During the past few months I have been struggling with how to handle anger that I have apparently been suppressing within myself. It's tricky and challenging to face, release, get rid of, let go of this residing internal anger because it's not like normal anger that one may have toward someone else at times. When anger is created within a relationship with others, you can speak your mind, work on correcting the issue, or literally move on by distancing yourself from the person or situation. When you feel angry with yourself, your body, your mind, your illness, well there's not really a way to successfully distance yourself, yelling or arguing doesn't serve a purpose, and in some cases - there is not a way to "fix" to the problem.
Currently, most of the anger I feel inside of me comes as a result of how I feel about my chronic illness symptoms and their impact on various aspects of my life. This feeling of anger is focused inwardly toward myself, which makes it harder to process. As we already know, being angry at yourself, especially when it's over a circumstance or situation that you can't change (in my case the impact of chronic illness on my life physically and mentally), there's not much you can do without it becoming counterproductive.
Ignoring the anger or pushing it further down will not solve anything. In fact, it is more likely to just build up and then cause me to eventually "combust", explode or implode unexpectedly at the wrong time or place. Keeping the anger within and letting it "build" may allow me to feel better in the short term, but with time it will continue to dig away at me and risk making me feel much worse in the long run. Possibly, the reason that it has become more evident recently.
According to Alison Stone (LCSW https://www.wellandgood.com/good-advice/how-to-let-go-anger/)
“Anger is our system’s way of alerting us that we’re feeling something that we likely don’t want to be feeling.”
No secret there, right? I definitely don't want to feel like I have no control of my body's reactions to illness or deal with the emotional lows that continuous symptoms can have on my temperament. I don't want to feel like a burden at times and don't want to miss out on activities with my family, especially time with my kids. I don't want to depend on a feeding tube for nutrition. I don't want to deal with the financial expenses of chronic illness. I just want to feel "normal", at least sometimes, without the extreme negative consequences that come around every time I attempt to "participate" in life.
In the article linked above, Alison continued to explain how some negative emotions can lead to us feeling anger. For example, when we feel "hurt, betrayed, ignored, taken advantage of—anything that evokes vulnerability” anger can appear. “Any excessive negative feeling—fear, distress, shame, rejection—will likely trigger anger.”
I have to admit that as simple and elementary as knowing how one is feeling sounds, I still have a difficult time labeling and understanding how and why I feel the way that I do sometimes. When taking time to consider what feelings I have underlying and coinciding with the internal anger that I've been experiencing, I can definitely find examples of feeling hurt and betrayed by my own body (and at times my mind). Being vulnerable is a very sticky and challenging situation for me. I'm pretty sure that personal fears and other negative emotions are also present, and at times purposefully ignored or pushed aside. And well, to be honest, when my energy reserve is dwindling or symptoms are heightened, it doesn't take much for me to get caught and trapped in a negativity spiral of sorts. But, I don't want others to be aware of when this happens, so I often suppress or hide the emotions, and in doing so the cycle continues until emotions can resolve on their own or become overwhelming.
How can this be changed? How can I better handle and experience what I'm feeling without letting it bring me down any further? How do I "allow" myself to process anger and other negative emotions when I am the reason for them? When the root of my anger is a result of my illness and undependable body?
It's not uncommon or unrealistic to feel frustrated or resentful when my body will not cooperate with me. There have been moments of time where I feel like I am at my breaking point, moments when anger festers inside of me. And since I have no way to resolve the situation, since I can't MAKE my symptoms stop, since I can't create more active energy, the uncertainty of my symptoms, the absence of answers or explanations, make me feel angry. I hate my body for making me feel like this. I am also angry because I feel like I’m losing hope when I feel my roughest, which is counterproductive. In response, I get stuck trying to keep everything as positive as possible in the eyes of other, even when part of me feels like totally giving up on ever feeling better.
I have recognized and learned that sometimes just saying the words out loud to someone or even to myself, actually saying "I am angry! I feel angry! Why am I angry?" and thinking about it can eventually help relieve some of the tension that builds when keeping it all within. But to do that takes vulnerability, and well, I don't like that idea at all. Being vulnerable requires trust and can be extremely uncomfortable for me. Plus, even if I do want to talk with others, I have a difficult time finding the right words to express my thoughts and feelings. When I can find the words, writing (whether I choose to share it or not) helps. Therapy helps me face my emotions, even when I don't understand what's going on within me, because it provides me a safe place where I'm not being judged or ridiculed and I don't have to worry about saying something "wrong" that will cause new problems to arise. Lastly, music! Listening to music and lyrics that match my mood (singing along with lyrics that state how I feel when I'm alone) can offer me comfort and help release some of the negative emotions, such as anger and sadness.
What's on the other side of anger for me?
According to http://soulfulmed.com/blog-archive/2017/1/12/whats-on-the-other-side-of-anger,
anger "gives us the false illusion that we are in control of the situation." Well, as much as we hate to admit it, there is very little in this life, not just chronic illness, that we have actual control of. The only thing we can do is process our emotions and keep moving forward. As stated in the article, "emotions don’t just go away, especially the unexpressed emotions. Emotions do, however, shift and change shape." Of course my goal when suppressing anger, frustration, fear, sadness, etc is that they will eventually just disappear. That I won't have to deal with them. However, since that is usually just not the case, no matter how hard I try to deny and hide them, maybe reshaping my relationship with this intrinsic anger would be more productive.
Anger, while not desired, does have some positive aspects. Anger brings attention to the fact that the inner me thinks something is wrong or that something or someone is interfering with my personal plans and/or life. When I reflect on my anger, it allows me to see that I actually do care about myself in some respect? I'm still here and have an inner light that is trying to persevere and push me forward even when part of me, the part I get angry at, just wants to stop trying. Anger is trying to make me express myself and my emotions, trying to encourage or even forcefully create change. While I may not like the way anger makes me feel, it does help me realize that I desire something more than what I'm currently experiencing. (In my case - better health, more energy, and more respect to mention a few.) And while that may not sound all that important, it's the push that I need to keep running my feeds, running my fluids, seeking healthcare, and allowing myself to take risk for the benefit of happiness with my family.
"It’s when we constantly suppress anger that it can start to ooze into our lives like a dark, heavy, sticky tar. Covering everything, drowning out light, suppressing the voice, taking all strength, and numbing all emotions." (Soulful Med link above).
Realizing and knowing that this is true is why I am trying so hard to get a grasp on how to better handle my personal anger, especially when it is directed inwardly for things that are outside my control. Part of being human is experiencing the vast variety of emotions life offers, the positive and negative emotions. Therefore, understanding, accepting, and finding healthy ways to express these emotions, instead of spending a lot of energy avoiding the ones we don't like, is beneficial.
(I'd love to read how you choose to process negative emotions you experience with chronic illness.)
A proud mother, educator, Gastroparesis & GI Motility Disorder Advocate,
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