Learning How to Laugh Again.

By Jessica CooneyOctober 24, 2013

“Don’t cry with the people you can’t laugh with.”

The above phrase was shared with TWLOHA’s fall interns during a training session at the beginning of our time here, when the discussion often focused on what made a healthy community. In a place that addresses topics of depression, self-injury, addiction, and suicide, it’s easy for the conversation to be heavy. So, at the very beginning of our internship, we were reminded of the importance of balance—of surrounding yourself with people you could cry with, but friends you could laugh with at the end of the day as well.

I immediately thought back to the spring of 2012, when my time was spent with a core group of friends whom I still consider to be some of the most beautiful people in my life. On the surface, we were the same as we always were: surrounded by friends, succeeding academically, RA’s, tutors, active participants and even leaders of campus clubs. But if anybody looked slightly below the surface, they would’ve realized we were barely holding it together.

It was a hard semester for all of us. One struggling with an eating disorder that would eventually send her to treatment halfway across the country, and the others struggling with depression, anxiety, and the general idea that life can be hard and dark and scary. We put so much energy into trying to save each other, but we couldn’t even help ourselves. It was a vicious cycle, each of us sinking deeper the more we tried to help one another.

It got to the point when someone actually used the phrase “misery loves company” to describe us. We wallowed in our sadness, in our helplessness, and in our inability to save each other. Finally, one particularly miserable day soon after our friend left for treatment, someone pulled a few of us off a couch and made us go to the art center. She made us look at art. She reminded us that we were not breakable. She told us to lean on each other, but to also learn to stand on our own two feet. We tried our hardest to listen, to prioritize ourselves, to look at art more. And as the weeks went by, relief came, little by little.

Toward the end of the semester, a random Facebook comment venting about homework led to an 80-comment conversation that left us doubled over in laughter. We decided to take a break from studying, stress, and our previous priorities to hang out and watch movies. One of our friends was still in treatment, and we were still tired and scared and unsure. But that night, we couldn’t stop smiling. We kept the conversation light. On the walk back, we took a minute to look at the stars and the moon over the ocean, and for the first time in months, we felt alive.

So I return again to this phrase: “Don’t cry with the people you can’t laugh with.”

We had always been able to laugh together—but that semester we’d forgotten how, and we suffered because of it.  

There will be days when everything hurts, when there is nothing you can bear to do but sit on the couch and cry. There is beauty in heavy conversation, in telling a friend, “I am scared, I am alone, I need help.” But life is meant to be both heavy and light, and there is also beauty in the latter. 

If there is anything I have learned, it’s that self-care means different things on different days. Sometimes it means being alone, letting yourself cry, or venting to a friend. But other days, it means changing your focus. Laughing.  Looking at art and sunsets, and remembering the things that make you smile.

The world might feel like a broken place sometimes, but you are not breakable.

—Jessica Cooney, TWLOHA Fall 2013 Intern 

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Comments (19)

  1. Julia

    getting wrapped up in the every day stress on college life can really take a toll on ones sanity. Im getting ready to graduate Indiana University this May. You message helped me remember to take a step back and take care of myself. How do I expect to care for others if I cannot take care of myself. Self care is one of the most important aspects in the helping professions, and is also the one most over looked.

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    1. Luyali

      This is an awesome message. I am touched

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  2. Aliza

    Thank you!

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  3. Fran

    I am having a really dark day and this was something that has really helped me tonight. Thank you so much.

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  4. Sydney

    this is beautiful. thank you for your encouraging and uplifting words, jessica. its important to remember that this life isn’t a formula. different days and different moods call for different ways of caring for ourselves- all while carrying on.

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  5. Florencia

    This is beautiful. I mean, the fact that you have different ways of taking care of yourself and you can do that by doing simple things. I’m working on that right now with both my psycologist and shrink (in about a month I’ll be finishing my pill treatment with her). So thank you so much for sharing your experience 😀

    PS: sorry for my English, I’m from Argentina :).

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  6. Stacy

    After reading this, I took a deep breath. It was breathtaking. Anyone at any time can be struggiling so hard and this is a sign of hope people often need when we can not find the words ourselves.

    A quote I found “Youre beautiful and broken but find peace in the light that shines through the cracks.”

    Thank you. <3

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  7. Marie

    I will always remember this, ” I am not breakable.” Been crying now for weeks. This helped me tonight. I really need help right now. 🙁

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  8. Becca

    I have been in and out of funks for weeks now, almost two months, and throughout I have felt worthless and spent little time reminding myself to do the small and joyous things. I am trying to teach myself that I am strong and that “I am not breakable”. Thank you.

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  9. Lily

    Beautiful. Thank you

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  10. Kellie

    It takes alot to remember that the days of laughter and a little fun are important to the balance. My friends and I are on a similar path as this and we too needed to take a step back and appreciate each laugh a bit more. I thank you for making me realize how much it does matter.

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  11. mommabare

    This was something my 13 year old daughter and I came to realize. When she became depressed and started self harming, she clung to other people online who were in similar situations. Only problem was she fell into a society of self harmers and kids who were suicidal and depressed. Yes, they supported her and kept her from doing it, but on the other hand they also kept her from moving on. With the help of her therapist we realized that she also needed to find more positive people to balance out the pain and confusion she and her friends help. She found the metal core community and began to rely more on the positive things than the depressing ones. She still has those friends and they try to support each other, but they know that they need to be positive with each other and laugh sometimes.

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  12. Paige

    This is beautiful.

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  13. Anonymous


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  14. Wendy

    Beautifully stated, and powerful!

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  15. Nellie

    This was something I really needed to hear today. Somehow, things like this always enter my life right when I need them to. Thank you.

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  16. Nellie

    This was something I really needed to hear today. Somehow, things like this always enter my life right when I need them to. Thank you.

    Reply  |  
  17. Lydia

    Thank you for such an important message. It is often so easy to group with those who provide understanding support but often they are the same ones who are bearing their own weights. I think the essence of community for those who struggle is so important, but stepping outside of our comfort zones is necessary to begin to heal and integrate into a world that seems so much lighter than the heaviness we feel.

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  18. Amyre75

    This entry was just what I needed to read at this very moment. Thank you all for the insight and love you share with all, to remind us we really are not alone in our day to day struggles.

    Reply  |  
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