Anger. The second stage in the infamous five stages of grief. I always assumed you travelled through the progression of grief only once until you reached acceptance: the light at the end of the tunnel. I have since learned that grief is not neat and tidy like that; it is messy and unpredictable. In saying that, I seem to cycle through all five stages repeatedly and, frequently, out of the expected order. I imagine that one day I will settle on acceptance but, for now, I continue to ride my grief out in waves and currently find myself stuck on anger.
I don’t enjoy feeling angry mainly because it usually leads to me feeling guilty and I really don’t like feeling guilty. I also don’t see much purpose in anger, so it frustrates me that it is lingering this time around. Since my accident I have always made an effort to be open and accepting of other people’s pain and frustrations. I don’t want to be a person who makes other people feel invalidated by comparing our daily struggles. But lately I have been more “suck it up, buttercup” then I prefer to admit. I’ve lost my patience for some of other people’s problems and for that I feel terrible. I know that life is hard and everyone has their own ups and downs – I’m just feeling temporarily incapable of offering much empathy and have become somewhat judgemental of the complaints I hear. Writing it down makes me feel even worse about it!
If you have followed me for a while, you have heard me say that my injury happened to more than just me: my husband, my children, my family, and my friends. Because of that, I was recently shocked by my own reaction to my husband’s grief. Just the other day, when he was feeling the losses exceptionally hard, he said how much he hates March 10. My initial – internal – reaction was anger. In that moment I felt greedy, selfish and jealous because March 10 is my day to hate and that fall is my accident to grieve. How dare he try to take those and make them his own? I instantly felt ashamed for my own reaction and quickly adjusted my thinking in order to try and help him justify the way he was feeling. Because I know he deserves those feelings and that loss just as much as I do. Still, I got caught up in my own anger because it is so close to the surface.
The judgement I have felt lately towards other people and their problems is something with which I have been struggling. I don’t ever want someone to feel like they can’t share with me. I don’t think that would win me a lot of close friendships. Even still, I have found myself frustrated at certain complaints and a general sense of the ungratefulness in our society. One place where I found myself dealing with a lot of judgment (on my part) was Disneyland.
On this particular trip, the amount of mobility devices being used around the parks was mind-boggling. At any given moment, you could look around and see at least half a dozen rented wheelchairs or motorized scooters; I had a really hard time believing that every single one of them were necessary. While I completely understand that there are invisible disabilities, I really struggle to think that all of these people had one. I would see people get up from the chair and switch with someone else in their party. I had a woman in a scooter park in front of us at the accessible section of a show only to stand up half way through to get a better view (she did sit back down just before we were going to ask her to). But you could hear the annoyance of people throughout the park at all of these seemingly unnecessary mobility devices. And, because of this, I began to feel self-conscious because I was probably being grouped in with them.
At one point there was someone in the handicapped stall in the bathroom. It’s usually someone with a stroller but when this particular woman came out she was in a wheelchair with a very obvious broken leg. My annoyance faded and my first thought was “ok, I accept your disability”. And that was a big part of my trip, wandering around deciding if I did or did not accept someone’s reason for either using a mobility device or the services available in the name of accessibility. And with that, I am again ashamed of my own preconceptions and lack of tolerance. But after watching person after person being pushed in a chair while they played on their phone as though it was just some kind of adult stroller I couldn’t help but feel like they were undermining my disability experience. This isn’t a choice that I get to make. I would much prefer to log the miles on foot, stand in line, and complain about sore feet at the end of the day along with everyone else. And I do completely believe that some of those people legitimately require the assistance; I do not believe that is the case for all (or possibly even most). So again, I was angry.
I’m not really one to ever show my anger to anyone except my husband (and occasionally an unlucky friend) but it has been increasingly hard for me to ignore and, in turn, it spills over in to more areas of my life. There is no purpose in my anger towards my husband for his completely justified grief. I gain nothing from being frustrated at the multiple mobility-aid-users at Disneyland or the numerous people who abuse handicapped parking stalls. And the anger I feel because I have a spinal cord injury in the first place gets me absolutely nowhere. So why can’t I shake it? Because it is seriously time to shake it! It is time to move on to depression, denial or, ideally, acceptance once again. Maybe next time I can get stuck in acceptance for a while.