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When You Feel Anger Towards Your Chronic Illness

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I wanted to talk about something today that might be relatable to you — anger toward your chronic illness.

Whether it’s one or several illnesses you have, if one hits you more mentally or physically, it all starts to build up. You feel the tension inside you building, like someone slowly stacking blocks up and up and up.

Until they all come tumbling down, destroying everything in its path and it doesn’t care what kind of damage it leaves behind.

It just has one mission and that is to fall.

This is how I recently felt with my anger. I felt it slowly building up internally and rather than really taking the time to sit with it, trying to work it out and find ways to release it or let it go — I held onto it. I let it continue to stack upward even when I didn’t think it could hold anymore and I started projecting — my responses would be short and snappy, I was disengaged, I didn’t care, I wanted to be alone and craved silence.

Anger is such a powerful emotion; we all know it when we feel it and the thing that sets it off is like a game of roulette. Some days, you know exactly what it was that made you tilted — someone said something and it immediately sparked off anger. Other days, it can be something so small — a kind gesture that just cannot be received the right way at that moment.

The internal struggle we face is so different from person to person, but it’s also what makes us so unique and truly one of a kind.

I caught myself wondering what was going on with me and then slowly connected the dots. My tower within was already stacked to the top, it couldn’t hold anything and suddenly crashed down inside me, so I started projecting my anger toward others as a way to try and release it.

At the moment though, that part doesn’t seem to matter much. But after the dust from the commotion settles, my mind kept circling back to that and recalling these things that stood out to me when I was feeling mad:

  • The looks
  • The silence
  • The snarky remarks
  • The disconnect toward others
  • The feeling left out
  • The feeling that I’m just never doing enough
  • The sense that no matter what I do, there will always be something holding me back
  • The sense of questioning my value and worth
  • The desire for acceptance
  • The desire for more understanding and compassion
  • The desire to not need to explain anything
  • Why can’t I just be and be OK with things regardless of the emotions I’m feeling
  • Why do I need to defend myself and my feelings?

I feel like ever since my chronic illness came into my life front and center, my inner dialogue and storylines have hit me harder than ever. I’m drawn into being so much more internally aware than externally aware to the point I can become completely swept up in anger, but it’s not really directed at someone else — it’s really all directed at my chronic illness. After all this time, even after having life-changing improvement, I discovered there is still some anger toward my illness within me. It really hit home during my vacation when I completely skipped the steps I know I need to stay balanced within.

A lot of people welcome all emotions and say to sit with them, don’t apologize for them and so on, but that can be really hard to do at times… and I want you to know that it’s OK.

I’ve been there. It sucks. Nothing sounds fun or right, no one seems to really get it, everything around you just seems to be wrong, and if you mix that in with any pain or discomfort it’s all so much worse. You don’t want to talk about it, you don’t want to make any decisions. It goes on and on. No one is perfect, we’re human. It’s OK.

I haven’t felt really angry in a while. I practice gratitude, I try to feel, sit and reflect on how I’m feeling, but this last tower that toppled over was one for the books. It lasted for days and I kept finding those simple little things to spin them into something that would feed my anger and didn’t take any action against it.

I know that’s not fair for those around me. I knew it then, but I also didn’t really care either, if I’m being completely honest. I have the right to feel what I feel and I shouldn’t need to apologize for that, but it wasn’t fair to me to expect others to understand if I didn’t truly explain what was going on nor expect someone else to make it better for me.

That’s something I often need to do on my own; I need to be the one to deconstruct my anger tower. It’s not that I don’t think people need help or it won’t make a difference, I just know the best way to take down my own anger tower blocks and I need to do it myself in the ways that work for me and my body.

After my tower fell down and settled, I got to work and started to clear the clutter and rubble left behind from my anger. I can look back and think of so many things I missed out on now that my mind and heart are open because I was so caught up in feeling angry about my chronic illness — something that I do what I can to influence it as much as possible. But I will never be able to fully control it regardless of how much effort, time, money or anything else I sink into it.

Let me repeat this part again: This is not fun when it happens to you. You are going to hit milestones of improvement and setbacks, but maybe it doesn’t matter how far you go or where you get. As long as you can look back and learn something from it, see something new from it, understand something more — maybe that’s what matters most.

Even if it’s not from anger, but sadness or happiness, whatever emotion it may be — we’re human. We’re going to feel a lot, sometimes we can immediately know why whereas other times we may not be able to figure out why you just couldn’t shake feeling that way that one time… it’s OK.

You’re here, you’re breathing and that is enough. (Repeat that!)

Do what you can to look back on your emotions and see what truth you may find hiding, I know I did, but I also know I’m feeling much lighter and am going to try harder to pay attention to my inner anger tower when I start to feel that way again.

That’s it for today, my Mighties. I hope you enjoyed this and can feel a little better knowing you’re not alone if you’re struggling with your feelings toward your chronic illness and wherever you find yourself in that journey. As always, stay kind my friends, and take it one day at a time in the best way you know how.

Getty image by pxel66

Originally published: September 29, 2021
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