The Masks We Wear
Laughter makes it infinitely easier to navigate through life. Very often, and without the aid of traditional medicine, comedians help us to heal from trauma by simply prescribing a joke. They get up on stage and tell self deprecating jokes about personal experiences that we can relate to, and together we are able to lessen pain's power by laughing at it.
Very often when we're in the midst of a situation, we may not be able to see the humor in it until someone cracks a joke and we're laughing really loudly, tears falling out of eyes, as we're thinking, "That happened to me too."
Comedians help us to understand that we are not alone on our journey through life and that whatever we encounter, perspective matters. In fact, they help us to see that no matter how serious things get, there's usually still something to at least smile about.
Mayo Clinic acknowledges the power of laughter in providing stress relief and improving health by:
Stimulating the heart, lungs and muscles and increasing the endorphins released by the brain.
Relieving stress thereby regulating the heart rate and blood pressure.
Stimulating circulation and aiding in muscle relaxation
Improving the immune system with the release of neuropeptides that help to fight stress and other more serious illnesses.
Relieving physical pain and increasing personal satisfaction while lifting one's mood and reducing feelings of depression and anxiety.
But even so, even as they make us laugh, even as they help us to see the lighter side of things, it's important to note that comedians are humans as well, and as much as they work to make us laugh, sometimes even for them, things can get to be too much.
Over the past few years, given the level of their prominence, we have read reports of a few comedians at least who have had a hard time coping with life and who may be, to quote one of my favorite comedians, Robin Williams, who passed away in 2014, "performing for the sake of avoiding".
As American humorist Erma Bombeck notes, "There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt."
We take it for granted sometimes that someone who usually makes us laugh has the responsibility to bear the burden of our pain and make us laugh all the time while simultaneously shouldering their own burdens in private. And because they do this job so well, we never think to check in with them and ask, how are you holding up today?
In the Today article, Why You Should Be Checking In On Your Strong Friends, writer Danielle Layton notes, "Mental health is not one-size-fits-all, and it's not always easy to tell when someone is struggling." This refers to personal relationships with people we are close to. When it comes to a public figure, our expectation for them to be turned on, in character, and ever in a good mood, ready to pour into our cup, has led to disastrous outcomes.
In the Forbes article, If Laughter is the Best Medicine, Why are so Many Comedians in Poor Health, writer Lipi Roy quotes stand-up comedian Jenny Saldana who says, “It’s really hard to be ‘ON’ all the time... We struggle with our onstage persona and our personal lives.”
A couple months ago, there was an article about comedian Pete Davidson seeking therapy following a very public relationship with American socialite Kim Kardashian and conflict with her former husband Kanye West. In this regard, and in many instances with public figures in this era, a lot of the conflict is played out on social media while the world sit down with popcorn and soda in arm chairs to watch and laugh at the scenes of their lives. This is not to cast Pete as a blameless victim in this particular scenario, however, but simply to make the point that it is hard for comedians to have weak moments when they are expected to be the ones walking around armed with jokes to make others feel better. And where they do break down, sometimes, the world can be cruel and unfeeling.
It's interesting, really, to think that comedians, while standing on stage, exuding confidence, are simply regular men and women who don invisible masks. But it's true. Maybe they don't have the colorful hair, wide painted lips and bulb noses. It doesn't mean they aren't wearing masks. And it doesn't mean that they don't have very real human moments where they break down and would need a shoulder.
And so, if you're a supportive fan of any public figure, I think it's okay if you follow them on social media, rather than checking in every now and then, expecting those persons to make you feel better, maybe it might be helpful as well, to check in from time to time just to say, hey, hope you're having a great day today.
Try it. They may or may not acknowledge or respond, but for sure, you'd feel better for it.
Lead Image sourced from Pixabay.