Friday, September 22, 2006
Who's the patron saint of anger?
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.