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It's OK to Be Angry at Your Illness

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Anger is a taboo subject. No one talks about it. We make jokes about it, we push it aside like it’s that one relative no one wants to be around. We are embarrassed by it, shuffling it around with our feet. Saying out loud that we are angry at our diseases is unacceptable in our feelgood society. “Holy cow, if I tell someone I am angry at my Crohn’s, they might think I can’t handle it or rush in to fix me or worse…they’ll think I’m ‘unstable.’” So here goes – and I am quite stable, I assure you. Angry, but stable.

I know anger. It’s been with me for so long. I know how it smells. I know it’s twisted game of hurt, shame and blame. It flays open my belly like a surgeon’s knife, exposing the truth of my life with Crohn’s disease to the world. The world I hide from…the world that only wants to see perfection and fairy dust unicorns.

I try to abide by anger’s rules. I swipe mascara across my lashes, dash on lipstick, open my drawer and pull out whatever face I need for the day. If it’s a day of seeing my family, then it’s the “I’m just fine face.” If it’s a doctor day, then it’s the “face of resolve.” There are days I feel like a burden and anger fuels my every movement. Anger is always there, right at the edge, teasing me, threatening to swallow me whole. I take my bat and hit my bed at the anger because I know anger will hurt me if I do not move that energy. I send my cats scampering for a safer place but I have to do it and it works.

When Crohn’s creeps up and steals my energy and strength, reminding me I am disabled when I want to work, when I want a simple pleasure but it’s thwarted because of the pain, at times I am at a loss of how to deal with it head on. Sometimes my anger blurs my vision, alters the words heading towards the comprehension part of my brain. It all comes out wrong. Like at the many, many doctors I need to see…their voices drone on like the sound of a buzzsaw in my head. Do this, take that test, get this scanned, give blood again… I go through the motions as I am told but inside I feel my anger as real as the next needle stick I get.

I breathe deep, I roll my head and then I acknowledge my anger. I know that today I need to send the mail to the correct address or I’ll smear it, unfairly, all over some innocent bystander. Until I do this, I cannot trust my mouth filter. I journal, I sit quietly and I introduce myself to my anger. I ask, “So what brought you here today?” We talk and I tag it with the correct correlation. “I’m here today because our pain level is too high” or “I am here to protect you from the hurt we feel all the time” or “I am here because we have to stay in bed again today and I want to go out.” Like a mother, I am beginning to understand my anger and I want to take care of it. “Maybe we need to talk to our father about what he said,” I say to my anger. “Or why don’t we ask more questions when we see that new specialist.”

It’s OK to be angry, it’s OK to be mad. It doesn’t mean we are “unstable.” If anything, it shows we are a living, breathing, imperfect human doing our best in a rough situation. Giving ourselves permission to acknowledge that anger is actually healthy. Allow it, but you first must take the time to understand it, nod at it then send it packing…until the next time.

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Thinkstock photo via alexeyrumyantsev.

Originally published: May 22, 2017
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