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I Keep My Antidepressants in a Batman-Shaped Pez Dispenser

4 May 17 words: Abigail Fish

Abigail Fish reckons comedy and a sense of humour is a pretty good healer. We tend to agree. Here she is to tell us all exactly why laughing matters...

When, back in August, my doctor asked me if I were likely to slash up my arm with a pair of scissors again, I responded: “Oh no, it’s far too hot now to wear long sleeved shirts. I’m not a total masochist.”

At the time, in the confines of my muddled little mind, this seemed vaguely amusing. The moment I actually farted the words out into that tiny, clinical doctor’s office, and the medical professional I’d been talking to looked at me quite blankly, it suddenly seemed a touch less funny. I regretted cracking a badly-timed, weak joke in front of a woman who could’ve had me booked for therapy from here to the grave. But, I only regretted it for a short while, because I realise now how vital these weak and inappropriate “jokes” are.

Humour is a Swiss army tool in dire and miserable circumstances. It can be a coping and a defence mechanism; an ice breaker; a litmus test; a method of protest. My response to being sat in my local surgery for the umpteenth time that summer, talking to a doctor about something I was really very ashamed of having done, was to make a joke.

Being the year of death, despair and despondency that it has, 2016 generated an awful lot of reasons to be miserable. That island that Elvis went to live on is, I imagine, pretty damn full right now. Just over half of the UK mooned the EU before paddling away in a sinking dingy, blowing raspberries half-heartedly as they sought comfort from politicians who were shrugging with disinterest. Over in America, common sense was cast aside as we can now etch “grab ‘em by the pussy” to a list of memorable Presidential quotes. Right up there with Lincoln and Kennedy’s most prolific utterances, that.

Now to drag this back around to personal experience, during the most difficult and numbing times of my life, it’s not been prescription drugs, counselling sessions or alcohol that have propelled me toward stability. Those things obviously helped (guess which ones helped the most), but it was finding humour that brought me back from apathy and misery. At one point I was taking three different doses of different medications every single morning. Instead of welcoming this morning routine with a sigh, I started calling it “breakfast”. It became a joke.

“Do you want some toast?” my mother asks.

“I’m full up already, thanks,” I reply, shaking my lucky bag of pills at her. To heighten the joke, I’ve taken to keeping all my antidepressants in a Batman-shaped Pez dispenser. If popping open Batman’s head every morning to neck happy pills can’t cheer you up, then nothing can.

The importance of laughter in the face of adversity is embraced fully by Nottingham-based company Laughing Matters, an organisation who offer workshops in stand-up comedy, with a focus on “harnessing negative energy into positive output.” Laughing Matters affords people the opportunity to build confidence and partially put demons to rest by looking at life from a new perspective.

Currently, the workshops are based in a single venue in Nottingham. But expansion is on the horizon, giving people all over the East Midlands the chance to take part in this unique exercise that some would term comedy-rehabilitation.

Over four weeks, and with the help and guidance of workshop coordinators and regular group-feedback workshops, participants learn to craft their own material, are taught the tools of the trade, and ultimately perform a brief set of original material to a live audience. Testimonials from the Laughing Matters site paint an exhilarating and exceptional picture of the course, and noted stand-ups are all for the cause; Stewart Lee and Ardol O’Hanlon appear in Laughing Matters live events to promote this unique crash course in comedy.

To apply for a place on one of their workshops, virgin stand-ups with various hang-ups can visit the Laughing Matters website and sign up for a chance to participate in self-esteem boosting, confidence-building sessions that could be the “small steps that result in facing bigger challenges.”

So, laughter can sometimes be the best medicine. Unless you have something terminal. In which case, for god’s sake. Go to a hospital, not a stand-up show.

For more information on courses and workshops, visit the Laughing Matters website or phone on 07834 622 397.

Laughing Matters website

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