Not Funny.

by Lori Dwyer on May 31, 2012 · 13 comments

It’s raining.

I am in a foul mood- my kids are not well, their ears are sore and they are grumpy; the weather is miserable and it’s five degrees colder in TinyTrainTown than anywhere else.

I tap my foot impatiently as I wait at the doctors, haughty and irritated. I’m here for a referral. A general practitioner that doesn’t know me- I’ve only needed to come here three times since I’ve been living in the area- is required to write me a referral for the trauma psychologist I’ve been seeing, in order for Medicare to foot the bill.

The irony of it pisses me off. But I can’t afford the fees myself, and God only knows I need to see Charlie.

The doctor who attends to me is new- brand new, fresh out of internship or study or whatever normal people do to become raised to the level of doctors. He has an extremely thick accent, and I’m normally good at understanding speech that is impaired in one way or another; but I don’t have the patience today. I catch only that he’s new and will consult with a more senior doctor over the phone if needed.

The appointment is labored and boring and seems to drag on forever as I’m asked about allergies, sleep, moods and appetite. The doctor fumbles and flushes when I ask him to repeat his question about my menstrual cycle, and I pretend not to hear him the second time too. It’s intrinsically nasty but sometimes I just cannot help myself- I am so used to making people uncomfortable just by being me that when I sense weakness I poke them harder in that spot. It feels like firmly pinning a squirming moth to a board.

The doctor balks at referring me to my shrink because the relatively new practice Charlie works for isn’t in the computer system of this medical centre, nor in the direct area. He suggests others and I am forced to argue my point frustrated and bored with myself already.

‘Anxiety’, he notes on my file, assuming correctly that this is the basis of my condition, given the heavy dose of the medication I take. “I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I say, wondering why that’s not on my file, haven’t I told them this already, on a previous visit? Maybe not, maybe I’m thinking of elsewhere. I have a script in my head for medical situations… “The children’s father suffered a psychosis and took his own life early last year.” It’s crisp and brittle and costs me very little, emotionally, and I’ve practiced it so it can be that easy, that fluent, and I can say it without seeing things in my head.

“Why? What triggered this PTSD?”, asks the doctor, eyes on the computer screen.

And because I’m a foul mood, and this sterile clean little room and this polite, difficult to understand doctor are pissing me off; I wait just a beat too long to reply, long enough so he’ll look me in the eye. And I say, without breaking his gaze “My husband hung himself in front of me last year. He died. I screamed for help…”

And I think to myself… “Boo!!!!!!!”

I watch with a grim, ugly satisfaction as the doctor’s eye widen in shock, and it’s his turn to wait a beat too long before responding. I know that pause… it’s a pregnant one, filled with dismal expectation. He’s waiting for me to say something, anything, to make that statement not quite as ugly as it is. To make this situation more comfortable for him.

I say nothing.

He can’t print me off a referral quickly enough.


I’ve always had a dark sense of humour.

It was intensified working at the children’s hospital- most people who have worked with or come into close contact with death on a regular basis develop a wickedly morbid appreciation of what’s funny. (A mandatory monthly group counseling session, years ago, attended by all the entertainers I worked alongside at the hospital, and we’re discussing this very thing. Another seasoned entertainer relays a joke told her by the parents of a gorgeous three year old boy named Luke, his blonde curls and tiny eyelashes stripped cruelly by chemotherapy, “We call him Lukie,” says his mother in mirth, “its short for leukemia!” It’s not funny, not funny at all, but it was the only thing Luke’s mother could find to laugh at and we laughed too, until our bellies were aching and we couldn’t make eye contact for breaking into more peals of it; as two new staff members stared on at us in abject horror.)

While Tony was in the ICU, and in the nightmare that was the first few months after he died, that warped sense of humour became invaluable.

Laughter, no matter the source, is light. Let yourself get too heavy, and you’ll sink.

The only benefit I could find to feeling like a walking zoo exhibit was the ridiculous nature of it all. I viewed people’s reactions to me through a veil of wonderment, watching the real world go on while mine caved in. (“Am I real? Do I exist? Did I die, too?”) Some people seemed to stare at me, waiting for me to explode, or scream, or cry… (“I’m not going to do what you all think I’m gonna do, and just… flip out, or something.”) and through my veil of surreality, there was a part of me that wanted to make them jump, to engage them in uncomfortable conversation… to draw them into the whirlpool of this reality of mine, rather than have them stare at the puppet show that was my life from the comfortable boundaries of their normality.

The fact that they could look at me look like, that they were people who Didn’t Understand, it just made me jealous.

And it tickled some dark, wicked funny bone I have. It felt like a precipice… scream “Boo!!!!!” and watch the normal people flee, while I laughed.

Hysterically. So hysterically it echoed all the way to the asylum.

Liz, my other shrink, she understands, as much as someone can who hasn’t been there can. She stands with me in the hospital, the last day in the ICU, and together we watch.

In rolls a tiny Asian man with a massive x-ray machine, to take a photo of my husband’s dead lungs. In strolls a group of organ donation coordinator, all ribbons and pink and roses and whispers of “Sign this, please…”. In waddle two coppers, one short, one tall, and the short one is in tears when they leave.

In and out, in and out, a string of people. Some of them weeping, saying goodbye to man who was their world… some of them just work here, and this is just another day that will blur into the rest.

I can’t stand it. My husband has been dead for hours, days in reality… this feels ridiculous and it’s pushing that funny bone the wrong way. Liz can see it through my eyes, and she verbalizes it for me where I cannot… this is farcical. This is comedy. This is a Shakespearean play where the ship’s run aground but everything will be OK in the end.

I’m still waiting for the
punchline. I’m still watching the play.

It’s just not fucking funny anymore.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Carly Findlay June 1, 2012 at 10:56 am

I can understand. I often fond it funny when people look scared about the way I look, or just don't know what more to say when they've blundered around with the "are you sunburnt?" question. And their awkwardness makes it amusing. People don't know the right way to react.
I also think that people who face adversity are expected to have more empathy than others. In my studies for my thesis on blogging, I've learnt that Bloggers are one person with the world as their audience – and perhaps that is the same for you if you took away your role as a blogger. Because of your situation (and mine) people expect you to be a role model and empathetic. Sometimes it's too hard to.


Anonymous May 31, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Just wanted to stop by and give you a hug…


Don't mind the anon commenter – he/she obviously isn't considering the fact that the doctor wasn't showing any empathy towards you by forcing you to explain yourself just because Charlie's practice isn't "in the computer system." Ugh… If you're going to keep pushing, you can't whine and complain when the other person eventually pushes back!

Anyways, I sincerely hope today is a better day for you (and your poor sick children).

– Crystal


deardarl May 31, 2012 at 9:27 pm

….and that's the thing about dark, biting humour …. only those of us who truly know darkness can ever really get it.
You have a shitty day and have to suffer through wounds being re-poked in order to get help … then yeah, that's shitty and if the way you get through it is with bluntness, then that's how you get through it.

Anon – everyone is allowed to feel shitty at the world at times. An hour of being pissed off with someone does not mean Lori has "lost her empathy".
…and I get so tired of people who have not had their partner traumatically removed from their lives, trying to tell us that we have to be "nice" all the time. Nobody is that good, leave alone those of us who have to LIVE that fucking darkness Every Day and not just hear the facts delivered bluntly to them during a short conversation.


Miss Pink May 31, 2012 at 7:20 pm

I'm a bit of a sicko too. Different pasts, and lives etc. But I can relate to a lot. I make a lot of inappropriate jokes just because I can. I don't do the serious stuff too well.
Feel free to try and pull you boo routine on me. I will probably laugh or remark something inappropriate in response because I'm a tad screwed up like that.


Pearl Red Moon May 31, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Lori, I wish there was something comforting I could say, something that reassures you this is just another day in the vast tapestry and that it will pass…but that sounds so trite, so I hope this will suffice – I hear you, I understand, and don't forget to watch for the chink of light…


Corenne Tavares (@SexyMomGP) May 31, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Hmmmm … how to say what I want to say without sounding well, crazy. I LOVE your blog. I love your honesty. I love how you allow yourself to feel, even if its not so great that day. I love that you can laugh at everything (I tend to get in trouble because my first reaction is to laugh – at even the worst situations). I haven't experienced what you are going through but I can only hope for even a fraction of your strength if I ever have to.


Sharon.@Pandamoanium May 31, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Woah. When you have severe PTSD you have enough trouble holding on to your own sanity. Being mindful of others is night on impossible. Empathy? Not sure Lori's experienced that much herself to be able to give it to people who cant deal with her loss or dickhead her around.

Less judgement would bec good.


Lori @ RRSAHM May 31, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Anon, thanks for your concern. Please rest assured that the contents of this post- those that happened recently- occupied a whole twenty minutes of my time. My blog posts should be seen as a highly intensified slice of my life- a freeze frame, if you will. Being mindful of others is something I'm all too aware of- perhaps you could be mindful and have some empathy for me? As much as I try not to, I'm entitled to dislike the world and the people in it- I can have bad days, too.
Thankyou for reading- please know that what I've described in this post today is the exception, rather than the rule.


Eccles May 31, 2012 at 2:15 pm

How many times do we have to tell the same story to people who are supposed to have it "on file", before they actually write it in the file!!

Why do we have to argue with people to receive the same service we've been getting for however long, before they stop trying to force us to get something else so we have to go through the whole bloody mess again!!

Anonymous – "be mindful of others". Seriously… this new Dr needed to be mindful of Lori – his attention needs to be wholly on his patient. Lori wasn't dealing with a grumpy checkout chick. Checkout chicks can bring their private lives to work. Dr's arent supposed to do that. If you think we need to be mindful of Dr's moods, feelings etc… think again. He was not providing Lori with his best care at the time. They ARE supposed to do no harm!!

Yep – Lori it's all just fucked!!!

<3 always honey xx


Anonymous May 31, 2012 at 1:22 pm

"Be kind to everyone, as everyone is fighting their own battles…" I have read your blogs with compassion and empathy over the last 18 months and it saddens me to see that you have lost your connection and empathy for other people. Human connection on all levels is all we have and everyone's actions can have a profound reaction on another (as you have experienced) – be mindful of others.


Anonymous May 31, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Lisa Hewitt is PFGT


Princess Fingers Glued Together May 31, 2012 at 12:57 pm

My fucking comment didn't post. I follow you here and also other places. I don't know why I decided to post today. It was just so familiar. It went something like this. I love telling new doctors about PTSD. . Something happended in my childhood (best not to bring that one up, it causes a panic attack). The more recent PTSD-My Father shot himself in the chest. That same year, you know when daddy shot himself, I found out my husband was cheating on me, while I was taking my mom to chemotherapy, so I divorced him, before she died, that same year. Fuck you new doctor.


Anonymous May 31, 2012 at 10:14 am

Geez I swear I couldn't say it any more perfect myself. I search for those little chuckles here and there that everybody else seem to miss, probably because it's not funny to most. Oh what I wouldn't give to be just another face in the room! It just seems you're a walking car wreck and people tip toe around you. They see your spouse was young when they passed and 99% of the time they can't help but ask how it happened. I've learned too that a short precise answer gets the job done most of the time. I have developed one for myself, "it was not natural and tragic." It usually gets the job done and as you say, it keeps those haunting images neatly packed away in my warped brain. You don't know how much it means to feel a little less alone simply by reading your blog. It's a morbid connection, but a connection none the less. Love and Peace Profound!



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