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Joking About My CHD: The Positives and Negatives

Friday, June 07, 2013

By Becca Atherton

It's pretty obvious when you meet me that I am generally a happy person. People have told me more and more recently how they love my sense of humor and my attitude about life. I've learned through my life that laughter does help you feel better—which probably explains why I love comedies, whether it's a TV show or a movie.

When people make weird comments about my scar (like the lady who thought my scar was a drink I spilled on myself), I usually don't get offended—unless they are purposely trying to be rude—and instead, I laugh it off and find it amusing. I'll go home and I'll tell my family about the newest and weirdest comment. We find humor in some of the things people say. Because if I didn't do that, I could have a chip on my shoulder from all the things people have said to me. But when I laugh it off and get a kick out of the stupid things people say, it makes for great stories!

Now I know that this is a double-edged sword, my sense of humor about my health. When my health comes up for the first time with a new group of people, I make a few jokes about it. Such as “Oh yeah, my grandma who's in a wheelchair probably runs faster than me.” Or I tell them the story about my mom's cousin who told me I should get a pacemaker on both sides of my chest, so it would be like a breast implant. Funny stories.

And I tell them for a reason. I want these people who meet for the first time to feel comfortable with my health, and feel like they can ask questions without me getting sad or depressed about the topic. And another reason being, I don't want them to think that my health controls my life or that my health is all my life revolves around—because it doesn't. By using humor, I've noticed that people don't react as if my health is as big of a deal as they used to when I didn't always use humor for it.

With that being said, though... my health is a big deal to me and my family. I have almost died because of my health, more than once. And while I use laughter to help deal with what I'm going through, it really isn't a laughing matter.

Now I understand that I can't have the best of both worlds. I can't laugh about my health one minute and then the next expect people to know that it's not the right time to crack jokes. But more and more lately, it seems as if people make jokes or small comments when the topic isn't even being brought up.

I wonder if maybe people don't know what else to say to me. Or if maybe the lines were not drawn clearly enough? I don't mind jokes when the topic is actually being talked about, but when the topic is something entirely different, it seems a bit odd and not very considerate to not only bring it up but crack jokes about it.

And it also depends on the day and the joke. Some jokes are funny and some just leave me thinking, "Really? You find that funny?" Now that my health could possibly be getting worse again... that changes things and the jokes about my health become less funny.

I know that I've created some of this confusion as to “Which joke is OK?” and “When is it OK to joke?" and I take responsibility for that. I know that my friends are going to have to learn to take cues from me about when it’s an OK time to joke, and I won't mind helping them learn.

Thankfully, though, I know that my friends aren't trying to be rude or hurt me with their jokes. Maybe in their own way, they are trying to use humor to help themselves understand what is going on with me. Hopefully, we can all work together and learn how to go through all of this while laughing but not overstepping any lines.

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The opinions expressed by ACHA bloggers and those providing comments on the ACHA Blog are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Adult Congenital Heart Association or any employee thereof. ACHA is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the ACHA bloggers.

The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.

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