Temper temper, Ms. Park

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When I posted about my anger spurts the other day, I had a picture of my recent rage that largely ignored the fact that I had had a stroke. (Duh). Instead, I chastised myself for my shortcomings: I felt I was mismanaging my anger (probably), that I was missing skills that I’d previously had to manage my anger (probably), but I did not realize that perhaps my anger is just…GREATER. Yes, there are emotions tied to these things. (Duh).

In the comments thread of my last post were many many voices of support. In particular, BarkingKitten enlightened me:

When my husband first became ill–his mobility is seriously impaired, his disability visible to the naked eye–I blew up at people without a thought…

You have a right to be furious, and the anger will spill everywhere…and then–God knows when–it will taper off. Our situations are different, so my timeline ain’t yours. It took me two years not to want to kill everybody. Now I just want to kill the insensitive, who exist even in our enlightened city.

…Glad to be of service. I wish somebody had told me I would be angry, to expect rage. I did some awful things in the early days of my husband’s illness. Eight years down the road, I am better–that is, I no longer fly into towering rages–but insensitive behavior and/or remarks still upset me. I have become mistress of the sharp retort…but at least I’m not screaming.

Totally makes sense that dealing with a stroke has made me angrier; of course in my usual denial I had forgotten about all that. Sometimes I get on such a cognitive, achievement-oriented vector, that I forget about my own emotions and ignore them entirely. Okay, not entirely–for I will spend time diffusing my emotions and compartmentalizing them when I feel I need to do so (ha).

It had not occurred to me that I may just be ANGRIER these days (or allowing myself to feel more anger, who knows), and that not only am I less equipped to deal with anger in general, I am dealing with a large scale amount of anger. BarkingKitten’s comment awakened that realization. (And compounding that realization was a friend who contacted me and asked me how I was–she sensed my anger was spiking, too). As soon as I acknowledge my anger, I started listing all the things in my head that I am angry about these days (ah, good–my anger tools are not all gone).

I stared at the list. I was puzzled at some of the items–for they were things I have always been annoyed about but I wouldn’t categorize as things that pissed me off. Now? They are PISSING ME OFF. There were new items on the list, too–for instance, people I have never really been angry at, but now am furious (FURIOUS!) with. What surprised me further was that some of them were my friends–I was shocked, really, but at the same time, relieved to admit how angry I am.

And WHY was I angry at them? The reasons ran the gamut, but they too shocked me as to how petty my reasons were, and how I lacked compassion for their limitations. I WANTED THEM TO BE THERE FOR ME EXACTLY THE WAY I WANTED THEM TO BE THERE FOR ME. Yah, no one said anger has to make total sense.

When I was in the hospital, I got a stack of literature on strokes. I couldn’t really read or remember all that well back then, but I thumbed through the literature anyway, curious to learn about my condition. On every single page I read about Depression (yes, with a capital “D!”). (“Depressed feelings are common after a stroke.”) It was clear to me that depression is a common after effect of stroke. Irritability being one of the symptoms of depression of course.

And what did I do in reaction to that news, given my history of clinical depression? I closed the books and told myself I would allow myself to feel sad, and that I would NOT GET DEPRESSED. NO. I had JUST stopped going to therapy a year ago, after 10 years of psychotherapy visits. I would put myself on a plan in which I would NOT get depressed. No way would I get depressed again. No f*cking way.

Oh well.

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5 Comments

Filed under Life, The Stroke

5 responses to “Temper temper, Ms. Park

  1. Oh, no! Don’t read the literature! It’s the worst thing you can do! (Aside from Googling symptoms. So many sleepless nights I’ve passed, over what I’m assured by multiple experts is really absolutely nothing.)

    Of course, irritability is also a common symptom of being pissed off and frustrated, which is your right. You’re feeling crappy, you’re angry and upset… all of those are completely understandable feelings right now. They’re not necessarily signs of depression. They might just be reactions in and of themselves.

    If depression starts to come, it comes, and you’ll deal with it. I believe that. But from my own experience at anticipating symptoms, I have to say, it’s probably best not to worry about it for now.

    As for your temper, you know, yelling at people who deserve it always makes me feel better. Maybe you should keep doing it? 🙂

  2. Gord: yours is a lovely point! 🙂

    Sometimes, and it’s an AWFUL thought, I wish I *looked* sick so that people could give me a little slack…and then maybe I wouldn’t get MAD so often. But I am lucky, I don’t appear ill at all, I’m just half a beat off from everyone, trying to keep up.

    And yes, I’m infuriated. Yes, on the other hand, I may just be angry. And I must admit, anger is one of my driving forces, and always present in my psyche. But where to channel it? I land back at frustration (and anger).

    Who knows?

  3. and uh–I am reading the handbook on stroke given to me at the hospital. While I read it in my hospital bed, I realize thre was a TON I did not pick up in those early days–rereading it now is very enlightening.

    I uh, just read that anger is a common feeling for stroke survivors. Uh, um.

  4. have you thought about getting physical with your anger? after my assualt at the RSF, I found that martial arts helped get a lot of negative energy out….maybe when you’re feeling up for some cardio….

    Lela Lee managed to channel her Angry Asian Girl into a fantastic comic strip and arty stuff.

    So anger could be a good thing.

  5. mel

    I think it’s good you’re acknowledging and contemplating this, especially if that in itself brings you relief. Considering what you’ve been through/are going through, it’s understandable. Being angry just means you’re working something out inside you (i say that as someone who feels angry a lot but doesn’t get angry enough).

    i agree with queenkv about getting physical. i know you can’t exercise just yet, but when you can i’m sure that will help (gentle walks in the meantime?).

    re: “short fuse” – waiting in line and rude people suck.

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