During this appointment we mostly talked about my anger and rage issues, and how my responses to the things which encourage feelings of rage or anger in me are mostly impotent and misdirected.
My response to being bullied in my first two years of high school, for example, was to physically attack my younger brother once or twice monthly.
These were not brother-on-brother fist fights, I destroyed a door during one, and in another told him he’d never see the light again. These were attacks of rage brought on by a torn comic book, or not enough chips left in the bag.
These were attacks brought on by a constant build up of layers of anger, and triggered by tiny acts, only to dissipate quickly afterwards.
My mother and I would have arguments over my marks at school that would leave me with my fist cocked, and her threatening to send me to foster care. Late one night, when I was sixteen, we were on the way home from Montreal when we started arguing about something. Under my breath I told her to fuck off. She dared me to say it again, and a few minutes later, I did. So she left me on the side of a rural road, at least ten miles from home, in late October when I was wearing a light shirt and shorts.
When the police found me and brought me home that night, she was watching television and told them I had run away — or something equally… stupid. There was never any acknowledgement of having done something so stupid as to leave your son ten miles from home, in the middle of the night, and in the cold.
The point is, it was always my fault. These were the layers, these were the incidents where I was rightfully angry, but had no healthy outlet.
One of the uniquely Maoist traditions adopted by the political Cult I grew up in, was the “criticism session”. Basically the collective decides you’ve done something wrong, so you either admit to the Collective as a whole Why what you did was retarded, and how much you damaged the collective for doing it. Or you try to defend your actions against the collective.
It was basically a nightly opportunity to be humiliated, or to humiliate someone else, for the 6-12 adults in the collective.
So, after we escaped the collective, I was living as a child, then as a young adult, with a genius-level mother trained for ten years in the arts of criticism sessions. Everything was my fault. Nothing was her responsibility. All of my anger was impotent — including all of the anger I felt at having half of my family, including my father, abandon us, and none of it properly dealt with.
I had no father figure to teach me to assert myself in any given situation, so in any given situation which required me to assert myself, I’ve backed down. I took the shit given me, and ate it. I threw the new layer on top of the old layers, let it all build up, then I’d destroy a wall, or attack my brother, or drink myself into a stupor, or kick the dog, or epically fail in school.
I had a single mother who worked long hours and left my brother and I on our own to deal with bullies, to deal with life, to deal with not having a father, and mostly I dealt with the shit I was given by watching television and forcing my brother to change the channel.
So… how likely is it, today, that I can deal with the issues that make me angry? My ‘fight or flight’ response is permanently set to “it’s my fault, I deserve whatever shit I’m being given”. It takes an act of will for me to stand up for myself.
I think I should point out that while I still have an occasional, and nearly instantaneous, moment of rage — they literally last a second or two before they’re gone, I haven’t been in an honest fight in over a decade. The only time I can remember offhand raising my voice in anger was back in February when my grandmother insisted I get a paternity test because she didn’t think my son was my son.
So I think that one was justified.
These continuing issues I have with anger are legacies left over from my youth, and the anger is dealt with entirely by internalizing it and eventually letting it out through moments of frustration.
There is a hopelessness involved in this. I feel as though I’ve been taught that my anger is meaningless, so being angry is useless… and therefore there’s the hopelessness, and a helplessness in my lack of ability to respond.
So my reactions become impotent. I was called into a meeting once, where I was accused of something stupid. It actually had nothing to do with me, but I felt so trapped, so helpless, that my reactions just reinforced my boss’ belief I had done something wrong.
My fight or flight response was completely confused.
That’s a small example, but I almost lost my job because I was crippled in that moment.
My psychiatrist and I also discussed the reason why I didn’t show up for our previously scheduled appointment.
Close to six weeks ago I had Victor in my apartment for the evening. Everything was going great, but he was in his ExcerSaucer a little too long and started to cry… kind of like a motor trying to start. So I moved him to his Jolly Jumper, where he started bouncing and seemed as happy as could be. About twenty minutes later he started to cry again. But this time it escalated very fast. So I took him to the couch and changed his mostly dry diaper, but he continued to cry. If anything it got even worse. So I warmed up his bottle, and tried to feed him. He took the bottle like he normally does, but then he threw it away, we did this four or five times. All this time his crying was constant and as loud as I’d ever heard before.
The problem was I was too tired. I couldn’t think beyond the obvious. In my head I had tried everything possible, but the screaming continued. So, for less than a second, I clamped my hand around Victor’s mouth and jaw. Just, in my head, to shut him up so I could think.
I either hurt him a little bit, or shocked him a lot, because he stopped screaming for a second, and then found an entirely new level and octave. It took thirty minutes to calm him down, mostly by walking around my apartment, bouncing him in my arms and singing to him.
My girlfriend later told me that sometimes baby’s can get cramps from too much exercise which, when she said it, was blindingly obvious, but in that state of mind never would have occurred to me.
My baby got a cramp, and I was too stupid and too tired and too angry at my baby to understand what was going on, and then I made things ten times worse.
I was so scared from his response, and so ashamed of mine, that I could barely look at him for a week after that night.
Since that night, there’s been one instance when the circumstances were slightly similar — I was tired, he was crying and I couldn’t find an immediate reason — but I talked directly to him, and I repeated specific things over and over again. And it helped.
It was like I just had to get through two seconds of being helpless in the face of my son’s discomfort, and just telling him over and over again what we were going to do later, pulled me through.
My psychiatrist asked me if my son was in any danger, and I said “no”. I didn’t grab him, shake or squeeze him, I didn’t interfere with his breathing, and none of those things occurred to me. For less than a second I quickly put my hand over the mouth of a baby who, I found out later, was in pain from cramping.
All the same, I do believe my inability to properly deal with certain emotions needs to be dealt with now, and in detail, because I don’t ever want the lessons taught to me by my family to bleed over into my relationship with my son.
…this appointment was on Friday, August 13. Weird. Our next appointment is Friday, September 3.
last time I was ordered to a shrink, started with one guy, obviously wealthy back ground well studied, knew what I was talking about when I tried to discuss jung / freud, just average stuff if you grew up in the seventies. Psychology was all the rage then. He had to move to the UK so I was offered another guy, again, rather well off, on the nice side of town, I actually liked my journeys there monthly for long chats. I remember asking him about ‘confidentiality’ that is, if I had a dozen bodies under my floorboards and told him, how far could my trust and ‘confidentiality’ with him go. Not that I had bodies under the floorboards, just wanted to know how far can I talk about fantasies, some things I did earlier on in life, before he could decide I’d be safer if locked up permanently an idea I loathed and feared. So I realised with this guy, I could openly discuss anything as there was nothing to hide. I really liked him, but played one game, every visit, instead of offering to start the half hour long ‘chat’ session, I would go in and sit and let him ‘start’ the thing off. Bit like meeting someone in a bar, ‘Come here often do you,’ Got a light’, etc. Went to him for a year, can’t say I thought any of it helped me other than to have someone to talk to about the child hood sexual assault, the violence from my father and brother, and society in general, the split between ‘being a man’ and having a job and ‘being on the dole’ for extended periods. Where ‘so and so’s son is a doctor’ and what am I , nothing. Hard not to get suicidal in those day, black periods of long depressions, having the intuitive to understand some womens hassles, when being a gay men, also going through similar things in life. Games people play. I have since managed to shake off the label, ‘bipolar’ and the drugs, ‘sodium valproate’ on grounds that my liver is stuffed from HCV and cirhossis, from other sessions involving heaps of alcohol, pills, speed, mushrooms and whatever else we got into. Include marijuana there also as they now reckon marijuana does stuff liver cells as badly as alcohol does. The last trip to a psyche hospital was as a result of smoking dope, the heavier variety now available. I haven’t smoked at all since .02, and do not miss it. I think the drug industry has poisoned itself, a lot think marijuana is fairly innocuous, not what I found twice when totally off the planet for three months, with weird ideas and voices going through my head all the time. Now finally drug free, and the last but hardest of all to give up, cigarettes. I would be happy now to just hang in there in life, stay on the DSP with my two cats and tortoises, only replacing them as they die off by old age. Daily doing my own music, more an more on my own steam finding the educational institutions are geared towards industrial motivations, maybe not so much the spiritual aspirations of some musicians. More and more I find my spiritual friends there no matter what, but the karmis, material friends just come and go as it suits them. Go where the party is and when the power runs out, move onto the next person, the next situation, the next fuel for their lifes’ path. My spiritual friends just stay the same, growing spiritually, but never changing, in either friend ship or in hate or whatever, unlike the karmi friends, even some family members I used to have. One mate still there and his partner, well its like a situation but I do love the simplicity of them, uncomplicatedness. Living to serve, not serving to live.
I was inspired tonight by the works of Jack Heath how he has forgone his past life in this life to direct himself totally towards work in areas of ‘youth depression’ and ‘youth suicide’. I find people like that inspiring, like there is a way, there is some hope left, I can see a light in the tunnel when there are people like that on this planet.
Nick108 In Service to the Eternal spirit souls. May something I write helps someone. Just keep the faith.
Honestly Gabriel, I think that’s a near-universal experience among parents. I remember one night when I was sleep-deprived and my infant son was colicky and I scared the bejeezus out of myself with a single thought. It wasn’t a thought, exactly. It was like a dream, but I was awake. Half-awake, anyway. I had this horrifying vision or thought that made me instantly realize how people can harm their children even though they love them. I think most parents have experienced a moment like that.
There is nothing wrong with becoming frustrated with a crying baby. Especially when sleep deprived.
My mom used to tell me to walk away. Put the baby somewhere secure and get away for a moment. I would go out in the back yard and cry or scream or kick something. Once I was in control again, I’d go back in and try it again.
As long as he’s safe, secure, and not in an emergency situation, he’ll be fine crying for a moment while you’re getting control back.
Sounds like a good meeting. I’m glad you finally told the story. I know it has been eating at you.
…definitely eating at me. And it pissed me off that I felt like I couldn’t write about it here sooner. When I thought I should all I could think about was Thordora writing a sarcastic tweet then, thanks to an idiot, having to explain to the cops that she didn’t really want to kill her daughters.
The first person I talked to about this was my psychiatrist, and that was three weeks after the fact. It was too long to wait, but it did give me some time to put things into perspective on my own. By the time I saw my doctor I was sure I was more in shock from my son’s response then over what I did to illicit the response.
What I did wasn’t cool, but it also wasn’t nearly as damaging as I first thought.
Oddly enough there was also ten minutes of an otherwise lame documentary that helped… it was an upper-class British presenter, and researchers gave him one of those crying android babies and had him spend twenty-four hours (or more) in a mock up of an apartment in a lab… and let the fun commence.
After being kept up for hours you could tell that he was… lost. He was having responses I could see in myself when I’m tired. After it was done he looked at the camera and said “I now understand why parents might want to shake their baby.”. And he meant it, and he was shocked that those feelings could come out so quickly.
There was a moment with my son between the clamping incident and seeing my psychiatrist when I felt like things were getting out of control. But I talked to him instead… and I said something weird. As I was carrying him around, and he was crying, I meant to say “…this isn’t your fault, you’re not in control over what’s wrong, I’m not going to punish you.” Or something.
But instead I told him “…this isn’t your fault, I know you want me to hurt you, but I’m not going to do it.”
Everything got much better after repeating it a few times in a singing voice. It just feels odd that it came out that way.
Thank you both, bromac and zoom, for your comments. It means a great deal to me to know I’m not alone in this. I now totally understand why parenting blogs are so important for relating this kind of stuff to the newbies.
Wow, I would love to talk to you and drink a few beers. I know we couldn’t do that because of your diabetes, (hope you’re taking care of that and your legs are better), but damn, think that in so many ways we are different, but still deal with alot of the same bs.
Very adorable baby you have btw!
I was a professional nanny and even I never knew babies could get cramps from overexertion, although since I get them myself you’d think even someone as egotistical as me should have figured it out long ago. Don’t blame yourself for not knowing everything about babies.
You should be proud that you’re working hard to be the best parent you can be, and that you’re seeking positive ways to deal with inevitable, yet enraging situations. Being a parent is a tough job, and being a good parent is a huge, and terrifying, challenge. Believe it or not, you’ve got a head start thanks to exactly the process you’ve described here.
I’m curious as to what your psychiatrist says about how your not having the opportunity to express your anger within your family may have led to your depressions over your life. I have heard that one cause of depression is anger and/or rage turned inward.
Like zoom said, having those moments from time to time is pretty much a universal of parenthood. One of the biggest things I have learned since becoming a parent myself 10 years ago is the importance of self-forgiveness. We all mess up from time to time, usually when under some kind of duress, and we need to forgive ourselves and to keep trying out best.
Love your blog, btw!
Thanks. Other than watching my family implode everything’s been great, especially with the baby. We’ve been spending a lot of time together since the cramping / scaring the crap out of daddy incident. I’m still having issues with being tired all the time, but the kid likes long walks in his stroller, and I like long walks pushing his stroller, so things are working out great.
He has accomplished a lot in the past few weeks, so I might do an update here soon…