Patient Blogs | Psoriatic Arthritis
Maintaining a Sense of Humor
photo of family playing"Who Am I" game

Perhaps the most important thing one can do to achieve a positive sense of self when wrestling with a chronic condition like psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis is to maintain a sense of humor. Hearing others laugh when you tell a joke, even a self-deprecating joke, is very life-affirming and a source of personal encouragement. While having the disease may present some significant physical and mental hurdles, approaching them all with a positive “can do” attitude is far better than resignation and despair.

As you know, it is very typical for someone to approach you with the opening comment, “How are you?” I find that there is no reason in the world to answer that question honestly, especially since only close family or friends will be much interested in the truth. With that understanding, my typical response to that opening question is, “I am swell.” The takeaway for the listener is that I am all right. In my mind, I am saying that my joints are swollen (and painful), but without any detail, the other person can blithely assume whatever they want.

I am on the board of the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF). The other members of the board seem to usually appreciate the historical precedent and context that I can bring to our discussions. Recently, there was a committee meeting, and we were talking about the requirements for new board members. I told the others that my own expression of interest in joining the board in 2003 was contained in a letter in which I commented on my background and experience, as well my purpose and interest in becoming a board member. Everyone else laughed and said that such a letter was not required for them. In a voice that sounded like a very, very old man, I responded, “Way back in the day…” and everyone cracked up.

I have gotten to meet many other people with the psoriasis and psoriatic disease. It is far easier to share funny stories with fellow patients than with anyone other than family and close friends.

Here is a feel-good quote from Madeline L’Engle, author of “A Wrinkle in Time”:  “A good laugh heals a lot of hurts.”

That said, for me, self-deprecating humor is good medicine.  When I first meet someone, I find that sharing such humor allows me to reveal something about myself, which may not be obvious (an idiosyncrasy or hidden body feature) that sends a message of approachability to the other person.

Dealing with a painful, chronic condition, like psoriatic arthritis, which sometimes seems to get worse over time, can be quite frustrating, if not depressing.  I find that regular laughter is a major distraction and diverts attention from worrying about my disease to something much more pleasant.  It appears that there is some scientific basis for this, based on the release of endorphins, which reduce stress and help boost the immune system.

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Photo Credit: Lucy Lambriex / DigitalVision via Getty Images

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Richard Seiden

Richard Seiden

Diagnosed since 1976

Richard Seiden has lived with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis for 50 years. A retired attorney whose practice focused on representing providers in the health care industry, he is spending retirement as a board or panel member on several nonprofit health care organizations and a National Institutes of Health panel. In addition, he is a patient advocate and educational resource for other patients based on his disease experience. He is also a longtime board member of the National Psoriasis Foundation. He lives in Southern California.

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