Chances are you haven't heard of pain rage. Mainly because it's a word that I just made up to describe an all too common symptom of being in chronic pain; it’s probably not something most people experience in their lives.
To be quite honest, it wasn't something I thought that anyone else experienced until posting in a chronic illness support group to reach out for help. Others seemed to share my problem, so I figured it was time to introduce it to the world. Pain rage is not always apparent to sufferers or those around them – or those around the – but it's a very real thing.
Let me explain.
What Is Pain Rage?
Chronic pain is unrelenting, long-lasting discomfort. Aside from the obvious agony, it causes a whole plethora of aftershocks. First, you become incredibly tired extremely quickly. All your body can do is deal with the acute pain, so it gives up trying to do other things.
Next to go is your concentration. Ask me a question during a bad pain day and don't expect a coherent response. Not only can I not focus on what you're telling me, but there's also no chance of being able to access to appropriate content in my brain to respond.
Finally, usually, after a full day of extreme agony, comes the pain rage. It presents as an overwhelming sense of anger, directed at the nearest possible target. Everyone around me becomes the enemy; stupid, incompetent and unable to get through a conversation without annoying me in some way. Everything I do is horrible and exhausting something goes in the most inconvenient way. I want to scream and smash things up and physically assault anyone who dares to cross my path.
As a complete pacifist, this is not normal behavior.
How To Spot Pain Rage
It's only recently that I've started being able to see pain-rage for what it is: seething, unjustified anger. The aggression inside me is because of the physical discomfort, but I was taking it out on the external world. When you're in the moment, it can be impossible to have that perspective. Here are a few tips to help to help you identify pain-rage.
- You’re tired, in pain and annoyed. A good hint that your rage is not real is that it’s occurring at the peak of a particularly bad spell. I now have a rule not to make any big life decisions on a bad day, since I've even broken up with my boyfriend during many of these outbursts before.
- Everything is frustrating. If you're upset with one specific thing, then that's normal. If you're still upset when several remedies to said thing have been suggested and have also got angry about several sub-problems in the process, it's probably pain rage.
- You want to smash things. You're sitting in bed, everything is hurting, and all you can do is eye up the vase on the side, considering how satisfying it would be the fling it against the wall. It's time to accept the problem for what it is!
How To Deal With Pain Rage
Once you know you’re experiencing a bout of pain rage, it’s time to do something about it. In the very short time since I decided this was a thing, I have gathered are a few of the potential solutions that can curb the anger.
Tolerant Support System
Looking back, there have been many, many people in my life who have tolerated my verbal diatribes when I’m ouch-y and angry. Your loved ones care about you, and if you can explain what’s happening, then you’ll find they can be extremely tolerant. Self-awareness if the key here – you can’t just scream at someone and expect them to empathize.
Once you start becoming more aware of pain-rage, it becomes quite funny. Yesterday, I was experiencing a particularly difficult episode. I was attempting to work out some HTML, and it was too stressful for my frazzled brain. To get through it, I simultaneously savagely screaming at my boyfriend while explicitly forcing him to stay with me until the task was over. The conversation ended with him standing up, madly searching his pockets and crying ‘I just can't find any sh*ts to give.’ We were both in hysterics the whole time.
Things To Smash
After reaching out for help in a social media support group, I received an incredible suggestion. Not only did I find that other sufferers regularly experience pain-rage, one person had the perfect solution. She kept a set of spare dishes for this exact situation and would take them outside to smash when she was feeling particularly rage-y.
WARNING: be sure to wear protective eyewear and do this in a safe environment, or not at all. Safety first, kids.
A Place To Go
If you're lucky enough to be able to get up and walk when your chronic pain is bad, then this can be a great tactic for letting out the rage. Find a quiet place somewhere near your house and reserve it for pain-rage occasions. On bad days, simply power-walk your way there. Doing this will help burn out all the adrenaline and then you'll have a relaxing oasis to rest in at the end of your trip!
If Some-One You Know Has Pain Rage.
Don't panic! Simply remind yourself that it's nothing personal and merely a result of their unseen agony. Allow them to vent their frustrations, no matter how much their opinions twist and turn. You can also try and lighten the situation with humor but never be patronizing. Also, don't tell them that they're just experiencing pain-rage unless you want to have your head bitten off with a million reasons why this is not the case.
Wait until they have calmed down – it will happen, eventually – and then take the opportunity to reflect on what happened. More likely than not, they will have realized they were being irrational. However, it always helps to remind them that it's hard work being in pain and that it's ok that they got angry.
Pain-rage is a rather unpleasant side effect of being in major discomfort all the time – especially for those around us. Chronic illness sufferers can seem irrational, aggressive and unreasonable on their worst days, but in reality, this reaction is not under their control.
Anger with pain probably has some prehistoric benefit – like affording you the ability to fight off a tiger after it’s bitten you – but that’s another story for another day. Today is merely about raising awareness of pain rage and how to cope with it.
Share this definition and together we can aid the growing understanding of chronic illness and make the world a happier, more tolerant place!