Yes, I am angry. Now what do I do?
I am writing about anger for BADD because I know it’s an emotion people know very well when living with a disability. And when you carry around internalised anger it can be very damaging. This I know myself as I am profoundly damaged, physically and mentally. And if my therapist has his way, anger will prove to be at the root of all my ills, we will talk out my anger and I will be so much better.
Now considering I am struggling with a neurological condition that has left me disabled, I wonder about this desired outcome of his. It is imbued with hope, but is it entirely realistic?
Anger is so common in disability circles. But can it really be said to cause, exacerbate or prolong illness? Certainly if you live in isolation and are starved of human contact, anger can become a problem. It is tied up with stress, unalleviated stress, stress that could be eased by human touch alone. But not everyone has regular hugs. And some of us can be angry in an indiscriminate, irrational way if under too much strain. We can also be angry at society in a very specific ‘social model’ savvy way. We can be angry with family, friends, ourselves even, for getting ill in the first place.
So how do you release anger? Really, I want to know. Without the physical release of exercise all I have is relaxation methods and they serve to deflect rather than expel anger from my body as exercise used to do.
And I say used to because I’ve been angry for a very long time. My anger pre-dates my disability. And some would have it that such large amounts of anger contributed to the weakening of my body to the extent that I became ill. Back on the couch it’s all to do with unreliable parental figures, an unstable wider family, abuse, neglect, my own perceived failings…blah.
So yes, I have a lot of anger. Firstly the boxed and very hurtful memories from my distant past and the more recent disability-related experiences. There’s the lack of comprehension, understanding, time or empathy from fellow human beings. The total shambles that was my medical care for a long time. Then the breakdown of my ten-year relationship due to an utter denial (on both sides for a while) of what was happening to my body and mind. Now I’m moving into acceptance. He still just cannot comprehend. A bloody great stair lift, installed yesterday at my home, is irrefutable evidence that I am indeed disabled.
And people up at school have got used to me on a scooter. I have got used to me on a scooter. But the woman I barely know who today decided to share her experience of a devastating but temporary brain illness caused the anger to surface yet again. She told me just how poorly she’d been and I really was shocked and sympathetic. Then she ended with a breezy “Well, everyone says I’m back to my old self now, which is what I wanted.” And I was left trundling off on my scooter muttering how glad I was for her, with her bright and breezy “Stay positive” ringing in my ears. Like if I stay positive I too will be cured. She didn't mean to leave me smarting. It was my reaction. She meant well.
I want to stay positive. And I work very hard to ensure that both my son and I tackle the things that make me angry and him confused. But I don’t want to be consumed by anger. So I think it needs to be channelled. To go where it is needed. Into campaigning for better disability awareness in schools – something I feel very strongly about. Into examining how the perceived failings of family and friends, ex-partners and in-laws perhaps need a reappraisal. Was it their fault they all went into denial? That denial turned into rejection? That rejection worsened my anger? That my anger made me even less approachable?
Where does it all stop? Or perhaps, where does it all start?