RA and anger

When the Anger Comes

I didn’t know how to cope with my anger about having rheumatoid arthritis when I was a child. The flashes would come quickly and unexpectedly—how unfair! Why did I deserve to be just a child with a painful and disabling illness? I felt like screaming, but doing so never made it better.

Usually it was the disease I was angry at, sometimes my faulty luck. Later I began to notice how people perceived me as different, treated me as lesser—and that led to even more anger.

But I didn’t want to be that person who was constantly unhappy and angry with the universe. I had to decide not to be angry. Otherwise, the anger could be consuming. I’d forget all the great gifts I have in life—family, friends and more.

It’s a long process, deciding how you will handle the emotional turmoil of living with RA. I am still figuring it out sometimes, even 35 years later. Sometimes I still have the flashes of anger, but I’ve learned to recognize them as temporary and fleeting.

I have what I call “angry days,” when I feel grumpy about my pain, stiffness or having to cope with the constant challenges of chronic illness. Few people may know about my angry day (except maybe my husband—who knows all my worst secrets), but carrying those emotions around makes me tired and irritable. Finding a way out makes me feel better.

Yet, I wouldn’t deny the anger either. It’s valid and real. Pretending I’m not angry doesn’t work—acknowledging it and trying to move past is how I manage. Otherwise I find the anger just catches up with me at inopportune times and leaks out on other people.

It can be hard to pinpoint my anger sometimes. How does one take out anger at your own disease? My own failing joints? There’s a fine line of blame and self-hatred that I don’t want to cross over. I think it is about stating to myself “this is how I feel” and I may not be able to change the situation, but I can manage those feelings.

Still, I’m not perfect. I can deal with my anger most of the time, until it overwhelms me and I pop. Frequently these situations revolve around inaccessibility or what I perceive as prejudiced attitudes. For example, I just can’t swallow the people who take the elevators on public transit without letting people with obvious disabilities or parents with strollers on first. Call me intolerant, but I view them as truly scummy.

Fundamentally, I think it is injustice that raises my anger. Whether Mother Nature has treated me cruelly by assigning me RA or people fail to be considerate. I can’t stand for it. I see it and experience it, but feel the need to protest anyway. So my anger is my way of protesting injustice and not letting it pass unnoticed.

I don’t know if my anger will fade as I age. Actually, I doubt it. When the anger comes I feel it just as sharply as when I was a child. I just know how to express it and manage it better. Some people are naturally angry or grumpy all the time, but I am not an angry person. There’s a difference in feeling anger about my illness and living that way in a constant state. For me, acknowledging my anger and learning to live with it has helped me to be a generally happy person and not embittered by my disease. It is inevitable, with the frustration of RA, that anger will arise. Knowing how to live with it, may be one of the greatest tricks of successfully living with a chronic disease.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.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 (8)
  • jan curtice
    4 years ago

    Oh Kelly, I wish I could just give you a big huge cyber hug! What a strong woman you are, as well as being inspiring! I’ve been overcoming this disease since I was 38 and I’m about to be 55 … but it’s not been a lifetime. The emotions are real. The pain is real. The losses are real. The discrimination is real. The lack of understanding from medical providers (and insurance companies) is real. All of this is so frustrating! During my RA journey, I’ve learned to grieve the losses as they occur …. ex missing out on a much anticipated event, not seeing my grandkids. I’ve learned that I am NOT this disease. I’ve learned I can have (mod-severe) RA and still be healthy. I am still a special person created by God. I’ve learned that when the bad days come, I can cope. For me, the key has been learning that by embracing my challenges, I become stronger and can move on. I am forever grateful for those who have chosen to take this RA journey with me (including people like you) and my cat who provides immeasurable comfort =^^=

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    4 years ago

    Thanks Jan! Love your view on life and living with RA. Totally agree–we can learn from and become stronger by embracing our challenges. It may be difficult, but it also can be an enriching experience. Best wishes to you! Thanks for the support!

  • Helen Opczynski
    4 years ago

    Hi Kelly! Thank you for your post. I, too, was diagnosed at the young age of 8. I am now almost 45. The physical scars on my fingers from joint replacement and fusion at 21, have faded. I am slowly working through the emotional scars this disease has left. ( I also read your scars posting and just realized I’m on this anger posting comment section) I have always pretty much accepted this disease but remember all too vividly my angry spells as well as my parents. My parents always wished it had been them in pain. Today I have more good days than bad, but still get ‘angry’ at the inconsiderateness of others. This disease has made me who I am, and even with all my struggles emotionally and physically I wouldn’t want this for anybody else, but I can’t imagine where I’d be without it. I am very grateful I have found peace. I no longer let this disease define who I am. I have found an outlet to help others in my own writing on another site. All this because I have placed myself and faith in Gods hands. I get angry occasionally still. It’s a normal human response. But I don’t let it consume me. Thanks again for your wonderful posting. I hope to share soon my story with all of you.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    4 years ago

    Hi Helen, thanks so much for reading and your supportive words. I totally agree that anger at our disease, pain and frustrations with others is totally natural. Also, that we can’t let it rule our lives. Thanks for sharing some of your story as it encourages me! 🙂

  • Ray Martinez
    4 years ago

    Hello Kelly. Not trying to sound ignorant or funny, in my eyes you are a hero for having to put up with this illness for so long and such an innocent age. I was already 33 when I got RA, I am now 58. I really do feel for you. Yes, the anger – I too get angry – only at the RA. Sometimes people are around – at home or at work and I can’t help but feel awful with my soreness and pain when trying to do things. My family understands and most of the people I work with understand – lucky me. Yes, I do have ‘happy days’ too! It isn’t all ‘woe is me’. I want say – I’m sorry, but I can’t help but cry at reading your letter. Everything you say is true. Thankyou! YOU ARE MY HERO!!

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    4 years ago

    Thanks so much Ray–your words are very touching. Really appreciate your comment. Glad you have happy days and here’s to many more of them!

  • Ali
    4 years ago

    It is constantly challenging for me to manage all of my feelings surrounding illness. Thank you for being so open.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    4 years ago

    Thanks for your support Ali!

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