Fibromyalgia New Life Outlook

Dealing with anger

I recently wrote an article for New Life Outlook on dealing with the anger we often feel and I thought I’d share it here in case dealing with Fibromyalgia – or, in fact, dealing with anything in your daily life – is giving you the rage. So, nothing like a lighthearted article for a weekend… happy Saturday night all!

Image: The Guardian
Image: The Guardian

The Connection Between Fibromyalgia and Anger

Anger is a very common emotion, particularly for people suffering from fibromyalgia. It is a natural, human reaction and yet it doesn’t get an awful lot of attention as a side effect to chronic pain.

The Oxford Dictionary defines anger as “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a bit of an understatement to me. As a fibromyalgia patient of course I’m annoyed, of course I’m displeased, and of course I’m hostile. So it’s no wonder I’m angry.

It’s one thing to accept our anger, but it’s another to let that anger consume us and let it impact on our lives and the lives of others. It can be difficult to draw that line when you feel enraged by what you have lost and what has emerged in its place; you’ve been given a life that you didn’t plan and wouldn’t choose. But, there are things you can do to keep your anger at bay and prevent in encroaching on your life.

Ranting vs Anger

A friend of mine once told me I was the angriest person he knew. It became a bit of a running joke – we would meet up for drinks and before long I was ranting and he was mocking my anger. It was just the way it was.

A year later I was talking to a psychiatrist after yet another unsuccessful referral following a fibro flare-up, and I told him about my anger. He asked me to give him some examples of what made me angry. As I went through the list he quietly listened, then asked: “What makes you think this is anger? You sound like an intelligent girl who’s ranting about the things that are important to her. What’s wrong with that?”

I suddenly felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I wasn’t weird and angry, I was normal and healthy. I’m sharing this story because there is a big difference between feeling angry and being an angry person. Don’t let the label consume you; recognize that you’re allowed a good rant from time to time. It’s necessary.

Understand Why You’re Angry

This might seem quite simple at first, but I think it’s important to get a good understanding of what makes you angry in the first place so that you can look at ways to control or avoid it in the future. I’m not a doctor, but experience has taught me that there are often small triggers that can cause you to feel more angry than usual, and identifying these triggers can be a key step to overcoming the negative emotion.

You can start by making notes or lists whenever you feel your anger developing, which will help you find patterns in your behaviour. For example, you might think that your anger stems from something broad, like having fibromyalgia, but as you start to take notes you will start to see the smaller triggers. Perhaps it’s the patronizing way your partner talks to you when what you really need is strength and support, or perhaps it’s the fact telemarketers call you three times a day and you just can’t cope with another phone call. These small occurrences are part of a bigger issue, but they’re still a valid contributor to the anger you feel.

Making Changes

I’m a firm believer that if you don’t like something the way it is, you should make a change. Obviously this has restrictions; I don’t like the fact I have fibromyalgia but I can’t change it. However, what I can change is the way I think about it and the way I choose to cope with it. Many fibromyalgia patients feel they lose control of their life when they develop a chronic pain condition, but in actual fact your power and control over your decisions is more important now than ever before.

Having made notes and identified the things that trigger your anger, it’s time to start finding ways to address and/or avoid this. Taking the examples from above, if your partner’s behaviour is causing your anger then you should tell him/her how you prefer to feel supported; and if calls from your telemarketer make you angry then start screening your calls and don’t pick up to unknown numbers.

Taking control over your triggers can be a way of reducing the amount of anger you feel or the frequency with which you feel it.



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