When I’m in pain, I don’t cry. I rarely ever cry. The last time I remember crying was when a friend of mine died suddenly of a heart attack about 5 months ago. I cried for a week. Before that, it was probably several years earlier when I saw one of those heart wrenching commercials about abused and homeless animals, the one where Sarah McLachlan sings the song about the arms of the angels. That type of thing can make me cry. But not much else. Before that commercial several years ago….I really can’t remember when I cried last. It had to be years before that. Years and years. I’m all cried out, I think.
Instead of crying, I get mad. I feel the anger rise up in me, almost equal to the physical pain I’m feeling. It’s like the mercury in a thermometer on a hot day. Or like when the steam builds in a tea pot. But sometimes the pain isn’t necessarily that screaming intense pain from a flare up….it might be just that annoying, aggravating every-day pain that is just on the edge of your conscious mind (I’m talking about chronic pain here)….the kind of pain that you are used to, after living with it for a long time, and it’s almost as if it is like something buzzing around your head….a fly, a gnat, just some annoying thing that is extremely distracting. Without even realizing it, that distracting, annoying, buzzing “thing” just gets on your nerves so bad after awhile, that before you even know what is happening, you suddenly lash out, you lose your temper over some seemingly small thing that doesn’t even have anything to do with that pain….and you think, What the hell? Why did I get so angry over such a small thing? Sometimes it takes me awhile to realize….it’s the pain. It’s the pain. It wasn’t that small thing….it was the PAIN.
I always feel bad when I lash out, especially if it’s directed toward the nearest person, who is usually my husband. Afterwards, I start having all kinds of self-deprecating thoughts, like: what a bitch I am, how ungrateful and thoughtless and mean I am to treat my wonderful husband so harshly, how I wish I wasn’t so much like my dad who had a raging temper, and just generally hating myself.
But then sometimes I sit myself down and I think about my life. About how in the prime of my life, at about age 27, the shit hit the fan and I got sick. For two years the doctors ran tests, scratched their heads, and then when they couldn’t figure me out, decided I was making it all up and told me I was a liar. Then they changed their minds and told me Well okay you have fibromyalgia. Sorry, there’s no cure, and our treatment options basically suck. Bye! So then I was pretty much sent on my way with some literature about this mysterious “fibromyalgia” and some antidepressants and said Okay come back and see us in 6 months. From then on, I learned how to live with pain. Every day pain. All over pain. All the time. For 30 years.
And then I imagined if I was talking to a friend….someone else, who was telling me about this life of theirs and how hard it had been to go through all that stuff, before fibromyalgia was understood, or considered to be a valid diagnosis. When the docs would smirk at her or roll their eyes when she mentioned she had fibro after the diagnosis, when she was just going in for a blood pressure check or whatever. I imagined that if a friend of mine would have told me all that she went through then, and what she goes through now….I would have compassion, and I would understand why maybe my friend would fly off the handle a little more often than most people. I would understand when she slams doors, or throws a book or a pencil across a room, or yells out loud when she spills the milk. Who wouldn’t be angry?
And then I think about it a little longer, and then I take some deep breaths and give myself a little bit of a break, and some compassion. I realize how all that stuff from way back then…and all the stuff in between then and now….and all the stuff now….has all molded me into this person that I am today, and some of it is not pretty. I saw a sign once that said “Pain changes things”. And I know it’s changed me. I often wonder what I would have been like if pain hadn’t entered my life all those years ago. Would I still be the same? I doubt it. I doubt it very much. Unfortunately, pain has changed the person I might have been into someone who is volatile and easily irritated and often angry. I try so hard to not let the anger control me. I want to be free of it. I hate it when I lash out at my dear husband. He doesn’t deserve it. I just don’t know how to turn it around.
I try to use humor to distract myself from the pain and the emotional upset. Much of the time it works like a charm. Laughter truly is good medicine. It turns things around and I get my perspective back. I’m so much like my dad in so many ways….not only did I inherit his quick hot temper, but also his wonderful sense of humor.
These days, I understand myself better. I know why I am the way I am. And although I don’t condone my anger, I realize that anyone….anyone who has gone through 30 years of “all this BS” would certainly be angry as well. No question about it.
I try not to fall into self-pity. It’s not a healthy thing and it’s not something that I want to nurture. But I do give myself a break when I start thinking and remembering the past 30 years….I have come to an understanding of why I am the way I am. Now the next challenge is to try to turn that anger into something constructive instead of destructive. Probably the biggest challenge of my life. I know it can be done if I put my mind to it. It’s time to let the bitterness go. I want to lay it down. Life is too short to be mad all the time. I’m sick of it. I want to be free. I hope I can release it so that I can have some peace, at last.