It’s Okay To Be Angry About Chronic Illness (I Am!)

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Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The Beginning

I want to tackle a hard subject today…the emotions that surround living with a Chronic Illness. Every day, we survive the physical pain, but we don’t always talk about the emotional pain that comes with being ill. Let’s change that now. 

When I first started feeling the effects of Fibromyalgia and Osteoarthritis along with my other Chronic Illnesses, I was generally able to function without a lot of changes in my life. I needed some pain medication but found that it helped and didn’t really alter my life, so ended up having some fairly easy years after my initial diagnosis. 

After a period of time, the medication needed to be increased and new drugs had to be introduced to help combat the increasing pain and symptoms. I started taking Lyrica for my Fibro  – a drug that saw me gain 40lbs in 3 months. This is when I first realized that having Chronic Illness was affecting me mentally – I was pissed about the weight gain but resigned to the fact I’d have to live with it. Thankfully my doctor worked with me to find Cymbalta instead and I managed to lose most of the weight I had gained. 

Thus began a pattern where the drugs would work for a while and then lose their effectiveness, necessitating an increase or change in meds, which triggered more anger and emotion. It was a vicious circle…I just wanted to be rid of the pain I was in, but it was getting harder and harder. The side effects of the various meds being introduced were also debilitating and my anger grew at what my body was putting me through. 

As Things Changed

Then came the point where my body had become so broken down that I needed to leave my job and go on long term disability. I can still remember to this day, 10 years later, how incredibly disappointed in myself I was. My body had betrayed me in every way possible. I was at the top of my career with the opportunity to move into some dream roles and suddenly that was all snatched away from me. Devastated doesn’t even begin to come close to how I felt and I ended up in a depression that was hard to come back from. 

It took me a long time to realize that my feelings were valid and I was entitled to feel how I felt. I thought I had to suck it up for everyone around me, and that just wasn’t a place I was ready for. I hadn’t processed my emotions, and they felt just as raw a year later as they had when I first left work. It was only through taking some Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) classes that I started to see how I could validate my feelings yet work through them and come out stronger. 

Having these strong emotions was scary though because I couldn’t separate them at first from the actions of being in pain, and just feeling like a failure as a person. It took time to realize that I had not failed, but my body had. Two very different things. By recognizing the difference, I was able to start accepting that I was not a bad person and that I had done nothing to cause this to happen.

Image by Sarah Lötscher from Pixabay 

It’s Not Your Fault

I didn’t ask for Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue. I was simply unlucky enough to be a person to have to live with these conditions and that meant I had to find a healthier way of dealing with the emotions this generated. I was not unreliable, my health caused my reliability to suffer. My worth was not just because of my job, but by virtue of simply being here. I was still a good person who had something bad happen to her. 

Do you see where I’m coming from and what I’m trying to say? Just because you have a Chronic Illness doesn’t make you a bad person. This condition has happened to you and changed you, against your will. Learning how to live with it becomes the new normal. Once I recognized this, I was able to take a step back and start taking my life back again. 

Making Changes

I worked with my doctor to find a treatment plan that benefited me. This included some medication changes and additions, as well as adding healthy new components to my life such as meditation, music therapy, gentle exercise, stretching, beginners yoga and balancing my eating habits. I stopped feeling guilty when I had to cancel or change plans because Illness took over. I couldn’t help it when those things happened, so why blame myself? I put the blame where it belonged…on my Illnesses, and left it there. 

I was blessed to be able to start this blog, so I could reach out to others with Chronic Pain conditions and help them navigate their way through their experiences. It was very empowering for me and I gained back huge amounts of confidence as I wrote articles and posts. Knowing I was reaching others and actually helping them was a huge confidence booster. 

I also found myself able to start volunteering again, and now sit on 4 different committees, all devoted to aspects of health care. I am a member of a Provincial Measurement Working Group, creating a survey for patients in BC, Canada about their ER experiences and I sit on two committees with the BC Emergency Medicine Network. I continue to seek out new opportunities to volunteer and was last year was nominated for three WEGO Health Awards – including one for Best in Show: Blog and one for Best Kept Secret (regarding my blog).

To wrap this up, I want to reiterate that I think it’s important to sit with your feelings on a regular basis when you live with Chronic Illness. If you need the help of a professional therapist to process what you’re going through, do it. There’s no shame and definitely no harm in learning how to deal with all the emotions that come with a Chronic condition. In fact, I highly recommend it as a part of your overall treatment plan. 

We go through so much on a daily basis that the notion we’re not affected emotionally is ludicrous. Don’t fall into the trap of being “stoic” and taking the attitude that you can handle things on your own if you truly can’t. Reach out for help, whether it be a professional, a friend, or a spiritual advisor. The peace of mind of knowing you’re not alone in your feelings is precious. And remember…


28 thoughts on “It’s Okay To Be Angry About Chronic Illness (I Am!)

  1. Much needed post. While reading I was thinking it applies to everyone – we are not defined by our job / illness / where we live / etc. Love the sentence about you didn’t failure but your body did. Put it into perspective. thank you.

  2. I enjoyed reading this. Yes, as a mental health advocate, I can certainly relate to your statement that you certainly didn’t ask to have this condition! I think you’re doing a wonderful job and look forward to future postings.

  3. What a great post! I too have fibromyalgia, It’s easy to focus on the negative part of living with chronic illness. I used to get angry at myself for not doing all the things I used to do. It’s a constant learning process as what might work today might not work tomorrow. I am happy to read that you found a way to channel that anger.

  4. Pamela, I’m so sorry you deal with this. I have a touch of rhumatoid arthritis that’s not usually an issue so I rarely talk about it. Just today, and before reading this. it acted up, and I thought about but did not address the problem with my husband. Thanks for the nudge. I need to get my pride out of the way and communicate a little better. If the situation were reversed I would want to know.

  5. I’m very sorry you’ve had to deal with so many intense health struggles, as well as the resulting emotional issues. I truly admire the way you’ve worked so hard to overcome your challenges, as well as the fact that you’re seeking to bless others through your volunteer work and the information you provide here!

  6. Thank you so much for this post! I have recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and according to the doctor “maybe something else”. I am finding that I have been keeping the emotional part of this challenge, pretty much licked inside. I had not really thought about it until reading your post. Definitely going to begin opening up to myself and others.

    • Margaret, I’m sorry you’ve received this diagnosis. I hope you know that there are many ways to feel better and I hope my blog site offers you some support and encouragement.

  7. I hate that people will discredit or diminish the emotions and feelings of others. Every emotion is valid if it’s truly being experienced – even if it’s not completely positive. Negative emotions are valid to and I can completely see why someone would be experiencing these emotions when dealing with chronic illness! Thank you for starting the conversation.

  8. This is much needed post. Suffering from hormonal imbalance, myself have face periods of emotional fluctuation. Good thing world is changing and people are understanding how one goes through when dealing with chronic illness. Thanks for sharing.

  9. You are such a powerful voice for those who suffer with chronic pain. Thank you for validating the emotions and feelings, and the encouragement you give to those who must endure it every day.

  10. Powerful post. Anger is an emotion, and it is okay to feel it, provided you deal with it constructively and don’t harm yourself or anyone else in the process. Feel your anger, but once you have felt it, let go and move on! Thanks for sharing ♥️ ♥️ Let me know if you are interested in doing collabs! xx

  11. I really feel ya when you mentioned “my body had betrayed me”. I felt that exact same way after my body started to go into labor 10 weeks early. I had no control, and the effects were life altering as my daughter has CP due to early delivery complications. I’m sorry you were chosen to be a statistic, it sucks. You hate it and I hate it. But you will rise and deal with it and give it everything you have!

  12. This is such an important message! We need to meet ourselves where we are and allow ourselves to feel whatever it is we need to feel. I certainly felt angry for a while after my autoimmune diagnosis too. It’s normal and it’s ok ♡.

    I’m so grateful you shared your story! Thank you 🙂

  13. I love this! I also had to go out on SSA Disability when I got written up at work for too many absences. I have Fibromyalgia, DDD Spine, Arthritis Spine, Chronic Daily Migraine. My Doctor advised me to go out on it as the stress of calling in sick and my boss threatening my job. I was a single Mom. At age 36 it was life changing and depressing and I was angry. And scared. My job defined me at the time. It took me time, a lot of time to realize it didn’t.
    Your words I needed to hear again today as I am struggling with this definition again. At age 61, alone, and having a bad pain day. It helps to hear it from another like minded Warrior. I’m just trying to say, Thank You!

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