Diabetes Self-Management Blog

Last week, I got an e-mail from a woman I didn’t know. She had bought my first book, The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness. There’s a page in there about the value of faith, and she wanted some advice.

She was in her 40s with several different chronic conditions. She had too much pain and fatigue to work, and she had become isolated and depressed. “I’m so angry with God,” she wrote. “I want to have faith, but I can’t because I’m too angry and scared. What can I do?”

What should I have told her? I wrote that she had a right to be angry, and that being angry can be a good thing, if it motivates action. I told her about my understanding of anger. Anger has a purpose, and the purpose is to get us to change things that need changing. If there’s nothing to change, or no way that you can do it, then being angry is only hurting yourself.

She wrote back that she had tried to change some things, like finding other ways to approach her health conditions. But nothing had worked out, and she was close to giving up. She was tired and felt hopeless. She thinks the world or God is out to get her. I wrote that “The world isn’t out to get you. The world doesn’t care.” But she said it certainly seems to her like the world is out to get her, and she’s doomed.

She isn’t completely alone. She has a husband and a cat. I didn’t get into her relationships with her, because I didn’t think I could help. So I don’t have much else to say to her at this point, unless DSM readers have some ideas.

Sound Familiar?
I think most people with chronic illness have gotten angry about it at some point. If you haven’t, maybe you don’t understand the situation. (Some studies have shown that people with diabetes tend to have more anger than the general population.) But anger can make things worse if we take it out on families, friends, or coworkers. (I don’t think God really cares how angry we get.)

What’s the best way to deal with anger? Whether you’re angry at an ex-friend, an employer, the President, diabetes, or God, the questions are: How can you make anger work for you? And if you can’t make it work for you, how can you get rid of it or reduce it? And if you can’t even do that, how can you keep your anger from making your life that much worse? You can read what the American Psychological Association has to say about anger management here. But I don’t think the psychologists have the last word on this.

Thanks in advance for any help you can give.

By the way, keep your eyes on the print version of Diabetes Self-Management for my upcoming article on sex, intimacy, and diabetes. Should be out pretty soon, and I’d like to know what you think of it.

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Comments
  1. Thanks, David, for raising this issue. At the risk of being accused of an over-clinicalized response, I do want to mention that anger often signals depression - anger, rather than sadness, may be the primary or only obvious sign of depression. We know that diabetics are disproportionately depressed, and I think I recall that depressives are disproportionately diabetic.

    That said, this is a complex question, and I hope others have more to say about both the corrosiveness of chronic and hateful anger, and the potentially redemptive or motivational power of righteous anger against wrong. There is much for diabetics to be angry about, from a destructive food culture to technically-oriented diagnostic standards that are often met only years after the onset of more observable and symptoms, including gross physical damage.

    Frankly, God and my forebears are way, way down on my list.

    Best to all,
    M.

    Posted by Michael.Massing |
  2. Suppressed anger turns into depression. The best ways I know to deal with this are:
    1) learn the situations that are most likely to anger you and avoid them
    2) look inside yourself to see why you are angry–what is it that is really the issue and
    3) find a way to express this. If you must, write it down. Just be careful how you share the info–sharing isn’t always necessary. If you really want to share, maybe what you need to realize is that you are asking the person you are sharing with to fix the problem. Consider if that is realistic.
    4) Get outside and go for a walk. Exercise in some not too strenuous, not competitive way. Look at the sky or sea and recognize the (smaller) size of your problems.

    Yes, I do understand none of this fixes anything. Anger is really painful and it makes us stupid. Somehow, anger makes us feel like we have more rights, like the right to express our anger by punching someone or yelling. It is much better to understand why you are angry, look to see if there is a way to change the situation, and if the situation can’t be changed, look for a way to change your feelings.

    Good luck!

    Kath

    Posted by Kath |
  3. A couple thoughts.

    First, being angry with God is FANTASTIC! It means that you have an actual relationship with God and care enough about God to be angry–those are great things. The most important thing is to express your anger toward God–really let it out, blast away, say everything you’ve been holding back. Nothing’s too “bad” that you can’t say.

    Here’s the healing and redemptive part: God is not afraid of our anger, does not move away from our anger. God stays with us, takes our anger, and shows us great tenderness and compassion in response. But you can’t get to that part unless you really let loose with the anger, so go for it, and then experience the response.

    When I was diagnosed with diabetes (and bad cholesterol and high blood pressure all on the same day), I started doing a lot of reading and research. I kept running into the fact that lots of these diseases are triggered by stress, and part of treatment should include stress reduction. I knew I lived with huge amounts of stress, but I had no idea how to get rid of it–quit my job? Never drive again? Get a new family?!

    I took a course called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and it made all the difference. It showed me that stress is mostly cause by how I respond to daily life, not by external things like my boss, my family, other drivers. Stress is caused internally, not externally.

    It also taught me that when I experience emotions, I have a choice about what to do with them. Anger is just an emotion. It passes. I can respond to it in many unhealthy ways–deny its presence, eat, drink, yell, throw things, hurt myself, hurt others, get depressed and withdrawn, etc., etc.

    MBSR is based on practicing mindfulness meditation, which has opened up a space for me between my emotions and my response. Now I’m able to simply be aware that I’m angry. “Oh, I’m angry.” And then I get to ask myself, “Now what? How would I like to respond to this anger?” Usually I choose just to experience the anger, feel it in my body, feel it course through me, make me tense and red-faced. And pretty soon it’s over and I haven’t hurt anyone (including myself). I never knew I had a choice of how to respond to anger. In my house, anger meant that someone was about to get hurt.

    Anyway, sorry for the long post. Just wanted your emailer to know that there are alternatives. I can’t recommend MBSR enough. It’s taught at hospitals and medical centers across the country as a treatment for chronic illness.

    Posted by mark |
  4. I have learned God is strong enough to take my anger, already knows my thoughts so go ahead and scream at Him if it helps. I also know that on the “coin” Anger, the otherside is FEAR. Look at the fear involved, face it, and go through it. Going around it never gets rid of it. Also writing about the anger/fear relieves the mind of useless thinking. Let it flow through the pen onto the paper and face it. Hope this helps.

    Posted by Barb |
  5. Why should anyone be angry with something thathat does not exist??

    Posted by MrLambda |
  6. First..Thank you for writing your book.I just read it a few weeks ago and found it very helpful, and have already loaned it out…

    My solution to anger..the dollar store, glass dishes and a brick wall (followed by a broom and sturdy garbage bag)I wear glasses, but safety glasses for those who don’t might be a good idea.

    Whether from the exercise or the transference or a combination…it works for me.It works for the times I just can’t let the wave wash over/through me. Majybe just because it allows me to accept and act on the anger..and what are usually bad dishes don’t get used for food service.

    Posted by denise |
  7. Comments on being angry with God. What would dobut make your more bitter. Take control and become more active in your diabetic care. If you have faith in God use it. I do I am not cured from diabetes but God gives me strength to deal with on a day to day basis. God still good whether we are healed or not

    Posted by pat |
  8. (I don’t think God really cares how angry we get.)

    My first response to this statement is, do you believe that God loves us? If the answer is “no”, I would ask for more details about the God you believe in? If the answer is “yes”, then I would ask, how could a loving God not care about how angry we get?

    Posted by Sam |
  9. “don’t let the sun go down on your anger” Again I use this from the bible. *Also , another fitting quote, “This too shall pass.My ownmade up one is,”take it with a pound of salt”In the South we like to have a present friend we can bounce things offWe like to see one another.We don”t mind saying such a thing as,THIS is A sh*t situation aaaaaaaaaaaand I HATE it.We also say,HOT SH*T!!! HOT SPIT!!! GOD DAMN IT!!! qUITE FRANKLY,I’M SICK OF MEALY MOUTHED STATEMENTS. MILK TOAST IS NOT MY FAVORITE LIFESTYLE.I’M SICK OF PSYSCBABBLE AND O.K, O.K. O.K. TOO MANY PEOPLE GOT HURT WITH THAT O.K. GAME THAT TURNED INTO A RACKET! DON,T DENY YOUR FEELINGS.GOD LOVES US JUST WHERE WE ARE TODAY. I CAN’T PLEASE EVERYBODY.SO, WALK PLAY FLY AKITE BLOW BUBBLES.DO SOMETHING EASY.WE ALL GOT TOO UPPITY IN THE KENNEDY DAYS MOVE TO SQUARE ONE AND MOVE YOUR BODY.LIFE IS A STRUGGLE BUT WE CAN HELP EACH.LOVE YOURSELF JUST AS YOU ARE. FIND A PAL ADELE Z. STIFTER

    Posted by saltyadele |
  10. As usual, great ideas. I will share some with my correspondent. I am also a fan of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and will suggest it to her.
    D

    Posted by David Spero RN |
  11. The one good thing to come out of diabetes may be that it induces an anger towards fate which causes people to throw away the crutch of religious superstition on which they have relied. A mature acceptance of the fact that the world is tragic and that no fairy-tale daddy in the sky is going to make everything all right may redirect diffuse anger to a more constructive purpose in the only reality we have, which is the world around us.

    Posted by Marat1 |

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Emotional Health
Diabetes Distress and Depression (07/09/14)
What Is Hardest About Diabetes for You? (05/28/14)
Diabetes Friends (05/06/14)
Attraction and Repulsion (04/24/14)

 

 

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