Laughing in the ER

Today I was listening to an old Nerdist podcast with Mike Birbiglia. Birbiglia, a comedian, was telling a story about telling jokes about cancer. He was explaining how sometimes it was stressful to tell jokes about such a touchy subject. He went on to explain that often said axiom that a lot of comedians “are people who had to make things funny at home,” had to make uncomfortable situations funny as a way to cope.

This made me think of an experience I’ve had a few times.

Typically when I go to the ER, it’s because I’m in terrible pain and I usually get tests done to see if everything is okay, some pain medication to ease my suffering, and am then sent home and told to follow up with my doctor. That’s what happens when they don’t find anything bad in the tests, obviously.

Nearly every time I go to the ER, my mom goes with me (usually she’s driving). There is a lot of waiting involved in an ER visit, and typically even if you are back in a room, there’s no TV, or nothing good on and it’s just boring. Plus after several hours of being in pain, plus a car trip that can be up to an hour long (I don’t go to my local ER – that’s another story), I can get a little loopy.

So we normally joke around. It helps pass the time, and it helps take the edge off a not fun situation.

I’ve had doctors and/or nurses flat out say that I couldn’t possibly be in that much pain because I was laughing. Like pain means you have to be wailing and gnashing your teeth and writing around on the floor every fricking second? Because I’ve also had an experience when I was in a ton of pain and was told that I needed to be quiet because I was disrupting the other patients in the doctor’s office.

So, I guess it is a no win situation. But I’m not going to stop joking around, or even laughing whenever possible. Because if I’m going to be treated weirdly no matter which way I behave, then I’d rather try my best to make the situation more comfortable for myself.

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5 Comments on “Laughing in the ER”

  1. I had a good friend who required ER treatment a few times for the same type of situation. There was a lot of discomfort and pain. For at least one of those instances, several of us went along. While we weren’t obnoxious to those around us, we had as good a time as you can have in an ER waiting room. In the end, the individual was still sick and still needed tending to and still went through a lot after going past the desk. But for the long waiting period prior, I’d like to think we helped.

    • Carly says:

      I definitely think it is good to have at least one person with you, even if it is just to talk about stuff to try to distract you while you wait or have to endure sucky procedures (if someone is not good with needles, for example). Sometimes it helps to have someone who can physically go find a nurse instead of using the call button.

  2. Lara says:

    Oh man, I totally feel you on this. My mom has spent soooo much time in the hospital for so many things, we just get hysterical. It’s better than crying! We also could never keep it together at funerals. It’s definitely a defense mechanism and I think it’s a pretty great coping skill if you ask me!

    • Carly says:

      Wow you’ve got me beat. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed at a funeral, but I typically get weepy even if it’s someone I don’t know (my own mom goes to a lot of funerals of friends’ relatives to be supportive).
      Do you ever get negative comments about the hospital behavior?

      • Lara says:

        We’ve gotten looks from people… disapproving looks, at the hospital. I guess we may have been disturbing other people. Uh oh.


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