I AM ANGRY!!!!!! I want to use my loud voice to shout it to the roof tops. I want to scream, I want to yell, I want to kick and break things. I want to throw a tantrum. But then, I look at the innocent eyes of my children and think how I have worked so hard to show by example that when we get angry we talk about it, we communicate, we discuss our feelings-we do NOT throw temper tantrums and fits. And yet, that is exactly how I feel.
I have read somewhere that when you are ill, chronically ill as I have been "labeled," you go through the stages of the grieving process, sometimes multiple times a day: denial/isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I have learned that they do not have to follow in that order, nor do they all have to happen at all. Well, I am stuck. I am stuck in ANGER and I am uncertain how to get out. Even with my bright side and sunny disposition, I have found that I have a deep rooted anger brewing inside me. I believe this is occurring for many reasons. Reason 1: As I was growing up, I learned to "cope" with my anger issues by utilizing physical outlets other than punching walls and breaking my toys. I started to work out, pump iron, run. What a great stress/anxiety reliever. What a great way to let out that physical build up. My rheumatoid arthritis has put a stop to that. It is a rarity that I am able to use weights and the treadmill, and even when I do, I am not pounding my work outs like I use to-the kind that would beat the anger right out of me! Stressed? HA!! One of my largest resources has been taken from me and I am angry. And that is okay. It's OK to be angry. Sunny Solution: WRITE, WRITE, WRITE! Voice it, talk it out! Take smaller, gentler walks...and maybe a small glass of wine or two! :)
My husband and I discussed that maybe I have not accepted my illness completely. Nah, I have accepted it. How could I not? It stares me in the face daily, with not so gentle reminders! Then he lovingly and gently suggested that I haven't exactly accepted the changes and adaptations that I have to make in my life now...WHAT?!?! Ok, seriously, I wasn't mad. I applaud him for his bravery in telling me the truth (gutsy guy). However truthful that is, I can counter that with this: HOW DOES ONE ACCEPT THEIR LIMITATIONS AND THE CHANGES IN THEIR LIFE THAT THEY HAVE TO MAKE, WHEN THE REST OF THE WORLD IS NOT ACCEPTING THEM OR SEEING THEM AS NECESSARY???? Ok, all caps off...just had to get that angry statement off my chest. I am in constant battle with accepting the reality of my new life, because life has not accepted it yet. Case in point-- my job. How can I accept my limitations, accept the changes and adaptations in my life when my job has the same expectations it has always had of me? I am a teacher. I was always a great teacher, a job I was good at and proud of. As my health has disintegrated, I have watched my career and my ability to barely keep up with my job equally disintegrate. And I am the one not accepting my new life? No one at work is saying, "Sue, you look awful, let me take your 29 5th graders from you for a while so you can take a break" or "You have been painfully limping around all day, let me take your kids back and forth from classes and up and down the stairs" or "Sue, you seem so exhausted and I know the kids are really out of sorts, let me come in and help out". That is not how it is at all. Oh contraire...it's more expectations, more paperwork, more "your kids weren't quiet in the hallway" (really? You should see them in my room when I am too tired to do anything about it)...no one is adapting to ME, so how do I adapt to ME? (Yes, I have been open with my illness and how I feel.) And work isn't the only place I see it--people are constantly "curing" me with their suggestions, playing down the way I feel, making me feel guilty for not being able to do what I am no longer able to do. Reason #2 for my anger: I AM NOT THE ONE IN DENIAL...EVERYONE ELSE SEEMS TO BE! I guess that's ok, too. How could they understand, right? It's not like I am dying. I am not terminal. Sunny Solution: Continue to voice what RA is all about. Dispel the myths about Rheumatoid Arthritis. Be more vocal about an illness that most people don't understand. Also, perhaps it's time we consider the reality that maybe it is time to make the hard decision that we've been avoiding, "to work or not to work, that is the question."
Reason #3 for my anger: not that I would wish this on anyone, but, I am angry that this happened to ME/us. We are not a family that can afford to be on one salary. It's selfish to think like this, but come on. How many of you haven't thought to yourself, why me?? I mean, there are many people in this world, even close to me, that could afford to be on one salary living in luxury, and I am the one putting the financial strain on my family?? Reason #3: Guilt. I have guilt, this immense guilt, that I can not get rid of. I see what this is doing to my family, especially my husband, and I can not help but feel guilty. What unselfish, loving person wouldn't feel guilty. I am angry because I can't get over the guilt. I am constantly faced with guilt: "Mommy isn't feeling up to playing right now" "Mommy can't walk guys, sorry, go without me" "Mommy is too tired" "Mommy is sick" "We had to cancel our trip to Disney, guys, because we didn't think mommy would be able to do it" (that was BEFORE my diagnosis) "Sorry son, we don't have money for college for you, we have a very uncertain future"-ouch! Then, the guilt of watching my poor husband unravel because this is getting so hard for all of us, especially him. Our support system consists of...um, uh, my husband, and therefore, everything is put on his shoulders. Reason #3: I feel guilty. I guess it's OK to feel guilty, too. Sunny Solution: I don't have an answer for this one. My husband and I discussed that perhaps I am asking the Lord the wrong question. Instead of asking Him, "why?" (and getting no response), maybe I should be asking Him, "How? How, Lord?" Another thing I can do, I suppose, is shield myself from other people who make me feel guilty over things that are not within my control.
CONTROL. How can I feel guilty over something in which I have no control? Right? It is not my fault. It is not my body's fault...so why am I blaming myself? Solution: Accept that it is NOT my fault and that there is no one and nothing to blame. It just is...
Reason #4: Lack of compassion from others. Seriously, is it just me or is it TOO painful and TOO much work and effort to pass along well wishes?? To send a "thinking of you" message? To say, "hope you are doing well today"? In this day and age of instant connections through advanced technologies, it requires about a split second to IM someone on facebook and say, "hey, hope you are well!" I have done it. If I know some one's been down and out, sick, having issues, I ACKNOWLEDGE their pain, illness, THEM by dropping them notes telling them I miss them, I am thinking of them, I hope they are well... What has happened to society? Have we been given the opportunity, the advantage if you will, to be so instantly in touch with people, that we have become so out of touch with people?? I can get a text message for the most insignificant reason, but to be invisible to others while I have an invisible illness is almost too much! To be honest, it's not just other people, it's me too! I am finding that I lack compassion for myself. I treat myself in ways that I would NEVER treat someone else. I get angry with myself for not being able to do things that I once was able to do. I have expectations of myself that are way too high. I push myself to limits that knock me back down to the couch for days. If it were someone else, I would dote on them and do things for them to make their life easier. I would be kinder to them, gentler with their condition, but me? No way...I haven't even developed compassion for myself. Sunny Solution: Be kinder to myself. Show myself MORE compassion, as if I were someone else. Change my expectations of others around me, and work harder at building a support system- if not for me, then for my husband and children. Continue to show others the kindness I would enjoy in return.
Now that I have SOME of that off my chest, I am feeling a little better. I can't say my anger is gone, but writing it out, reasoning it out, and coming up with my own solutions helps take the edge off, like a Vicodin for pain (don't get me started on reasons I am angry with doctor! LOL)
Perhaps I will be able to move into the next stage of grief, whichever stage that may be (although, I can't admit that I have ever tried to bargain...) I am hoping to move to acceptance and eventually to peace. Peace is my ultimate goal, peace is the one thing I haven't felt on this roller coaster in almost 3 years. Baby steps. One thing at a time...working through it all...one angry step at a time! :)
Hoping you find your Sunny solutions, too! Many blessings!