The Dark Side
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Profile photo of Steve Woodward

I’ve noticed that my writing on this website is way more positive than on my own blog. I seem to be much happier in America than the UK!

Pretty “ha-ha” but my wife called me out on it over the weekend – I tend to talk a good game about positivity and mindfulness in my writing but the reality is often something else.

On Sunday we had a trip to our local cinema – without our daughter, so it was an unusual experience actually watching a film without having one eye on a roaming / dancing toddler.

We had to park a fair distance from the cinema so I was walking with my stick – my wife offered me her hand but I brushed her offer away.

In my defence, my troublesome left leg was playing up so I was really concentrating on lifting it. But still – she was just trying to help her disabled husband who was struggling.


Later that day, something happened which made me snap at her – too silly and irrelevant to go into on here.

Now I’ve always had a pretty short fuse – the line about me was that I would “sweat the small stuff”. I didn’t lose it when I was diagnosed with MS or during the birth of my daughter. But if I can’t find my keys or my wallet, I will GO HULK.

The majority of the time this anger is directed at no-one but me. Even so, sometimes I feel that it’s getting worse.

And as MS pours more little indignities over me in the coming years, is my fuse going to get ever shorter? Are the two related? Am I doomed to spend eternity on the ‘Anger’ stage of the Kübler-Ross model of grief?

A while back I was letting silly worries stop me from taking my daughter out or walking the short commute to work and a short course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy really helped me.

Which is not to say that it isn’t an ongoing struggle, requiring a fair amount of planning and “just-in-case” trips to the toilet. But through my CBT I can see a way out of the maze of silly thoughts and find a practical way to deal with them.

I see a lot of things written by the MS community about how other people can’t really understand what we’re dealing with. And I agree, but isn’t this the case for everyone, chronic illness or not?

My wife is amazingly supportive and has stuck with me through it all. And while I might be getting angry and frustrated with myself, I should try to remember that there’s another person present.

So here are some questions for you:

  1. What’s your level of anger like?
  2. Has it got worse since you were diagnosed?
  3. Have other people in your life noticed it?

And if you’ve found a way to cope with it which works for you, I’d love to hear about it!

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12 comments on “The Dark Side

  1. Profile photo of mascha mascha says:

    When my chronic pain gets worse or new little symptoms pop up,I get irritated as of late.
    It seems my fuse is shorter and I cannot hide my pain and seem to lash it out on the ones I love.My husband and my teenage sons.As a result I get a big argument back to why I am acting this hostile.
    Resulting in more anger and tears and anxiety and giving my MS symptoms more of a issue.
    Then I realize it’s sorry time,and try to let go of my fuse.
    Suppose the more aches and pains the more anger.
    Loved your article 🙂 glad to see I am not alone
    M 🙂

  2. Profile photo of Teri Teri says:

    I thought I was pretty easy going. What I am finding out about myself is that I do not cope well with anger; instead of dealing with conflict properly, I wait and hold it in. ( Yes, I know that is not healthy) Then after someone repeats a behavior that I have tolerated ( my mistake) my response is totally out of whack. They are wrong and I am ? Angry. I have had depression on and off and had a great therapist until I moved. I am now in an area where I can get around better. Yes! But I miss my therapist. Thanks for this Steve. It helps to know that I am not alone

  3. Profile photo of Kristi Kristi says:

    I love the comments about the anger issues. Up until the last few years I had always thought of myself as easy going.
    Dx’d ’98.
    Stopped working in ’01
    Filled for SS and approved around ’03(?)

  4. Profile photo of Kristi Kristi says:

    Dangit… ’02 not ’03.
    Same year as my mother. 🙂
    So back to the anger issues:
    In 2011 my husband and I took in 3 sibling foster care kids. We were their first placement and they were our first foster kids.
    Two boys and a girl, ages 8,2, and 12 months 1 week. It was really great the first few months until my pre-teen began to realize he was not going to get to go home. The stress that boy causes me is just like any 8yr old with experiences like his but… My hold of my anger has increasingly increased as his disrespect for me and my husband increases. We adopted them Aug of 13.
    Every once in awhile he plays like he is accepting and thankful for all he has been given, but then his manipulative personality is again super visible. He plays my cognitive issues and try’s to make me second guess myself. Thankfully my husband is super supportive and backs me at every turn. I have been so tempted to physically hit him…
    Any thoughts on anger control tips would be greatly appreciated.
    Geeze that was a vent more than a discussion post.
    Forgive me. I guess I just needed to vent so I don’t “hulk” on him or whine to my husband.
    Thank you for reading and sharing your humorous outakes on “Hulking”. ☺️

  5. Profile photo of hadel hadel says:

    An interesting fact that I found out from the MS Society of Canada is that Bipolar and MS are related. I was shocked, although having been diagnosed with Bipolar three months before MS I was happy to know there was a link and not just bad luck. I’m not suggesting that everyone with MS and agitation or snapping has Bipolar but if you find yourself with unexplained moodiness it may be something to look into. CBT is also a therapeutic tool used to treat bipolar as well and a great tool when learning to better react to situations.

    Anyway, just a did-bit that I thought I would share.

    Heather

  6. Profile photo of lhalvor lhalvor says:

    I was extremely angry about 10 years ago. mS, of course, and family issues. I knew it was bad when I yelled at a car I was passing and I think they heard me with the windows closed.

    I started meditating using the Holocync programs through Centerpointe. I read a lot about it especially Thich nhat Hahn. I memorized some of his edit anions and combined them with my breathing especially practicing letting go. While I used to yell at the tv during election years, now I just mutter or turn it off. Kind of my own CBT I guess.

  7. Profile photo of marie marie says:

    I have always been what I can now claim as over emotional. I lose it over small things and adjusting to all of the changes over the last 5 years. I often have to remind myself my husband is really just trying to help me out. He can now tell when I am overwhelmed, tired, hungry, or irritated. Instead of showing how grateful I am for this I still yell argue and cry. Essentially he’s now the parent and I apparently have turned into a 3 year old that needs a snack and a nap.

  8. Profile photo of Ty Ty says:

    Hmmmm. Anger.

    My first wife said I had issues. Three years of therapy and healthy a dependence on drugs and alcohol lead to divorce.

    My second wife says that it has gotten worse since I was diagnosed seven years ago. I thought the anti-depressant my doc prescribed was helping, along with a 12 step program for the self-medication.

    Now, I am not too sure.

    We joke that my nickname ought to be “The Finder” as I can usually find all the things that the dog, my wife or I lose, so I guess I don’t ‘hulk’ out, but I know that the little stuff builds up in anger that usually leads to yelling /screaming/cursing about it.

    I think it comes from the frustration that I can’t do what I once did. I see myself as lucky, I don’t have any noticeable physical limitations (to outsiders)since my last exacerbation. But…

    I have a very poor balance now that has really limited bicycling, snowboarding, climbing, stairs, etc. I have muscle spasms that cause me to fail when I demand control. I fatigue easily, even though I look about the same fitness-wise. I sleep a lot. I have to make lists to stay on task. I stutter and slur my speech.

    As I write this, the thought comes that I am bitter about having lost my physical and mental prowess.

    If I remind myself of what I can still do, I get back on track. When the keys are lost, I can’t find my glasses, remember what I was going to Home Depot for, or am asked to drop what I am doing to help my wife, i find that taking a deep breath, centering on ‘it’s not about me’ and forcing a smile, I can get on task without a ‘blow-up’. It’s not that hard but it does take discipline.

    I never thought it was part of MS.

  9. Profile photo of korrie korrie says:

    Well.. I’m not the calmest person and I’ve always noticed that I lose my cool pretty easy, i always used to put it down to borderline personality disorder, but ever since my MS made itself known and I was diagnosed it doesn’t take much at all for me to snap and I go all hulk too, I even scare myself.
    It’s the people i take it out on that i really feel for :/
    I can even get quite violent, I will smash things and punch holes in walls.
    I also did a mental health program called DBT which has helped but not a great deal. I’ve come to terms with MS but I haven’t finished grieving i guess, and I’m angry with the world :/

  10. Profile photo of Kim Dolce Kim Dolce moderator says:

    Steve,

    I had a bit of a short fuse before developing MS and now I’ve smoothed out considerably. I do still sweat the small stuff in the form of obsessive thoughts. I think it’s the fact that anger takes a lot of energy and I just don’t have limitless reserves the way I once did. Obsessive thinking is very wearing, too, though. But it’s also the case now that my short-term memory is such that I have to keep a constant loop going or else I’ll forget to do stuff. Anger will zap my memory worse than anything else.

    Whenever I misplace keys or other personal items, I get a little panicky, grumbling and wandering from room to room. Since that never produces the missing item, I finally make myself calm down and think about where I last had the thing. Not surprisingly, there it is.

    The big, serious stuff I handle calmly, but when something isn’t where it is supposed to be and I need it now, I backslide. Glad to know I’m not alone in the struggle to stay calm and keep my wits about me, lol.

    Kim

  11. Steve,

    You already realize this was your personality before MS but you had not had to confront/confirm that part until you had this huge thing dropped on you. I’m thinking of my own husband’s chronic illnesses and like you, he also sweats the small stuff but does well with the big things (heart surgery and COPD). Being aware of this is the first big step in learning to quiet it down a bit. I’ve always had the roll-with-it attitude and tend to not get flustered over much of anything, or at least I tell myself that. My family may say differently.

    This is a great question and I am very interested to read the reflections of others.

    As for the need to know where the closest toilet might be, I have no advice for breaking that one. I researched restrooms in Belgium months in advance of our trip, more than I did the sights and locations we were going to visit. 🙂

    best, Laura

  12. Profile photo of abby abby says:

    for me, dropping down into the helplessness really helps to hold the anger. When I can accept and work with helplessness, it is more of what is actually happening. and there is a lot of feeling helpless in MS.

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