Humorlog: Bolusing Laughter

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My blood sugar was so high my meter said, “One person at a time, please!”

My name is Brad and I have the “bad” kind of diabetes…it’s DIABETES! But since we have to label ourselves in categories I’ll tell you that I am a type 1—actually I still use the outdated term juvenile diabetes because it makes me feel young. I’ve been a T1 for over 25 years, so I know a little something about how diabetes can affect someone on an emotional level, and how the mental aspect of diabetes can often be just as challenging as the physical side of it. I’m not a mental health expert or have I ever worked, studied, or practiced in the healthcare field. However, being a standup comedian, I’ve been trained to find the humor in the human condition…or in the case of diabetes, I say I find humor in the Humalog condition.

I want a divorce from my diabetes…because after a brief honeymoon period, all we’ve been doing is fighting with each other.

Someone once told me that they didn’t think there is anything funny about diabetes. I can understand that, and when I do anything comedic regarding diabetes, I don’t make fun of the disease, I make fun of the situations we are all forced to deal with. The ability to laugh at ourselves and our uncomfortable situations empowers us to survive them. Diabetes is tough and a serious condition, but it doesn’t have to be a Shakespearean tragedy all the time. Developing a sense of humor about diabetes allows us to look at the vial of insulin as half full instead of half empty. Finding a way to laugh at the many trials and tribulations of diabetes might not give you better control, but it will make you realize that you are in charge and not a victim, as well as cut down on all the gifts you’re forced to bring to your pity party. Diabetes is stressful and challenging. Not only can our blood sugar be out of control, so too can our emotions. Humor helps us control those emotions by deflating the pressure we feel because of those challenges. That pressure needs to be relieved because if it builds up for too long, it affects how we handle our diabetes by either giving up on being in control or being overburdened by unnecessary depression and anxiety when fighting the battle to control it. Comedy and laughter allows us to take a break from the constant beating we get from diabetes or from ourselves. And the best part: it costs a lot less than test strips!

I don’t want to walk a mile in your shoes, I just want to borrow your pancreas for a while.

Many people use the phrase “laughter is the best medicine,” and much has been written about therapeutic laughter. The physical release of a laugh can make one feel better and although laughing doesn’t cure disease, it sure can make it more bearable. Lord Byron once said, “And if I laugh at any mortal thing, ’Tis that I may not weep.” (Maybe that’s the reason he was never invited to weddings or funerals.) According to WebMD, the physical benefits of laughter’s effect on the body result in improved blood flow, a boost in the immune system, better sleep, and even better blood sugar levels. I don’t know about all of that, but there has been so much written about laughter therapy that there must be something to the physical effects, not to mention the financial effects from getting paid to write about it. I tend to prefer personal testimony when it comes to something that is hard to measure with science alone. I bet if I did a survey that asked people: “Does laughter make you feel better?” Most of the respondents would say that it does. I can tell you that many audience members have said things to me after a comedy show like, “I needed a good laugh” or “I had a rough day and you made me forget all about it.” Laughter requires a physical reaction that uses many muscles. So next time your doctor asks you if you exercise you can tell him or her that last night you had a vigorous workout at a comedy club!

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I just defragged my pancreas and my diabetes is now working faster.

I don’t do a lot of diabetes comedy material in my standup act because most of the people in the audience wouldn’t get it. If they hear a diabetes joke, it’s usually from someone who is clueless about the disease and the joke is predicated on the mistaken myth that one gets diabetes from eating sugar. That is so wrong because we all know that you only get diabetes because you’re too attractive, intelligent, and charming. It’s nature’s way of handicapping us so we don’t come off as too perfect. Diabetes humor, like all humor, has to have a recognition factor for it to work. It has to be founded on something just about all people with diabetes can relate to and lampoon situations that we have experienced in our battles with the big D. For instance, I wrote this line and posted it on Facebook and got a pretty good response: Eating cinnamon didn’t cure my diabetes, but I still plan on listing my trips to Cinnabon on my taxes as a medical expense.” Most people with diabetes get this joke because we all have been told by non-diabetics (I call them Pancretins!) that they’ve heard cinnamon cures diabetes and we should try it! This line, like the pictures and videos I share with my D-friends on social media, is based in something we can all relate to. It’s like a club’s secret handshake —we are all in on it. The only difference here is that it’s a club none of us wants to be a member of.

Moving up to #3 this week on the Diabetes Country Music Charts: “My Pancreas Done Left Me, Now I’m Sweeter Than Before.”

So what can we as people with diabetes do to get more D-humor in our lives? Well, the diabetes online community is a good place to start your quest for more funny. It is filled with bloggers and people who have found a way to lighten the load of diabetes by looking at it with an entertaining and comedic eye. Whether it’s humorous pictures, videos, songs, or just stories from their particular world, there are many brilliant humorists at your fingertips when you surf the diabetes turf. I’m always amazed at the amount of creativity in the pancreas-challenged world when it comes to being able to laugh at diabetes and poke fun at it as often as they poke their finger. Keep in mind that if you see something that makes you laugh or smile until your face hurts, be sure to share it with your diabetes friends. That’s the great thing about laughter, passing it on can also make you feel good at the same time you make others feel better.

Thank you. That’s my time. I’ll be here all week…try the glucose tabs!

Diabetes is a serious disease and we need to seriously control it. For the sake of your mental health, you would benefit from learning how to lighten up a bit and laugh it up a lot. By filling up your virtual comedy syringe and injecting some humor you can alleviate the pain by pumping some fun, which will result in great numbers on your feel-good meter. Okay, I can’t squeeze in any more D wordplay so I will end with this: When it comes to diabetes you can feel better physically and emotionally if you take time out to smell the humor. For people with diabetes, laughter might not be the best medicine, but it sure is a heck of a great supplement—and one that should be taken daily!

(Brad Slaight is a professional standup comedian, actor, and writer. He created—along with actor/comedian and a type 2, Bill Kirchenbauer—a group of animated diabetes heroes with special powers called “The Diabetes Hero Squad.” Their mission is to educate, enlighten, and entertain people with diabetes of all ages.) 

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