On being silly

Lately Max and I have been watching the show “Gravity Falls” together on Disney+. I find I identify with the character Mabel –a 12 year old girl who is unapologetically authentic. She reminds me of myself when I was a kid. She is eccentric, whimsical, and enthusiastic. And silly.

The other day we watched an episode in which Mabel was made fun of by the popular girl for being too silly. Mabel becomes self conscious about her silliness and wonders if she needs to be more serious. Throughout the episode Mabel and Dipper (her twin) solve a mystery that could only be solved when Mabel was at her silliest. In the end Mabel learns that she’s great the way she is and she doesn’t need to change herself to fit the mold.

This episode was CALLING ME OUT.

I recalled and recounted to Max the many times I would lay in bed as a kid, even up through my teen years, and think back on the day. I would replay the moments in my head that I determined I was “too silly” or “annoying” or “embarrassing.” I would resolve to wake up the next morning a more serious person. I would determine to stop embarrassing myself.

The thing is I never was embarrassed in the moment. I usually I had a lot of fun, and so did my friends I was with. But occasionally my friends expressed I could get a bit much, and those are the moments I decided mattered, and those are the moments that kept me up at night planning how I would suppress that silly side of myself.

You could probably guess this is really problematic for someone with bipolar. During hypomania inhibitions disappear and there was nothing holding back my wacky, eccentric, and at times insensitive behaviors. Then in a couple weeks when the mania subsided into the familiar lolls of depression, I would obsess over every moment and torment myself with them. Of course at the time I had no idea this was hypomania or that I had bipolar. I just thought there was something wrong with me.

While I’m sure I made real mistakes while hypomanic and was insensitive to how my loud, hyper behavior impacted those around me, the majority of my silliness was just… Me. Who I was. And it remained when the hyper episodes left.

As a kid I thought I was immature because of these things. As we grow up, we’re taught to be more serious and less silly. But the most fun I have even as an adult is when I’m being silly with my kids or with Max. My most fun memories of youth were when my friends and I were silly. If you think about it, the whole fun part of getting drunk or high as an adult is being able to be silly without inhibitions.

I think it’s time to destigmatize silliness. I want to teach my kids that silliness isn’t something you have to grow out of. Or ever be embarrassed of. Silliness has a place and purpose in life, same as seriousness. After all, one can’t exist without the other.

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