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.
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.