Posted in Life in general

Anger and Chronic Pain – Part 2


It has been quite some time (8 years) since I previously wrote on this topic.  I had noticed at the time that these terms were common search terms leading people to my blog.  I didn’t expect the response I got then and continue to get on this post.

It Can Get Better

When I wrote that post, it had been a little over 2 years into my diagnoses of rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia and being new to chronic pain, anger seemed to be an appropriate response.  I was angry at the universe for throwing me a curve ball when I was a young mother of only 32 years of age, and two years later, I was still feeling that anger because I was struggling to cope.  I was also in denial that this experience could get better for me.

That is not to say that it gets better for everyone. Everyone feels and experiences pain differently, and for some people chronic illness and pain results in disability, financial struggles, and so much more adversity than what I have faced.  But me, I was blessed and even though initially things went downhill, and they plummeted, they eventually got better with time.

These days, I lay an emphasis on my happiness, but I can tell you it is not easy. The days where my fatigue and pain are in full force are the hardest. Plus, I have joint damage and I suspect there will be surgeries down the road. Moreover, RA has led to inflammation related complications.  I have also suffered from clinical depression, and the thing about depression is that it returns in small bouts, and I always have to be aware of the fact it could return in full force.

I don’t fault anyone for being angry or resentful about living with chronic pain.  But I’ve come to realize that feeling too much anger worsens pain, affects sleep, ruins relationships, makes treatment harder, and results in depression, anxiety and unhealthy habits.

Fight or Flight?

When it comes to anger, the body responds by preparing a “fight or flight” response in the way that it would to perceived threat. The body responds physiologically to anger with:

  • An increased heart rate and/or blood pressure
  • Increased breathing
  • Adrenaline rushes
  • Muscle tightening
  • Heightened awareness of senses

While there some benefits to feeling this way, long term anger has adverse effects. Positive aspects of anger:

  • Awareness that something is wrong
  • Providing energy to right wrongs
  • May trigger problem solving to threats and issues
  • Energy to fight illness or do what is necessary in a situation
  • Gives courage to change and improve

All great things, but the negatives might overshadow the benefits. Anger:

  • Causes emotional and physical discomfort
  • Could lead to damaging actions
  • Impairs function
  • Compromises health
  • Carries serious and negative outcomes
  • Promotes negative self-image

Feeling angry all the time simply sucks for you and everyone else. And it sucks the joy out of life. Trust me, I know.

Considerations

 Here are some things to think about when it comes to feeling angry.

You have a right to be angry.

Chronic illness and pain suck but you have a choice. You can either work it to your advantage (i.e. finding solutions) or you can let it consume you and take over your life.

Anger is about what you feel.

People and events do not make us angry. The feelings we have about these people and events do.  You help yourself when you stop attaching an emotional response to these things.

Anger sometimes equals frustration.

We are frustrated when our expectations are not met. Maybe you need to rethink expectations.

Anger hurts you.

Feeling angry towards others or about certain situations hurts you more than anyone else.  And often, when it comes to people, they either don’t know or don’t care.  It is your energy being consumed, not anyone else’s.

Anger needs a limit

Anger is necessary for healing.  Even through anger feels like a bottomless pit sometimes, it is okay to feel it.  The more you allow yourself to feel what you need to feel about your illness and pain, the more you will heal.

Anger, sometimes, unfortunately, has no limit and can extend to loved ones, so be careful with those relationships.  Any anger felt later on in your experience with illness and pain will hold you back from enjoying life.  If this sounds like you, I implore you to talk to a professional.  Seeking help for my angry and depressed feelings was the best thing I ever did for myself and my children.

10 Years

It has been almost 10 years since I was diagnosed with RA and fibromyalgia and my life hardly looks the same.  Chronic illness and pain have not only changed my life, but they have also changed me.  The people who have followed this blog a long time know this.

I don’t blog as much these days because my plate is full being as a single mother and with my legal career and my freelance writing.  More recently, I started a new job and cut back on my writing although I still do a lot.

I have been trying to take a more relaxed approach to life, particularly cutting down on unhealthy habits (i.e. my former excessive coffee habit), trying to relax more, and keeping people out of my life that in the past made it harder for me to be happy. And as for the latter, I don’t wish anyone any ill will, but I am trying to do what is best for my family and my health and happiness.

How I Respond These Days

Does the pain and sickness make me angry still? Sometimes, it just does.  I respond by praying for better days.  It is how I cope. You are entitled to cope in any healthy way that works for you.

I don’t always pray for a reprieve from the pain.  Sometimes, I pray for the Almighty to watch out for my children especially in the world we are currently living in.  Watching the news these days promotes depressive feelings for me, so I try to keep my media exposure to a minimum. I pray to be a better woman, to find the strength to rise above, to be there for loved ones, to have courage especially when it comes to my heart and to forgive and forget.

I don’t pray as often as I could, and I often pray when things are bad, rarely when they are good.  This is something I need to work on. I am not a religious as I was raised to be, but I try.  I am definitely better than I used to be.

A Long Ways

My life hasn’t been easy, but I have certainly come a long way. Anger, resentment and hurt are things I have let go of, for myself and my children.  But letting go of anger and forgiving doesn’t mean we allow people back in our lives that have hurt us.  We live, learn and let go – that is all any of us can do to make this journey a little bit easier.

I hope your journeys with chronic illness and pain get easier and continue to get easier. I hope that each of you finds strength to keep fighting for happiness and normalcy, but mostly, I wish for your pain (physical and emotional) to be eased.

2 thoughts on “Anger and Chronic Pain – Part 2

  1. I’ve had the RA for 20 years. I think the one thing that eased my anger is that I know it could be worse. I’ve been with my current husband, a widower. Losing your wife to breast cancer at age 40 is sobering. And helped me put myself in perspective. I’m still working full time but don’t have children and push every single day.
    Anti depressant? Absolutely. I will be on it for life. Chronic pain breeds depression and my genetics are full of depressed people.

    I admire that you’ve been able to put it in perspective. Keep doing that. I had both knees replaced last year. 11 weeks apart. My shoulder is next. Sure is easier than my husband’s spinal fusion last week. Again, perspective.

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