Given the heavy nature of my post last week, I decided we all needed something lighter. Recently, I was talking with my good friend Kim, of AutonomicRN- A “Dummies” Guide To Learning To Live As A Patient Instead Of A Nurse. Given that both of us live with migraine, autonomic dysfunction, and chronic pain, we have plenty in common. We also share a sense of humor that typically only appeals to niche markets. We run the gamut from nursing humor (I, due to my proximity, rather than actual nursing experience) to the truly bizarre. There is something here about a squirrel-based cereal and a dog jumping on my head, but I will leave it up to you to imagine something truly splendiferous.
The brain, when you think about it, is absolutely amazing. It is a bit like a giant computer that controls all processes within the body and helps define the very essence of who we are. In our emotions, experiences, and interpretation of internal and external stimuli, the brain is the seat of the ‘soul’. Compiling all of these abilities in one organ is both dangerous and brilliant in its design.
- The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain and is composed of right and left hemispheres. It performs higher functions like interpreting touch, vision and hearing, as well as speech, reasoning, emotions, learning, and fine control of movement.
- The cerebellum is located under the cerebrum. Its function is to coordinate muscle movements, maintain posture, and balance.
- The brainstem includes the midbrain, pons, and medulla. It acts as a relay center connecting the cerebrum and cerebellum to the spinal cord. It performs many automatic functions such as breathing, heart rate, body temperature, wake and sleep cycles, digestion, sneezing, coughing, vomiting, and swallowing. Ten of the twelve cranial nerves originate in the brainstem.
Read more at Mayfield Brain & Spine
One of the more interesting functions of the brain is to protect us from harm, both physical and emotional. The sudden pull away from a hot pan or sharp tack are two examples that come to mind. However, when thinking of the ways the brain protects our emotional well-being, it is almost miraculous.
Dissociation allows an individual to mentally distance themselves from intense pain and mental anguish by allowing them to step outside of their consciousness. Rather than feeling they experienced the trauma themselves, the brain creates the feeling of distance, almost as if they watched it happen to someone else. Now, apply some of this theory to pain of the chronic variety. It is clear that one cannot safely utilize dissociation to escape.
Like dissociation, humor is a coping mechanism, but is a healthier one that can be used repeatedly without much consequence. There are even studies that examine the reasons humor is an effective way to manage pain. “A possible explanation could be that humor activates the release of endorphins and relieves muscular tension, thus having an effect on pain on both a mental and physical level.” The benefit from laughter helps all parties involved, and seems to be a common technique utilized within
In the midst of a flare up of pain, you would be surprised at the unusually creative situations your mind conjures. A lot of it centers on achieving relief or respite. If you were ever wondering about the inner workings of my mind, you should enjoy the following…or be horrified.
Of Zippers, Fairies and Zombies
Since I have the distinct displeasure of fibromyalgia, of the more severe variety, I have contemplated numerous pain-relieving methods that make sense to my pain-addled brain. As in most cases of fibromyalgia, multiple trigger points exist along the spine. It seems that if I could just unzip my back and tinker around in there, that I would find some relief. I have imagined that there are some thorny twigs and very angry fairies using them to poke at my spine. At times, I want to remove my spine entirely, stretch it out, and then return it to its proper location. I have also contemplated popping off my legs, much like you would do to a doll, just to relieve the constant tightness in my lower back and hips. I think they would make good temporary weapons if ever there was a rise-up of zombies. I would wield my leg like a club in defense, or like a lance as I ride a largish goat towards jousting victory. Then, when I have succeeded in defeating the zombie hoards, I will snap my leg back on and go about my day. As you will likely note, this fails to take into account anything remotely possible or logical. Yet, here I am, laughing with tears streaming from my eyes.
This unusual sense of humor spills over into daily interactions and bubbles to the surface especially when a friend is suffering. I do not regret a single moment spent mocking hospital food with my good friend Ross, conjuring tales of dancing alpacas, and just being silly in general. We always seem to focus on the practical things that reduce the suffering of others, but I would suggest that we include more moments of laughter, even from the hospital bed. Through humor, we provide a temporary distraction from pain, connect with others, and make reality much easier to bear. So to my friends who are hurting, I will continue to sing you lullabies, laugh with you over auto-correct misfortunes, and imagine you as a smallish cat….or a pug in a blanket.
With Love and Silliness,