Moving past anger

Ever since I can remember, low-level rage flows constantly underneath any mood I experience. It only takes one little nudge for me to allow my temper to take control and overwhelm everything else going on.

In childhood, I frequently blew up at my siblings over nothing. I do not remember any specifics except yelling at the top of my lungs. I recall a particularly awful episode in which I was literally beside myself with anger (I vividly remember seeing myself screaming at my sister).

I never understood why my anger issues were so bad. My anger always seemed somewhat disproportionate to whatever triggered me. I had several extreme episodes in high school. Maybe this is because I was constantly on the verge of mania and a ticking time bomb under the best circumstances. Even after I was medicated and diagnosed, I still had meltdowns.

The second semester of my sophomore year, I started taking dual credit college algebra. Our benevolent teacher only assigned the odd number problems, so we could check if we got the answer right. We had to show how we got the right answer still (of course).

One day after school, I was trying to do my college algebra homework, and I could not get the right answer to one of the problems. Instead of moving to another section or subject, I kept trying and trying, my rage building exponentially. I tried yet again, I looked at the answer, I saw a flash of white, and the next thing I remember, my textbook flew through the air and hit the opposite wall. The book cover came off completely, although the binding somehow stayed intact.

I have no memory of deciding to throw the book. One second I was angry, and the next I was blinded by white, hot rage. I already knew my temper often manifested itself in slamming or throwing. This seemed to be at a different level, even for me.

A couple months later I had a softball tournament in which I was to play catcher for the first time. Somebody (possibly me) forgot to put the catcher’s mitt into the catcher’s bag. No loss there (come to find out, I was using a first baseman’s mitt). I borrowed a glove from another team and realized every pitch isn’t supposed to burn your hand off. I played really well, so, being the superstitious nut I am, I had to have the exact same glove I’d played with that day.

My dad helped me find it online, we ordered it, and my dad even paid $20 for expedited shipping. It cost about $90 total. I’ve always been cost-conscious (and I cannot remember if I helped pay for it or not), so spending that much money felt a little icky to me. Expedited shipping was supposed to be 1-2 days.

I remember it being at least two weeks before the glove came in. All the while, I had to practice and play games with the worst possible glove for catching. It was almost unbearable. Now, I have a very high pain tolerance. But I was probably catching close to 100 pitches every game, and maybe even more during practices. My hand constantly felt raw.

Every day, I’d come home from practice and check our front porch for a package.

Every day, the anger and rage roiled my blood.

Finally, one day, I checked, and yet again, it wasn’t there. I came inside, grabbed the door, saw white, and then saw the door bouncing back at me. I’d slammed it so hard, it bounced off the frame. This is not your standard front door, either. The thing weights at least sixty pounds, maybe more. For a long time afterwards, we had to put a shoulder on the door to get the lock to latch properly. The house has settled some, so that is no longer necessary. My parents didn’t know about the door until well after I graduated high school.

I intermittently “worked” on my temper. My mom bought me a book called The Gift of Anger I could never get through for some reason…I started therapy in 2018, and I worked on anger with my therapist some, but our focus was on other things.

I cannot remember any other full-blown rages like what I experienced in high school. Actually, that’s not true (yes, I’m too lazy to delete the first sentence of this paragraph). I bought my house in August of 2019, and sometime between then and March of 2020, I came home to find my shower current rod had fallen. Shower curtains are the bane of my existence. I tried to put it back, but I could not figure out how to tighten it and get it to stay up.

I flew into a rage in which I jumped on my bed, pounded my pillows with my fists, and randomly screamed as loudly as I could (I’m fairly certain I screamed the F word in all its variations). My voice was raw, but at least I didn’t break anything.

A similar thing happened earlier this year when I tried to mount a light fixture from IKEA in my office/bedroom. I couldn’t do it, and I ended up damaging the light (not from anger but because the bracket was flimsy and dumb). Again, I screamed as loudly as I could (again the F word). I had dinner with my parents that night, and my dad asked me if I was sick. My voice was a solid octave or two lower. I confessed, and the look on my mom’s face was one of bewilderment.

Last summer, my dad had surgery and couldn’t do my parents’ lawn for a month or two, so I said I would help. I love mowing. I’m not good at edging, and I fight with the weed eater. It was time to weed eat, and my dad helped me get the spool ready. I went out and did the weed eater for half a second until I realized it wasn’t feeding anymore.

I took it back to the garage, and my dad said, “It got cut too short, you gotta keep bumping it for the line to come out.”

“I did that!” I hated how I whined, but I was already reaching a tipping point.

He said he would show me how to get it ready. I got it all wrapped around, and just as I was going to finish, it all unraveled. I saw a flash of white, threw the thing up into the air, and yelled the F word. My dad said, “Really?” Cursing is frowned upon in our house, and I’d never said the F word in front of either of my parents. To be fair, I was under quite a bit of stress because of my dad’s surgery.

Although, I did add up a ton of these rages and figured out I really, really hate it when I cannot physically accomplish something. I don’t ask for help, typically, I just try over and over until I cannot function on an intelligible level anymore.

I started seeing a new therapist at the end of 2020, and we jumped right into other things and haven’t really touched my anger issues.

In July of this year, I somewhat randomly decided to stop cursing. I felt like it had gotten a bit out of control, and I was slipping into bad habits around my parents. It really bothers my mom when I curse, so I did it in part for her. Most of my cursing happened in the car when other drivers do something I don’t like. F this! F that! Everyone gets the F word! I had horrible road rage. I could let one thing in the car ruin a couple of hours, if not my whole day.

Of course, the stuff on the road isn’t really what I was so angry about (but I’m not enlightened enough to know what the root cause is).

So, I stopped cursing. And wouldn’t you know it, my anger issues practically vanished (and not just in the car). It is truly one of the weirdest things. It did not take a lot of effort to stop cursing. The hardest part of not cursing is not doing it in texts. I used curse words freely and with no thought. I reigned that in, too—with a little more effort. I’ve slipped in moments of stress, but I also have some “success” stories.

I have to turn left to get into my neighborhood from a relatively busy street. The car in front of me turned left, and I prepared to go in right behind him. Only, he was doing a U-turn, so I was a sitting duck for a couple seconds (I could’ve been smashed by oncoming traffic). I said, “Way to go you stupid piece of crap.” I didn’t yell it. I just said it matter-of-factly, and then moved on.

The only reason I remembered it happening is because my response was so mild compared to how I usually respond to such things. Heck, I could fly into a F-word-fueled rage over someone forgetting to put their blinker on, not to mention situations in which I was in serious danger.

It’s only been a couple months since I stopped cursing, so naturally, I haven’t been in many situations that usually induce rages for me. However, I am in the car a lot, and I do get mad at truly dangerous things, but then I get over it and forget all about it.

I was talking to my mom the other day, and I said, “Once I stopped cursing, I realized it’s not really worth getting mad over hardly anything. If I cannot control it, it doesn’t matter how I respond, so there’s no reason to let something ruin my day.”

The look on her face said, “Well, at least you realized all this before you turned 30.”

Heck yeah, I did! Go me!

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