Learning to Laugh Again
By Joanne Phillips, MS, RD
Written in 2013
As you can imagine, there isn’t much to laugh about after you have been hit by a car.
I remember the debilitating pain throughout my body every day, not being able to walk very well, the head pain that went on 24/7, trying to deal with the loss of my smell and taste, the emotional instability in my brain that erupted in any given moment, yes, the list goes on.
I was in a body I longer knew and brain I could no longer control. Understand, that walking back into the world with all my injuries was hands down the scariest moment of my life. Thoughts plagued me constantly: Was this as good as my life was going to get? Would I ever heal to MY expectations? Countless questions including; “Would I ever laugh again?”
Ah yes laughter, something I knew VERY well before my accident. I would think: Man, I would give ANYTHING to find something funny that would make me crack up so hard that my belly would hurt! I would think back to the numerous times in my life, all the fun moments and laughter I was blessed with. Gosh, I so longed for that feeling again but nothing ever came. How could it? I was fighting both physical and emotional pain on a scale I never dreamed of! I thought to myself, “There would be no more laughter in my life anymore, maybe a forced smile here and there at best”. It was such a depressing thought that just added more insult to injury. I just felt so lost, a shadow of my former self at best and I didn’t like it!
I made my first trip back to New Jersey for Christmas in 2007, just 8 months after my accident. It was a special homecoming seeing all my friends and family again. I put on the brave face for that first visit back and I must say, I did a pretty good acting job, but inside I was dying, I didn’t feel like me I was a stranger in my own body but everyone was so happy to see me so I just played along.
On December 26th my family gets together with my aunt and uncle and cousins for a post Christmas dinner. My mom and dad knew I was dealing with very serious depression (yes from my brain injury). On the verge of tears, I remember telling my mother that I couldn’t stay any longer and that I was going back home. You see, I couldn’t fake another night of appearing “happy”; it was a mentally exhausting game to try to play with a brain injury.
About 8:30pm, I started saying my goodbyes. I went into the basement to say goodbye to my brother Rich, and my cousins John and Christine (we are all just a few years apart). As I rounded the corner I heard the three of them cracking up as they were playing Guitar Hero. I silently stood back for a moment as I watched Christine on vocals, John on the guitar and my brother Rich on the drums just laughing hysterically! “WOW! Look at them, LAUGHING, they are having SO much fun!” I thought to myself. I slowly approached them, and looked at my cousin Christine and said “Can I be on vocals?” She handed me the microphone with a smile as we proceeded through the generous list of songs available. About 10 plus songs and 1,000 BELLY laughs later it was now 11:00pm! Yes, for the last 2 and a half hours, I forgot alllll about my injuries and the laundry list of questions I thought about EVERYDAY and I did something I hadn’t done in 8 months….I actually learned how to laugh again!!!
And even though there were still very dark and challenging times ahead for me in my recovery, for those 2 and half wonderful hours, I was free from my reality and I learned that YES, things can be funny again!
Blessings to all those with Traumatic Brain Injury, I pray you all find something to laugh about again!