When you are grieving for a child you THOUGHT you were going to have, anger is a big part of that grief. For me, watching my daughter Remy suffer through multiple hospital stays, seizure after seizure and seeing the apparent intellectual disabilities unfold, I have seen my fair share of anger. But the anger comes out in subtle ways. Snappiness, resentment, jealousy, being short-tempered, not just the outbursts you think of. When you realize you have no control over your child’s health, it feels as if you are meant to just watch them suffer.
In today’s episode, I talk about how normal it is to be angry when you are trying to get through the challenges of parenting a child with autism or epilepsy. I also talk about how it can be beneficial and a detriment. You will see the easiest way to get over being angry all the time and why it’s so important to focus on all your blessings, as hard as it is.
What Is Anger?
Anger is nothing more than an outward expression for fear, hurt, and frustration. When you are raising a child with special needs, fear, hurt, and frustration are kind of on the daily menu.
I tell a crazy story about how I went to a store to buy a computer and became interrogated by a police officer because the store thought I was trying to purchase something with a fake ID. I was pissed off and felt like I wasn’t being treated the way I should’ve been.
This is the same thing when we receive a diagnosis for our child. We are pissed. We feel cheated and confused and like we are being punished for something that we didn’t even do. We try to go to God and have him “fix” the problem and right the mistakes we think He made. But it doesn’t work that way.
Anger is an energy. Something triggers this energy and it brews and brews and it needs somewhere to strike. A lot of times it strikes at the closest thing to it. This is why in times of distress you are arguing at your spouse and getting mad at your kids.
How Anger Can Be a Good Thing
Anger is there because it motivates you to take action. It isn’t always a bad thing.
Remy went to the hospital when she was a year and a half old. She was having so many seizures that they gave her some medicine that is typically given to people going into surgery. The neurologist found that it worked well to manage Remy’s seizures. With this medication, a lot of people stop breathing and need to be intubated. But when Remy takes it, it doesn’t make her stop breathing, even with high doses. Because it’s known to cause people to stop breathing, when they give it to someone, they tell them that they can’t eat or drink anything to prevent aspiration. When Remy took the medication, they didn’t allow her to eat or drink. The first day she didn’t stop breathing at all. The second day came, and the same thing, but they refused to let her have anything to eat or drink when I asked. Day three came, she hadn’t stopped breathing at all, but they continued to say no to any food or beverages.
I was pissed because they were not feeding my baby. So I made a decision, if she was still having seizures by day four and hadn’t stopped breathing, I was going to give her food. The doctor came in and suggested that I really shouldn’t give her a bottle. But I did anyway. Remy calmed down because she had been really hungry and crying all day. My instinct was to give her something even though everyone was saying no. In this situation, my anger drove me to make a decision that was good for my daughter. If I wasn’t angry, I might not have taken any action.
How Anger Can Be a Bad Thing
I was dealing with the chaos and overwhelm of Remy’s medical issues and autism diagnosis. Life was really stressful. During this point, I had a girlfriend who seemed to disappear. She didn’t call me to see how I was doing or ask about Remy. It felt like she was avoiding talking about Remy altogether. I was really mad at her for not being there for me. So I stopped talking to her and blamed her for being a bad friend. It was a whole year before I realized that I was being the biggest jerk in the world. I had so much support from so many other people, I didn’t need her to support me or check on me. Eventually, I realized that I was putting the blame on her when really I was feeling out of control and angry at so many things and that she was just a target for that.
Why Do We Get Angry?
Going through watching your child suffer from seizures over and over, or realizing that they have autism, of course, this is going to make you feel angry. You’re angry because of the fear of the unknown and the fear for your child is so great that you will do anything to take that pain away. You are going to use this anger and aim it at everyone around you. We get angry because it feels better than pain. It almost makes us not feel the pain, like a protective mechanism.
How To Work On Anger
When you are feeling a certain level of anxiety, what makes many people feel better is going outside and taking deep breaths in. It is filling your body with oxygen and releasing that tension. So instead of releasing that tension and anger at your kids or spouse, if you can learn how to take deep breaths, it’s enough to give you a little bit of space between the event and your reaction. It gives your brain extra oxygen because when you are angry, your brain and body aren’t giving you oxygen, which helps you to be calm.
When you hold onto anger, it takes up all of your energy and there’s no energy in you to appreciate all the blessings that surround you. If it’s spent on blaming God or wondering why you got dealt a bad hand or how life is so unfair, there is no room for happiness or appreciation and you miss all the things that are beautiful around you. I urge you to look at your life and look at the blessings around you and just say thank you.
- Anger is there because it motivates you to take action. It isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes, I have felt anger and have used it to be able to advocate for and protect my daughter.
- Anger can also be a bad thing. It can cause you to direct your pain and frustration at people and things that aren’t deserving of it. It can make you unhappy and those around you.
- When you hold onto anger, it takes up all of your energy and there’s no energy in you to appreciate all the blessings that surround you.
- Anger is our way of protecting ourselves from feeling pain. If we direct our energy towards what is making us angry, it helps us to not have to think about the sadness or anxiety.
- It is normal to feel angry. It is hard to watch your child have seizures, or learn that they have autism and are always going to struggle with communication and other skills to function in life. Everyone feels this way at some point, so it is completely normal and you are not alone in experiencing this.