“I have learned through bitter experience this one supreme lesson: to conserve my anger. And as heat conserved is transmitted into energy, even so our anger controlled, can be transmitted into a power that can move the world.” The quote above is from Mohandas Gandhi. I think it captures a very real component of human nature and gives us pause to examine our own behaviors and actions. Tragedy and sadness of any sort can fuel a torrent of emotions—among them anger.
Anger is a reasonable response for a woman who has had preeclampsia and perhaps lost a child or suffered debilitating damage to her body. Anger seems most rational for the husband who finds he is a single parent because of preeclampsia. Anger is almost logical for parents of a premature baby who may face a lifetime of physical and developmental challenges because of preeclampsia.
I get angry too when I realize that ignorance of the symptoms of preeclampsia—simple awareness—might be paid for with a woman’s life or that of her baby. I get really angry when I realize that preeclampsia, when we consider its scope of impact, is one of the most poorly funded areas of research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
To be fair, it’s not unreasonable for medical professionals to also well up with anger at the helplessness they sometimes feel when they can assess the problem but have no effective intervention to save mother and/or child. Few things are as frustrating and anxiety producing as the sense of being powerless.
Finally, it’s not at all unreasonable for all of us to seethe over the lack of societal awareness and understanding of preeclampsia. We know that approximately one in 12 pregnancies will result in a diagnosis of preeclampsia and that 25% of those cases will be severe. With 4,300,000 births in the U.S. in 2006—that equates to a diagnosis of severe preeclampsia every 6 minutes of every day of the year. It’s easy to be angry.
The challenge (as we all know) is to not let the anger consume us. For me, this is where Gandhi’s quote becomes useful. If I can use my anger’s energy to address a root cause of that anger—that is anger well channeled.
Over the past few months I’ve had the privilege of getting out from behind my desk to meet many preeclampsia survivors, families, members, supporters, and researchers around North America. To be sure, I cannot presume to know the inner thoughts of all these good people; I don’t know where the anger lies, how deep it may run, or if it’s even there at all. However, I have seen people “well channeling” their energies and I am hazarding a guess that some of it is out of frustration and anger. And my message today is a simple one…that’s OK.
You have every right to be mad—real mad—and as a result, that energy (well channeled) is fueling research as well as public awareness.
That anger has become an empowering, liberating force. None of us know with any certainty if we will be the one to, as Gandhi’s quote suggests, “move the world.” I dare say that Rosa Parks never thought of herself as an American icon—but in her quiet and dignified way—she changed America for the better. She moved the world and I suspect she used a little “anger well channeled.”
Our mission is vitally important and we must use every tool we can to succeed. It’s easy to be angry, but it takes work to harness and “channel” that potential energy. It is that very commitment to hard work and heavy lifting that makes the Preeclampsia Foundation—and all its supporters—a “channeling” force for good.