Family treats you different when you are mentally ill

I have many examples, but one example in particular is the best.

Nearly 40 years ago, I was on vacation with my cousins in Cape Cod. I had fixed up an old bicycle, and bought a fairly expensive new bike seat for it. Within minutes of installing it, my 14 year old cousin got on the bike and immediately ran into a parked car. She broke the brand new bike seat.

Although I was somewhat slightly ticked about the bike seat, for the most part I was incredibly amused.

Thanks to my wonderfully wacky aunt, this girl’s mother, the bike seat story has lived on and on and on. To this day, I still get a yearly Christmas card from my aunt that includes a mention of the bike seat. Because my aunt is so insanely creative, every yearly card takes a different spin on this ridiculously idiotic story. I love the hell out of it.

So, within the last several months, I have entered the perilous world of Facebook. And on Facebook, I find the bike seat cousin. I sent her the following message-

“Bike seat-smoldering rage!”

Do I actually feel smoldering rage? Of course not! It’s just a statement that I hope will make her laugh.

No response.


My God, I start thinking, does she really think I am consumed with ‘smoldering rage’?

When looked at in combination with other similar circumstances, I firmly believe that other people respond or don’t respond to my attempts at humor based on my history of mental illness. This happens a lot.

When I am in an environment where no one knows my history, responses to a joke or a story are much more normal.

In my particular world, I could not begin to tell you how much this bothers me. I have taken the issue up with my therapist, and he is teaching me how to deal with it, and he’s doing a good job.

I was a joker before entering the world of mental illness, and for several years while in the world of darkness, laughter played no part in my life.

Today however, I enjoy laughter, telling or hearing a joke, busting your chops or having you bust mine, and all else that is a part of humor.

But I think others are hesitant to know how to interact with me in the world of humor. Because it was gone, they think it’s gone forever. So when I say something ‘funny’, they are not sure how to react.

So, in an effort to remove the awkwardness, I can remove humor from the equation. No more terrible silences from relatives and friends. No more wondering what they are thinking about me.

But f___k that- humor defined me in the first 45 years of my life, and I fully plan on having it define me as I reach my golden years.

Bike seat cousin, you are just going to have to come around.

4 thoughts on “Family treats you different when you are mentally ill”

  1. You just have to inform people that you still have a sense of humor. I didn’t know you very well back then but I do remember your sense of humor. Do you remember that Sean used to call you ‘Dancing Bear’? I’m pretty sure I remember this correctly. Another thing is, sometimes in emails and on face book, innuendo is missed. People take it as they read it so further explanation is needed. Have a humorous day!


    1. thanks for the insight, Judy. I absolutely remember Sean pulling me dancing bear, I believe it was started by Brian. I love that nickname, incredibly I still get called it once in awhile. my therapist told me not to worry about relatives and friends who don’t accept my humor. He said since my son does accept it that’s all that matters. accept it that’s all that matters.


  2. I make a joke about being “boobless” and everyone is horrified. They do not know how to react. I love it. What do they want me to do. Cry for the rest of my life?


    1. I totally sympathize. I make all sorts of jokes about my mental health, and I guess people don’t know how to deal with it. As 4 what u said, I totally got it, I appreciate it, cause in my own different way, I sort of relate.


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