I’ve written about multiple sclerosis quite a bit this month, but I’d like to take a moment to seize one of the NHBPM bonus prompts and talk about a different condition for a change.
A number of people close to my heart are affected by an invisible condition that really doesn’t get the attention or compassion it deserves. Unfortunately, many in society perpetuate a stigma surrounding their condition, and I know the afflicted would prefer not to be identified by name.
And if you read this and think I’m talking about you, I’m totally not. Swearsies.
It’s entirely possible that they’ve even managed to keep their condition hidden at work or at school, and many are considered successful in their field in spite of their limitations. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, carpenters, policemen — all contributing members of society who might also be suffering in silence.
Scientists still can’t say for certain whether their condition is present from birth or if it is acquired later, perhaps through some sub-acute trauma or yet-to-be-identified virus. The environmental role, if any, is tough to ascertain and nearly impossible to distinguish, with any certainty, from the myriad genetic and cultural factors that might also play a part.
But scientists are finally figuring out what the rest of us have known for years: some people just cannot remember jokes.
It’s sometimes said that, “When one person has the disease, the whole family has the disease.” Never is this more true than when people cannot hear and repeat a joke correctly.
But there’s reason to hope.
For one thing, this may be the only disability that it’s considered appropriate to laugh at. Really! The next time your mom tries (and fails) to recount the hilarious thing her colleague Sheila said the other day, you’d be doing everyone a favor by offering a hearty chuckle when she’s gotten as close to the punchline as possible. It allows for closure and a chance to move forward — in the conversation and in life.
A half hour later, when mom blurts out another mangled version of the same sad attempt, you can nod compassionately and offer support. It’s great that she’s brave enough to keep trying, and you can always just pretend you’re somewhere else for a little while.
Because even though it can feel arduous and daunting for all involved, repetitive practice really is one of best therapies for sufferers. My dad has a PhD in the field (Pretty humorous Dad), and his favorite tip for rehabilitation is simple yet effective.
He says that when you hear a new joke, you have to turn around and tell it to somebody else the first day you hear it. Otherwise, it’s likely to slip away before getting locked into your repertoire.
Unfortunately, this habit alone may not be enough to correct a longstanding joke-forgettor’s condition. But regularly practicing it does improve the chances that they might be able to get one right once in a while.
What have we got to lose?
What invisible illnesses would you like the world to be more aware of?