Gallows Humor Example – Anorexia and Beer

I thought I’d follow up my post on Gallows Humor, with examples, things that have happened to me that are really funny and deeply fucked up. Those who already get the joke, just enjoy it. Those who don’t can maybe understand a little more.  If you think they’re funny, then forcryingoutloud laugh!

Somewhere around 20 years ago, I got sober for the first time, but I did not deal with the reasons why I drank in the first place.

So I embraced anorexia as a fun new way to be self-destructive and skinny doing so.

One night something got to me, so I bought myself a 6-pack and went home.  I sat on my floor with my beer, pulled one out and looked at it, paused, and thought…

“I really want to get drunk, but do you know how many calories are in this beer?”

And with that, I laughed my ass off. Even in my starvation addled brain, even with my heart pounding and beginning to fail me, even though all I really wanted to do was die, I still couldn’t help but acknowledge the utter absurdity of this little dilemma.  It stopped me for a few moments, and I laughed for the first time in months.  For a few precious ticks of the clock, everything was funny again. For just a few labored heartbeats, my world made sense.

Oh I drank it, you better believe it.  But the bit up to that is super funny.

Gallows Humor

Years ago I joked with my husband that if he was ever really nice to me I’d know I was dying.  He said “No, honey, I would say, hey your tumor is growing an eye!”

This is absolutely true, he probably would.  In fairness, so would I.

Some people might be offend/upset/emotionally crushed by that, but this sort of gallows humor is how he and I communicate, and how I have survived so many years longer than I ever expected.  I am looking down the barrel of 50 and that is simply mind boggling.

Everyone sees the world differently.  My world is just a little more…askew.

I’m going to give an example that begins with 9/11.  There’s no way to put a bow on that, so I’ll get it out of the way now.

When the attacks happened, my then boyfriend, now husband and I were not living together.  I woke up and turned on the TV to see what was happening.  He called me and we sat on the phone together crying.

Then we both saw on the crawl these words, and this is verbatim:

“San Francisco Police Say they are Art!”

We both paused, trying to wrap our heads around that, and then we both burst into hysterical laughter.  I can only imagine what our respective neighbors must have thought had they heard us.  We laughed so hard our sides ached, and I couldn’t see through my tears.

Then we started to riff on it.  “It’s OK, it’s OK!  We’re kind of a kinetic piece!”  “Everyone calm down!  You are seeing me in four dimensions!”

This typo could not have been more perfect.  I’m certain what they meant was “…on alert” but the fact that it was San Francisco, my weird little home, made it sublime.

What’s important to understand is that we were not laughing at the tragedy, we were laughing at this absurdity, this typo which was simply hilarious.

Embracing the dark does not mean forgoing the light, nor does it necessarily mean grim, callous or humorless.  It simply means seeing the humor in the darkness; not at the tragedy but something adjacent to it.  Something absurd or so horrible it just becomes funny.

For some of us with a mental illness, addiction, or both, this is the tape that holds our tattered seams together.  It’s not always shared by everyone in a group, and while I do suggest that people like me be sensitive to that, at the same time, please understand that we mean no disrespect when we refer to our time in the “coo-coo’s nest” or being “bat shit crazy.”  This is how we cope, and how we see the world, just a little askew.   If I couldn’t do that I would, without question, be dead.

Just like the 9/11 story, we’re not laughing at you or your pain.  We’re laughing because we’ve been there, we understand, we can see the absurdity of not being able to pee without a person checking in every few minutes.

We’re laughing because we’re alive to do so, and it’s funny as hell.

About “Drone”

I wanted to give some information about the poem “Drone.”

I wrote it, as it says, while I was mired in a depression.  I have never been able to adequately describe what it is like for me, what depression feels like most of the time.  It is incoherent and sloppily written but I have made no edits.  It is exactly as I wrote it and found it a few days later.

The drone itself is one of only a few auditory hallucinations I’ve ever had, and the only one that is consistent.  I have gotten to the point through many years of work that I can recognize a depression coming, or my husband does and warns me, but if I hear the drone, it’s too late; I’m too far away now.

I recall that I was lying in bed at this time, so the drone was inside me.  If I am walking, it follows me like a mindless creature, from habit, drawn to warmth.  It is in the same place every time, on my left, slightly behind me, floating along.  I see it as a sort of fuzzy ball, always black, about the size of a tennis ball. And the sound it makes, the best I can say, is a drone.  A deep, rumbling, yet quiet drone, like a bagpipe sort of, that’s the best way I can describe it.

It does hurt, depression, as I mentioned.  I’ll expand on that later.  But yes, it does physically hurt.

Drone -Written during a depression

the drone is in my ears I can feel it inside my head and hear it in my ears

it is in my chest and my throat and my stomach and my ears

it is in my eyes and I can see it and it is all I can see


it is the color of black but not black


it hurts


all over and inside and in my throat I can’t speak over it


I can’t speak to it

I can’t speak for it

I can’t speak for it


it is in my spine


it hurts


I can’t control it I can’t stop it I can’t make it go away


I can’t make it go away

I can’t make it go away


I can’t think

I can’t speak

I can’t reason

I can’t feel

I can’t throw up


I can’t shake it off though I try to shake I am in rigor mortis



I can’t breath


it pulses with my heart

the sound is a throbbing drone

all the time


all the fucking time


just make it stop

Changing Labels – Changing Thinking

Sometimes if I’m home from work because my illness has decided to bite me on the behind, sometimes I belittle my need to be home because there is “nothing physically wrong with me” meaning, I don’t have a cold or a flu or leprosy or something.  My problem is mental, that’s why they call it mental illness.

So I’m thinking about that just now.  The phrase “nothing physically wrong with me” makes me feel weak, like I’ve failed at living, like my illness is somehow less legitimate.  But what does mental illness mean? Continue reading Changing Labels – Changing Thinking