Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Misguided Anger isn't the Answer (But Sometimes I Can't Help Myself)

My husband has been sick for a few days, sicker than I think I've ever seen him. Thankfully it isn't anything serious, a very bad cold or maybe the flu. He's been down for the count for several days, and although I've quite enjoyed having complete control over the Roku for the last few nights, I haven't appreciated having to manage the most difficult parts of our day, from dinner through bedtime, by myself.

And of course, when our son, who has tremendous sleep challenges is finally having a decent streak of sleeping through the night, my husband's coughing kept me up for a good part of last night. As I attempted to get a few hours of sleep on the couch, I had some choice words for the man.

But obviously, this is not his fault. He clearly would not choose to feel this way, and was feeling pretty darn miserable himself. And yet, despite my concern for my husband's health, I couldn't help but feel angry. At the situation, yes, but also (completely irrationally) at him.

My son Moe, who is autistic, has been having a pretty rough time. Though things have evened out a bit, we had a couple weeks of truly horrendous behavior. He was waking for several hours every night. He was having major meltdowns several times a day, was biting and scratching at an all time frequency and intensity. He was clearly struggling and my heart broke for every time he would melt into tears and frustration and I had no way to help him.

And yet, as I had to wrestle him to the ground for yet another diaper change, dodging scratches and bites, I couldn't help but be angry. Not just at the situation, but at him. I am not proud to say it, but I'd be lying if I didn't think to myself "why does he have to be like this?" I am able to take a step back and remind myself that as frustrating as things are for me, they must be a thousand times harder for Moe. But at 2:00 in the morning, when he is maniacally giggling and running into walls, the overwhelming feeling I have is, just plain pissed off.

I know that I am frustrated at an impossible situation. But being angry at "the flu" or at "autism" doesn't feel particularly satisfying. It is much easier to place blame where one doesn't exist. People do it all the time, yelling at the customer service agent who had nothing to do with making your computer and is just trying to help, or flipping off someone in traffic who cut you off but was probably also just tired from a long day at work.

It happens. We're only human, after all. And I'm not going to claim to have any answers as to how to stop being angry, or how to live with the frustration of a situation that is out of your control. Sometimes it is enough to just write it down, admit to the feelings, however irrational, and go about the rest of your day.

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Jen Bush is a writer, blogger, and speaker. You can follow her family's autism story at Anybody Want a Peanut? And check out her new blog, The Dinner Rush!