“Do not learn how to react, learn how to respond.”
People with any chronic illness have a lot to be angry about: being in pain all the time with no cure causes anger, depression, anxiety, stress, loss of self worth, loss of friends, loss of jobs, financial issues, loss of dreams: need I go on? I spent so many years being so damn angry at chronic pain. I said: “Why me” about fifty times a day. It made no sense to me. Was it not enough to fall off of my bike and have brain surgery? Was it not enough to have a tumultuous childhood? How could a fifteen year old girl with her whole future ahead of her be in constant pain with no relief? WHY ME? That was my mantra. I was angry at my disease, doctors, surgeons, friends, family, strangers, any random person who ever complained of a headache and I was angry at myself. I am not sure what came closer to killing me chronic pain or all the powerful emotions that came with it. Anger is nothing but built up pain and fear and I was filled with both. I got tired of being angry. I got tired of being depressed. I got tired of spending my life in the rooms of doctors and medical professionals. I got tired of taking a million different medications and I got tired of hating myself and my life. Until I reached that point of acceptance and released my anger, I had no peace nor life. As the Buddha says: “anger is like pointing a knife at yourself expecting it to hurt another.” Anger only causes us more pain, sadness, and regret.
I am human and I still get angry. I no longer get angry with my disease, I am at peace with chronic pain but I do get angry with circumstances and people in life. I have a lot more empathy for others than I would have had I not fallen off of my bike and had brain surgery so I always try to understand a person’s actions and lifestyles before passing any judgement or worse getting angry with he or she. We truly are all victims of victims and that is why it is so important to work on our inner children and heal ourselves from our past so the cycle of pain (not physical) subsides. If you have a friend who is physically abused by his or her spouse, I bet a lot that he or she was abused as a child. If you meet an absentee parent or an alcoholic I will almost gurantee this person was neglected as a child. This is a a sad cycle of life that luckily only takes one person to stop. With all that said and with the empathy I do have, I still can have a temper. I am a very passionate, loving, sensitive person and when I am hurt by a loved one: friend/family member I usually react with anger instead of responding with peace. I always regret my anger once the storm subsides. My anger is usually copious amounts of tears and crying to the point of sickness but at times like recently I can react with words and a sense of fury that I hate. Yelling and being mean is honestly not in my nature. Once upon a time that was all I knew: once upon a time chronic pain ruled my life. I rarely react in a way I regret seconds after my words or said or my yelling hurts my throat but seldomly I do react this way and there is nothing more that I hate than being upset with myself, which reaction to anger causes me to feel. We as people should never be cruel to anyone even if they are cruel to us. In the moment of anger we forget that anger is nothing more than pain. In the moment we forget that we are all victims of victims. I have gotten a lot better at reaction versus response but like everything else I am a never ending work in process: we all are. None of us are perfect: possibly the Buddha but I have no expectations to be as amazing as he in this lifetime.
Anger increases pain. I was angry yesterday and I cried a lot. I am great emotionally today but I feel the affects on my body. I find myself thinking about pain more than usual and crying a lot always causes me to feel hungover the next day without having a drop of fun the night before. As humans we need to spread peace and love and that begins with ourselves. Being angry at anyone or any circumstance hurts you more than it will ever hurt another person. This is just something to be cognizant of when you are on the brink of anger. When you start to feel your heart beating faster, your pulse racing try and take a step back and breathe. Think about how much your anger is going to hurt you. You may have every damn right in the book to be angry or hurt by another but this is not about the other person. Take a step away and respond instead of reacting for you. Your mind and body will be so appreciative you did so.