If you’re coping with a chronic illness, you are probably facing constant worries about a whole range of concerns, such as your ongoing treatment and lifestyle management. You are also most likely experiencing a range of emotions, fear of the future, and a sense of the unfairness of it all. These emotions can, in turn, lead to a anger and frustration.
My clients describe this reaction in terms of the feeling that their lives are spinning out of control, with the medical establishment taking up the slack. But as humans, we want to be in control of our lives. When we don’t feel in control, anger is a natural response.
I have found that people with serious health conditions often feel that they shouldn’t show their anger, but instead try to just accept their lot and have a positive attitude, so this strong emotion is often kept inside and pushed to the background. In fact many people are not comfortable with anger in any situation, illness or otherwise, because expressing anger can be scary. If it’s unleashed, what might happen? Would it take control? Would we do something terrible?
If you are holding back on expressing anger, the result can be a negative impact on health and treatment effectiveness. If you frustration leads to a lack of compliance with your treatment, this will of course affect your treatment outcome.
Here are some tips for managing your anger:
* Find a safe place to release the anger — preferably with someone who can listen with an open mind, without judgment and without the need to “fix” you. Once the anger is released, it loses its power to affect you negatively.
* Avoid the positive-thinking police — Illness leads to a wide range of emotions, and they are all valid. Don’t let anyone, including yourself, badger you into hiding or suppressing your anger and putting on a happy face.
* Take time to grieve — Take some time to acknowledge what you feel you have lost, ask all of those unanswerable questions, feel the unfairness of it all. Grief is a process that is unique to each person. Let yourself get to the other side of it, and you’ll be ready to ask, “now what?
* Let go of the need to be in control — Human beings cling to the belief that we are always in charge of our own destinies, and when we find out we aren’t we often get angry. Instead of blindly struggling for control, take a step back and see where you have control and where you don’t. When you take a rational look at where and how you are in charge of your own life, you quickly realize there’s no reason to feel angry.
* Remind yourself that you are doing everything possible — When anger is not expressed, it can turn inward; self-criticism can rule the day and cause feelings of anger to well up. Remind yourself that you are in a difficult situation, but you are doing everything possible to cope with it.
* And then do everything possible — Channel your anger into positive energy. Get educated on your condition, explore all your treatment options, ask your doctor questions, work to create realistic lifestyle changes, and whatever else is needed to take charge of your healthcare.
And above all, stay focused on your future. Decide what is realistic for your future and adjust your goals accordingly. Then focus your energy on achieving the best for yourself, the people you care about, and the world.