Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Anger Management

"Get mad, then get over it."
Colin Powell

How is it that one can lie in bed next to the man she loves, eventually kiss him goodnight, listen to his breathing as it becomes one with her own - inhale, exhale, inhale - thank God for this man's presence in her life then wake up the next morning and feel like she wants to kick him in the ass? Or yell at him, "What's up? I'll tell you what's up!" before her own eyes are even opened enough to see his sweet face?


And since I'm asking, how is it that a person can sleep for six or seven or eight hours, and still wake up feeling weighted down and cranky?


One doesn't need to be Sigmond Freud to diagnose a rather severe case of anger. And it might not take a rocket scientist to look at a certain girl's stressful life and see possible anger atoms swimming in every corner of the house. Even an American child, who's never lived in a place where he has to be careful of stepping on land mines, can tell that this girl's life is littered with emotional booby traps.


Okay, so I'm angry. I'm frustrated, tired, bored, weary and a little bit lonely for some female companionship. But what, pray tell, do I have to be so angry about?


Could it be that the last thing the man I love so dearly said to me before he went to sleep was something along the lines, of "pain, left side of my chest, heart ....". I know it's irrational to be mad at a person who is possibly in the throws of a heart attack, but dammit, if he dies on me, I'm going to be really mad.

And if his imminent death isn't enough to piss me off, guess how I felt when, after a night full of fitful, worrisome sleep for me, I realized he actually had enough energy to almost single-handedly remove the hood from his car to fix something that would undoubtedly be the cause of his demise. Of course, I helped. [And of course it crossed my mind to accidentally let it slip just enought to give him a slight kabong on the head.] But that's not the point. The point is that he was supposed to be sitting in an easy chair, wrapped in a blanket, resting his heart while I paced the floor, wringing my hands like they did in old black and white movies when everyone was waiting for the doctor to arrive to give the bad news. Automobile maintenance was never part of the script.


It sounds as if I am unpleaseable. I suppose I am. I don't want him in pain or dead. But I also don't want to waste my perfectly good worrying on what could have just been a case of indigestion.


Here's a bit of an insight into my psyche:
For me, anger and fear, love and un-love are braided into a kind of emotional bullwhip that I use to beat up on myself. I used to say, "I don't do anger." Then my therapist at the time, ruined that bit of self-righteous bullshit by reminding me that indeed, the reason clinical depression has been my best/worst friend for so many years is because I do, do anger. I just don't do it overtly. Well, most of the time, I don't do it overtly.


Most of the time, I am skilled at burying the first signs of any irksomeness somewhere in my gut, below my ribs, right around my spleen. It sits there like a steaming volcano, shooting off sparks, but mostly boiling under the surface. The poisonous fumes seep into my body, deplenishing my spirit. That's kind of what depression is all about; what the psychology textbooks call "anger turned inward."


You'd think, after years of therapy, that at the first sign of pissiness, I would go somewhere private, let out a few vociferous F-words, bash my fists into a three-tiered pillow and release the demons before they have a chance to get into my gut. Sadly, even after all the awarenesses, it is still easier for me to internalize rather than emote.


Dumb. I know. The other dumb thing is this, I'm pretty sure of one thing about my anger. Mostly it's based on my fear. And when all is said and done, I'm just a big baby who never got passed being a scaredy cat. I've heard it said that the brains of kids who use drugs stop maturing at the age when they started using. You might see a grown man, smoking crack, but really he's only got the brain power of, say a 12 year old.


I suspect, the same is true of me when it comes to fear. Somewhere in my early childhood, I got good and scared about something. Or maybe I got good and mad, who knows? For whatever reason(s) that fear was not addressed or the anger was punished or the fear was demeaned or the anger left unattended. Today, the emotions are so closely entwined that one triggers the other and both are so abusive to my psychological makeup that I run and hide; or try to.


An example that just popped into my head for some unknown reason is the time I thought I'd lost my son John. He must have been only 3 or 4 at the time. We lived in a neighborhood called Timberlake, probably because there was water somewhere on the community property. [I remember it being the size of Lake Michigan, but in reality it was more like muddy olympic-sized swimming pool.] At this point I should probably note that a: my husband was gone on cruise, which was most always the case when what I deemed a family emergency occurred and b: even as a toddler Johnson was a gadabout, a wanderer, an explorer. He didn't pay a whole lot of attention to rules like "don't leave the driveway" or "tell me where you're going." As quickly as I could turn my back he'd be gone.


So on this particular day, he's there one minute and gone the next. I looked high and low for him to no avail. The neighbors hadn't seen him. He seemed to have vanished. Then I remembered the pond. As I walked the short distance to the place I was sure I was going to find my son lying face down in the water, my thought process when something like this:


Holy shit! The lake! How did he get that far? Oh, my God, what am I going to do? John, where are you? Please John come home. God, please don't let him be in the lake. Should I call the police? What will I tell them? That my three year old thinks he's Daniel Boone, boy trailblazer? Shit! Christ! How am I going to tell Jim? Dammit, why isn't Jim here? If I find that kid, I'm going to kill him! Where's Wendy? What was he wearing? Damn, I'm a horrible mother. Why did I ever have kids? Wait a minute, is that him sitting on the side of the road watching the grass grow? John? Where the hell have you been?


He looked up at me with a smile, that seemed to say, "what's all the fuss about?" [That same look he has perfected over the years and still gives me on occasion.]


And at the exact moment when my heart nearly leapt out of my chest with relief, I swooned with an equal amount of desire to shake my little wanderer in a stupor and walk into the lake myself. See how emotions get kind of twisted in my head?


I went to sleep last night, sick with worry. In my sleep the fear and anger did their well-choreographed ballet. I awoke about the time fear led anger into a final pas de deux, and both emotions bowed for a final curtain call; in other words, less than rested. This morning I feel kind of angry, but maybe I'm just tired. Tired of waking up and wondering with dread "what crisis will befall us today?" I don't like being Chicken Little. I want to be the Rooster who, with anticipatory excitement crows "what's going to happen today?"


Journaling about my feelings is supposed to be a good thing. It sounds a little like whining to me. But since I've just spent the last two hours typing it I don't think I'll delete a thing. I do think I feel less uptight and I think my sweetie needs a hug. I think I do too!


Merry ME

P.S. Since I obviously need a little pick-me-up, I'm going to treat myself to a reading of "The Pig of Happiness." Better late than never!!!!!!!

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