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.

Actual anger

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.

Cognitive issues

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.

Pain

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!

Devin

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (15)
  • Julie
    11 months ago

    So well said and by the responses, I can see we all have the same problems. I wish I could say it so well to my family. Even when they try to understand the illness I know they don’t understand when I get angry. What they don’t know is that I try to put on a happy face most of the time until I just can’t take it anymore. Is it any wonder we explode occasionally?

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    11 months ago

    Thank you Julie! It does seem to be a pretty common problem. I admit, one reason I wrote this, was so I could share it with my own family and friends, in hopes of gaining some understanding. I hope others will too!

  • shaunrosenberg
    12 months ago

    Devin
    Thank you; I wish I could make a hang tag of this post. I wish I wasn’t too embarrassed to send this on to friends and family. It’s hard to admit you’re not you anymore….

  • Meagan Heidelberg moderator
    12 months ago

    Hi Shaunrosenberg-
    Thank you for commenting! We want you to know that you’re not alone!
    Meagan, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • collena
    12 months ago

    Thank you Devin. For coherently explaining some of things i wanted to explain to my family and friends. I just shared your post instead.)

  • Meagan Heidelberg moderator
    12 months ago

    Great, Collena! We are so glad that you found Devin’s article so helpful!

    Meagan, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • Randy Moore
    12 months ago

    Yes! Thank you for your efforts! You have put eloquently into words the torture that is the mood swings that I deal with.
    As you certainly know, unfortunately the people who are around us are dealing with them too. The loss of who we were before this disease took it away from us is mentally devastating as much as physically and trying to explain it to the people who we love is almost impossible. Your piece may help immensely.

  • chalknpens
    1 year ago

    Hi Devin,
    sometimes the opposite can happen as well I’m in my late 60s and am very very very good at hiding real emotions from others … People continue to tell me that I am very strong. Sometimes I interpret that as a challenge to be strong. When I broke my arm recently the bone doctor set it and his assistant commented that I didn’t even wince when he injected the lidocaine. But when I went a week later and was told the bones had shifted and would have to be reset the doctor said it would have to be done without a topical numbing agent. It hurt like hell but I didn’t cry out or scream or hit… I took it. Because “I am strong.” Then yesterday I went back for the third visit for another x-ray. I was terrified. I took a friend with me for moral support and was ready to refuse any treatment without sedation .Fortunately the bones were stable. But I took the opportunity to tell that Dr. how traumatic that second treatment had been. I asked them how often that is done without any numbing agent. He told me me that if it’s a child they always use sedation but not for adults. I said not all adults have the same capacity for pain and trauma, and that I willingly admit to a diminishing capacity for that. He suggested that if I break another bone I tell the doctor treating it that I cannot handle the pain or trauma.So I will . I never thought I would have to. MS has so changed who I am…

  • J R
    1 year ago

    I wish I was so eloquent about this. Truly. Because I have become such a hermit, lost friends etc., only my sister knows the old me. She can drag it out of me until we are laughing like idiots. Thank you for this article.

  • CatDancer
    1 year ago

    Coming to terms with all the life changes. Yes! I’m battling this right now. And the other battles you speak of so well. I fight when I know I should slow down and wind up in a whirlpool of emotions, and the other things swallowing me. At night, I can get so depressed that I can’t even sleep! Mood swings and cognitive issues were my first symptoms; there’s nothing like feeling that I may lose my mind someday. I eventually stopped talking a lot to hide the the once effortless flow of thoughts and the ability to concisely express myself. The fight… do I have it in me? I don’t really know. I miss myself and try to appreciate what I have but I still miss myself. Thank-you kindly for sharing. Your thoughts always resonate.

  • TracyW
    1 year ago

    Devin your article says exactly how I feel. It was so nice to read your words and know that there is someone out there that understands what people with multiple sclerosis go through. I’m going to share your article to my family and friends so maybe they will better understand what goes on inside of me. Thank you very much for helping me put words to my feelings.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thank you TracyW! I appreciate that, it’s always nice to know we aren’t alone, this is something that took me a while to put in to words and even attempt to explain.

  • Kim Dolce moderator
    1 year ago

    Devin, you’ve expressed an insight that I’ve only attempted to explain to my sister but never verbalized in my articles about anger. That strident tone of voice I’ve used my whole life–even before I was diagnosed with MS–that manifests out of the sheer effort and frustration of putting thought into word. I figured it was about being terribly shy and introverted and forcing myself to speak when situations demanded it. But it has gotten worse since the MS and, as you mentioned, comes out in a mad dash to do a verbal dump before I lose my thought all together.

    You so precisely explained this that I had an I-wish-I’d-written-that moment. As always, I enjoy your turns of phrase and insights. Thanks! –Kim

  • Carol
    1 year ago

    Thank you. I wish I had come up with the words to express how I really feel some times.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thanks so much Kim!

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