If so, you’re certainly not alone. It’s completely normal to feel that way when, through no fault of your own, you stop being able to live your life on your own terms.
Anger can take a couple of different forms. It can just be a result of daily frustrations that build up over time; it can be the result of a sudden symptom of flair or appearance of a new symptom — or, even worse, a new condition; or it can be part of the grief process, which we all have to go through sooner or later in order to accept our illness and everything that means for our lives.
When I used to have a traditional job, the frustrations could start the moment I awoke for the day. My symptoms could be worse than expected. My energy could be so low that I wondered how I would even get through a shower, let alone feed and clothe two toddlers, get them to preschool, and drive to work through rush-hour traffic.
Then, of course, was the all-to-common need to call in sick. Sometimes it was easier to push myself to get there — no matter how bad I felt — then to pick up that phone and once again force my coworkers to pick up my slack.
Working from home is much better for my health, but still comes with its share of illness-related frustrations. I can’t count how many days I’ve laid on the couch and wished I could do something about all the clutter around me. And what about the days when I did clean up, against my better judgment? We all know the consequences of going beyond our limits, and we usually have several bad days to remind us that sometimes, it’s better to just stay down.
I still have days when all the things I can do make me furious. Paying attention to how I feel and pacing myself properly, while not a cure-all, can definitely help.
New Symptom, Severity, or Condition
Our symptoms lists are several dozen items long, so it’s not unusual for a new symptom of fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome to rear its head. For me, it always seemed to be just after I managed to get something else under control, as if I’m playing some sick form of Whack-a-Mole.
The severity of our symptoms can also fluctuate wildly from week to week, day-to-day, or even hour to hour. It’s hard not knowing when it’s safe to schedule something, when you’ll have to cancel, etc.
Most of us also have other conditions. Much like with symptoms, I have found myself getting one illness under control only to have another one pop up. Each time, I have to deal with the feelings a new diagnosis brings, which is often anger.
It’s as if my body has betrayed me, once again. If a person put me through this kind of repeated emotional trauma, I’d cut them out of my life. When it’s my own body, though, the helplessness of it can be infuriating.
The Grief Process
You’re probably familiar with the common notion of stages of grief, one of those stages is anger. In fact, according to some experts, it’s the first one.
It may seem strange to talk about grief when the topic isn’t death. However, it’s important to recognize that you are dealing with loss — the loss of the life you knew before illness. It’s natural to grieve this loss and it can help you move forward.
Dealing with Negative Emotions
Anger is a natural, normal response to all of this. Still, you don’t want it to take over your life. It’s important to find ways to deal with it.
A friend, an online forum, a Facebook group filled with people who understand, or even a journal can provide that little release valve that keeps you from blowing up. A lot of us benefit from counseling as well. There’s no shame in that — we have a lot to deal with, and we can all use some help now and then.
It can also help to get some perspective: everyone, regardless of their health, has daily frustrations, faces obstacles, and, at some point, deals with loss. We all have too much to deal with, people and situations that aggravate us, and negative aspects of our lives. You may have more than a lot of people, but you can also bet that you have fewer than some.
That doesn’t mean you can be angry and feel sorry for yourself sometimes. You can and should. However, try not to catastrophize and make negativity your default mode.
Also, be aware that chronic illness puts us at risk for depression. If you feel like you’re depressed or headed down that road, be sure to talk to your doctor. A lot of treatment options are available to help you.