Why is Everything so Annoying?

Ever wake up angry about silly little things or really anxious about aspects of your environment that are unpredictable or uncontrollable? It can drive you crazy. Why is it suddenly so frustrating that your boss eats a smelly sandwich everyday during a board meeting? Is this really something to feel such intense anger about? Is your extreme anxiety about whether or not you will be having drinks with friends tonight actually warranted? What is going on?

Did you ever notice that anger and anxiety about everyday things intensify when you are not feeling well? Have you also noticed that the less you talk about the feelings of unpredictability, uncontrollability, and fear that come with your symptoms or your illness, the more you experience anger and anxiety regarding other things in your life? Sure your boss may be annoying or certain things friends do may irritate you, but why are the feelings so intense? What is occurring is what psychologists call displacement. Displacement is a common defense mechanism where broadly speaking unwanted emotions stemming from anxiety producing situations are put onto more benign situations. So one with a chronic illness may be feeling extremely angry that after months of remission incapacitating symptoms have returned.  Acknowledging this may cause too much anxiety for the person and therefore the person may become extremely angry at something his or her spouse does instead.  Although there may be some real annoyance at the spouse, the anger is really not about the spouse. The underlying anger is actually about the experience of living with the illness.

Sometimes people come to an understanding of what their feelings are actually about but oftentimes they usually need help from others who point it out to them. After all if it was something easy for the person to acknowledge s/he wouldn't need the defense in the first place. Talking about the emotions that follow living with a chronic physical illness can be a very difficult thing to do. However, the benefits do outweigh the costs. Think about it. What will it be like if all the anger, anxiety, sadness, and other emotions stemming from living with an illness get displaced onto various relationships in one's environment? It can cause some serious problems with people's support networks, jobs, and home life. People who live with chronic illness do not need any additional stress; they need positive and functional relationships. Talking with loved ones about the emotions that living with a chronic physical illness bring up can actually make relationships with loved ones even more fulfilling and intimate. One doesn't have to feel alone with his or her emotions.

There are times when people in your life may have a hard time understanding your experience of living with a chronic physical illness. That does not mean your feelings are invalid or that you are being "dramatic." It just means that for whatever reason the person you are talking to is incapable of understanding you at a given moment(s). This does not mean you need to revert back to avoiding talking about your anger, anxiety, fear of uncontrollability, or unpredictability, it just means that you need to find somebody else to talk to. Support groups and psychologists are places where your feelings will be heard. You will see...the more you talk about the core source of your emotions the less you'll be feeling like if your boss eats a smelly sandwich at the board meeting you might need to punch him. Let it out. You do not have to be alone.