Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Surviving Workplace Abuse: A sense of humour works wonders

It's difficult to find a picture in my archives that's funny.  Partially because what is funny to one person, may not be to another.  Also because when we are stuck in our situation whether it be trauma, PTSD, active workplace bullying, or even a chronic illness, it is very hard to see the humour in anything.  It also seems like a travesty to be able to smile, let alone laugh, when we're going through he**.

I've been there, I should know.

Yet, I have found laughter to be a huge source of healing in the midst of the journey.  My therapist has always said that one of my hugest strengths in the battle is that I never lost my admittedly weird and wacky sense of humour.  I came close a few times, but I never truly lost it.

In the Bible, Proverbs 22:17 says:  A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones. (NASB).  The word "joyful" is translated in other versions to be merry or cheerful.

I memorized that verse decades ago, yet during this time of bleakness, pain and confusion, I've brought it out, polished it up on my t-shirt bottom and looked at it again and again.

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine but a broken spirit drieth up the bones.  OK.  I confess.  I memorized it in the King James.  But the message is the same.  I can either choose to laugh or I can allow my bones to dry up.  I can allow the situation to suck out all the strength, all the life from me.

In an article my Mary Fairchild entitled "The Healing Power of Laughter", I found this list of benefits from laughing:

  • Decrease in stress hormone levels
  • Strengthening of the immune system
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Pain reduction
  • Lowering of blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular conditioning
  • Natural anti-depressant
Now, I've never done a clinical study on psychology ... which stands to reason since I'm not a psychologist or anything close to it.  But I do know the effect a good laugh has on my mood when I'm not doing so well.  I do know that laughter seems to make everything seem a little less bad, a little brighter, even a little more hopeful.

Just a few nights ago, an American "friend" on Facebook who lives somewhere in Europe started a thread about what comprised a "typical" - if there is any such thing - Canadian Thanksgiving as she's having friends over to celebrate it.  She tagged several individuals on this thread who she knew were either Canadian or had an outrageous sense of humour.  She invited us to get as creative and outrageous as we could.  And we did.  It turns out I'm not the only seriously deranged person out there.  It was so much fun.  It took me outside my small room, my safe place, my routine, my problems and brought - even if for just a few hours - a huge bright spot of fun, creativity and relief.  Plus a few belly laughs as we thought up the craziest ways we could to celebrate a Canadian Thanksgiving from maple syrup, to moose to beer and German dancers in lederhosen and dirndls  (the Canadian Thanksgiving coincides with Oktoberfest celebrations in some localities) which got translated as the thread moved along to drunken German dancers dancing on the moose.  After we'd all had a good laugh, the thread then turned more serious.  And that was good too.  To really get into what Thanksgiving is all about - after we'd all had our fill of hilarity that is.

For me, that thread on Facebook was like a very refreshing mini vacation from life.  It only lasted a short while, yet the memory still brightens my face and my attitude as I remember it and the camaraderie we shared for such a brief time.

Likewise, my outing yesterday which was supposed to be a bus trip to the library to return two DVDs - one of which was due that day.  I hurried out of the house to catch the bus and was already on the bus which was in the process of pulling away from my stop when I realized I had brought my knitting but had forgotten the DVDs.   I had a couple of options - getting off at the next stop and walking back to the house for the DVDs and taking the next bus in 30 minutes OR going on.  Asking the driver to stop so I could run back for my DVDs was definitely not an options.  I chose to go on anyway as I had some checks to deposit plus one to cash.  At the bank I discovered just how fouled up my cognitive processes were that day..   I only had the two checks to deposit.

Now what do you do in that situation?  I told the teller I apparently was not having the best of days because of ... da da da ... and she started to laugh.  In fact, we both laughed.  Because in reality it was pretty funny - depending on what angle you're looking at it from.  It turns out this woman has had her own "I can't believe I did this" moments such as boarding the wrong bus to go home and finding herself at the end of the line in a totally different community from where she had intended to go.  Laughing at the memory she told me, it's fun to not always been on top of things.  I found out that I could go from here to (the name of the community) in an hour and I could still get back home on my transfer.

Hubby and I find humour sometimes in the most unlikely of places.  Travelling by car around Scotland in 2009, we found this sign.  And died laughing.  What type of "plant" i.e. tree was trying to cross the road here?  We still take this memory out on occasion and speculate as to whether it was a maple ... or maybe an oak.  How about a sequoia?  Whatever it was, it must've been BIG.

A sense of humour.  It makes the unpalatable more palatable.

It comes at unexpected moments.  Yet, every time it comes, it lessens the load a little and brightens the day.

A sense of humour not only makes my journey of recovery post workplace abuse more palatable, it also makes my survival and eventual complete recovery more likely.  It gives me the proverbial knot at the end of the rope to hang on to.

Whatever you do, don't lose your sense of humour.

However, if you have I urge you to go find it.

It'll come in handy on the journey.

Until tomorrow....

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