Our Minds are Getting Younger

Let’s have a second youth!

Photo by Ian E. on Unsplash

Playfulness may well be my friend’s secret weapon.

They also allege we’re currently hurtling backwards through the space-time continuum, and I’m tempted to believe them.

They’re just as silly, irreverent, and direct as I am but in their inimitable way. And because I can be literally minded, most jokes are preceded with a disclaimer that clearly identifies them as, well, jokes.

Even then, I still get the wrong end of the stick on occasion, or pretend to because it’s more fun.

Yes, fun, the very last thing you’d expect a chronic depressive to indulge in. Then again, I’m not my diagnosis nor am I duty bound to eschew joy until the day I die on the grounds that my skull houses a challenging brain.

Instead, I’m a cranky contrarian who lost five years of her life to major depressive disorder and now refuses to be ruled by a gray, wobbly dictator.

And of course, I’m once again embracing life-affirming experiences that continue to dispel the aura of death that hung around me for too long. In practice, this means letting people into my life again, reconnecting with family and friends, and making sure to be fully present in the moment.

This alone has been enough to upend my life several times since I sprung back into action last summer. Owning up to my people deficit and crippling loneliness helped me connect with like-minded humans.

While darkness is often what brings us together, it can also offer comic relief the minute you look at it differently.

This works best when someone lends you their eyes, even if that someone is present you looking at past you.

Can depression ever be funny?

With hindsight, yes, it can although it’s hardly a giggle fest when you’re in the throes of it. Seeing someone I couldn’t recognize stare back at me in the bathroom mirror once was discombobulating at the time but it makes me smile now.

May you never end up setting eyes upon your own reflection, recoil in horror and incomprehension, and ask them who they are, as I did.

Laughter is a very effective coping mechanism that can take the edge off almost any pain. While not to everyone’s taste, self-deprecation can go a long way toward lessening your predicament and breaking the ice. When you’re a founding member of team awkward as I am, it becomes second nature.

Not taking life so seriously makes it much more pleasant and easier to deal with.

Now that my stepmom has been diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, she’s become a death jokes fiend because this is how she copes. She decided early on that illness wouldn’t cramp her style and even though there have been rough times and there are plenty more ahead, there’s no tumor in her sense of humor.

She and Dad have this particular dynamic that always makes random strangers feel at ease wherever they are in the world, which explains why their social circle is so broad. My parents are in their 70s and act 40 years younger on average, still as much in love as the day they met.

The clown disposition runs in the family.

And yet, it didn’t insulate me from mental illness.

Instead, I may well have shed my sense of humor the minute I landed in the US.

America isn’t funny, it’s ridiculous because it takes itself so very seriously. There’s always the risk a joke might offend somebody as American exceptionalism makes many interpret anything vaguely funny as a sign of disrespect.

I find it easier to be angry rather than witty on this side of the Atlantic, because it’s impossible not to be apoplectic with rage at any given time under the current political climate. Plus rage is relatable whereas playfulness is both subjective and cultural. And it requires the kind of self-awareness I’ve seldom encountered in the US.

Instead, many people seem unable to accept any kind of criticism or take a joke because their susceptibility is off the charts. And their egos in proportion.

This can make for a drab and dull existence, and I’ve experienced this in my own home, alas. I no longer count the times when something that was intended as a joke caused offense so I stopped trying to generate laughter years ago.

Beside being sick, this made me feel old, so old, so lost, so bereft and downhearted for so long.

None of this has escaped my playful friend’s attention though because they always seem to find the words to make me smile, effortlessly. Many are the times I’ve laughed until I cried and my stomach hurt.

The more you laugh, the more carefree you are. Whether humor is the elixir of youth, I’ve no idea, but playfulness goes a long way toward alleviating the stresses of daily life.

Humor is a mindset and the secret handshake of adults who haven’t completely lost touch with their inner child.

Because even if it failed the first time around, it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.

I’m a French-American writer and journalist living out of a suitcase in motion between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.

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