25 March 2010

The Pros and Cons of Rage

A while back Terri over at Aquila ka Hecate blogged about rage and, after writing a comment, I realized I had a lot to say about it and should blog about it myself.

The doctors say I have a mild form of bipolar disorder. Some people, even some I'm related to, have said that I'm a bitch and that's all there it to it. And maybe they're right. Maybe it's in my stars. Maybe it's all genetic or maybe I am just a heinous bitch. Or all of the above. (For those of you who don't know, my bipolar takes the form of depression and anxiety but not the delusional or hallucinatory kind of bipolar.) For the purposes of this blog I want to talk about the anxiety side of things, specifically, my anger that can sometimes boil up and burn everything in its path. We all have rage but mine could become truly frightening sometimes.

I've had temper tantrums, I've thrown things, I've made up foul words after I ran through all the mainstream strong language. That's not really extreme though. When it got really bad, however, my rage would take me much farther than that. I once punched a solid oak door off its hinges that had been installed with an electric drill into a solid oak frame. Punched it, barehanded five or six times and poof! off it came. I remember feeling fire flowing through my veins, in a purely metaphorical sense, and releasing it out through my fist. I don't even remember feeling any pain.

When I was a teenager I once hit my mom so hard across the face that her eyeglasses flew off. I've even been cruel to pets once or twice. These are things for which I am deeply ashamed but cannot change. Those things happened because I allowed my rage, my fire to get the better of me. Instead of expressing it or funneling it into something productive or creative I would stifle it and try to shut it up. And for that reason it would occasionally and unpredictably burst forth in an explosion of uncontrolled anger. Whoever or whatever happened to be closest to me would bear the brunt leaving them scared and hurt and me drained and riddled with guilt. It was, to say the least, not a healthy way of coping.

But not all rage is destructive. As I've moved past "young adult" and into "adult with grey hair and wrinkles to prove it" I've gotten better at coping. I've learned to express my rage in a more controlled way. Maybe "controlled" isn't the right word. I suppose I should say that I've learned, purely through trial and error, hit and miss, to let enough of it out to keep myself relatively sane and yet keep from hurting or scaring those around me. I've even come to appreciate my rage. Allow me to explain.

If you've followed this blog much in the last few years you're probably aware that, last fall, my family dispensed with the junkie situation. Our home and our very lives were almost completely destroyed by said junkies. And I think my anger, my fire, my rage kept me going. It was, for some time, all I had to keep me going. The junkies took away almost everything we had. They alienated all of our friends and family. They sucked up all the money and then some. They took away our peace and quiet and our security. They turned our home and our lives into hell on Earth. I've never been so angry for so long. I've never been so angry, period. And I think that rage kept me going. It kept me getting out of bed every day and doing what I could to keep my family from falling completely apart.

Rage is powerful, there's no doubt about that. It can be powerfully painful and frightening, this is true. It can be powerfully destructive, violent and traumatizing, yes. But it can also be powerfully motivating. You see for years my rage was my only strength; it kept me alive when the rest of me just wanted to give up. It kept me fighting, it kept me hanging on. The junkies took everything we had but they fed my rage and, strangely enough, that's the one thing that helped me survive them.


Griffin said...

So Ms Pressure Cooker, you learned to let off a little steam at a time! I remember being utterly furious and writing down why I was utterly furious until by the time I'd finished... I'd forgotten what I was utterly furious about!

There are also two types of anger - hot and cold. The type of rage you describe is that hot fiery anger, but I have had times when I froze my anger and it came out icy cold - enough to burn with words.

I've also had to learn to control my anger. Being terrified of what I could do when I was a kid helped. I didn't like me when I was angry any more than anyone else.

Von said...

Anger and rage can be useful if directed to the unjust, to injustice and changing it.

Marion said...

This is such a raw, powerful post, Livia. I agree...anger will keep me going for a long, long time. It gives me strength, as long as it doesn't unbalance me at the same time. It is a survival tool, just as you say.

I'm liking life without that white hot burning anger now, though...it feels really good.

Livia Indica said...

Griffin, I have some vague recollection of once or twice experiencing that cold kind of anger. But not very often; I tend to erupt like lava! Oh yeah, I hated being angry and I hated what the junkies were doing to us so I pretty much hated everything and was miserable. But I made it through it!

Von, so true!

Hi Marion! Yeah, this was a really personal post, probably about as personal and revealing as I will go. And I agree, it feels SO good to be free of (most of) the anger. I'll always be angry about what we went though, and the emotional and financial debts we're still paying, but it's so wonderful to not have to live with all of that anger. Thanks for stopping by!

Cygnus MacLlyr said...

Who amongst us canna say that we have not walked those shoes, Livia?

I've oft lashed out at those I love most-- not so much physically as psychologically/emotionally, but that could be worse...

And those that love me most today recognise when to let the fire run it's course. Left to motivate, it not need always be kept under control from expression-- nae, should NEVER-- but neither let to consume.

Livia Indica said...

True dat!

Anonymous said...

Your reflection reminds me of reading something last night about "shadow." We each have a shadow, but there isn't any getting rid of it. Instead, this shadow can be a friend, a teacher, if we learn how to cope. Which sounds like what you've been able to do. Sounds like the rage was a friend when you needed one, to keep you going.

My shadow, however, is not getting angry often enough!

Livia Indica said...

Hmm, interesting. I vaguely remember reading something like that at one point; maybe I should look it up again. Perhaps you could do some magic/meditative exercise that could strengthen your shadow?

Anonymous said...

Well, the thinking about "shadows" is not that they have to be strengthened. In fact, they're already too strong. Instead, it's how to recognize the shadows and then harness that energy for something positive. I need to explore this more, but now I'm working on being more honest. Since my shadow is to please others to my own detriment and never show anger, I'm working on voicing my true feelings, which is a whole helluva lot harder than it sounds.

Livia Indica said...

Ah, I see what you're saying. I think what you're talking about was what my problem was. I never wanted to start any shit or have any kind of confrontation, even if it was really needed, so I just kept quiet and went along. I didn't try any methods to get over that; I just got extremely tired of being spoken for, if that makes sense. Good luck with your shadow work.

Griffin said...

Livia, being a Scorpio with that sting in the tail, it's my words I had to watch, but when my rage backed them up, then I definitely had to watch out for myself.

I think like you I'm generally a peaceful soul, unwilling to get fired up, but it's taken the experience of living to teach me when to get angry and when not to... especially when not to!