Do I Sound Angry? I Might Not Be
There are a lot of emotions that come with having a chronic illness like Multiple Sclerosis. Sadness, fear, guilt, despair, shame, anxiety, and many more. It’s an exhaustive list filled with ups, downs, and everything in between. In cases like mine, my damaged brain seems to bring on a torrent of these emotions almost at random, creating mood swings and situations that tend to hide the way I really feel. I’ve been told many times that this can show on the outside as one of the scarier emotions, anger. Despite some good reasons to be angry, I’m seldom as angry as I think I may come off. Let me try to explain.
OK, sometimes there are some great reasons to be angry when you have an incurable illness. Trying to make sense of a diagnosis is extremely hard. Coming to terms with the life changes that happen are more than enough to fill someone with rage. You grow up thinking your life will be a certain way, you work hard to make that happen, things are going well, and all of sudden, out of nowhere, you get sick. It’s like you’re swimming along and being in the lead of a race you trained your whole life for, and suddenly a shark comes out of nowhere and grabs you. Except it doesn’t kill you, it just mangles you: it deforms you and crushes your hopes. I’m sure many people with chronic illness feel anger about their situations all the time. I mean, how can you not? Especially if you’re a fighter and haven’t given up. I admit it, I get angry about my lot in life.
Anger drives me to keep fighting
Often times though, that anger drives me to keep on fighting, to keep battling, to try to show the disease, the world, and myself that this shark that mangled me isn’t going to stop me from finishing the race. Some of the best performances in history have been driven by people that were angry at something that happened to them and they harnessed that anger. So yeah, I’m angry with my disease, and I’m constantly fighting it! That anger though, can come through when I least expect it. I may be in that fighting mindset and suddenly have to try to shift gears. Sadly, I know that shift doesn’t always work out well, and I may seem angry at someone when I’m really angry at my disease.
Sometimes when I’m trying to simply communicate my thoughts, it comes out completely wrong. I’ve spoken of my cognitive issues and how they have such a massive impact on my life. This is another area where they hamper me. Wrong word choices and mood swings are certainly part of it. Trying to get what I want to say out of my head before I lose it is another. I’ve forgotten so much. I fail at conveying what I want to say and lose it forever (which, hey, that can cause some anger too). This happens so often that I scramble to get out what I can, any way I can, and it comes out in a manner that isn’t at all how I intended. This has happened to me countless times and I’ve had people ask me why I was so upset. I’m then baffled, because I wasn’t upset, I was just trying to get my thoughts out the only way I could, before they were gone forever.
Being in pain a lot of the time is tough. Pain changes you, it affects every part of your life. Most people with an “invisible” illness like MS are used to putting on a fake smile and going through life with people not seeing the myriad of symptoms that are pummeling their body below the surface. Sometimes that fake smile just doesn’t happen and we may come off as angry, or disinterested, or any number of ways that can turn people off. When you can’t see what it’s like for us, it’s easy to assume we’re angry or something else unpleasant. We’re good at those fake smiles, but, wow, it’s not easy. It’s a lot of work to pull ourselves together and be around or even just communicate with people. Having a conversation with someone is difficult enough when my body is in searing, burning pain. If it’s about something even mildly annoying to me, I may come off like I’m furious about it, even if I’m not. That’s just one of the many problems of living with pain. Chronic pain is that demon inside of me that I’m constantly trying to keep down, always trying not to let it ruin my life. I’m sorry to say that sometimes I fail when I’m fighting that demon.
This extends to many emotions
While I’ve focused on anger here, a lot of this extends to all of emotions. Fighting an illness that never leaves isn’t easy. I’m not making excuses for the way I sometimes come off, I’m simply trying to offer up some explanation. The invisible nature of a disease like Multiple Sclerosis can lead to an enormous amount of misunderstanding. That misunderstanding isn’t limited to physical aspects, like needing a seat or not being able to walk far. It every bit impacts our emotions and how we can present ourselves and communicate with others.
Thanks for reading!
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. We want to check in. How are you feeling?