’s Got Talent?

Me: He isn’t alive anymore….

A: He isn’t? What happened?

Me: He had an accident.

A: Like a car accident?

Me: No, something else.

They didn’t ask any more questions about Robin Williams after that. I did not intend for the conversation to go the way it did, and I felt badly for getting myself into that situation. However, I think I handled it fairly well.

It is believed Robin Williams was bipolar and struggled with depression, especially towards the end of his life. He committed suicide shortly after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. After an autopsy it was determined he also had dementia.

I remember finding out about his suicide and being shocked. Death is jarring, and somehow a celebrity dying is even more so, particularly when it’s suicide.

Robin Williams was beyond hilarious, and I experienced some cognitive dissonance that someone so comical could struggle with depression.

But should his battle with depression surprise me?

No, it really shouldn’t.

Like many people who have a mental illness, I imagine Robin Williams used humor as a coping mechanism.

I’m not nearly as funny as Robin Williams, but I use humor to deflect and distract from my pain and melancholy.

Oftentimes, I am funniest at my lowest moments. People cannot know I’m hurting or depressed, and the only way to keep them from noticing is to be funny.

All. The. Time.

It’s exhausting, but it’s my way of coping.

When other people are around, I have to be on. I have to put on a brave face and pretend everything is fine.

They cannot know I struggle.

They cannot discover my dark secret.

They cannot learn of my suicidal thoughts.

Humor is my method of preventing people from seeing the nefarious side of my personality. Nobody will suspect I want to die if I’m always entertaining and making people laugh.

I don’t just do it for other people, though. I do it for myself, too. I use humor as a defense against oncoming despair. Hearing people laugh because of something I said or did gives me a rush of dopamine that provides temporary relief from the anguish of depression.

I am not always depressed, but dark moods are habitually right beneath the surface. It takes little to no provocation for my moods to tailspin. Laughter—my own and others—keeps those negative emotions at bay; at least for a little while.

My therapist has noticed my tendency to use humor to avoid hurt. We will be talking about something serious, and I will pop off with a joke or funny story. I frequently make her laugh, but she isn’t fooled. She knows my strategy.

Humor helps salve the wounds of shame that threaten to overwhelm me. This strategy is not unique to me. A lot of people use humor as a defense or diversion when depression comes knocking.

But laughter doesn’t make the pain go away. Not permanently. It is a surface-level solution, which means it solves nothing.

I don’t want people to worry about me. If people always knew what I was thinking, I’d be institutionalized. I like to think my comedy assures people I am happy and safe.

As much as I hate to admit it, this strain of humor creates chasms between people. If I’m always funny and never vulnerable, nobody will ever know me on a deeper level. My humor keeps people at a safe distance; if I make them laugh, they cannot see my scars or shame.

Sometimes it’s necessary to put on a brave face, but other times, the braver action is taking off the mask and showing the world your true self.

 

You can find Sarah on her blog Between Two Poles.

 

Thanks so much Sarah for participating in the emerging blogger series!

You can find a listing of all of the posts in the series here.

The emerging blogger series logo

Are you the next emerging blogger?

Do you blog primarily about mental health?  Are you looking to connect with more of the mental health blogging community?

Once or twice a week I’ll publish emerging blogger mental health-related guest post(s) by bloggers who are early on in blogging evolution, with priority given to those whose blog has less than 50 WordPress followers.  The focus is on community-building rather than just a one-off guest post, and I’m looking for personal rather than commercial blogs.

If you’re interested, email me at mentalhealthathome (at) gmail (dot) com and let me know the topic you’d like to write about and your blog name/URL.

 

Visit the Mental Health @ Home Store for premium mental health resources, guided journals, how-to guides, and my books Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis and Psych Meds Made Simple.

Share this:

7 thoughts on “Emerging Blogger: Sarah

  1. Meg says:

    Wow, that made me sad. Humor works for me, and it’s sad to think it doesn’t work for everyone, if that makes sense. Like, I’ll be looking at myself in the mirror and I’ll think, “Damn, you so sexy. Make love to the mirror. That’s right, Meg. The mirror thinks you’re hot stuff.” And the expression on my face as I claw the mirror with both hands and attach myself to it can have me laughing all day. (It bears mentioning that I look and dress like an old schoolmarm.) When you live with me inside your head, life is always fun. Not to contradict what this emerging blogger said, but I like to think she can find a way to make her humor work for her. Seems sad to let it go to waste and write it off as something that is surface level and means nothing. Make it mean something!! Seriously, stand in front of your mirrored reflection with a banana in your ear, and try to talk to yourself. That’s all I ask.

    Great emerging blog post!! Robin Williams’ death made me sad as well, but I didn’t know he had dementia. That is so sad. 🙁

  2. Barb says:

    Sarah has a lot of great things to say, such as using humor to hide behind so no one knows what you’re really thinking. I also liked the way she used a real-life situation (the conversation) as an intro to her post. I’ll definitely check out her blog!

Leave a Reply