Diabetes is a serious condition, but that doesn’t mean you can’t laugh about it once in a while. In fact, you probably should. Beverly S. Adler, also known as Dr. Bev, recently discussed how humor can be a powerful coping strategy for people with diabetes. She offered additional thoughts on the benefits of humor and laughter for this week’s Twitter chat. Jewels Doskicz, who is a registered nurse, type 1 PWD, and mother to a type 1 PWD, hosted and provided her unique perspective on humor.
Q. What role does humor play in your life with diabetes?
Dr. Bev: Humor can be used as a healthy coping strategy to help you manage diabetes. Humor can help reduce stress, which can help to lower blood sugar levels.
Jewels: I love a good laugh. Diabetes or not, humor is good for everyone.
• It’s my primary coping mechanism.
• I love laughing. It’s my favorite thing. At my age, what else do I really have?
• Humor can make living with chronic illness easier in my experience.
Q. What makes diabetes jokes funny/laughable rather than insulting or frustrating?
Dr. Bev: Try to keep insulting/frustrating jokes in perspective. One choice is to ignore the jokester. You might find diabetes jokes funny if you don’t take yourself too seriously.
Jewels: Diabetes itself isn’t funny, but the daily life stuff that goes with it can be.
• It’s funny when a diabetic tells the joke. It’s not so funny when a non-diabetic tells the joke.
• Usually people close to those with diabetes use humor to show they “get it.”
• In part, it’s the source and whether it comes from a place of ignorance or not.
Q. Embracing humor when living with chronic disease can have positive effects. What are those for you?
Dr. Bev: Positive effects of humor include physical benefits: laughter boosts immunity. They also include mental benefits: laughter improves mood and adds joy to life.
Jewels: Embracing laughter lightens the heavy load that life unloads on us.
• Humor helps us mitigate burnout and not to take our condition too seriously unless necessary.
• Humor allows me to take a step back and find small pockets of enjoyment about living with type 1 diabetes.
Q. How does laughter help you cope with diabetes?
Dr. Bev: Psychologists see humor as a character strength. Humor can be used as an effective therapy to counteract nervous tension.
Jewels: Life isn’t all business all the time. I enjoy taking the seriousness out of it on a regular basis.
• Laughter has physical benefits. It can lower blood pressure. When you feel better, you can cope better.
• Humor is a wonderful way to connect with others, and that leads to peer support for people with diabetes.
• Laughter is the best medicine, unless you’re a person with type 1 diabetes. Then insulin is best.
Q. In what situations are you comfortable laughing at yourself?
Dr. Bev: Laughter occurs in social settings where you feel comfortable with other people, like friends or the diabetic online community. If you don’t take yourself too seriously, you will have the ability to laugh at yourself. With humor, you can take life in stride.
Jewels: I’m willing to admit defeat, stupidity, and any ridiculousness that I’m the cause of. Why not? Laughing at yourself is funny.
• I feel comfortable laughing at myself under all circumstances. With my type 1 diabetic kid it’s more nuanced. The laughter must be okay and funny for her too.
• When I’m packing for a short trip.
• Time helps a lot. Bad diabetes situations years ago seem pretty funny to me now.
Q. What’s the best diabetes joke you’ve heard?
Dr. Bev: What can’t you eat as a PWD? There are only 2 things: poison and cookies made with poison!
Jewels: The things I find humorous aren’t at the expense of the person living with diabetes.
• They’ll have a cure for diabetes in 10 years.
• The first hypoglycemic lit ice cream on fire to defrost it faster.
• Being “high” means something completely different to a PWD than it does to most people.
Q. What has made a diabetes joke feel offensive or not funny to you?
Dr. Bev: When the intent of the jokester is to malign people with diabetes the joke becomes offensive. When a joke perpetuates a stereotype, such as you get diabetes from eating too much sugar, it can feel offensive. I’ll end with this quote: “You don’t stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing.”
Jewels: Good diabetes jokes are the things only the insiders can understand.
• Anything related to sugar or anything bashing or poking fun of type 2 diabetics.
• Coming from a place of ignorance is usually what makes jokes offensive.
• It’s never funny to hashtag “diabetes” on ungodly dessert images on social media. It’s ignorant.
Thanks to Dr. Bev and Jewels Doskicz for their insights. Thank you to all the participants as well for sharing your thoughts on diabetes and humor.
Join this conversation by commenting below, and join our next Q&A via Twitter on Tuesday October 11, 2016 at 9:00 p.m. ET.