Maybe it’s because I am short. Maybe it’s because I gesticulate even more wildly than Josh Lyman. Maybe it’s because to everyone else I sound like this:
In any case, my anger is very rarely taken seriously. In fact, it is so often dismissed that I started, some long time ago, dismissing it myself. I’ve spent years trying to dress my anger up as something else, reassuring even the people I am angry at that, “I’m just scared, but being angry is less scary than really feeling my fear.” While that’s not untrue in a lot of cases, it also functions to undercut the legitimacy of my own feelings, of my anger, of my justified indignation.
I recently began therapy again, as I now have regular and affordable access. With all of the goings-on in the world and in my personal life, I have been angry. Like, really angry—but even with my therapist, I diminish my anger. I play it off with sarcasm and an eye roll. It’s a really hard habit to break, this shunting my feelings off to some corner (never) to be dealt with later. Thankfully (if still frustrating in the moment), she calls me on it and keeps asking, “Where does the anger go?” I could identify a few places: playing bass, yardwork, listening to my music loud and screaming/singing along until my throat is raw. Even then, those things only take the edge off. It wasn’t until this last week that I found a substantive answer:
Though I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 19, looking back I can say with a hefty degree of certainty that there hasn’t really been a time when I wasn’t depressed. My brain chemistry is just different. As uncomfortable as it is to admit publicly, I’ve always been depressed, and there have been more than a handful of times when I wanted to die. I didn’t really want to kill myself, I just …wanted to not be alive. I never knew what kept me here. I just knew that I turned on the auto-pilot and put one foot in front of the other until I felt I could inhabit my life again. I know what keeps me alive now—I know what gives me the oomph to put on foot in front of the other: my anger.
If I am really and truly honest about it, anger and spite have kept me going when I have long since run out of hope. More than once, I remember very specifically thinking, “If you die, you’ll be giving them exactly what they want.” “They” are historically many different people, in many different circumstances. The commonality they share is that they’ve made me angry enough that I am willing to push through whatever pain I have to just to deny them the satisfaction of being rid of me.
As I mentioned before, my brain chemistry is …off. I know that this is not a healthy way to keep myself going. I know all sorts of things but, because of my anxiety and depression, because my brain chemistry isn’t quite right, I struggle with believing what I know. I can know all day long that the people in my life love me and want me around, but there are times when I absolutely cannot believe it—when I am convinced that everyone else would be better off if I were gone and that everyone knows it. So, my anger has been the crutch I’ve used to help me hobble through my doubt in myself and my worth. My anger props up my ability to justify to myself that I am something other than waste—wasted time, wasted space, wasted air, wasted potential, wasted clump of cells.
As I continue in therapy and as my doctor and I work to find the right balance for my medications (#TeamProzacandWellbutrinFTW), I hope that I won’t have to lean on anger to keep me fighting, to keep me living and breathing. But I am immensely grateful that my anger has reliably kept me moving to get to this point. And I know I cannot be the only one who has managed to survive this way—to those hurt and scared folks who are limping through on crutches made of anger and spite: I see you. Thank you for hanging on. You fight however you need to fight. You are not alone.
*dramatically breaks into song: “you are not alone, for I am here with you…”* What?! I can be angry and a total goofball at the same time!
If you need help, please reach out:
- National SuicidePrevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255) – For the hearing impaired, contact the Lifeline by TTY at: 800-799-4889
- Crisis Text Line: Text “CONNECT” to 741741
- Trans Lifeline: United States 877-565-8860 – Canada 877-330-6366
- The Trevor Project: 866-488-7386 – TrevorChat – Text “Trevor” to 1-202-304-1200