When we are first injured or diagnosed, in time we become attuned to the need for adaptation and change. But that process is usually short-circuited by resentment and anger at some point, whether we want to admit it or not. It didn’t take long for my anger, my beast within, to try to commandeer my newly injured body and mind.
I remember writing angry poems — blaming God for my paralysis, blaming my surgeon for not doing anything about it, blaming Wall Street for all the greed in the world, blaming the older generation for war and poverty, blaming “The Establishment” for caring about only their status quo, blaming our acquisitive culture for our nation’s skin deep values, blaming Madison Avenue for creating a nation of mindless consumers. Wherever I turned, whatever I observed, it was easy for me to assign blame. My inner beast had taken control.
To still the everpresent discontent I turned to alcohol, often drinking myself into an unconscious state, not remembering anything the next morning. Drugs followed, whatever gave me a new high or low, anything to escape who I was. I’ve heard a lot of people say they don’t regret a moment of their lives, but I have a hard time believing them. For myself, I regret years, possibly even an entire decade.
The inner beast feeds on the carcass of hope. When hope dies, resentment floods in on the heels of depression and wastes no time in evolving into full-blown anger, even, at times, rage. One morning I woke up with a hangover, wheeled into the kitchen in search of water and barely missed running over ceramic shards on the linoleum. When I asked my roommate about it, he laughed, saying, “You don’t remember? You’re kidding!” Then he recounted my drunken tantrum of the night before when I smashed lamps and vases by throwing them into our fireplace. I looked at him in disbelief.
I think that was when I first realized that I had to cage up the beast. I tried to sedate him with drugs, but that didn’t work. Finally, a lot of things combined to help me restore inner harmony. It took years. Hope returned from turning back to God, which led to gratefulness, then love, finding my soulmate, more education, a decent job, a little success.
Sometimes I wonder if all of us — what we call the disability community — are on a collective parallel journey. Looking back I see our anger in disruptive demonstrations, sit-ins, finger pointing, shouting down others — much of it with good cause. And I see a lot of good has come of it. As a community we have matured, and progress — while difficult and still incomplete — comes a little easier now. We may have tamed our inner beast, but once in a while we still take off the chains.
I look forward to the day when our world will see us as peaceful and content, and I wonder … would we ever have come this far without our anger?