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When depression and caregiving turn into anger…

Yesterday in a drug store, I was waiting in line to pay when a woman jumped in line in front of me. My reaction was to let out a gasp of surprise.  She turned to me and started lashing out:  “I was before you and it’s my turn…What manners you have!  You are a moron…”  And on the comments went, all with a tone of unbridled anger.  I was in shock, and to be honest, a little afraid of what her tirade might escalate to. And then I noticed.

She was buying an item for pain control and that gave me pause.  She was probably either in pain or someone she loved was in pain.  Or maybe she had just reached a limit in caregiving and she was pissed with the world.

That is something we forget is so much a part of depression and caregiving of a depressed loved one: anger. We are angry we have this disease; we are angry because it is not fair that our loved one is suffering; we are angry because we can’t magically change our situation.

Anger eats away at us until it seeks an outlet.  Sadly that outlet is often lashing out at those nearest and dearest.  And worse it can lead to crazy behavior sexually or even worse through guns used on others.  Often anger ends in suicide, spawning even more anger in those left behind, creating a vicious circle.

With the woman in the store, the incident led me to consider how I handle anger, how I respond to this illness we call depression.  It taught me that I need to give others more of a benefit of the doubt:  maybe it is particularly bad day for this person; maybe a loved one is in the throes of depression; maybe no one has said a kind word to them in ages.

Next time I find myself in a situation like yesterday, I will pause and ask for strength for them and for me, that we can turn anger into a force of understanding.  How about you?

-Bernadette

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5 Responses

  1. wonderful advice! If we can prepare ourselves ahead of time for confrontations with nasty people, it will be easier to not over react to them. I will vow to myself in advance that if someone treats me badly I will just take a deep breath, mentally forgive them, and remain calm.

    The other thing I have found that helps me with my anger and taking it out on innocent victims is that when i notice I’m treating them badly I stop and say, “look, I’m sorry I’m yelling at you. I’m not angry at you, I’m angry at and you just happen to be the one I am talking to now.” Every time I’ve done that, the other person says, “I understand”. It helps me calm down and let’s the other person know I’m not really directing my anger at them. If a person knows you are angry at something ELSE, they can tolerate some of your venting (as long as it’s witin reason, of course!) 😉

    I’m sure if that lady had just stopped and said, ‘look, I’m sorry… I’m just in a lot of pain and had a really bad day..” You would have immediately felt compassion for her and reassured her that it was ok. We should do that more often. Just be honest with people as to why we are being such a b*tch.

  2. Juniper, one of the staff writers for Persephone magazine, wrote a series of pieces about caring for her husband who has depression and self-harming behaviors: http://persephonemagazine.com/tag/caregiving/ — you might find it to be useful since it’s pretty comprehensive (everything from meds to talking with others about the condition to meds – great articles).

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