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Anger Mental Health

How to Express Anger

If you’ve read my last blogs, you know that I got pretty angry over my medical traumas (my appendectomy and mysterious GI illness.) My anger was directed at insensitive doctors with no bedside manner at all whatsoever.

I thank you for not judging me because it was not easy to open up about that. I felt pretty vulnerable. Confessing my disdain for a myriad of doctors is not exactly light. 

Let me take the time to say that I am very thankful for medical workers in general. I don’t want you guys to think that I hate all doctors. That’s not the case at all. They are lifesavers. Many of them are extremely kind human beings with nothing but benevolent intentions. I’m lucky that I have had a handful of those gems caring for me.

Anyway, let’s get back to the point at large: Anger. It’s completely normal to feel anger. Have you ever had your wallet stolen? Have you ever gotten a parking ticket? Have you ever stepped in dog doo? It would be weird if you didn’t react with some anger. Plus, righteous anger can lead to positive change in the world- women’s suffrage, Civil Rights Movement, same-sex marriage, etc.

Unfortunately, anger gets a bad reputation. People fear anger when it leads to violence. However, anger that is expressed in a healthy way does not have to be synonymous with aggression.

Anger is energy. How you deal with your anger says a lot about you. I’ll share a few times when I’ve experienced prolonged anger.

When I was seventeen years old I went to a semi-restrictive therapeutic boarding school in Connecticut. While I wasn’t forced to go, I was not exactly stoked about the idea. I left my life in Cincinnati and came to live with students who were diagnosed with different mental illnesses: depression, general anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, and more. I was pissed at the world back then. I was mad that I was away from my friends back home. I was mad at the staff members for not letting us have cellphones or internet in our rooms. I hated that I had to be checked on every half hour, night and day.  At first, I missed reading quietly in my bed, rather than sharing a room with two other girls. I felt like a failure and a loser. I couldn’t control my circumstances and I was MAD about it. 

I shared in my last blog how angry I was at doctors for treating me like a spec of dirt on a rug. It felt like they saw me as another patient. “Here comes the 25th patient I’ve seen today. Let’s try to get her in and out.” Some of them didn’t even make eye contact with me. They patronized me and made me feel like my pain wasn’t real. I imagined them getting fired every single night before I went to bed. Each time I felt a pang in my stomach (like 30 times an hour) I prayed that they would lose their job. Sounds dark, right?

Before my dad died, I felt anger that my dad lost custody of my sister, Emily and I. Why was he continuing to use drugs? Why was he being so mean to Mommy? Why did Mommy only let us see Daddy at supervised visitation clinics? When he died from a drug overdose, I felt grief and anger overwhelm my body. I felt like God had spit in my wound. My life seemed like a sick joke. I couldn’t control what was happening to me. I felt like a feather getting blown around in the wind.

What is the common theme in all of these stories? A lack of control. There was something getting in the way of my desired results- independence, my perception of a “normal” teenage life, health, respect, absence of pain, to be taken seriously, to embrace my loving father, for my dad to be happy and alive. What was getting in the way? Circumstances that I could not control.

Let me repeat that…. I was angry that I could not control the world.

I.

Cannot.

Control.

The.

World.

That’s a really hard pill to swallow. We all want our hard-work and charming personalities to get us places. That’s the American dream, right? Well, sometimes you’re dealt a bad hand. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way.

You’re going to get angry in life. Let’s talk about how to deal with that anger.

  1. Time

In time, you will no longer feel the way that you’re currently feeling. Whether it’s joy, sadness, grief, excitement, or anger. Eventually, the tide always comes in. There is no universe where things stay the same. If you need proof, go out your front door and check the sky. Knowing that your anger will not last can help you instrumentally.

That said, if someone told me that I would “feel better soon,” after my dad died, I would *want to* deck them in the face!

It may take seconds or it may take months, but your emotions will change. The thoughts that are driving the anger will not be at the forefront of your mind as much after time passes.

Am I still mad about the boarding school, the doctors, and my dad’s passing from time to time? Yes, of course. The difference is that so much time has passed. Other things consume my mind. I’m more easily able to think of something else. Even if I wanted to spend all day thinking about these things, I just can’t. The first year, I pondered my circumstances and became red hot angry, maybe fifty times per day. With every month, it decreased a little bit. 

  • Notice the Change

Notice the intensity and temperature of the emotional change. Are you bubbling with anger for a whole hour or does it simmer down a little bit? Notice the rollercoaster ride of your anger.

One moment, I feel like my ears are steaming with fiery anger, but I notice that this lava-burning energy doesn’t last. Feeling so pissed can really wear you out! So, after a spike in cortisol, I feel a bit sleepy. After a few hours pass, I feel a low-grade anger in the pit of my stomach. Then maybe it gets more and more intense, like the sun at its peak in the afternoon. Soon I can’t focus on reading my book or watching my show. Then, in time, it dissolves once again.

  • Write down your bodily sensations

Jot down all of the bodily sensations you feel. Are you fists clenched? Are your cheeks flushed? Is your chest tight?

Move away from your thoughts and go into your body. This can help bring you back to planet Earth and away from the angry thoughts.

  • Movement

Moving through your emotions is so SO important. I cannot stress this enough. When your emotions are stagnant and festering within your body, you’ll feel terrible. You’ve got to let the emotions go in any way, shape, or form.

  • Dance
  • Workout
  • Paint
  • Scream
  • Journal
  • Cry

You will feel a powerful release once you get this intense energy out of your body. You’ll be able to take that much deserved sigh of relief and approach this situation more calmly. Sweat it out or cry it out! If you want to go for a run, write about it, or call a friend, I encourage that!

  • Have a conversation

Sometimes, it can help to talk about your issue. You can talk to a therapist, a friend, a parent, or you can even have an imaginary conversation.

In my mind, I screamed expletives at the doctors. Then, I was able to have a calm conversation.

To the doctors: it hurts my feelings when you write off my feelings and pain. It feels like you’re not really listening to what I’m going through.

To my dad: I wish you were alive. I wish you were around to meet my boyfriend and see me grow up. I wish we could go to New Jersey and hop in the ocean, eat hard rolls, go for a bike ride, and watch Indiana Jones together.

To the staff members at my boarding school: It’s really hard to be seventeen and not have any privacy. I know you’re just doing your job, but it really sucks. Please acknowledge my pain.

Thanks for reading my blog post, guys! Remember, anger is normal. Feeling angry doesn’t make you an aggressive or weak person. Make sure to move through your emotion. My favorite way to work through an intense emotion is to hula hoop. I hope this post helps you out. You’re not alone in your feelings. Understanding that the emotion will eventually fade may help.

Sending love and strength,

Annie