Usually, anger is something I struggle with immensely. Either I pent it all up inside of me when actually it is very much justified and in need of being expressed; or, I “blow up” in unhealthy ways over the most seemingly menial things and express my anger inappropriately, usually worsening the circumstances further. I cannot seem to find a balance, and am incredibly all or nothing in how I perceive, express and experience it.
Growing up, anger was around me quite a lot. It was an emotion I perceived as ugly, as scary and dangerous. I tried expressing my anger as a child but was rarely understood. So I learnt to hide my anger and shut myself down, until I didn’t realise I had anything to be angry about because I was so dissociated from it.
Now, when I get angry and manage to express it, it fills with me guilt. Anger is not an emotion I have ever been allowed to have, and so I feel weak and out of control when I do succumb to it. Furthermore, when I succumb to it, it consumes me and takes me over. It is like all the anger held inside bursts out and a beast as powerful as the hulk is unleashed.
Sometimes nobody sees it, but my body feels the brunt of it. The anger manifests in tension, chronic back/ neck ache, nausea and crippling head and jaw pains. Other times, it escapes out of me in emotional emails, accusatory messages, or sudden bursts of energy directed at anyone around me who rubs me the wrong way.
Most of the time I am terrified of the anger, because I still do not know where to place it that won’t end in disaster. For many years all I knew to do was to take it out on myself. If someone hurt me, I would cut myself to release the pain; if I was wronged, I would abuse substances to calm myself down; if I wasn’t being heard, listened to or respected I would binge or starve myself instead of approaching myself with compassion. Everything that was “your fault” became “my fault”. I was always to blame. I never felt I had the right to stand up for myself, even when others genuinely mistreated me.
Much of the time my anger toward others seemed to transform into toxic shame about myself.
Today, I have felt levels of anger beyond anything I am used to. The anger is justified – my university fucked up Big Time and I am in exam season – however the way I dealt with it most probably was not ideal. Emails and phone calls later, I have however managed to stand up for myself, state my needs and descriptively but firmly explain that how I have been treated is not okay given the situation.
My jaw aches, my head kills, my entire body is stiff with tension. It has been a hellish day and I am extremely vulnerable and emotional. However, I feel like something has shifted, because you know what? For once I didn’t take my anger out on myself. I didn’t beat myself up or make it my fault when it was not; I didn’t self destruct with any behaviours even though I just wanted to fuck myself up with alcohol; I did not lash out at any one beyond what I genuinely deem to be acceptable given the situation. And I do not feel guilty or shameful for standing up for myself or expressing my anger, either.
Instead, I feel empowered. The world can go fuck itself, and I am cool with that.