Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Why April Fools Is Not Funny For Anxiety Sufferers

April Fools - a day of harmless pranks and possibly not so nice but short-lived jokes. All fun and games, right?  Except for some people with anxiety, it is neither harmless nor short lived. Perhaps it would help if I explained the physical symptoms of anxiety. First, your head races. Thoughts of "what am I going to do?" "What if x happens?" "What if y doesn't happen?". "What if, what if, what if..." Then your heart catches onto the uncertainty and starts pounding, racing. Which makes it feel difficult to catch your breath. You may start to sweat. All of which makes you more anxious, and it becomes a vicious cycle. Now this experience is difficult enough when something traumatic actually happens. But what if it was all a joke? What if the situation that caused this wasn't even real, and worse, the person who initiated this knows it's not real? What if you're having an anxiety attack for nothing? Is this funny to you?

Now, this doesn't mean we don't have a sense of humor. It also doesn't mean that we can't handle changes, or be spontaneous. But what it does mean is, if we do not have to go through severe anxiety, there is no point in us doing so. I work in a busy, client-driven industry. I get clients home who have fallen ill overseas. I change last minute business flights. My work schedule is liable to change daily. I'm used to change. I can handle it. I do handle it. Still, I've seen some pretty cruel April fools jokes out there. A friend of mine shared an article on Facebook the other day about how fake pregnancy posts are not a funny April Fools joke. I have just one question for people who have posted fake pregnancies as a jest. WHY WOULD ANYONE THINK THIS IS FUNNY?  Do you know how many people struggle to have a family? It's not remotely funny. Neither are fake layoffs. Nor fake breakups or anything of the like. It's not funny to tell people there was a mix up with payroll and they aren't getting paid this week - those people may rely on that check to pay the bills and buy food for their family. Nor that they suddenly have to work all weekend when they had to be out of town, or have some big event planned, as they try to frantically rearrange everything in their head. Neither is something as basic as fake-cancelling on plans that someone's been looking forward.  It hurts them, even if momentarily. Why would you want to hurt someone for no reason?  Yet I've heard of each of these being used as April Fools jokes ( luckily not to me, people know better by now).

You may think these things are funny, because you' know they're not true. In your mind, it's no big deal. You think, "What, I just told you I was joking? What's the problem?". The big deal is that it doesn't end for us then. It does for you because you knew all along it was a joke, and because you don't have a medical condition that it negatively impacted, even if for just a while. For us, our heart rate and breathing take a while to recover. Our brain continues to race with things like "but what if it's not a joke..." and "Ok false alarm but what would I do if...".

So please, be careful with your April Fools jokes. We all know google is going to "premier" some ridiculous feature, not because people will believe it but because it's almost become tradition. Surely some unsuspecting person will get their toothpaste or shaving cream replaced with something. But please, before playing some bigger joke where the person could truly be negatively affected, think twice. You never know what people are going through, and you certainly wouldn't want your "harmless" joke to land someone in the ER. That is not harmless at all. 

No comments:

Post a Comment