I'm Angry About My Illness, and That's OK
I’m not good at expressing emotions. I was always more of an “internalize and repress” kind of person. This is slowly being eroded by years of therapy and a gradual acceptance of the concept that talking about your feelings is important, and that doing so will make you feel better.
I can cry now. While I don’t always share the details, I can now honestly tell people that I’m close to that I’m having an anxious or low day.
There is one exception.
I can never admit when I’m angry. Sometimes, even to myself.
I’m not sure if this is proof of internalized absorption of the societal stereotype that dictates that women can be fragile and vulnerable, but never angry… Or if it’s the idea that I need to always be seen to be coping calmly with this whole mess with chronic illness — that I need to be a “good” patient, that I can’t be seen to be struggling.
“You’re so strong.”
“You’re dealing with it so well.”
“You’re so positive.”
I always try to find the good in everything, to see hope where there’s darkness, possibility where my opportunities have been cut off.
I may not be running half marathons anymore, but at least I can do two limited sessions a week with my physical therapist, and I’m just grateful for that!
I’m not able to go on nights out with my friends, but at least I can generally make brunch.
It’s important, in my opinion, to keep hoping, to keep finding ways to cope. To keep dreaming, to keep trying, to set goals and always believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Chronic illness is terrifying, and lonely, and it is easy to feel lost and hopeless. Clichéd as it may sound, it is important to try to stay positive. To still find the good in each day, because I promise you that it’s still there.
It can be exhausting.
Not all days are filled with sunshine. There are be days when I have to miss out, again, on something I would have liked to do because of my condition. There are days when another friend gets promoted at work, or goes traveling, or buys a house or goes on a date. While I’m always happy for them, another part of me mourns that it just does not seem like a possibility for me anymore. I am sure I am not alone in this.
I can accept the sadness, the fear, the loneliness. What I struggle with is acknowledging the anger.
Because I am angry. There are days where I am furious.
It is not fair.
Always standing on the sidelines, watching from a distance. Constantly feeling like my dreams are out of reach. The weight gain, the mental health problems, the exhaustion, the strict treatment plans, the days spent alone on the couch too tired to move, the uncertainty, the absence of answers or explanations for what it causing it.
I hate being ill. I hate the stress that it puts on my family, the impact that it has on my friendships. I hate that I cannot work and have no idea when I’ll be able to return to trying to build a career. I’m sick of sending, “Sorry I can’t make it,” messages, of missing out on the milestones and social lives that everyone around me gets to experience. I’m scared of never being financially independent.
I hate my body for doing this to me, for just stopping to work one day and not giving any indication of why or how to fix it. The frustration builds up and I rage about the entire situation.
And that is OK.
I’m human. It’s a tough situation. Just as there are happy days and tired days and lonely days there will be angry days. I shouldn’t be afraid to admit that. It does not make me a bad person. It makes me a real one.
It’s important not to let the anger take control. But refusing to acknowledge it is just as unhealthy as letting it take over. I’ve stopped trying to bottle it down, shoving it so deep that I can pretend that it doesn’t exist. If it’s a good energy day, I go for a walk to try to ease the tension from my body. My personal trainer is teaching me to box – his emphasis on embracing “controlled aggression” is actually what helped me to start examining my frustration, and to see the benefits of acknowledging it in a controlled way. I talk to my therapist, my family. I find healthy outlets for it.
Finding the positives in each day is what helps me keep going. I want to always be able to see the hope in any situation. However, I will stop viewing my occasional anger as something to be ashamed of. I will acknowledge it, but I will not let it consume me. Sometimes it is the anger and frustration at my situation that motivate me to keep fighting, to keep searching for answers, to keep investigating possible treatments. Hope is crucial, determination is important, but a little pinch of justifiable anger can be a powerful thing.
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