All He Can Do Is Yell
I've never been comfortable with strong expressions of anger. I'm the sort of person that prefers to compromise and resolve things peacefully so one of the more difficult challenges I have faced is how to handle Lynn's frustrations expressed through anger.
Today as I was working at my desk, I heard over the baby monitor I use to make sure that I hear him if he needs anything, the increasing volume of Lynn's voice as he was trying to get his voice recognition software to work properly. As I sat there, I could hear him first repeat the same command three times, each time a little differently. Then he started adding in a few expletives and some not very flattering descriptions of the software program. Finally, the volume and expletives became so intense, I could no longer listen to it for fear that he was about to take his headphones off and through them across the room.
I got up from my desk, went into his room and removed his headphones turning them off and unplugging the software. "That's enough for awhile," I said. "You don't need to be working with these when you're that angry."
He responded with, "If I DON'T work with them, I'll be even angrier! I want to write!"
"Well, the program is obviously not working right now and you're not dealing with it very well. Take a break!"
"Yes, Mommy! I don't mean that sarcastically but in a mean way in case you're wondering," he grumbles as I leave.
"I know," I respond, and walk away.
As I left and went back to what I was doing, I began to think about how he could deal more effectively with his anger. I knew what was behind how he was behaving; he physically and emotionally felt bad. He woke up feeling bad; he's felt bad for days; heck, he's felt bad for weeks! That gets really old pretty quick. What makes it even worse though is not knowing if it will get better or will it just keep going on and on.
Not only does Lynn have MS but when he started Rebif (his MS drug), he also developed hypothyroidism (low thyroid stimulating hormones) which makes him feel even more exhausted the the MS fatigue does. In addition, he's somewhat anemic (low hemoglobin). Therefore, he feels cold half the time, weak most of the time, and extremely tried to the point of having difficulty staying awake, all of the time. He's on medication to help his thyroid, iron to help the anemia, but the Rebif...well that's another story. After being on it for over a year, he continues to feel like he has the flu every time he takes a shot and that feeling gets progressively worse as the week goes by.
When we last went to his neurologist and talked about the side effects of the Rebif, he suggested that we might want to try a new drug. However, Lynn wants to see if he continues to feel as bad once his thyroid gets straightened out. He's hesitant to come off the Rebif because he hasn't had an exacerbation since he started it and he keeps thinking that he doesn't want to have wasted his time adapting to it and "be almost there" as far and then quit just short of getting adjusted to it. Plus, what if the other MS medicine doesn't work and another exacerbation occurs? He already has lost all ability to care for his own needs. What if he were to also lose his sight, or his hearing, or his memory or something else as vital to his having a decent quality of life? It's very scary to have to make that choice. Does he give up one thing that he tolerates for something that could be much worse? Sure, it could be much better, too, and if so, then that's awesome but what if it's not?
Knowing that he has been angry all day about being tired and feeling bad yet again, I reconsider my decision to take away his software program. I think about how I deal with anger. When I get angry, I have the ability to do something physical to work away the built up tension. I have several coping options in my arsenal of tricks; but all he has is his voice. He does not have the strength to work off the tension. All he can do is yell obscenities and strike back with the one thing he still can control...for now.
Realizing that, I go back to his room and place the earphones back on his head. "I'm sorry for acting like I'm your mother. If you need to yell, go ahead and get it out." He humbly responds, "I'm sorry, too. I have no excuse for acting like that."
But then maybe he does....
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