Dark humor, DID, and my new big brother

Reader’s Digest magazines were always laying around when I was growing up, and I always turned to the column entitled, “Laughter, The Best Medicine.” Short jokes and vignettes. All rated G or lightly PG. I never really understood the significance of that phrase until now.

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Mired in an intense internet search on dissociation, I entered “DID Humor” on a whim and actually got several hits. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised – using humor is a common way to broach subjects that are somewhat taboo. Or to convey information that might be rejected, under the assumption that a bad response can quickly be followed by an “Oh, I was just kidding!”

I had used DID humor to help defuse some of my own nervousness when I received the diagnosis. I already knew I had to be at least DDNOS if not full-blown DID with several alternate personalities (“alters”).

When it was “official,” I told both my therapist and my meds doctor this one:

Q: How many alters does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: Four.
One to screw in the light bulb,

one to watch the screwing in of the light bulb,
one to deny the screwing in of the light bulb ever happened,
one to repress the memory.

(More humor here.)

I just love it. I still chuckle. It is dark, but so true that you can’t help but laugh if you’ve got em.

Kinda like the Got Milk? campaign. Got Alters?

And with my meds doc the other day…”this med works for many people.” … “Ok, since I am many people, it should work well for me.”

Humor breaks the tension, let’s people know that you are still a real person capable of levity and laughter despite the turmoil in your mind. As if to downplay the seriousness. To let those close to you know that it is okay to laugh. That their laughter is sometimes vital to your well-being. That you WANT them to share their joy and warmth, and not to feel guilty that at this point in life, they may be in a better emotional state than you are.

It’s okay to be happy around someone with any type of medical issue: physical, mental or otherwise. Please share the warmth.

Here is the start of a longer sample of DID humor in honor of tax day yesterday. This one just cracks me up too (MPD – Multiple Personality Disorder…the old name for Dissociative Identity Disorder):

New Tax Form MPD-1040

Form MPD-1040: Certain deductions are available for those who qualify as multiple personalities in the current tax year. Deductions will reduce your taxable income or increase your refund even if it exceeds your income. To qualify, you must pass the following screening test.

1. Mono-personalities with mood swings do not qualify, even if you have been accused of multiplicity.

2. PMS, mid-life crisis, and Monday morning syndrome do not qualify.

3. You qualify if you agree that you are multiple, even if some of you do not admit it, or if some of you agree but others do not but would admit it if they did, or all of you agree to disagree. If you understand this statement, you automatically qualify and may proceed.

(For the remainder of the form including your multiple exemptions, as well as some other humor, visit the MPD/DID page.)

Humor as a lifeline

Humor brought me a new brother, a big brother I never had before.

This whole mess started after another dear friend triggered me by accident. Oh, it was a good one. A whopper of a misunderstanding. It set off an intense flashback, and then I stood shaking uncontrollably while he watched, uncomprehending.

So I told him what happened to me. What else could I do?

Even though it barfed out of me, uncontrolled, he was incredible in his immediate concern and compassion.

Over the next month, life started to spiral out of control. Another dear friend happen to mention that a colleague’s student had just been attacked, and my story barfed out of me again, unbidden. I had never told her, and had no intention to. The last person I’d told was my husband, before we’d married many years before.

Two people within a month. Uncontrolled tellings.

At my friend’s encouragement, I consented to her doing some research on my behalf. She found a recommendation for a therapist, who I have now been seeing for 9 months. In incredible friend she has been to me. To hold me while I shook and cried. To somehow find a therapist I could talk to.

During early therapy, I started digging through years of diaries. Unpacking boxes to find the secret drawings that I had carried, unopened, from house to house. Terrible precious cargo.

My therapist said that she was amazed that I had retained so much concrete evidence. The friend who had triggered me said that he was amazed that I had not burned it all.

An urge had been building in me to go through all of it. Knowing I’d forgotten so much. Recalling, and then remembering new information. Tiny flashbacks of knowledge. Scrawled handwriting with horrible thoughts and directions. Tormented paragraphs of self-reflection about my own sanity. What I could never tell.

For a few months last summer, I spent nearly every non-work hour digging and processing. Remembering, identifying the holes, composing new diary entries to capture what I’d learned, but would surely forget again.

You see, because I had this memory problem. Lost time, forgotten events, misplaced feelings, unknown acquaintances.

It was during that time of internal horror of what I was finding that this brand new friend I’d only recently met started sending me distracting emails.

We’d just played a terrific practical joke on a friend, and he was basking in our mutual success at the punk. As I slogged through the horror, I bantered with him via email. We both work out at a gym and we BS’ed about cardio versus strength. Who at the gym was hot. Insults. Tattoos. We exchanged long text message threads throwing movie quotes back and forth at one another. Star Wars. Jaws. Blazing Saddles. After a time the conversations gained a depth as we explored the meanings behind Picasso, James Joyce, Jung.

Without either of us realizing it at the time, he was immersed in a running conversation with one part of me, while another trudged through the shit.

I remember switching so quickly and cleanly between them, wondering how I could extract myself from the depths of pain for 30 seconds to send a completely witty and healthy comeback in the ongoing rapid banter, and then sink like a rock back into the tormented diaries.

A conversation about the pain in Picasso’s Guernica gave way to this hint I was dealing with something deeper, and several times he gently offered to be an ear. I kindly declined.

The specifics of what happened next aren’t really relevant – what is relevant is that I decided to tell him what happened. To control a telling rather than the last two barfs. I figured that if he rejected me, I would learn from the experience without destroying a relationship with a long-term friend or family member. In the grand scheme of things, he was really just a guy I met through a friend at the gym. He was expendable.

But he surprised me. It turned out better than I ever could have expected. He did not reject me. Rather, he told me that I am a remarkable woman and also a brave woman. That he thought of me as a little sister. And told me to stick with the therapy – all that stuff has to come out, you can’t keep it in.

In this very short time, we have become best friends. Brother and sister. We just “click” on that level, and I am honored and amazed that he has been beside me through some very tough times. He could have dropped this friendship after it took a left turn, but he tells me that I am his best friend too.

And he still sends me mindless emails with movie quotes and insults.

A new big brother all because of humor in the face of darkness.



  mo wrote @

Humour is a life saver, has got me through some tough times. My best friend from childhood and I have shared some bad times between us and through the tears we always ended up laughing turning it into a joke or black humour as you call it. We live on different continents now but still on the phone if one is upset over something we will always end up finding something funny in the situation to laugh about.
I have to say I love your site, it has made me laugh so many times outloud and agreeing outloud. Thanks for that. Still dont have an offical diagnoses and today we discussed why I needed one, you hit the nail on the head in a reply to me. i think I am ready for whatever get sthrown at me, it really doesnt change things in the grand scheme of things does it my friend will still fondly call me the stupid smart girl..if only the knew the real reason for that !!

  Emily’s Camigwen wrote @

Yes yes yes! I am always using humor and often at my own expense – self deprecating – in order to put people at ease that I am not making fun at them. Amazing how that breaks down barriers.

Thanks a bunch about complimenting my site! I am just so overwhelmed how much people are responding to my own warped views and the way I am dealing with all this. Makes me feel so “normal”. 🙂

It is great that you still have the connection with your friend – don’t let that fade away.

And, we are always stupid smart girls! I wear that one as a badge of honor at times!

My Best

  Jackie wrote @

All ya all. Dark humor. Good music. Wine. All a great combo to share with someone you trust. Although, I have to admit the tricky part for me is trusting, being ever cautious. I feel for my T, it’s a challenge for me sometimes to trust him. But he’s pretty much been a trooper about that. I should probably drag out some manner and tell him that.

I too use satire and dark humor to help myself out of a funk. I have a dry sense of humor and am such a clutz it’s an easy target.

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