I believe in the power of laughter. A laugh or a smile can make the difference between a tear or a giggle and the uplifting feeling that invades your heart after a true belly laugh can push you to get through a horribly, difficult moment. As a teen growing up in a not so traditional family, I recall suffering these intense feelings of failure and sadness. I remember just wanting to be alone in my world of books, but putting forth the effort to make others believe that I was okay—I suffered in sadness and was drowned in loneliness, even surrounded by a large family and lots of friends. I remember finally making my way to the family doctor in my small, Michigan town, for a yearly sports physical and he asked me a few of those leading questions, that all doctors ask at some point, about my well being and for the first time, I was truthful in my answer. I told the doctor that I was sad and that there were days when I thought about if my life was important. At that moment, I came to understand the idea of depression and what the word meant to me. On the long walk home, armed with a prescription of Prozac, I cried as I made my way to the drugstore and I never told anyone, much less my grandmother, what those pills were actually for; I believe that I may have said that the medicine was for my allergies.
Even in the midst of this new diagnosis, I laughed and I joked and I made others laugh hysterically, even though I was so unhappy on the inside. Over the years, I have suffered with my depression silently, with each depressive episode, I became more ashamed of my battle with depression and I tried to deal with my disease through laughter. I laughed with my husband and also at him, while also making him laugh at himself. I bonded with my in-laws and extended family through jokes, sarcasm, and dry wit. I have learned to use the art of laughter as a healing touch for those moments when it is difficult to see the light at the end of a tunnel that you should actually travel towards.
As a new teacher, I see that laughter is my connection to my students. I have had days when it has been hard to see the good in some of my classes and in each individual student. I have also struggled to keep my depression in check because I know that I cannot take a “sick month” no matter how sad I am. On those days, I walk in to my classroom, take a deep breath and put on my game face. I write my agenda on the board and I prepare to laugh as though I am watching my favorite comedian in action. I laugh because I know that if I don’t, the tears will overwhelm me and sadness and loneliness will dominate my soul once again.
As a mother, I believe that it is important for my children to see me laugh as much as possible because I know that there will be times when they will see more tears in my eyes than smiles on my face. I laugh both with my children and at my children. Their antics have healed me in a way that no medicine has been able to do. I still rely on medication to ward off the long episodes of depression, but it is laughter that sustains me and keeps me hopeful for each day. I am learning that laughter truly is the best medicine.
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