This week I’ve learnt that it’s ok to be angry, to express anger in a positive way and that anger can have its uses, many people may already know these things, but for me it’s a bit of a breakthrough. Whilst logically I know anger is ok, I tend to see myself as not an angry person and deep down I find anger quite a frightening emotion.
The breakthrough came as I talked in therapy, I realised I was upset and bothered about things and that yes I was angry, extremely angry at losing out on my past. Yet I tried really hard to just sideline the emotions as is my normal behaviour and so I belittled them as I tried to change the subject. But with a little help I was able to see that it’s ok to be angry, anger doesn’t have to be dangerous or bad in fact it can be a very healthy emotion to have.
Actually understanding how the anger I feel is helping to motivate me on my journey of recovery has been really helpful. It’s the first time I can accept anger might not be so scary after all, that if its expressed in the right way it can be a positive tool to help me. I still find this slightly weird and yet I can at least see that it may have a role to play and that it might not be so frightening an emotion.
I spoke to my Psychologist about how when I was angry before it always led to judgements and issues, and that as a child expressing any feelings was dangerous. In hospital staff would judge me based on my responses, so any sign of anger or even disagreement was seen in some way to be a big issue. I can recall so many incidents were my actions were misconstrued and I was labelled or judged in a totally unfair way.
There was the time I challenged a nurse who had lost my medication tray from their massive metal cabinet, all I did was say it had to be there. This was construed as me challenging them, being aggressive and being uncooperative with staff. It was recorded that I shouted when I think the most I did was raise my voice a tiny amount and this was mainly because the nurse was shouting loudly at me. My records don’t show that the nurse failed to look for my medication, that they shouted at a patient or that they were rude.
Then there were times I declined my medication, now I know looking back it wasn’t the best decision I ever made, but then neither was filling me with so many pills that I couldn’t think. These times were construed as me being uncooperative and antagonistic, someone who failed to accept what was best for her. If I fought when I was restrained which I think any normal minded human being would, it was seen as aggressive behaviour. No wonder that I soon learnt that having opinions or showing signs of irritation, frustration or anger would just land me in more hot water.
Of course I wasn’t alone in being judged in this way and as I explained in my therapy session my hospital stays kind of made me hide my feelings even more. But now it’s different, now I can see that hiding away my feelings isn’t helpful, hiding away my anger is actually doing more harm than good. I’m not advocating people randomly go out and hit people or shout and scream, but anger when demonstrated in a sensible controlled way is actually beneficial.
Telling someone I’m angry at them in a calm controlled way is ok, acknowledging I’m annoyed at something is fine too. Being able to request an apology, or ask for a time out, or for something to change these are all positive ways of expressing my anger. They can bring about positive change in a situation, as can channeling the anger that I hold from my past.
So from now on I’m going to try and allow my feelings to come through, no more blocking emotions for me, instead of slamming a door in frustration when someone annoys me I aim to tell people when I’m annoyed. My hope is that I can learn to no longer fear this emotion but instead utilise it to bring about change, change in others, in situations but most of all to motivate myself to change.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2015