Category Archives: EDS & Hypermobility Spectrum

Healthy Giggles

By: JD Author, Reporter-Journalist

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion.

 I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.

~Kurt Vognett

Each of us have experienced laughter and appreciate the warm and good feeling it evokes.  I know I have. I have been known to share many a joke and have a great sense of humor despite medical and financial adversity in my life, and know the positive impact it has had for me.  There have been times that my medical condition has created stress that bordered absolute fright.  I recall in early 2000, when I was about to embark on the challenge of a lifetime.  I was told that I needed brain surgery immediately for a rare condition I didn’t even learn I had until that week.  If it were not for the humor of close friends and family, I think I would have had a heart attack from the rapid increase of arterial blood flow causing me to explode in fright.  After the survival of that experience, and many more to follow I am able to look back and kind of chuckle and use them as coping mechanisms through the current events, that peak my stress.

Where would we all be if we had no laughter or no one to laugh with?

Research  and statistics based on viewership of sitcoms and comedy channels through media sources, demonstrate a collective enjoyment of jokes and humorous situations by all generations.  But ask yourself the age old question.  Is laughter really the best medicine, as that classic saying implies?  Unsurprising to most, there actually is documented proof that laughter can help keep you healthy both from a mental and physical perspective. A good sense of humor cannot cure all ailments, but data indicates the incredibly positive impact laughter can have.

In recent studies done through Mayo clinic, it has been found that laughter has a profound effect on the serum levels of an individual’s hormones. The specific hormones I am referencing are the glucocorticoid, catecholamine, growth and prolactin hormones.  Now to the layman who hates big, geeky medical terms, you may be thinking “What the heck are those hormones”?  So let me tell you what they are, and how they can be affected by stress and how laughter can change them for the good.  Some of these hormones we refer to as the “fight or flight” hormones which we need on occasion as a mechanism of meeting the need to adapt to changes in our circumstances that need immediate adjustment.  Most changes however, can be detrimental to our well being.

In 2010 the Journal of Medicine released a study stating that stress hormones, more often than not, increased blood platelets, which can lead to forms of arterial obstructions, raise blood pressure and suppress the immune system.  This same study also concluded that an increase in laughter generated an absolute increase in T-cells, an integral part of our immune response.  It also elevated B-cell counts, which promote the growth of disease destroying antibodies and gamma-interferon, a well known disease fighting protein we all need.

Did you also know that laughter increases our ability to produce salivary immunoglobulin-A?  Immunoglobulin-A is known for helping fight organisms entering the respiratory system via our mouths when we laugh, and it also secretes an enzyme that protects the stomach from forming ulcers?   Amazing that the spit that forms when we laugh can actually do that!  Guess we need to listen to more mouth-watering jokes.

When I think of the relationship between laughter and pain, What comes to mind another old saying “laughing until it hurts”.  Laughter that is intense, and leads to us laughing hard enough that we feel a twinge of discomfort in our bodies can be very healthy mentally and physically.  Laughter in good measure, releases endorphins that provide a small form of natural pain relief.  Laughter can be used as a tool to release some of the negative emotions and tension experienced when we are angry, sad or afraid.  True, it may not alter the outcome of a sad and difficult situation we may face in our day to day lives, but it can clearly provide a well needed break from the worry, a respite from the need to be logical for a few moments, and a chance to just “let go” of seriousness and responsibility, even if for only a brief moment.

Often in life, we tend to look back at past events and mishaps that were stressful at one time, but as we recall them, we can laugh at that embarrassing moment and feel a sigh of relief we survived it and also feel less focused on current stress for the moment, knowing we have dealt with things then, and perhaps we feel more light-hearted about current events.  Not only does  laughter when we reminisce help our overall well being, but when we share laughter with others, it offers us a connection to others.  Were sharing a moment in time that is a crucial building block towards strengthening relationships.

How fun would it be to always be around a person who manages to not laugh at life as often as they are able to pinpoint a negative in every topic?  I think that would be they type of person I would least likely to be around, or if I had to, would find another means to laugh, just to counter their negativity.  I have had to resort to this method, as believe it or not, despite my humor, I do know a select few who are lacking any for the most part.  Their lack of true optimism is reflective  in the not so humorous jokes they that leave me and a good portion of others (with exception to a few reddit addicts who find the stupidest crap funny, which is entertaining as well because we laugh at their intellectual lack of humor), that leave me scratching my head and wondering how it was possible they could find that funny.  Perhaps their pessimistic nature has already turned many away from their style of odd and incomprehensible lack of what is funny and what is plain unintelligent no matter their IQ (or lack of).

So when you’re having struggles in life that are stressful, try to find some laughter, because truly it can be a start to good healing. Laughter has great short and long term benefits.  Not only does it tend to lighten the mental load but when you draw in that oxygen-rich air as your prepare to belt out a hearty laugh, you are stimulating your lungs and muscles and will increase those brain endorphins to release and it stimulates your organs.  Laughter activates and then relieves your stress responses by triggering the momentary elevated blood level and heart rate when laughing then returning it to a calm after the laugh, giving you a sense of relaxed feeling.  During this process it also stimulates that circulation through muscles which can help relieve tension that has affected the painful physical symptoms sometimes caused by the long term effects of stress.

Keeping humor on our horizon through laughter with friends, laughter at a funny book or a television show, in my opinion can be a great key in improving our overall well being.   I have found it very beneficial to many facets of my life.  If you’re interested, you can read my book, and find the many laughs and hardships I have had over the last 15 plus years and how it has tremendously improved how I look at life and the perspective it brings to many situations.  That book is available here…

Walk With me My MS Journey

Think humor has no effect?  Then put it to the test.  Turn the corners of your mouth up into a smile and then give pout a healthy laugh, even if it feels like you have to force it out, try.  Now that you have had that chuckle, sit back and think about those few seconds afterwards.  How does it feel?  Try it a second time, and picture the most recent funny joke you heard or read.  How do you feel now?  That is just a small amount of the power of the healing of laughter.  Truly one of the best medicines out there, because it is FREE. Also remember if you’re going to share this healing effect with others to be mindful of what is an appropriate joke for each setting. Remember to never laugh at the expense of others. Some forms of humor aren’t appropriate. Use your best judgment to discern a good joke from a bad, or hurtful, one.

Research references for this article are available upon written request to


©Copyright protected 2015: NWU Local 1981

©IAPP Author/Journalist   Press ID # 1007490467

The Magic of Metaphors

By: JD Author, Reporter-Journalist

“Take a puzzle. Dump it on a table. Build the frame then force the pieces together into places they don’t really belong. Now let your dog or cat into the room. As chaos ensues you lose some of the pieces. You want to complete the puzzle so you decide to cram pieces from a completely different puzzle into the missing spots. There, it’s done… sort of. That is Ehlers-danlos and Hypermobility Spectrum.”


As I sit back and think of all the metaphors there are floating around in society, online and in print used to describe the struggles people endure in their lifetime, I find comfort in knowing that I am not alone in having to use them as well to explain my world to the many lacking understanding when it comes to Multiple Sclerosis and ACM.

When speaking to my doctor last week, he inquired as to whether I had been sleeping better since he ordered a change in my bed to a more therapeutic mattress. Although I had been sleeping a bit better, waking only about 8 times in an eight hour night, I still struggled when it was time to get up and start my day.  He asked me to explain what I was trying to relay to him, and that’s when it hit me.  Use a metaphor.  Even doctors can relate to metaphors, they are human after all and not the enemy, even though they sometimes seem to want to torture us with treatments that make us feel as if were in a concentration camp in some third-world country.  So I did.

I told him;

Imagine walking in a desert for 10 hours in August with no water.  Then stop, screw open a jar of peanut butter and scoop out a heaping tablespoon.  Be generous now, you know almost everyone loves peanut butter.  Then put that peanut butter in your mouth, close your mouth and wait about thirty seconds”  I paused.  “Now try to talk.  As you try to open your mouth and find your tongue near pasted to the roof of your mouth as if your trying to pry the 200 lb organ back where it is supposed to be and find it is a monumental task, picture me being the tongue, and HSD being the peanut butter, that’s is my world.  You’re getting thirsty.  You need water to thin out the peanut butter so you can move.  Where is the water (someone to help you)?  There is no water.  So you try several times, and finally are able to pry your tongue from the roof of your mouth.  It may take some time, but I am finally out of bed.

Of course Dr.Rowe looked at me for a moment in silence.  Then he said that was the best explanation he had heard in a long time.  I thanked him for his kind understanding and explained to him I learned using metaphors to describe my days when I found people asking me how could I have an illness, when I don’t look sick and had to ask them if they could describe to me what an idiot looks like.  He chuckled, and I know I am really going to like this new neurologist, since he appreciates humor, and I am full of shits and giggles, most days.

While learning to cope with the most recent, complications of my HSD and EDS, I have come to learn to relate to metaphors, when dealing with people who are too quick to judge and too lazy to Google HSD and be tolerable and understanding to it and other diseases that have no face.  One of my favorites is the Spoon Theory, written By Christine Miserendiro as she tried to explain Lupus to her close friend, who just like thousands of others, did not understand a disease she couldn’t physically see a few years ago.   So I will share it with you.  That way, when you ask me how my day is, and I say I have just a few spoons, I won’t have to explain that it is going to be a short day for me.


My best friend and I were in the diner, talking. As usual, it was very late and we were eating French fries with gravy. Like normal girls our age, we spent a lot of time in the diner while in college, and most of the time we spent talking about boys, music or trivial things, that seemed very important at the time. We never got serious about anything in particular and spent most of our time laughing.

As I went to take some of my medicine with a snack as I usually did, she watched me with an awkward kind of stare, instead of continuing the conversation. She then asked me out of the blue what it felt like to have Lupus and be sick. I was shocked not only because she asked the random question, but also because I assumed she knew all there was to know about Lupus. She came to doctors with me, she saw me walk with a cane, and throw up in the bathroom. She had seen me cry in pain, what else was there to know?

I started to ramble on about pills, and aches and pains, but she kept pursuing, and didn’t seem satisfied with my answers. I was a little surprised as being my roommate in college and friend for years; I thought she already knew the medical definition of Lupus. Then she looked at me with a face every sick person knows well, the face of pure curiosity about something no one healthy can truly understand. She asked what it felt like, not physically, but what it felt like to be me, to be sick.

As I tried to gain my composure, I glanced around the table for help or guidance, or at least stall for time to think. I was trying to find the right words. How do I answer a question I never was able to answer for myself? How do I explain every detail of every day being effected, and give the emotions a sick person goes through with clarity. I could have given up, cracked a joke like I usually do, and changed the subject, but I remember thinking if I don’t try to explain this, how could I ever expect her to understand. If I can’t explain this to my best friend, how could I explain my world to anyone else? I had to at least try.

At that moment, the spoon theory was born. I quickly grabbed every spoon on the table; hell I grabbed spoons off of the other tables. I looked at her in the eyes and said “Here you go, you have Lupus”. She looked at me slightly confused, as anyone would when they are being handed a bouquet of spoons. The cold metal spoons clanked in my hands, as I grouped them together and shoved them into her hands.

I explained that the difference in being sick and being healthy is having to make choices or to consciously think about things when the rest of the world doesn’t have to. The healthy have the luxury of a life without choices, a gift most people take for granted.

Most people start the day with unlimited amount of possibilities, and energy to do whatever they desire, especially young people. For the most part, they do not need to worry about the effects of their actions. So for my explanation, I used spoons to convey this point. I wanted something for her to actually hold, for me to then take away, since most people who get sick feel a “loss” of a life they once knew. If I was in control of taking away the spoons, then she would know what it feels like to have someone or something else, in this case Lupus, being in control.

She grabbed the spoons with excitement. She didn’t understand what I was doing, but she is always up for a good time, so I guess she thought I was cracking a joke of some kind like I usually do when talking about touchy topics. Little did she know how serious I would become?

I asked her to count her spoons. She asked why, and I explained that when you are healthy you expect to have a never-ending supply of “spoons”. But when you have to now plan your day, you need to know exactly how many “spoons” you are starting with. It doesn’t guarantee that you might not lose some along the way, but at least it helps to know where you are starting. She counted out 12 spoons. She laughed and said she wanted more. I said no, and I knew right away that this little game would work, when she looked disappointed, and we hadn’t even started yet. I’ve wanted more “spoons” for years and haven’t found a way yet to get more, why should she? I also told her to always be conscious of how many she had, and not to drop them because she can never forget she has Lupus.

I asked her to list off the tasks of her day, including the most simple. As, she rattled off daily chores, or just fun things to do; I explained how each one would cost her a spoon. When she jumped right into getting ready for work as her first task of the morning, I cut her off and took away a spoon. I practically jumped down her throat. I said ” No! You don’t just get up. You have to crack open your eyes, and then realize you are late. You didn’t sleep well the night before. You have to crawl out of bed, and then you have to make your self something to eat before you can do anything else, because if you don’t, you can’t take your medicine, and if you don’t take your medicine you might as well give up all your spoons for today and tomorrow too.” I quickly took away a spoon and she realized she hasn’t even gotten dressed yet. Showering cost her spoon, just for washing her hair and shaving her legs. Reaching high and low that early in the morning could actually cost more than one spoon, but I figured I would give her a break; I didn’t want to scare her right away. Getting dressed was worth another spoon. I stopped her and broke down every task to show her how every little detail needs to be thought about. You cannot simply just throw clothes on when you are sick. I explained that I have to see what clothes I can physically put on, if my hands hurt that day buttons are out of the question. If I have bruises that day, I need to wear long sleeves, and if I have a fever I need a sweater to stay warm and so on. If my hair is falling out I need to spend more time to look presentable, and then you need to factor in another 5 minutes for feeling badly that it took you 2 hours to do all this.

I think she was starting to understand when she theoretically didn’t even get to work, and she was left with 6 spoons. I then explained to her that she needed to choose the rest of her day wisely, since when your “spoons” are gone, they are gone. Sometimes you can borrow against tomorrow’s “spoons”, but just think how hard tomorrow will be with less “spoons”. I also needed to explain that a person who is sick always lives with the looming thought that tomorrow may be the day that a cold comes, or an infection, or any number of things that could be very dangerous. So you do not want to run low on “spoons”, because you never know when you truly will need them. I didn’t want to depress her, but I needed to be realistic, and unfortunately being prepared for the worst is part of a real day for me.

We went through the rest of the day, and she slowly learned that skipping lunch would cost her a spoon, as well as standing on a train, or even typing at her computer too long. She was forced to make choices and think about things differently. Hypothetically, she had to choose not to run errands, so that she could eat dinner that night.

When we got to the end of her pretend day, she said she was hungry. I summarized that she had to eat dinner but she only had one spoon left. If she cooked, she wouldn’t have enough energy to clean the pots. If she went out for dinner, she might be too tired to drive home safely. Then I also explained, that I didn’t even bother to add into this game, that she was so nauseous, that cooking was probably out of the question anyway. So she decided to make soup, it was easy. I then said it is only 7pm, you have the rest of the night but maybe end up with one spoon, so you can do something fun, or clean your apartment, or do chores, but you can’t do it all.

I rarely see her emotional, so when I saw her upset I knew maybe I was getting through to her. I didn’t want my friend to be upset, but at the same time I was happy to think finally maybe someone understood me a little bit. She had tears in her eyes and asked quietly “Christine, How do you do it? Do you really do this everyday?” I explained that some days were worse then others; some days I have more spoons then most. But I can never make it go away and I can’t forget about it, I always have to think about it. I handed her a spoon I had been holding in reserve. I said simply, “I have learned to live life with an extra spoon in my pocket, in reserve. You need to always be prepared.”

Its hard, the hardest thing I ever had to learn is to slow down, and not do everything. I fight this to this day. I hate feeling left out, having to choose to stay home, or to not get things done that I want to. I wanted her to feel that frustration. I wanted her to understand, that everything everyone else does comes so easy, but for me it is one hundred little jobs in one. I need to think about the weather, my temperature that day, and the whole day’s plans before I can attack any one given thing. When other people can simply do things, I have to attack it and make a plan like I am strategizing a war. It is in that lifestyle, the difference between being sick and healthy. It is the beautiful ability to not think and just do. I miss that freedom. I miss never having to count “spoons”.

After we were emotional and talked about this for a little while longer, I sensed she was sad. Maybe she finally understood. Maybe she realized that she never could truly and honestly say she understands. But at least now she might not complain so much when I can’t go out for dinner some nights, or when I never seem to make it to her house and she always has to drive to mine. I gave her a hug when we walked out of the diner. I had the one spoon in my hand and I said “Don’t worry. I see this as a blessing. I have been forced to think about everything I do. Do you know how many spoons people waste everyday? I don’t have room for wasted time, or wasted “spoons” and I chose to spend this time with you.”

Ever since this night, I have used the spoon theory to explain my life to many people. In fact, my family and friends refer to spoons all the time. It has been a code word for what I can and cannot do. Once people understand the spoon theory they seem to understand me better, but I also think they live their life a little differently too. I think it isn’t just good for understanding Lupus, but anyone dealing with any disability or illness. Hopefully, they don’t take so much for granted or their life in general. I give a piece of myself, in every sense of the word when I do anything. It has become an inside joke. I have become famous for saying to people jokingly that they should feel special when I spend time with them, because they have one of my “spoons”.

Now that you have a better understanding of what lives are like for those who suffer with invisible diseases, you will become more compassionate to other people in public who “appear” fine but move slow, talk odd, stumble, or just seem different to you.  Have a wonderful and blessed day, I shall be heading back to my bed to rest.  I am a little low on spoons today.

©Copyright protected 2016: NWU Local 1981

©IAPP Author/Journalist   Press ID # 1007490467