After spending 3 years in a mental health lockup, you don’t just get released out into the free world. You first must go to a mental health halfway house.
Now a mental health halfway house is a big step up from the dreaded lockup. Even though you are supervised, you are free to come and go, own a car, or hold a job. So eager to be free, I took advantage of all of the above.
One thing this house did not have, like the lockup, was an expression of humor. Oh, you would hear laughter all right, but it always came from the staff, never the patients.
That all changed one memorable night, when a group of patients loaded into a van and travelled to the grocery store ShopRite. The van was driven by a gigantic black man who passionately cared about his patients. The passengers were silent as we progressed on our way.
But then something changed.
A chubby middle aged Jewish fellow named Mel started singing “Oh, we’re just a bunch of mentally ill idiots on a road trip, yeah!”
The van exploded with laughter. It was rocking. Even better, other patients chipped in with a line, equally funny. The rest of the trip was a continuous explosion of raucous laughter. For me, who had made humor a key piece of my pre-institutional life, this was a beyond incredible experience. I joyfully reflected back on it for days.
After we returned, however, life went back to ‘normal’. No more laughs, for awhile. 15 people Interacting as they always did, and once again, this never involved laughter.
Then another thing happened. The house director, Raed, a humorless middle eastern Muslim man, very sinister looking, ‘Osama-ish’ guy, asked me to attend a formal mental health dinner with him. Since the man terrified me, I was extremely reluctant to go.
But I went.
Raed drove the two of us to the dinner and told me hysterically funny stories of his work history. It was the last thing I expected to hear from a man who looked like a suicide bomber.
So these two episodes were the beginning of my return to the world of funny. It took me getting released to really kick start my humor recovery.
But this was a start, & I am very grateful for it.