Comic: laugh­ter is best medicine

June Field

The Sunday Post (Dundee) - - ADVICE - By Mur­ray Scougall [email protected]

As far as Ca­rina Macleod is con­cerned, laugh­ter re­ally is the best medicine.

The ac­tress and stand-up co­me­dian has writ­ten a hit com­edy show about liv­ing with fi­bromyal­gia.

The 46-year-old says per­form­ing it is not only help­ing her, but oth­ers di­ag­nosed with the con­di­tion, which causes in­tense pain all over the body.

“I’ve been liv­ing with the symp­toms for 10 years, but it was less than two years ago I was di­ag­nosed,” Ca­rina ex­plained. “I felt I had to write a show about it be­cause there are still a lot of peo­ple who haven’t heard of it and I needed peo­ple to know about it.

“Be­fore I was di­ag­nosed in March 2017, I had heard of a cou­ple of peo­ple with it, but writ­ing and per­form­ing the show has opened my eyes to just how many have it.

“A lot of fi­bro suf­fer­ers have come along to the show and know ex­actly where I’m com­ing from. I’m not laugh­ing at fi­bro, I’m laugh­ing at what it does to me.

“I wrote it in such a way that it’s not just for fi­bro suf­fer­ers, it’s for ev­ery­one to ap­pre­ci­ate.”

Now Ca­rina is plan­ning a se­ries of com­edy work­shops for peo­ple with fi­bromyal­gia, which she hopes to take around the coun­try next year.

“I did a one-off work­shop in Dum­fries ear­lier this year with a group of women and we talked not only about com­edy, but also about how you can laugh at your­self, how you can move for­ward and not feel like a caged an­i­mal.

“I hope to be able to do a work­shop the day be­fore or af­ter a show and to take them to fi­bro groups through­out the coun­try.”

But Ca­rina has to man­age her sched­ule care­fully due to the con­di­tion, which also af­fects pain thresh­old, mem­ory, men­tal health and bow­els, among its 200 symp­toms. “Do­ing a show leaves me quite tired, so I can’t do a 19-day run like a lot of co­me­di­ans,” said Ca­rina, orig­i­nally from the Isle of Lewis but now liv­ing in Glas­gow.

“A lot of peo­ple with the con­di­tion have asked me where I find the en­ergy, but I refuse to let this beat me.

“I know if I’m do­ing some shows or have a stren­u­ous night out then the next cou­ple of days will be bru­tal. The pain is so se­vere that it feels like your body is be­ing put through a vice.

“But you can never pre­dict when a flare-up might hap­pen, it can come on in min­utes.”

Al­though it’s dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine just how many peo­ple have the con­di­tion, there are thought to be around a mil­lion suf­fer­ers in Bri­tain, with women seven times more likely than men to have it.

The con­di­tion typ­i­cally de­vel­ops in

those aged be­tween 30 and 50 but can oc­cur at any age.

It’s be­lieved to be re­lated to ab­nor­mal lev­els of cer­tain chem­i­cals in the brain, as well as changes in the way the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem pro­cesses pain mes­sages.

In ad­di­tion to fi­bromyal­gia, Ca­rina was also told she had os­teoarthri­tis.

For a long time she had no idea what was wrong with her, suf­fer­ing 50 of the symp­toms as­so­ci­ated with fi­bro.

“It started when I met my now hus­band, Alan, in 2008. I thought I was al­ler­gic to him be­cause I de­vel­oped all of these al­ler­gies, too!

“I was reach­ing the stage where I won­dered if I was a hypochon­driac, but fi­nally I se­cured an ap­point­ment with a rheuma­tol­o­gist and was di­ag­nosed in 15 min­utes. Ev­ery­thing else had to be ruled out first. I feel very pos­i­tive about it, but it has af­fected my life.

“On a good day I feel I’m 23 and act like a hen on a hot gir­dle, but on a bad day it’s like I’m 93.

“There are things I’ve had to give up. I can never do a small-scale theatre tour, trav­el­ling in a van and per­form­ing in a dif­fer­ent venue each night.”

But Ca­rina does con­tinue to act, do­ing a lot of voiceover work for Gaelic car­toons and she has also been of­fered a part in a Gaelic-lan­guage drama.

As well as that, she re­turns to Web­sters Theatre in March as part of the Glas­gow In­ter­na­tional Com­edy Fes­ti­val, hav­ing sold out a show there as part of the event ear­lier this year.

“I hope I’m able to lift peo­ple’s spir­its,” she added. “Even if it’s just for 90 min­utes.”

Co­me­dian Ca­rina Macleod at home in Glas­gow last week and on stage at Web­sters Theatre

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