Smashing Pumpkins And Other S#%t

I love to break things. Yeah, I know, who doesn’t? But I get such a satisfying feeling when I break something. Maybe not a bone, or a really expensive gadget, but breaking something cheap and discardable is satisfying. VERY satisfying! 

In 2011, after I was sick for a year, but had yet to learn much about MECFS, I remember being so incredibly angry — angry about the uncertainty of my health, angry that I had an invisible disease only I could see. At least back then I had some energy I could use to unleash my anger. I broke ceramic plates and cups, wood cutting boards, and on one occasion, I even destroyed two pumpkins and a ridiculously large zucchini my neighbor gave me. My buddy, Thomas, and I took our baseball bats to the backyard and pitched the giant produce to each other. Soon pumpkin guts were flying everywhere including at my face. It was fun and cathartic. I haven’t experienced such catharsis since. And seeing as today is National Pumpkin Day (I know, there’s a silly day for everything. I still can’t believe I forgot to celebrate National Oysters Rockefeller Day. WTF?), I must say I miss bashing a big pumpkin. 

Taking a baseball bat to a pumpkin was my way of coping, and while I have always paid a physical price for my outbursts while I’ve been sick — usually immense pain and weakness for a few days — at least back then it was an option.

These days it’s not an option. There’s no smashing pumpkins or breaking plates, and any physical outburst even remotely resembling those acts will send my health into a free fall. Rightly or wrongly, I still justify my furious actions by the awfulness of my situation and the disease that causes it. I do my best to stay composed, at least in the presence of my caregivers. When I’m angry, on the verge of exploding in a tantrum to rival that of even the worst toddler, I take a breath and firmly say, using my limited vocalization, “I need a minute.” Those four words make up a significant portion of my daily speech allotment. Some days I can only whisper my need for privacy, but eventually I get my point across. 

Then, after my caregiver has left, I find a light object and in one short, tense motion I hurl it against the wall. Bam! 

Over the months I’ve thrown everything from sunglasses and remote controls to seashells and tanning goggles. 

Before I got sick this sort of conniption would have been cathartic for me, to a certain extent it still is, but now my rage does not come without consequences. Almost immediately after I throw something in anger, my muscles seize up and fill with acid. The pain and burn is so severe I have no choice but to remain completely motionless. Then a profound weakness consumes my muscles and a sort of apoplexy hits as I remain unimaginably still, thinking to myself, “Why the hell did I just do that, was it really worth it?” A few minutes earlier the answer would have been an emphatic “Yes,” but dealing with the repercussions after the fact is a much different story — a story full of remorse and sorrow. 

MECFS is a debilitating disease which has left me severely deficient of key hormones like cortisol — crucial to processing anger and stress. And this only affirms my belief that there really is no healthy way to deal with anger when you have MECFS. 

Some people have suggested meditation, or worse, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). I don’t hesitate to throw my sunglasses at these people. 

“Hey, have you tried meditation?” Well, let’s see I’ve been sick for six years, do you really think you’re the first person to bring up meditation? As a matter of fact, I have tried meditation many times, I even went to a meditation group for awhile. It was great. I love meditation. But I want you to try something, if you will, or maybe just imagine yourself trying it. Stay in bed all day, don’t get out, just stay there. And when your stagnation becomes too maddening because you’re antsy from staring at the ceiling all day and you have yet to figure out how to eat, bathe, use the bathroom or drink water, then and only then should you close your eyes and try to meditate. 

The truth is, internalizing the trauma of being bedridden only makes it worse. It’s like someone telling you not to move or hours and then reflect on how it makes you feel and what kind of mental calisthenics you can do to sit still even longer. 

Forget that! Every fiber of my being wants to throw something at the wall, or break a window, or punch some stranger in the face (#sorrystranger), or do some hardcore drugs and wake up on top of a refrigerator in an unfamiliar house spooning a blowup doll who bears a striking resemblance to Whoopi Goldberg. 

Too much? Sorry. But see what I mean? These are the kinds of thoughts and emotions I deal with on a daily basis, and I have no way to cope besides: (A.) hurt myself in a fit of rage, or (B.) go insane trying to deal with the anger about my physical ailments by using some cognitive behavioral hocus pocus.

I often think about how I dealt with anger before I got sick. It was so simple: I put on mellow music from Jack Johnson, took a few rhythmic breaths, gripped a long metal bar and threw around a few hundred pounds of iron until my body was exhausted and my mind was finally at peace. And if for some reason lifting weights didn’t assuage my anger, I would run up a bunch of stairs with fifty pounds strapped to my back, or do some push-ups wearing a plastic sauna suit to sweat my frustrations away.

It is the mere thought of these past methods of coping that help heal my current frustrations the most. And until I can exercise again, until I can take a Louisville Slugger to an overgrown zucchini, well, I may just have to settle for throwing my sunglasses. 

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16 thoughts on “Smashing Pumpkins And Other S#%t

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  1. Wow – something else I can relate to. A few yrs ago it got really bad and I did manage to throw some things despite never having thrown anything in anger in my life! (I’m in my 30s). Sometimes I would hit the commode with my fist or even hit myself.

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  2. Such a great blog post and it’s good to hear someone be so honest about the anger this illness causes. I sometimes beat myself up for being so frustrated and furious but you’ve made me feel a little more normal (whatever that means with ME/CFS!) Over the years, I’ve wrecked a laptop, mobile phone and a bedside cabinet in what my partner refers to as the ‘green eyed monster’ rage. But mainly I cry hot tears of anger and sheer frustration. I have used a really good ME/CFS counsellor to help me cope better with the illness and it has made a big difference although I accept it’s not for everyone. Hopefully, one day, I’ll get back to throwing weights round the gym – that day can’t come too soon.

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    1. Hey Becky. Yikes those are some expensive things to break, but hey you gotta let the anger out somehow. I prefer items under $10 though. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one struggling with Hulk tendencies. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Hi Jamison, you’ve probably thought of this but would watching other people smashing pumpkins, blowing things up etc work? There’s got to be someone on YouTube who has a similar predilection for the destruction of gourds, I would have thought. Not quite the same but might help a little? I’m more inclined towards the rehearsing-arguments-in-my-head (arguments which, of course, I always win) type of anger management, which doesn’t really work either 😦 Good luck with finding an outlet.

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    1. Hi Jo. That’s so funny you mention it. When I first posted this someone actually offered to smash a pumpkin for me and vide tape it. Haha. Not quite the same but definitely entertaining. And don’t get me started on the fictional arguments in my head. It gets intense! Especially about politics.

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  4. I am no where near as sick as you with my ME but I can totally relate to the punching people comment (don’t worry, haven’t done it either) . Only 1 year in and am still trying to wrap my head around this and deal with the frustration. One step forward, 5 steps back🙄

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  5. YES!!!! To all of the above!
    I am blessed to still be able to speak lots, so I swear profusely, and rant at shouting volume.
    And I pay for it. But as you say – there is no healthy way of dealing with the anger, so you do what you can, or must, and you live with the consequences.
    It’s shit, isn’t it?!

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  6. It’s so hard to handle stress with this illness when exercise used to be how I dealt with stress.

    I’ll sometimes have my partner take me out in my wheelchair and propel myself until I’m short of breath to try and get that rush, but alas, I always pay for it.

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  7. It’s good to hear someone with mecfs writing about their emotional life. I’ve noticed how the ‘community’ tends to avoid it on social media. Understandable, considering the history of it being written off as a MH problem and tick box therapy (cbt) the answer. But what’s not discussed is still there- millions of people stuck in their crippled bodies, day after day, with no end in sight, watching other illnesses get a load of positive press and funding whilst we’re neglected and maligned, unable to do anything about it. As well as the daily struggles of eating, washing and finance. All a recipe for strong and complex feelings and reactions. When I was really bad I was a bit numb to it all, emotionally blank, but since regaining a little strength I am pure rage. Raging at the injustice of it all, at the naysayers, at anyone asking me to use my energy on their bullshit, at huge inhumane companies making profits while the likes of us and many others rot in silence, at the sheer frustration of coming up against my limitations. Ironically I used to be into meditation and yoga before I was ill. Now, the thought of it pisses me off most off the time. A bit of deep breathing and stretching when I can do it does ease some pain and calm my body when it’s in sympathetic overload. Mainly I long to let rip in full on physical activity, like boxing or to go wild in some way- like your night out, or to engage in a heated debate. Basically anything involving lifeforce and confirming I am actually alive and part of this world. Today I’ve settled for ranting on your blog post, thank you for it and for the opportunity to channel some of my rage. 👍

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    1. Hey! You are welcome to rant her anytime. One thought: I’m thinking about asking someone to break something for me when I get mad. Not the same but it might help. Have someone drop a pumpkin off the deck haha. Thanks for reading!

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