Alert
Close

Watch the NASCAR race on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Join the Drive to End Hunger!

HIGHLIGHTS

Open
AARP Games Tournament

REAL POSSIBILITIES

AARP Real Possibilities
Car buying made easy with the AARP Auto Buying Program

Download the ipad App

AARP-iPad-ePub-app

DRIVER SAFETY

Piggy bank on the road - AARP Driver Safety

Take the new AARP Smart Driver Course!

Contests and
Sweeps

Safe Driving in 2014 Sweepstakes

Learn how AARP Driver Safety can help you stay safe—and enter for a chance to win $1,000. See official rules. 

KEEP BRAIN ACTIVE!

AARP Games - Play Now!

AARP BOOKS

Planning for Long-Term Care for Dummies

Get expert advice on planning for your own or a relative’s future care needs.

Webinars

Learn From the Experts

Sign up now for an upcoming webinar or find materials from a past session.

Learning centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.

 

Arthritis

Heart Disease

Diabetes

Most Popular

Viewed

share your thoughts

What does the health care law mean to you? Your story is important. We read and learn from every story and it helps us in our educational efforts. We may even use your comments (with permission) to brief legislators, inspire readers and more. Please share your story with us. Do

Chronically Upbeat

An Angry Man

Author and TV producer Richard M. Cohen writes about living with a chronic illness.

I get angry sometimes. Maybe too many times. Illnesses have been hanging around my doorstep for decades. The multiple sclerosis is an old companion and only progresses, robbing me of eyesight, motor skills, really the ability to live as I choose. Progress has been slow and steady, and I do not know my destination.

Buttoning shirts and tying shoes, getting where I need to go—all of life's little tasks—become epic battles. Looking for an address or just crossing the street become difficult challenges. It sounds petty, but it adds up. I do not complain much. I am just explaining now, I swear. I do swear. Loudly, as I get mad.

Colon cancer attacked me at the end of the last millennium and took its toll. My brush with that killer touched off an anger that rocked the house. Rage is a better word to describe my demeanor at that time, when the crucible brought Hell too close for comfort. I was thrown off kilter as the cancer came calling a second time, piling on top of the multiple sclerosis I had battled for decades. I was roaring.

My wife, Meredith, told me I was hurting my children and her with my outbursts and silent sulking. I became cold and distant from those around me, and they are the ones who love me. Something had to give. With Meredith's help, I found control and I learned not to point weapons in the house. The damage had been done, but reparations followed, and the love of a family won out.

Still, I am an angry person. The line has been crossed. My dependence on others has increased even as I have fought it with all the strength I could muster. The falls are all too common now, in the street or down the stairs. There is a self-loathing that can neither be denied nor explained. High emotion is directed at myself.

When Meredith comments on my anger, she says it upsets everyone in the family. The boys have gone off to college, so I put our 17-year-old daughter, Lily, on the witness stand. She did not hesitate: "It is not pleasant being around your anger, hearing you yelling." Does it hurt the family? Lily paused. "Well, it doesn't help," she answered, pulling her punches, I thought.

I have always distinguished between blasting those around me and firing into the air. I have long believed that anger is a valid coping mechanism if it is a victimless crime. There may be no such thing. Lily told me that just because my anger is not directed at her doesn't mean it does not get to her.

At the same time, bottling up feelings serves no one either. Like the bubble under the rug, sooner or later it will pop up. Anger is a piece of the defiance I feel toward my problems. I will not go gentle into that good night. Dylan Thomas's formula for dying is mine for living.

My father puzzled me with his consistent passive acceptance of his MS. He was forced to leave the practice of medicine, which he loved almost as much as he loved his family. He went from cane to walker to wheelchair. The old man lost his treasured independence. Aren't you ever angry? I asked him. "Why should I be angry? Things could be worse," he calmly responded. His mother had the disease before him and never complained either.

Perhaps it is childish to rail at what we cannot control. My friend Larry, who appeared in my book Strong at the Broken Places and has appeared in this column, laughed and offered to send me to anger management school. Larry lives with bipolar disorder. It once wrecked his life, but he somehow found his own road to peace.

"Richard," he tells me, "service is at the core of peace. My experiences broke me, until I learned to serve others." Larry's pull to serve others was intuitive.

I, too, am committed to helping others—in my case, the disabled and chronically ill. That work offers wonderful satisfaction. I wish it brought me peace.

Richard M. Cohen is an Emmy-winning TV news producer and author. His column is published on AARP The Magazine Online every two weeks.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Woman trying on glasses in optometrists shop

Members save up to 60% off eye exams and 30% off eyeglasses at Pearle Vision.

Prescription medication spilling out of bottle

Members get a free Rx card from AARP® Prescription Discounts provided by Catamaran.

AARP/Walgreens Wellness Bus Stops in Clarksdale, MS

Members can get exclusive points offers from Walgreens and Duane Reade.

Caregiving walking

Caregiving can be a lonely journey, but AARP offers resources that can help.