I Spent The Last Twenty Years Sucking In My Anger And Now I’ve Got Brain Freeze

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I’m not an easy person to get along with. I never have been. Mostly because I’ve been pissed off since I was twelve… also because the people I’m pissed off at will never admit their complicity in the actions which resulted in my being pissed off.

And there never will be any resolutions. It’s not like I can satisfy myself by beating the people responsible for my clinical depressions into paste and then offer them my absolution. I also can’t explain to them adequately the pain they’ve caused. For the most part these people are in their 60’s and have given up trying to explain their actions long ago.

For the other part they just want to forget and try to move on with the remaining few years of their lives and seem to have no misgivings about dying a bunch of unforgiven bastards.

So when someone grows up angry with no means to confront the issues which continue to cause their anger they either turn it inwards or they turn it outwards.

Mostly I wrote. And mostly what I wrote were angry poems about black children getting beaten by white South African cops, newspaper columns comparing local school board decisions to apartheid and short essays about the inevitable nuclear holocaust.

I never really used that anger, the anger I used in my writing, against anyone. By writing about Strangers and never about me I mostly kept it inside. There were a few times with my brother when it got physical, and sometimes there’d be holes in walls and my mom would be threatening me with foster care. But again, that was all directed towards my home, never Outside.

There were times in classes, in high school, where I’d be on a tangent and I could feel my anger getting out — mostly over some random injustice — but the teacher would interrupt before it went too far. Abortion was one of those topics… I was the only person in my grade ten class who was pro-choice.

I used to get filled with a rage, I wouldn’t act on it and it would dissipate fairly quickly when I stopped being a target. But it was rage. In grade ten math class a kid behind me wouldn’t stop teasing… he just kept poking me. Metaphorically. But I felt like responding would be wrong somehow. So my rage just kept building and building… he finally stopped when another kid told him I looked like I was ready to kill someone.

I didn’t act out though. I sucked it in.

I do remember the first time I actually attacked, verbally, another student in anger. It was in grade eleven social studies class and we were discussing rape. I put forward the idea that if a dude thought about raping someone he should jerk himself off instead.

Then I said something about how masturbation was something we all do anyway. So of course — it being grade eleven — another student, someone I didn’t like, said “is that something you do?” And as the class laughed nervously, I whipped around and very forcefully said “you mean it’s something you don’t do?”.

Until that moment I had been a reasonably quiet non-confrontational kid. Sure, I answered a lot of questions in my English, History, Politics and Social Studies classes, and got angry on the walk home, but on the playground I had been a target since grade three for being the Quiet Kid.

After the masturbation comment, however, all bets were off. The kid I told off, the most popular kid in my grade, turned red and was very still until class was over. The entire class was dead quiet for that fifteen minutes. In that one moment I went from being the Quiet Kid to being the kid who could, metaphorically, punch a hole through your chest with words.

I don’t want to get into a lot of examples because I’m not proud of any of them, but that year I actually made a girl cry. Our assignment had been to pick a political song and defend it… she picked Neil Diamond’s “Forever In Blue Jeans”.

Whatever outward expression of anger I used, however, it was still always aimed at people I knew. What I had done was just expand the boundaries… I felt comfortable using words to attack people I knew. Besides I was angry with everyone in my school for having parents and a family, so it made sense. And why would you attack people you don’t know? You don’t, but you do defend yourself and that was something new to me.

For most of the 90’s I was a street kid so I was never in the position where random people were approaching me with their ideas on abortion or mans inhumanity to man. My friends mostly talked about how heartless Adults are and how cool it’d be having a part time job selling weed. When we did talk politics we agreed everything Out There was just retarded.

The thing about writing is the more you write in a certain style, or with a specific tone, the better you get at writing in that style and in that tone. Eventually you can say in twenty words what it used to take one hundred. I look back at the material I still have from high school, and then the articles and my column from College and I can see the evolution of my anger.

It was easy. I was angry at Everything and I hated Everyone. And working for the newspaper in College I had tangible targets like the Student’s Association and the College President. All I had to do was make someone laugh and I was untouchable. Because once you’ve got someone laughing you can shrug your shoulders and say “sure you’re crying, but it’s funny”.

The thing about sarcasm is when you mix it with deep rooted resentment, and anger with no resolution, two things happen… you run out of friends and eventually a major journalism association will give you an award for your humour column.

And I have lost friends because I haven’t been able to deal with my anger issues properly. Six years ago one of my very best friends grabbed a photo of my sister, put it in his back pocket and said he was keeping “her”. Not “it”, but “her”. I had to ask him three times to get it back. In that moment, with the photo in his back pocket, all I could think of was “he’s going to force me to hit him.”

It’s easy to deal with a stranger. You get angry, you swallow it or you never see them again. If a total stranger had done what my friend did I would have broken his arm. But it was my best friend.

And I didn’t get angry At him… With him, but not At him. I still suck the anger up.

Over the past few years I’ve made a conscious effort to calm down. Not directly because of the medications, or even the meetings with my doctor. Basically I’ve recognized that the anger is a problem. It’s a work in progress. There are dents in my cupboards from where I’ve flung video-game disks. Last year I destroyed a printer. A few weeks ago I destroyed a lamp.

And there’s a side effect of the unresolved anger, and the dark sense of humour that comes with it. I don’t have targets like I had in College anymore, and I don’t have the immediate feedback of a class full of readers. So what I’m writing now is just me being funny but, without the safety switch, most of the people I target think they’re being verbally assaulted.

And with that also comes the harsher responses for people I know, and trust. If a total stranger leaves an insult on my blog it’s easy to respond. Either I call him a fuckmonkey or I take his IP address and hunt the meatpuppet down.

But something like “I forget that you’re quite quite mental” left on my blog from a friend or someone I consider friendly feels like a betrayal, and that gives me licence to poke you with a stiletto until you cry uncle.

A few months ago I thought I was giving my very good friend Justin some advice, but I was writing it wrapped in 300lbs of sarcasm and hate. Not aimed at him, he was just the person I was sending the comments to. Eventually he told me to stop, but that just pissed me off. So I told him so… then he explained what I had been doing.

I had no idea. To me it was a game. You insult me, I insult you. It’s reciprocal, I felt as though I was responding in-kind, even if he wasn’t. And I really hurt him.

I immediately apologized unreservedly to Justin, and today we’re good friends again… I think mostly because he’s just as filled with hate and bile as I am. And our deep devotion to Hello Kitty.

This isn’t something that’s going to stop anytime soon. But it’s something I’m working on… kind of. There’s still a decent chance that just below the surface I’m just a monkey who enjoys playing with knives.




About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression when I was nineteen, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. It's now 2022, and I have an 8-year old son, and a 12-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at saltedlithium.com....
This entry was posted in Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, Health, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Memories, Salted Truths. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to I Spent The Last Twenty Years Sucking In My Anger And Now I’ve Got Brain Freeze

  1. thordora says:

    The fucking anger. I’m quite sure mine is no where as deep-but I fucked up my hands long ago, broken walls and stuff, and pushed nearly everyone I’ve ever known away from me.

    Before it was general “I’m fucked up” angry, now it’s turning into dealing with being fucked over anger. I’m 30-I thought I’d be past this rage that bubbles up my throat.

    I don’t have anyone to throw it at, other than myself. There’s really no on left, and like you say, you can’t be angry at those around you, not easily.

    I wish there was a pill to take it all away.

  2. Soire says:

    This is only my second comment here – but I do enjoy reading your thoughts.. they’re well written, and I can see that you’re really working on you – which is something few people ever care to do.

    The Anger is something I am not good at keeping bottled for long – dang bottles keep bursting 😉

  3. unfitting says:

    i also have anger issues – mostly in the form of internalizing enough of it and the stress to burst so i understand that. most people wouldn’t think so because i’m so quiet. half of it comes from inability to handle it. oh well. thanks for the birthday wish though!

  4. Nita says:

    You know about people who are bad to you, they never apologize. Rather, if they have to, they will apologize soon or if time passes, they will never do it.
    Once I had a falling out with my best friend, over a guy who I was very much in love with. I broke up and she started flirting with him and it was hard to see them together. I couldn’t really bear it and stopped seeing my friend. We were 18. Anyway, a few weeks later she came home and cried in my lap and begged my forgiveness. She said she was terribly sorry but she had to see if she could get him too. She was never interested in him!
    It was a strange thing she did, something I would never ever think of doing, but I forgave her because she realised the hurt she caused me. She is my friend still, my best friend.
    If people feel sorry, they either say sorry then and there, or maybe when the whole thing is fresh…but its rare for the realisation to come later. They are too chicken to take on the burden.

  5. giannakali says:

    hi Gabriel,
    I’ve got lots of unresolved anger too. It comes out in my relationship with my husband mostly and it’s a real bummer.

    I am working on it too.

    Awareness of it being a problem is a healthy start.

    love and healing to you.

  6. alruiceis says:

    You and I have similar anger problems (which is one of the reasons this blog helps me cope). I grew up angry in an angry family and I got used to the constant rage that beats its meaty fists in my chest. So every word and action I emit is laced with caustic sarcasm and palpable hatred.

    I’m kind of lucky to be a small Korean girl with a baby face since I get away with most of my explosions. I’ve gotten away with two chokings and a stabbing in school because I’m little and cute and “Oh, Esther’s just kidding around, that crazy cat. Hohohohoho!” By the way, some of the people you’re angry with will apologize when your hands are tightening around their throat.

    All I know is that I’m not the type that copes well with counting to ten or retreating to my inner cave and finding my power animal. When I suck in my anger, I destroy myself. So I let it out and let it go. Sure, the ways in which I let it out aren’t all that healthy or financially sound (it’s only a matter of time before I run out of cheap, ugly cups to hurl against my wall). But I’m still working on that, I guess.

    I’m sorry for ranting. Thanks for posting this. Once again you’ve helped me deal and I’m damn grateful.

  7. Gabriel... says:

    Thanks for that Esther. And thanks to everyone for commenting… I do have replies but I’ve been on my grandfather’s schedule for the past few days and my brain is numb and battered. I’ve got doctor appointments all day today so hopefully I’ll be recovered and able to write clearly and with… you know, words and stuff by tonight.

  8. darkentries says:

    I have the anger, to a lesser extent. I don’t ever get physical. Sometimes I want to, but can’t do it. I put it down to emotional filtering problems. When something stresses me out, usually someone I care about I become emotional, unstable, angry, defensive, and then offensive. I have never been any good at appropriate responses to stressors. There’s on and off for me.
    Of course, my partner, being who she is gives no quarter and I end up a big bag of emotional mess, who would really like to drive a car off a cliff somewhere, or break stuff. I don’t do disagreement well. My partner doesn’t do ignoring problems well. It leads for some interesting moments.

    Your comment box is vey very tiny. I find it difficult to write long comments in here. Do you have the CSS upgrade? Can you make it bigger for me? Thank you kind sir.

  9. Gabriel... says:

    The thing about unfocused anger, or anger that can’t be properly dealt with, is it leads to aggressiveness that is random and without limits. Person X had nothing to do with assaulting you when you were six, yet ten years later it’s Person X you’re beating up in a schoolyard. Then ten years later you’re sitting in a police car and the paramedics are caring for Person Y because he looked at your girlfriend a little too long.

    Gilles was a friend of mine from back in the day and he was abused by his parents for a long time. It went into his early teens. By the time he was in his late teens he was a drug addict and drunk often enough that I’d consider him an alcoholic. When it was just the bunch of us he was bright and engaging and funny. He was also very, very dangerous. When I was seventeen or so he was convicted for assault and sent away for a couple of years. About two years after he got out we met up in Ottawa where he was working security for the Heritage Front, a neo-Nazi youth brigade big in Ontario back in the late-80’s and early-90’s.

    When we were younger and Gilles would get drunk at a house party or in someone’s apartment you could see that he wanted to talk to someone about what he had gone through. But he only had other drunk dudes to talk to, so it would start with “My parents… man… you know?” and end with “you’re really cool… I love you dude… you know?” And then he’d go kick in the bathtub.

    So Gilles focused his anger on Others. It wasn’t an innate hatred of blacks or Jews or Them that got Gilles to join a racist bunch of losers like the Heritage Front. It was Gilles’ total hatred for his parents and inability to work through that specific anger that had him stomping on random people… Gilles was involved in an infamous incident in Ottawa in 1993 where a large meeting of Heritage Front members left a building and were confronted by demonstrators made up of street kids, punks, ‘anarchists’ and goth kids — including some friends of mine.

    That night there was a running street battle through ten or more city blocks involving about 150 plus kids, ending up near the Parliament buildings. A lot of kids, as young as 13, were badly hurt that night.

    I ran into Gilles about eight months after that evening and he was in counselling, trying to make himself better. He said there was finally a moment where he stepped back from who he was and saw who he had become, and he couldn’t figure out how he had gotten to where he had ended up.

    He said he had punched a young girl in the face that night and now he just couldn’t understand who he was. Over the next year I’d run into Gilles downtown every other month or so and he was just fading away. The last time I saw him he had been diagnosed with AIDS and was trying to kick a heroin addiction.

    Why do we react the way we do? Why do we get angry at things and situations where other people don’t? Why do we break stuff? Why do we abuse our bodies? Why do we seek out people to hate? Because we’ve been wronged and when there is no recourse we learn to ignore the real reasons for our anger and redirect the superficial physical and mental aspects onto someone/thing we know we can dominate or who will eventually dominate us.

    I’m probably going to write more about this…

    Namaskaar Nita, it’s wonderful to see you here and thanks for commenting. Thinking about this over the past few days I get the feeling that apologizing has become something that is socially acceptable Not to do. Apologizing and contrition are hard, it takes energy and effort. The only place we see people apologizing are politicians and religious leaders apologizing for getting caught doing what they tell us not to do. But they fail as examples, they even make things worse as role models, because they’re not honestly apologizing. Apologizing has lost the consequences that are meant to go along with one, as well as the consequences that go along with not giving one. It’s just too easy for people to walk past the house now rather than reflect on what they did to the people inside it…

    Hi Gianna, thanks for the comment. “Awareness of it being a problem is a healthy start.” this is what I’m hoping. Since I’ve started trying to deal with my anger as though it were a problem rather than something I have to live with I’ve been able to recognize the feelings as they start. I’ve managed to pick up a few coping techniques that are working. Breathing is a big one…

    Salut unfitting… if you come back I’d be interested to know if there’s anything you do to allow the anger to dissipate, or maybe how you act on it…

    Thank you very much Soire, and thanks for coming back. I apologize but I’ve misplaced your other comment, if you ever have any thoughts on what I or anyone else have written please feel free to leave another… speaking of broken bottles I did actually break two bowls about three weeks ago due to “video game rage”. This is something I’m working on as well.

    Hi Thor. There might actually be pills that take the anger away. But I think therapy and writing would be better… unless of course you’re thinking about heading into a crowded mall with a sharpened garden spade and your steel toed boots.

    Dydd da darkentries, comment ça va mon ami? When I’m in a situation where someone I care about, my mother for example, is angry at something I’ve done/not done I lose the ability to think. It’s like with my friend and the photo of my sister, I just stood there not able to do anything because my brain felt like it was overloading on the fight or flight mechanism. Only it was fight or joke or punch or verbal assault or anger or go with the flow… I just couldn’t decide.

    I like my comment box… it’s very economical. And the font is cool. I don’t have the CSS upgrade and as much as I will probably have to learn to code, I’m avoiding it as long as possible.

    Annyong Esther, and thanks again for writing that. With anger and rage it’s very important… vital even, to find a release that’s healthy for you. I’m still searching for mine. Last year and the year before I used to go on long walks. For the first third it was like the barriers were coming down, until the second third where I’d be talking to myself and angry and grrr… then the last third was me starting to relax and even come up with some solutions. I really need to get off my ass and start doing stuff again.

  10. giannakali says:

    you know what I do with any difficult emotion now, including anger?

    If you are able…of course this won’t always be an available option, but if you are able, lay down, or sit in a meditative stance and breath. Concentrate on your breath first and secondly deeply feel the difficult emotion. Embrace that emotion. May sound crazy, but running from or acting out our emotions don’t make us fully conscious of them. If we deeply feel them and let them “speak” to us they become less scary and less potent.

    Try it! It works for me.

    I’m lucky my anger can feel violent, but I’ve never done anything physically violent, though I’ve done my share of screaming.

    I don’t think it matters how one has acted out or not for the above exercise to work.

  11. Pingback: it’s called paranoia « daily living in a manic-depressive world

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  13. Kenn Chaplin says:

    For whatever reason, and I’d just be guessing, I recoil when I see anger – even when it’s not directed towards me. Just seeing someone act out shuts me down. I’m probably reminded of the head teacher/principal-wannabe who was such a cake-hole to me in elementary school. I have learned, in various help groups, to express anger to friends in a healthy way (when you say _, I feel -.) But I don’t use that too often; maybe because I don’t get too mixed up with anyone. Great discussion!

  14. exactscience says:

    I have written a whole post on this, prompted by this post, follow the link two comments up. [here]

    The cliff notes=

    I am largely not an angry person, I dissipate anger with insensitive sarcastic comments almost never directed at my aggressor. If someone is being a douche I will use wit and guile to trap them in their own words.

  15. unfitting says:

    hey im back. sometimes, to dissipate anger, i just try to focus on something else like listen to music or watch tv or read. reading works especially if you can really get lost in the story. course, none of these things actually work when it comes to driving. in that case, i just turn into a maniac and start screaming obscenities (to no one in particular mind you) until i almost have myself a panic attack. i’m also unpredictable at times, so i might also just completely shut down and try not to feel anything at all. anyway, yeah anger’s a doozie.

  16. dummidumbwit says:

    OK I’m off my med’s, I’m either a misunderstood genius or the dryest drunk ever, Wheeee!!!!

  17. Gabriel... says:

    Hello dummidumbwit, I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t be all three… I can see a lot of reasons why you wouldn’t want to be a couple of them, but you could definitely be all three.

    Hi unfitting, and thanks for coming back. Among a few other things people consider mostly invaluable I don’t have a licence, so I’ve never had road rage. At least not directly. I do get passenger rage though. I’ve reached over and honked the horn, flipped off drivers and shouted obscenities. I’ve also given the finger to cops… but that’s another post.

    Hââ-pô Scott, thanks for commenting. I added a link to your post into your comment. I’ll be over to comment on your in a little while.

    Hi Kenn, thanks. The more I think about this the more I’m starting to see value in those “feeling” type of words.

    Thanks for commenting Gianna. Except for the laying down part I’m right there with you. I can’t do it all the time but when I’m getting angry lately I’m definitely asking myself “why” a lot more. It’s a good way to start the calming down process.

  18. this was an unbelievably raw post of yours. thanks for writing about this subject. i have a lot of anger issues and tend to internalize quite frequently until something snaps and something ends up flying (either words, objects or both).
    my brother, though, has a vicious projected temper – why, just today he chucked a sunscreen bottle at my younger brother’s face (15 years his junior) for not wanting to go to montreal and take a 2 day job which involved standing in a bucket all day while demonstrating the waterproofness of some waterproof boots. pretty much anything and everything triggers him.
    i know inward anger is bad, but outward anger terrifies me – my older brother and dad were notorious for my mom and my tears growing up and my brother, now 30, still hasn’t figured out how to control this.
    the only thing that gets me through his rages is a morbid sense of humor and detachment, which helps mask dealing with my emotions and confrontation. and having my own apartment doesn’t hurt.
    everyone has their coping mechanisms.
    i wish you the best with controlling the beast.

  19. dummidumbwit says:

    Cheap mouses that stick make me absolutely insane, I brought an optical mouse, it broke too. I just try to keep the real anger aimed at machines, devices and concepts instead of human beings. The only thing I wonder about is low end people jobs at low wages, it would seem that enough people wearing their food they paid so little for would actually result in change, but that is a radical theory? And economics alone doesn’t solve things look at Keith Ledger, so I trash a occasional mouse and pat myself for disconnecting it from the PC before swinging it into smithereens

  20. I just have a feeling our relationship can be summed up with someone holding their fingers up in air quotes and saying “Anger issues”.

  21. Gabriel... says:

    I… can’t. resist. urge… “up yours Mohareb“. Oh yeah, that’s the stuff. I’m just glad we’re back to using our index fingers.

    Aloha dummidumbwit, disconnecting the peripherals from the expensive stuff before chucking them at a wall is something I’ve only had the patience for relatively recently. Although there was the $150 printer last year…

    Hi normal (once)…
    if you come back I’d be interested in knowing whether your brother has received any help for his anger stuff.

  22. dummidumbwit says:

    I trashed a printer about 10 years ago, but I unplugged it first. I find that one of the biggest misconceptions is “Never go to bed mad”, I thinking going to bed mad keeps me out of the clink or maybe getting whupped? Some conversations need to end with some people and there seem to be a lot of those some people? If it’s a button pushing match, somebody needs to stop before it goes nuclear? But it is hard to drift off when you are mad, but the adrenaline levels subside sooner or later and I’m still OK. Whoever thought up don’t go to bed mad must not have known the same people as me.

  23. Well, I’m in the “turn it all inward,” club.

    I’ve written about my “anger issues” before and I say I need Anger Management to teach me how to get angry–not to control it! I just don’t. It’s weird.

    I might get randomly irritated if some stranger does something asinine or rude but someone I know?

    Well, if it’s someone I care about? If there is any kind of conflict, again, I turn it all around and inward. I get confused and I blame myself. I say, “Whoa! What happened? What did I do?” And then, I usually come crawling back on my hands and knees to make amends.

    I know. Healthy, huh?

    If it’s someone I should care about? Like the idiots that made me angry like the Parental Units? Well, then there’s just this lack of care. Or maybe a slight sort of WTF and then this total indifference or something. Well, that’s for mental mommy. I’m not talking to non-bio dad now/at the moment…not sure if I will again?

  24. dummidumbwit says:

    Inward outward is it universal or is it situational? My survival skills were to be attuned to you/her/mother to not create emotional drama, but have quiet. I am good at listening and I learn where all the buttons are, but it’s too damaging to me unless I’m completely in the right to level it, I hate myself. So unless it needs to end ASAP, I de-escalate, it’s where I’m at now. I’ve seen too much already.

  25. John Bloomfield says:

    Gabriel I can relate to the anger. I started being angry when my parents started overtly disappointing me emotionally, or rather that I started noticing that they HAD BEEN disappointing me most of my life in some ways, both emotionally and protecting me-wise. I don’t know if this makes sense. I feel that there are certain necessities a parent should provide,,… like food, shelter, entertainment, but mostly love and be a role model for how to express love, EXPRESS ANGER, and deal with all emotions and situations. Maybe a tall order, but I felt as a young adult that for those items on the list they failed to provide, they should own up to and apologize for. accountability, you know?

    When my parents wouldn’t own up to or apologize for their shortcomings as parents, I at first started getting depressed. Then I got VERY, VERY angry. I started shooting things. Nothing valuable. But the message got across. And especially it got across when I started burning family photos, including one of my sister. I was kicked out of home. .. . the story goes on and on. after some serious depression, a couple of suicide attempts, numerous psych drugs, i was prescribed lithium on one of my hospitilizations. I’m wondering if your anger is better with lithium?

    I really like your writing, and got help from it. Thank you

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