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Is it okay to be angry at someone who struggles with mental illness?
It’s a feeling of deep hurt that twists my stomach into knots. I give everything I can and feel that I get nothing in return. All I want is a connection, reliability, and for them not to be a downer all the time! I miss the person I use to know so well!
Even though I struggle with mental illness myself, I do get angry at others that struggle with it. Look, I get it! I know we tend to be very difficult to deal with. In an instant we can turn any moment into a stressful situation. We can be hard to deal with and there are going to be, probably a lot, of times where we let you down.
Hey, I’m an advocate for those of us with mental illness. I probably shouldn’t be encouraging you to get angry at us. Yet, I’m going to anyways. But, only under very specific instructions, so listen up!
Anger is generally thought of as a “bad” emotion. People, like me, tend to avoid feeling anger. Yet, the reality is that anger is just another emotion. There’s nothing wrong with feeling anger. It is a very natural response to an upsetting situation. There are actually four reasons that we get angry, which are the following:
- A threat to a person you feel it is your duty to protect.
- Examples: children, siblings, or close friends.
- A threat to your physical well-being.
- Example: someone cutting you off while driving.
- A threat to your core beliefs.
- Examples: religion and politics.
- A threat to your sense of self-worth.
- Example: someone talking bad about you.
Looking at why we get angry helps to better understand why there is nothing wrong with this natural response. When it comes to dealing with those that have mental illness, anger will inevitability happen. It’s a fact of life.
Let’s pretend that this anger is due to canceled plans at last minute by your loved one struggling with depression and anxiety. And, this is not the first, or even second, time they have done this. So, now you are angry. Let’s look at why you are feeling anger, so you don’t explode or feel guilty for being upset.
When they canceled your plans, it made you angry because their mental illness is a threat to this person that you love and care about. You know their depression and anxiety is acting up, so you’re worried about them.
It could also be that their cancelation goes against a core belief that you have. Such as, spending time together as a family is a priority. Or, the principle that if you make a commitment then you should stick to it.
Another reason for anger could be, that the threat is against your own self-worth. Is there something about yourself that they can’t stand? Do they not think you are worth spending time with?
There is a lot of things that can cause us to be angry with our loved one, which is why it’s important to understand why you are angry. So, let yourself be angry! It’s important to allow yourself to feel and understand the anger because there are always other emotions and feeling underlying the anger.
Now, here is the key to being angry at someone with mental illness. It is not okay to take your anger out on them. It’s like if your friend had cancer and again canceled plans last minute due to not feeling well. You wouldn’t take your anger out on them. It wasn’t their fault. They have no control over how their illness is making them feel.
Why would it be any different for a mental illness instead of a physical one?
Instead, express your anger in a healthy way that doesn’t hurt the person with mental illness. Here are some ideas for how to achieve that:
- Allow yourself to cry about it.
- Go for a walk.
- Vent to a trusted friend.
- Create some art.
- Throw ice at a wall and watch it shatter.
- Scream aloud in a safe space like a car.
- Write a letter to the person detailing how it made you feel but don’t send it.
Once you feel calm, go ahead, and reach out to your loved one. You can let them know that you missed them. (Be careful to not sound like you are trying to make them feel guilty for whatever happened.) Chances are, they are as angry at their mental illness as you are.
Then, check and see if there is anything you can do to help them out. After that, it’s important that you let them know how much you care about them. If they are struggling with their illness, then your love for them is what they really need at that movement.
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