Who is Angry at Whom?

There must be anger in the land of the limited.  My recent posts  suggested that some and only some people  relate to the disabled in a patronizing manner.  Then I went a step farther, writing that  some in the population of the chronically healthy are just plain cruel.   That lit a fuse.

I do believe there are a lot of jerks out there.  But let me be the first to admit that too often I keep my finger on the trigger, and occasionally the itching gets to me.  I believe I am not alone.  One reaction to the last post:  “It’s the fighting stance that really sucks,” Christopher writes. “Why is (almost) everyone out in the world so combative… so, contentious? It becomes really tiresome, and so difficult to ignore after a while. It’s like there is a war going on and we’ve all been drafted in absentia. Reluctantly.”

Perception becomes truth with all of us.  Anecdotes have come flying my way, many suggesting that a chunk of the population has imposed a state of siege on those of us on canes or in wheelchairs.  A physician friend accuses me of overstating the problem.  I had long suggested that many folks parking their SUVs in our safe spaces are insensitive and angry.  I react, and it occurs to me that maybe I am an angry person, too.

What about you?

I do know I am an angry person.  Ask anyone in my family.  My limitations get to me.  Arms and legs, hands and fingers fail me.  Gaps in my mind run deep and trip me up.  Loss of memory taunts me.  I spend too much of my life on edge, though that does not mean I will go postal anytime soon.  But the pot is simmering, ,and I try hard to keep a lid on.

We are different people, hanging out on the same battlefield.  When others act or speak with cruelty, when people say and do ignorant things, I am amazed we do not react volcanically.  All of your horror stories recount measured reactions, though I have to believe the pot boils.  But you do it gracefully and show dignity.  You are amazing.

Maybe it’s just me with the anger issues.  If I am pissed , probably I will over react.

When you observe behavior that offends you but is targeted at someone else, what is your response?  I see cars parking in our spaces and get mad., even if we are not parking.  I am not defending my own attitude, but maybe we speak in tones that do not  convey urgency.  Or anger.  Turning up the heat may not be such a bad idea.


I am dropping the subject now before too many of you get mad at me.

32 Responses to Who is Angry at Whom?

  1. Wendy May 10, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

    Okay drop the subject for now but I have to just tell one more story. This is actually kind of funny because it is the flip side of my Costco SUVs story. In Los Angeles we have ia boutique grocery store called Trader Joe’s. The parking there is always very difficult, so at this particular store they hired a security guard to referee the shoppers as they park their cars. Many times I just drive to the parking lot. if I can’t see a handicapped spot that allows a place for my ramp to deploy. I just drive on On this particular day there was a spot for me, but I needed to back up in order to get into the spot properly. I went to back up and noticed that there was a car parked right behind me who would not move so I could back up. The security guard then came up to me and said the man behind you is going to call the police and have you arrested for taking a handicapped spot. He says you don’t have a handicapped insignia on your license plate. I smiled and told the security guard that he might be surprised when he sees me come out of my van in my scooter. The security guard smiled back at me and went and talk to the man who just drove away in a rage. So there you have it, we’re not even being nice to each other!

    • Richard M. Cohen May 10, 2014 at 10:11 pm #

      At least he left.


  2. David May 10, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

    I feel angry all the time,unfortunately I seem to take it out on myself.I am mad because I need so much help.My lack of ability makes me a burden. My wife is so kind and says you are not a burden, then I confess that I am a burden to me.Those of us that always have a good attitude and remain always positive, don’t let us fool you, its all an act. Its a necessary act so that people wont run away from us.I am convinced that most of my anger is instinctual,unavoidable.

    Like you Richard I am mad at the arms and legs that have failed me in concert with the fingers and toes

    The challenge here is to keep on going and that is whats most important to do.

    Especially difficult because we sometimes live on the edge. The real truth is that we all do, those of us with MS and so many more diseases just can see it more clearly,we are all teetering!

    I long for us all to be well balanced again!

    • Richard M. Cohen May 10, 2014 at 10:14 pm #

      Amen, brother. I get it.


  3. Carol May 10, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

    I remember getting angry at my MS a few times. It was borne out of frustration, and a sliver of self-pity. I was diagnosed 089/12. I am not disabled yet, but I have a healthy fear about my future. Old thinking: Get it out of your system, already, because if you ‘bottle it up’ it’ll kill ya. New thinking: Getting angry on a frequent basis will kill you — current research backs it up. My philosophy is that anger works to deal with a problem like a fan works to straighten a pile of papers.

    It wasn’t always this way for me though. Right out of college I taught 8th-grade English. My training drilled this into me: Hold onto your anger as much as you can; at the very least, save it for the end of the year for the biggest impact when you may need it most. So I did.

    During my third year of teaching I started grad school for technical writing and editing. I impressed one of my editing profs, and I got my first editing job by the end of my teaching year. It was a great big deal: My own office in downtown Chicago, a support staff, and a 100% increase in salary. Things started out well enough, but I remember the moment that changed things. I was making copies one day and my boss noticed that. He said that I had a support staff for these things. He said we need you for the big stuff. Oh. After that, I gave up what I was supposed to, but my ego swelled to the size of the Loop. When things weren’t right I yelled at people. I made one of them cry. And I refused to apologize because I figured it was justified and that they deserved it. Shame on me. And, of course, people started to treat me with kid gloves because they didn’t want to set me off. This continued for more than two decades, and it only got worse as I moved into positions with greater responsibility.

    Fast forward to 11 years ago. My beautiful mother, my best friend, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 81. I had no plans to come move home to Wisconsin because I was as geographically close to my six siblings as I could stand to be. Them of them still scare the hell out of me because of *their* anger. Well, my mother finally asked me directly, and I would not have refused her. Dropped it all and came back. Here’s the thing about my now-deceased mother: She never once complained about her illness. As things got worse, her grace became even more evident. I learned patience, kindness, and strength in the face of the struggle. My sibs would flip out regularly, most of it directed at me because as the youngest daughter and my never-married status she favored me. Reminded me of me, which was painful.

    After my mother passed in 2008, my dentist asked me to care for his mother, and I’ve been caring for elderly and ailing people since. I’ve learned to deal with life on life’s terms just like everyone I’ve cared for. I’ve learned that life is too short for anger, even if it seems to be justified, and when anger is on display for our loved ones, it only results in hurt, sadness, and alienation. No one, no one has the right to drop anger into someone else’s day. It NEVER helps. Worse, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s actually a sign of weakness. Asserting one’s self calmly, letting others have the last word, and treating people the way we want to be treated are what work.

    • Richard M. Cohen May 10, 2014 at 10:19 pm #

      Well thought out. You are a disciplined person. I wish I could be like you.


  4. Carol May 10, 2014 at 7:27 pm #

    Please, now and for all time, excuse my typos. It’s my vision, friends.

  5. Joan L May 10, 2014 at 7:27 pm #

    My anger blurts out in the middle of the night, when I can’t roll over, when my right side is pinned to the bed. Luckily, I live alone. And I am truly glad that I do. I can rant and rave all I want and nobody knows. I stay up late because I know what comes when I put my head on my pillow. But once day comes and I finally get out of bed, well, “I put on a happy face”- most times it’s real.

    • Richard M. Cohen May 10, 2014 at 10:22 pm #

      Good routine. Do you sleep well?

      • Joan L May 10, 2014 at 11:48 pm #

        I try to, twisting to get comfortable, but that’s where the screaming and crying come in when I get a freakin’ toe stuck in the sheet! I just sleep later in the morning to try to get enough. And take naps on my electric recliner – best purchase ever. I don’t allow myself to get in it before 7pm!

  6. Amy Corcoran-Hunt May 10, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

    The pot boils, yes it does. But I picture a screaming person in a wheelchair and it just kills me. I mean, look at that! Can’t do it. It’s far worse for my opponents if I am calm and superior, with a rapier tongue. Perhaps I shall indulge my short fuse after all this stem cell stuff works out.

    • Richard M. Cohen May 11, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

      I am all for screaming.


  7. Scott May 11, 2014 at 12:01 am #

    my anger and frustration are just beneath the surface. Every now and then it boils over and hurts those closest to me. ThAt’s not fair. They are easy targets.i am human but that excuse falls short when you are talking about family and friends. To the outside world I keep it together. I’m well adjusted and an inspiration. Screw that!! I’m no poster child.iaccept that my anger is part of the grieving process but I do not believe I have the right to wear my anger on my sleeve and let it fly when I’m aggrieved . That’s a lose*lose. Let the insentive and clueless stew in their own own ignorance. Celebrate those that get it. Take care of your loved ones.

    • Richard M. Cohen May 11, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

      Don’t direct the anger at loved ones. Look in the mirror and shoot.


  8. MB May 11, 2014 at 7:38 pm #

    Yes, I’m angry, on edge, bitter, and somewhat combative. I’m also sappy nice sometimes because people do things for me that I used to do for myself. Hold open a door? (Smile)Thank you. Pick up something I dropped? (Smile) Thank you. Straighten my collar since I now have a wonky arm and hand? (Smile) Thank you. Half the time I want to puke.

    You also suggested that maybe we should turn up the heat when we see something that offends and angers us. Then we risk becoming the mean disabled person who no one even likes. Might as well paint a target on my forehead. “Look at her hobble…serves the meanie right…”

    Glad i got that off of my chest. I think your blog is my therapy, Richard.

    • Richard M. Cohen May 11, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

      I think you are right about turning up the heat.


  9. Matt May 11, 2014 at 8:46 pm #

    Richard, I just want to know, how are you doing?

    • Richard M. Cohen May 12, 2014 at 8:43 am #


      Okay. The blood clot, shingles, etc. kicked the usual MS stuff. Recovery slow.


      • Matt May 12, 2014 at 10:12 am #

        Hopefully the stem cells will repair some of that and you will see progress. Move forward.

  10. Betty Moody May 11, 2014 at 9:16 pm #

    Me too. Richard, how are you doing?

    • Laurie May 12, 2014 at 8:15 am #

      Interview with Julia Roberts in the WSJ about using a 1980s wheelchair to prepare for a role: “But you don’t want to be bumping into walls and doorjambs and scraping your knuckles on things. I thought being in a wheelchair would be so easy and quiet, but it was actually quite tiring.”

    • Richard M. Cohen May 12, 2014 at 8:44 am #

      Recovery slow. MS stuff kicked in.


  11. Jenny May 12, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

    I think the anger boiled, for me, because this disease and the limitations it causes, are continuous … 24/7. There are no breaks. It use to be where I wouldn’t have to deal with it very much because I was up and mobile. Drop foot, walking issues and balance issues took care of that. But…when I would sit or go to bed the issues were gone! A slight momentary reprieve from having to deal with the demon! Then … spasms began. The weaker left leg spasms caused spasms when I was sitting or trying to sleep. They disrupted my sleep to the point I was up every hour and a half trying to walk them out. Waking up 3-5 times a night for 5 months caused even more exhaustion. Finally, I got relief with a couple of medications. (I am so reluctant adding medication to “fix” a problem). Anyway, that caused me to become angry. But God works in mysterious ways as the faithful always say. My husband and I were visiting my daughter and He showed us so many kind people. Coming into a store people from the inside rushed to open the door for me. Scooting up to Perkins for breakfast a gentleman stopped to ask about my nifty small scooter. We talked for 10 minutes! The customer that heard me ask my husband about were the jean section was in the store kindly came up and showed us where to go. There are countless other incidences that took my anger away. I put on my rose colored glasses. I learned we have a choice. Yes it is important to mourn our loss, anger is a part of that, but it is equally as important to live our lives and celebrate our successes, as small as they may be. I choose to use my limited energy focusing on the good that comes into my life. I do not want to waste the little energy I have on anyone or anything that can make me angry. I am over my anger and now choose to look through my rose colored glasses.

    • Richard May 12, 2014 at 3:59 pm #


      I am sure you look stunning in rose colored glasses, and your reasoning is sound. Go forth.


    • Carol May 12, 2014 at 6:51 pm #

      You rock, Jenny! It takes true grace to accept help because contrary to conventional wisdom (and, well, the GOP it seems), most who need help would rather be helping. Holding onto our pride is fruitless in the face of this, and once we accept our life as it is, the universe seems to conspire to make our path smooth. Keep the faith!

    • Linda May 21, 2014 at 9:20 am #

      Jenny I couldn’t agree more. I encounter many thoughtless and rude people out and about but I now choose to laugh off their small mindedness rather letting them push my buttons. Once I softened my heart to see the good in people I just seemed to find more and more of them. No coincidence I’m sure. I still mourn the loss of my “old” self but I’m finally making peace with the “new” me. The anger comes and goes but for the most part, ever since I decided to stop fighting the slowing down-literally and figuratively-a sort of peace settled in. I am finding a new happiness. Not better. Not worse. Just different. And I will continue to practicing my deep breathing every time I say ‘thank you’ to one of the kind souls offering me a helping hand. It’s a long journey but I’m getting there.

  12. Mark May 12, 2014 at 9:01 pm #

    Thank you, Richard. So many responses…and you thought we’d be mad. Quite the contrary. This is a great forum to be ourselves. We owe you one!

  13. MB May 12, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

    The Merriam Webster dictionary defines pride as, “a feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people.”

    While my struggles are, more often than not, exhausting and overwhelming, I don’t view holding onto pride as fruitless. In fact, it’s something I hang onto with dear life.

    If we give that up, what’s the point?

  14. Carol May 12, 2014 at 11:43 pm #

    Perhaps ‘hubris’ would’ve more appropriate. Better, simply expressed the thought that one has to humble one’s self to accept help with sincere gratitude. Sometimes people have trouble accepting help because they are *too* proud.

  15. Henriette May 15, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    Yoga has helped me keep my head above water with MS for years. If I skip a few days my body stiffens up like a board and my fatigue kicks in. if I don’t go to class i have a 20 minute tape I do at home. I love the quietness before my one of classes starts and I never really talk to anyone. I’m there to get my body going for the day. Sometimes in my morning class (before I work), the women are yappedee-yappedee-yap about shit I could care less about. Well today they started on kids and artists and blah-blah-blah-judgie-judgie and how you have to tell your kid when they aren’t good at something so they don’t waste their time. Well, I snapped, I said, “yea, well, everyone told me I wasn’t good at anything and all those negative people can shove my writing Emmys up their butt”…. oh my god, I couldn’t believe I said it. But then your during my first downward dog of the day, your last blog came into my head and I realized I wasn’t pointing my anger at them, I was pointing it at the world. I’m pissed I have to work so hard to keep my body going, or to even keep going, period. MS has a way of making me perpetually angry. Or maybe being perpetually angry brought on my MS. I’m not sure which came first, the chicken or the egg. thanks for talking about MS. You nailed it in Blindsided and you nail it in your blog…

  16. Elizabeth May 21, 2014 at 10:20 am #

    I don’t have MS, I have Chiari Malformation, Syringomyelia and Intracranial Hypertension, which all together share many of the same symptoms, pain and life frustrations.

    Richard, I saw you on the Today Show today, when you mentioned anger and frustration with the lack of understanding from the chronically well, it was a lightbulb moment for me. I have never thought of that term ” Chronically Well” before. They are those that diet and exercise will solve all their ills, thus it causes a lack of understanding towards those of us with a chronic illness. Proper diet and doing as much exercise AS ONE IS ABLE are very important of course! I had thought negatively of myself for being angry…angry for the loss of my career, loss of mobility, dexterity, cognitive abilities…thinking that I was feeling sorry for myself. LOL, now I feel normal for this. The CW can make, if we let them, the CI community feel as if it is our fault if our diet, even if it is a good diet and lack of exercise is the cause for our lack of well being.

    On handicap parking, I live in a small town where it is quite common for A. elderly drivers park in handicap parking spaces B. to see quite unusual vehicles like huge high 4X4’s with
    handicap tags. So before I get all pissed off at what may seem like an inappropriate car in the HP spot, I look at the tag. And also remember with a smile that my 87 year old father with COPD drove a Corvette with a tag.

  17. Michael May 21, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    Richard, I have heard your story before, but thought your Today Show appearance was remarkable. I lived with a condition that causes digestive tract paralysis and autonomic nervous system dysfunction since I was a teenager 26 years ago. Your honesty was refreshing and brings insight to the largest unmentioned minority in the United States, the chroniclly ill. I’ve never needed a wheelchair, but certainly have had days when I’ve wanted to put my stomach in one, and wish at times for a “normalcy” that may not exist unless you look to create for itself.

    As a leader of a national support group for this situation, you’ve put a voice to the anger and at times invisibility that a lot of folks feel, the folks that overcome it, have an honesty in themselves that they can share with the world, if it happens often enough in this society, maybe we will reach a day when inner beauty and smarts will overcome the shallowness of public appearance that you mentioned earlier.

    Agree with you about dogs by the way, best of luck and good luck on the clinical trial, hope you can tell the FDA to keep around for a while if it actually helps you some.