Facing Anger

“When was the last time you got really angry?”

This was a question that came up in my session with my therapist this week, and I didn’t have an answer.

I did not go into therapy this week expecting to talk about being angry. It had been two weeks since we’d met, and I was running through updates on things we’d been talking about in past sessions. One of the things that came up had to do with people talking about me rather than to me about my life.

“Does it make you angry?” she asked.

“Yes,” I responded immediately, and then found myself backpedaling. “Well, at least annoyed. Angry might be too strong a term.”

She pointed out that it was my first response, though. We talked about what “annoyed” versus “angry” feels like, and which response actually felt more genuine in that situation. It was definitely anger. She asked me to sit with it for a minute.

And I remembered something I haven’t super consciously considered in a while. Once, when I was about 14, I was fighting with my younger brother. At some point, I got really, really angry. I chased him up the stairs to his room. He slammed the door in my face, and before I knew what was happening, my fist came down on the door…and I heard something in the door crack. I realized in that moment just how capable I was of causing serious harm to another human being, and it terrified me.

I don’t remember much of the rest of that evening, aside from knowing that I retreated to my own room immediately and probably stayed there as long as I possibly could. And I’ve never lashed out in anger like that again.

I don’t do well with anger. I’ve known this for a long time, but in therapeutic settings had only really worked with my lack of coping skills around other people’s anger. I haven’t spent a lot of time digging into the fact that, for more than half my life now, my response to my own anger has been to freeze – I make myself and my anger as small as possible so that I don’t risk hurting anyone. I want more than anything to be a person who makes other people feel safe, and I don’t know how to feel safe around anger. I freeze because I’m even more afraid of my own anger than I am of other people’s.

My therapist posited that perhaps there’s a link between the amount of time I spend freezing and trying to make myself small, and the fact that most of my joints hurt almost all of the time.

It’s not a thing that’s going to be solved just by recognizing that it’s there…but that’s step one, at least.

To Do Lists

I’ve been trying to get through each day by way of to do lists the past couple of weeks. Often, they go something like this:

  • Organize request list at work
  • Do songwriting homework
  • Look for new therapist to help with anxiety management
  • Remember to eat actual meals (like a normal person)
  • Breathe

I’m trying to stay on top of things at work (because I just accepted a promotion that takes me from direct user support into project management), and that’s a struggle. I’m also trying to stay on top of my social media engagement and news intake (because I don’t want to be paralyzed by the deluge of horror coming out of D.C. these days), and that’s a struggle, too. Self-care fits in there somewhere, which isn’t any easier than the rest of it.

I’m tired. This level of anxiety isn’t sustainable. I’m doing everything I know how to do in order to manage it, but I’ve never had such a prolonged, physical reaction to anxiety before.

And I’m not just anxious. I’m also increasingly angry. I have always had a strong, ingrained sense of justice and fair play (Hufflepuff FTW!), and this administration of rich white folks walking all over every marginalized group they can reach is maddening. I will never understand why it’s considered okay to sacrifice people in the name of profit. I will especially never understand the people who are supporting this and still claiming they have the moral high ground, but that’s perhaps a post for another day.

I would love to hear what all of you out there in the great wide world of the interwebs are doing to manage your own anxiety and anger, or even better, how you’re channeling it.