Regardless of what life throws at you, finding healthy ways to deal with big emotions makes it easier to manage.
Sometimes I forget to breathe. Sometimes I concentrate so hard on keeping it together that I can’t seem to open my mouth and take in air. The pressure builds, and my chest gets tight, and I stand so still. I watch the world move all around me, and I search for a safe place to rest. My jaws clamp down, and I struggle to make sure that not a single sound escapes.
I can feel the anger bubbling and boiling in my chest. The heat rises up in my throat, and I swallow hard to push it back down. Nobody sees, nobody knows. I fight for control. It’s important to stay in control. Losing control is not an option.
But it’s an illusion. I am not in control. I am not controlling my anger, my anger is controlling me. I feel it all of the time. It’s a living thing, and it’s tearing me apart. If I’m not careful, one day, it will surely explode, and that scares me.
Who am I angry at? What am I angry about? I am not sure I even know. Or, maybe I do …
I’m angry that my mind has so many thoughts about what I want to do, but my body can’t cooperate. I’m angry that I can’t do my job— a job I love with people I want to be with. I’m angry that I can’t go to the grocery store, take my toddler for a walk, or simply do the laundry by myself. I’m angry that my life is changing, and I have no say in any of it. I’m angry that I’m in so much pain all of the time. I’m angry that all I can do is wait for the doctor to decide what he wants to do and when he wants to do it.
It’s not fair. That is all I ever want to say. It’s not fair. It’s not fair that I am limited by a disease I can’t control. It’s not fair that I worked so hard to get back on my feet, only to be knocked down again. It’s not fair; it’s simply not fair.
But nobody ever said life was fair. And I believe that we always have a choice. I could sit and stew in my anger, or I can use that anger and the energy it gives to keep fighting. I can hate my wheelchair for what it represents, or I can enjoy the opportunities it affords that I could not have without it. I can despise my walker for making me feel helpless, or I can be grateful for the relief it gives and for the cute little storage area under the seat. I can be angry and grumpy and miserable, or I can sit down with my children and enjoy the delicious meal that my friend delivered (hot and ready to eat!).
Anger is a big, strong emotion. If I let it, it could overpower everything and take over my life. I don’t want that to happen. My children are watching. This is a teachable moment. It is my responsibility to show them how to deal with adversity. Anger is a natural, normal emotion. There is a time and a place for it. I want my children to learn that it is perfectly ok to express anger, but they can’t let it destroy them and the people they care for. I want them to see that anger can be talked about without yelling and screaming and saying hurtful things that we don’t always mean.
Talking about anger and the way it makes us feel is an important step in moving on. Denying it is not helpful, and it is not healthy. Children need to see that grownups have all sorts of emotions. If they can watch us go through something hard, they will know that they can do it too. Life is not always happy and pleasant. We can’t always shield them from pain. But we can show them that anger and pain and frustration do not last forever. We can show them there are healthy ways to deal with big emotions.
So, I will tell them I am angry. I will tell them I am in pain. And then I will show them that even while I feel those things, I can feel other things, too. I can still play a game with them and laugh with them. I can still take them where they need to go, and I can still hug them and tell them how much I love them.
I’m angry, and I probably will be for a while. But I am also happy and grateful. My world is changing, and I can fight it, or I can sit back and see where it takes me.