I Have a Chronic Illness, and I'm Not Angry
Any time I talk about my disease I get asked if I am mad about it. People will tell me things like “Oh wow, I can’t imagine how angry that must make you” or “You seem to be handling your situation well, try not to bottle up all that anger you must be feeling.” But the thing is, I haven’t been angry about my condition in a long time.
It’s been years since I yelled out of anger or since I’ve deemed a situation so infuriating that I felt like I had to scream or resist the urge to hit something. It’s not like I have consciously been trying to diminish these feelings – they simply haven’t manifested inside of me for a long time. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself even-tempered, but living with my chronic illness has forced me to be mindful of the things that are truly important in life and reminds me to not let myself get worked up over the minute things in life.
Having a disease with no cure changes a person. One of the ways that it’s changed me is it’s allowed me to put everything in my life into perspective.
There’s nothing I or anyone else can do to cure me or to change the fact that I have this disease, so why would I waste my time and energy being angry over it? Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not totally emotionless. Over the years my feelings have displayed as sadness as it relates to my illness. But I think that’s a much less adverse emotion to experience and to depict to everyone else.
Anger is terrifying. It’s intimidating and usually affects the people in our lives. Anger gets misplaced and taken out on others or worse, it stays hidden within and becomes even more unhealthy. The way I see it, I’ve got a surplus of problems to deal with. I don’t need to add high blood pressure to that list of things by becoming that angry. Besides that, I don’t want to portray to anyone that I’m angry about my disease, because I’m not. It’s part of who I am. Sometimes I get sad when I have a flare-up or get bad news from the doctor, which is a normal reaction for anyone in my situation; however, I refuse to throw myself a pity party or beat myself up over something that was completely out of my control. I have no say whatsoever when it comes to my illness, or to several aspects of my life for that matter. I’ve come to see this not as frustrating but as an opportunity.
If I am ever faced with a day where I am feeling especially frustrated because of limitations forced upon me by my disease, I remind myself of the things I can actually do. Sometimes when I’m sick I can’t attend class or hang out with my friends or do any normal activities, but I can always choose to see the brighter side of things. I can think of my plans for my future, the few loving people who have stuck around in my life, my dog; there are plenty of more positive things for me to think of. The process of reframing my sources less as a source of anger and more as a source of opportunities to find joy in life has become second nature to me.
I’ve learned that life is way too short to be burdened by any sort of hostility directed towards myself or others. So when people ask me if I’m mad about my disease, the answer is always no. My disease has made me confused, it has made me sad and it has made me lose countless things, but I will never be angry about it – because I’ve learned to accept and love the person my disease has made me today.
I can handle my chronic illness. I really do believe that everything happens for a reason, and I was given this disease because I can handle it. On top of that, I’ve learned over the years that I’m capable of using it as a tool for personal growth. I’ve joined support groups and organizations and started writing and speaking publicly about my disease, and since doing that, so many doors have been opened for me. The people I’ve met, the support I’ve received and the opportunities I’ve been given make me so grateful for the life I have despite my medical situation.
I really feel like I have nothing to be mad about anymore. Sure, flare-ups are awful. Missing out on life, growing up way too fast, forgetting what it’s like to feel and be healthy has been the hardest thing to encounter. I wake up every single day and am reminded I will never get better and I have a disease. It’s something that is on my mind constantly, especially in the midst of a flare-up.
Everybody has their “something.” Everyone has at least one issue that is constantly on their mind; sure, it might not be an incurable or chronic problem, but hardships exist for everybody. Life’s setbacks and struggles have the potential to evoke anger, but they’ve also got the potential to make us better, stronger people. So, I’ll say it again: no, I am not angry. I am stronger.
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Thinkstock photo via Monkey Business Images Ltd.