Butterfly Cauldron

Friday, September 22, 2006

Who's the patron saint of anger?

When I was younger, I had a terrible temper. I mean, it was on a razor-thin tripwire and could explode at any time. As I've gotten older, it's subsided some, reserved now for things that truely deserve anger. I've also gotten better at dealing with it, because I've accepted and embraced it. Contrary to what I was taught, my anger is a source of power for me. If I can get angry at something, there's no limit to what I can do to change it.

Example: I was diagnosed a few years ago with Lupus, a chronic auto-immune disease that really runs roughshod over my life at time. Because it took years to get a diagnosis, at first I was elated. It had a name. I wasn't crazy. Then, when I realized just how much medication I was going to have to take (14 pills per day to start with), how much I was going to have to alter my life, how long I was going to have to do this (uh, forever) -- I got very depressed. Which is a perfectly normal reaction. When people get sick, they expect to either get better or die. They don't expect to live in limbo for the rest of their lives. So, for probably about a year I was very depressed about being sick, about being the only person I know with this illness, about how it made me feel, about how my family wasn't really able to understand or accept that I was NOT going to get better...Which is also a prefectly normal reaction, although I didn't think so at the time.

Then, at some point, I got angry. I got really angry. I got angry at my body, I got angry at God, I got angry at my family, I got angry at the whole damn world and I got very, very angry at this damned disease for stealing my life. I got angry and sick of it all and refused to put up with it anymore.

And I started to get better. Literally, within days, there was a detectable difference in my pain levels, in my exhaustion, in my attitude, even in my damned test results.

Anger for me works like a fire, one that turns me into steel. I have this image in my head of my spine being coated in steel, of something in me waking up and saying "Enough of this shit." If I can get angry, I can get better. Period. It's powerful and, yes, can be dangerous if not applied wisely.

I was taught that I wasn't supposed to be angry, so I repressed it for a long, long time. Or, I tried to, but the thing with power is it won't be ignored. If you won't use it the way it wants to be, it'll find other ways to manifest. My very healthy anger, which is and was always triggered by injustice, turned itself into that hair-trigger my family was so afraid of. Instead of helping me find ways to express my anger healthily, I was sent to my room or told not to say that or that it was wrong to be angry and I should apologize. Which made me even more angry, thus perpetuating the cycle.

I've always felt it was perfectly ok to be angry with God. If something happened that pissed you off -- your Grandfather dies when you're 13, say -- if you want to yell at God, go ahead. I mean, isn't God big enough to take a little anger? From a grieving girl? This really alarmed my family. You're not supposed to question. You're not supposed to second-guess God! You're just supposed to be resigned and accepting of His will.

Bullshit. If we're supposed to have a real relationship with God, as the church is always saying, then it has to be real, not fake and one-sided. Name a single person you know personally that you've never been angry at. Name one you've never wanted to shake until they saw sense and reason. Those things happen in relationships and if it's a good one, they'll understand and not hold it against you.

I was a girl, in the South, so that was another reason I wasn't supposed to be angry. Because ladies didn't do that. Funny thing is, I have never had the desire to be a 'lady'. I want to be real, for gods sake! I want to be me, with all my flaws and gifts, in full-color. I want people to know me not some idealized version of me that makes them comfortable.

I know I scared my parents, in so many ways, when I was growing up. They were really unprepared to deal with this sulky, angry, misfit of a daughter. And because they were young when I was born, they reacted out of their own fear and tried to suppress a lot of what made them uncomfortable. They mellowed as they got older, but the lessons you learn as a young child are the ones that stick with you. They're also the ones that take the longest to reject, but sometimes you have to, otherwise you cut yourself off from sources of strength you'll need to survive.

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posted by Zan at 7:33 AM

8 Comments:

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Anger is the healthiest emotion -- it energizes for change.

I am so glad you posted this today, because it might not have spoken to me the same way yesterday. Today was the day I woke up at 6:30 (don't need to get up until 7:30 because I live nine blocks from work and go in at 9), as usual, unable to go back to sleep, as usual, having had a horrid night of continually waking and needing to deal with my sinuses so I could get back to sleep and so was heading into yet another day of sleep deprivation in a long line of such days, and for the first time wasn't resigned or sad or feeling pathetic (everybody on the face of the earth gets a good night's sleep but me) but instead ANGRY! Wanting to throw something! Just royally pissed off that I need my sleep and I'm tired of being tired and what can I throw?

And today, I figured out that the problem is mechanical. I don't have clogged sinuses unless I'm laying down. I need to figure out how to sleep in my bed without laying totally horizontal!

There are things you can order! On the internet. And until that comes, I am always falling asleep in my recliner anyway!

3:05 PM  

MG: I am paranoid about drowing in snot in my sleep. So when I had clogged sinuses, I reluctantly propped up pillows and slept in as reclined a posture as I could assume without swallowing snot. Can you do that? How much of you do you need lifted? Can you just prop up your head more?

I know I'm always mentioning my mom, and here I go again. She was all about the power of the mind. She suffered from various illnessness and medical conditions. When she didn't want to be hospitalized, she would do things like lower her blood pressure enough that her medical team could safely send her home.

I've never understood the fear of God and fire&brimstone teachings. If God is the ultimate Father, shouldn't he be the nicest one ever? The kind who deserved a Heaven's Greatest Dad mug. And a nice dad wouldn't kill you for no reason or just because you felt a certain way or you said something he didn't like.

I like Southern women and ladies. I've always thought them the strength of the South. They may not show their anger, but I see that as a strategy. It's difficult to listen to raised voices, but quiet tones don't encourage suspicion.

6:31 PM  

I'm surprised you haven't blown up at your parents for their injustice.

6:32 PM  

Actually, I was about an inch away from it before I went into therapy, I just didn't realize it :) I went into therapy, thinking I was going to get a handle on living with a chronic illness and spent a year dealing with family and religion issues.

6:37 PM  

rage is to writers what water is to fish. a laid-back writer is like an orgasmic prostitute --
an anomaly.

--nikki giovanni

As quoted here.

6:45 PM  

Nice! I may have to steal that and put it in my banner up there...hrm...

6:50 PM  

Please do; I'm sure yours will look better. I like your new profile picture, and the way your profile is at the top (finally).

7:04 PM  

Great post. I think anger is like fire: very powerful; can either be beneficial or destructive, depending on what you do with it.

and seconded: love the new pic.

9:32 PM  

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