After a diagnosis: Why anger?

After a diagnosis of chronic illness - Why do we react with anger, and who are we really angry at?

A chronic illness diagnosis is emotional. We may feel sad, guilty, overwhelmed… and we can feel angry. Sometimes this is short-lived, but mine wasn’t.

Why are we angry?

Why are we angry after a chronic illness diagnosis?

Coping with anger after a diagnosis is not simple

Chronic illness and suffering is a sensitive topic, so let me use another analogy.

Say I stub my toe. It hurts. It makes me angry.

Why?

Anger over chronic illness is a reaction to frustration

On a very simple level, I could be angry because I don’t like pain. I am frustrated that my toe hurts. This is somewhat natural. After all, we were not created for suffering. It is not right that it exists.

Anger over chronic illness is a reaction to hopelessness

And yet, we don’t hate all pain. When athletes suffer during training, they do not react in anger. This is because they know their pain is not pointless. It serves and purpose, and is achieving a greater goal. Chronic illness, on the other hand, often feels pointless.

Anger over chronic illness is a reaction to injustice

I could also be angry because, through no choice of my own, I stubbed my toe and you didn’t. It seems unfair. Why should I have to hobble in pain while you trip happily along on unbruised digits?

Anger over chronic illness is a reaction to our own limits

Pain, of course, is a fair consequence for stubbing my toe. Surely I deserved it. And yet that doesn’t make it easier to bear! Sometimes knowing we could have prevented something (or thinking we could, or imagining we could) results in anger.

After a chronic illness diagnosis - Often self anger is a cover for anger directed at someone else.
A tree… anger is difficult to find images for.

Why a chronic illness diagnosis makes us angry

As we can see, while anger after a diagnosis is common, it is not simple! It’s important then, that we ask ourselves: why are we angry? Is it because we hate being in pain (or Watching it), or because we feel hopeless or believe it is inherently unjust?

Answering these questions is essential to coping with the anger from a diagnosis. Perhaps we are angry for all of these reasons, or perhaps just one or two. Why are we angry? Out of all the emotions, why this one?

Anger after a diagnosis is common – but rarely simple!   Click to Tweet!

After a diagnosis who is our anger directed towards?

When I stub my toe, am I really angry at my poor 1st phalange? I suspect not. I’d like to believe I’m angry at myself (how could I be so careless, so helpless, so affected by pain?)

And yet, I think we are very rarely actually angry at ourselves. Not for long anyway. We like ourselves too much for that. Often ‘self-anger’ is a cover for our anger towards someone else.

Who are we angry at?

Ourselves (at least a little bit) – for not preventing the diagnosis (even if that was impossible), for not knowing, for not doing more, for not responding ‘properly’

The people around us – for not supporting us properly, for not responding correctly, for not being in pain as well, for getting off scot-free in the ‘illness department’

Physicians and bureaucracy – for not having answers, for being too slow, for having too many steps or red tape, for not having offices open after 5 pm

In the end, however, just like with my toe, I suspect there’s someone else we’re really angry at.

God.

After all, it makes sense. If we hold that He is the Creator and Saviour, that He is sovereign, He and He alone could have prevented our Loved One’s illness.

We are angry at God

He could have allowed it to be a more common sickness, He could have given people the love and wisdom to respond differently, He could have granted us more tact, provided us with a better doctor, a better medical system, a more loving community. He could have made someone be there to answer our phone call at 5:02 pm – He could have done all these things, if that was the way He worked.

If we’re angry at one of the outcomes of His plans, it’s not the plan, but Him we are truly angry at. ‘Why shoot the messenger?’ as the saying goes, when you can persecute the one who wrote the message?

// Were you angry after the diagnosis of your loved one?

Who are you angry at?

Author: Emily J. M.

Hi, I'm Emily. Two of my closest family members struggle with chronic illness, and I watch them. That's hard, and so I write about life as a 'Watcher', what it looks like to support them and find Hope.

4 thoughts on “After a diagnosis: Why anger?”

  1. This was a very wonderful and well written post! Trying to live a normal life with a Chronic Illness can be challenging and well frustrating! It is truly amazing what we can learn to deal with in life and the strength we all have, that is sometimes hidden. I have been battling Multiple Sclerosis for 16 years now and it has had its ups and downs, but I try to hold on to my positive attitude. I started my blog 2 months ago and it has been a great experience. I have been able to communicate with so many wonderful and amazing people that really understand what I go through. I look forward to reading more of your posts! Take care!!

    Like

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