Looking Back in Anger

John Connor avatar

by John Connor |

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Back in the day, I always wanted to be a columnist. That day was so long ago it was before sunrise. In my youthful naivety, I never thought about generating an idea a week. I also never considered it would be about my travails with an illness. Still, there is such a vast hinterland to MS that maybe it is possible.

A news report in this week’s Multiple Sclerosis News Today gave scientific validity to something that I’m certain has affected me. Years ago, I mentioned anger issues to my neurologist and got something of a noncommittal stare. Maybe he was right – I didn’t get annoyed.

I was a member of an MS exercise group from near the beginning of my diagnosis in 2009. We started each session talking about our week. At first, this struck me as being somewhat hippy-dippy. But by the end, I found this more important than the exercise! We discussed anger after I really lost it at the class.

The spark was immaterial — there are rights and wrongs to every dispute — but the outcome was an all-encompassing rage. In my case, it was to verbally demolish the physiotherapist running the group (violence never occurred to me even when I was able-bodied enough to indulge in it). There is an upside to a liberal education.

What is not in dispute is that I lost all control of my feelings — there was no filter. So this was blind rage? I’ve read about it, and indeed, met ex-cons who can go from zero to 100 faster than a Maserati. You curtail anything that will fuel their ability to accelerate. And here I was joining them in the overtaking lane.

This had never happened to me before; my work life is at base drawing together a diverse and somewhat chaotic group of performers. Empathy and calmness whatever storm is occurring is a prerequisite for my job. You need some talent, sure, but no amount of that will keep the show on the road if you’re driving badly.

Talking therapy may have helped, but from what I could garner from internet research this was probably a physical change in the brain, not a mental one. This first instance was some five-plus years ago and led to my family again having to adjust to something that was hidden, and like a sleeping volcano, it would just erupt.

When my son was in the throes of his teenage years, I found it impossible to be a patient parent. Between his still developing brain and my degrading one, we clashed. When he was doing his first major exams at 16, we decided to go away for a brief holiday. It would give him the space to revise away from calls from his mates to party.

His welfare was far more important, so I decided to stay at home. In those days, I could still look after myself reasonably well, and away from the heat of battle, make rational, calm decisions.

Awareness of this hair trigger to anger has ameliorated it somewhat. The only time I still succumb is when walking. So much attention is devoted to staying upright that my usual command-and-control centers are offline.

A while back, I started throwing a hissy fit at the dinner table. But hey, I was sitting down, so recovery was possible.

“What’s really annoying is that I can’t even storm out of here!”


Big laugh from all — including me.

So, that’s one line of my MS sitcom written…


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Fiona Tunilla avatar

Fiona Tunilla

Reading this has explained, perhaps, what could be going on with me. The rollercoaster of emotions you describe feels like my life in words. I'm the most placid person who is so positively nice it's almost sickening. Now...not so much! Thanks for explaining it so well. You've never met me but you know me better than my family.

Tris avatar


My husband has primary progressive MS diagnosed later in life. He unexpectedly has loud anger rages and always feels they are warranted and that the other person is in the wrong. He will not admit these hot tempered tantrums are MS related. I find this is one of the most difficult aspects of the MS
as it is very damaging to relationships.

John Connor avatar

John Connor

Hi Tris,
Try to get your husband to read this column. As far as I know there is still no definitive proof about any of this but now that I'm aware of it as a possibility I tend to control the rages more. It's also annoying that now I'm far more disabled everyone can get away from me. They can just go upstairs! Bleeding cheek! Cheers John

John Connor avatar

John Connor

It's hard on your family too. It's worth flagging up. Glad I may have helped. Cheers John.

Nina Edwards avatar

Nina Edwards

This is exactly what I've been trying to tell my family about my son's anger. He's had some anger issues regarding his dad at a young age. However, he's had MS for 23 years and he's 46 and his anger has increased. Thank you!

John Connor avatar

John Connor

Hi Nina Get your son to read my column - I still get the rages. Usually [I'm aware] of them. Severe pain though is another thang! Cheers John

Rita de Cassia avatar

Rita de Cassia

Please, does anyone know if there is any medication for those anger/mood swings issues in MS? The anger comes from nowhere and I will lose it, it seem there is no tomorrow. And then, I feel so bad for hurting people's feelings. I 've taken antidepressant before, but I don't want go back to it, because of all the side effects. I wish I could control it. Please help me. Thank you.

John Connor avatar

John Connor

Hi Rita I don't know of any! But if everyone [inc u] is aware that this is a real thang it can help to ameliorate the issue! Cheers John

Josh M avatar

Josh M

Hi, can someone please tell me how long anger brought on by MS can last? Is it possible that it can last days? Like can a person with MS be angry at someone for a couple days who unknowingly upset them? This happened to me and after a couple days of this person ignoring me bc she was angry, she won't tell me what it was that angered her so much because she now feels like it's nothing. But it hurt me so bad, honestly, and she won't communicate with me. thank you


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