Nice to see you again, Arch Nemesis.
Anger is such a waste of space. Instead of the butterflies I normally have flitting about my stomach in fields of rainbow-flavored stomach acid, the past week I’ve had African Killer Bees buzzing around, flying out of my finger tips when I try to type, or out of my mouth when I try to speak. It’s been a battle to quell them, to reassure them that I’m okay, and to get them to return to butterfly form.
Anger is poisonous, but how to get it out and move past it in a healthy way?
Let me tell you a story (oh, goody! you cry, Story time from HFOW is like… story time from HFOW! Weehee!):
When I was little, I directed my anger at myself. The youngest of three and the only girl, I wasn’t fond of fighting back. I also didn’t know how, but that’s unrelated. I knew that standing up for myself against Denzel resulted in a time out (which wasn’t fun until I had my own collection of books, a laptop, and my stereo system) and maybe no dinner. I knew that standing up for myself against an angry brother probably meant half-moon fingernail digs in my skin, and I didn’t like that.
So what would I do? I would punch myself in the leg until I couldn’t feel it anymore. I would scream into my pillow and punch, hoping for a bruise to show everyone how badly they had hurt me. It was a very masochistic, fucked up thing for a little kid to do. I thought, maybe if I physically hurt myself bad enough, they would realize how badly they hurt me emotionally. It’s probably the most manipulative thing I could think of; thankfully, I never actually bruised myself, so there was no chance for me to reap the benefits of my self-harm at that age.
Fast forward to when I was an angst-ridden 14 year old girl. Denzel was becoming increasingly unpredictable, and my brothers were growing violent towards each other and myself as a response. It was impossible not to respond with violence: our family life was a mine-field when we were all in the same room. We tried desperately to navigate conversation that wouldn’t result in a grounding or behind-the-scenes beating, but we needed outlets for our anger.
In the basement, there was a punching bag in the shape of a man that my brothers beat so badly it had blood all over it. I don’t know how my father let it out. I don’t know how my mother let it out. But, when I was really angry at my brother, my father, or my mother (or, especially, myself) I would scratch myself until I bled. The physical release of the stinging kept me from saying things I knew I shouldn’t say. The scabs kept me quiet, but they also pushed me closer to suicide. I wrote a note asking for help, that I was afraid I was going to hurt myself more or kill myself, and stuck it in my mom’s underwear drawer, too frightened to face her.
Hours of therapy and psychiatry later, I was diagnosed with Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and I began treatment. Life became adventure after adventure that I was no longer afraid of, though I still couldn’t confront anyone in person. My dad would still lash out, and, though somewhat emboldened, I was still hesitant. My most obvious attempt at voicing my anger with my father happened while we watched Donnie Darko. My brother had just gotten in trouble for speaking, yet my dad and I were talking.
I confronted him. “Why can I talk but he can’t?”
I was promptly sent to my room. I stayed quiet from there on out.
But when my parents separated, the killer bees came back and I screamed them out of all of my pores towards my father. I wrote email after email deriding his treatment of my brothers and attacking his parenting skills. Had I realized he was in the middle of a mental breakdown, I probably would have relented. But I had finally found my voice, and the bees swarmed through my soul to sting the man who had so casually destroyed my family.
That anger subsided as quickly as it came: I had released all of it into cyberspace and I felt, if not better, pacified. I felt as if I had sighed for a century: dust, mites, anger, sadness, fear, and my old personality fell through my mouth and my fingers when I emailed my father.
I wasn’t angry again until nearly a year later when I dated a girl who couldn’t decide between me and someone who was obviously not as awesome as me.
For a few months, this girl went back and forth between us, and eventually I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t talk to this girl directly for two years. I did, however, make playlists that were really mean and had friends give them to her. And, even more embarrassing, I wrote angry poetry directed at her on DeviantArt. Poetry that I knew she read, because she wrote poems in response. It was all so very hilariously pathetic.
That was the last time I was really angry. That was seven years ago; since then, I haven’t been mad enough at anyone to cut them out of my life, nor have I wanted to. Friends have come and gone, sure, but by their own volition or our mutual laziness. I haven’t had to use my voice to knock out someone I cared about in a very long time.
Until this past weekend. The friend who was my first serious attempt at heterosexuality lied to me greatly and managed to make me feel more used and worthless than I had since the girl that got me to write terrible, angry poetry. More used and worthless since ever, really. And I was so mad for a few days. I wanted to write the story here and put him on blast in front of the world, but what would that accomplish? That wouldn’t make me feel better; rather, it would make me feel worse, because I’ve made up and decided that he doesn’t actually care about me (plus, it will look better in a book of hilarious mishaps, anyway). Why give him that satisfaction of airing my dirty laundry when he didn’t care enough to treat me with respect and kindness in the first place? No, I practiced anger management therapy by giving my dog a present this friend had given to me, and laughed heartily when Atreyu pulled stuffing out of its nose a short five minutes later.
I thought about writing angry emails. And I did, I just didn’t send them. I was beyond my “I’m-so-angry-I’m-going-to-cry-everywhere” stage, which is the most annoying stage. I had reached ambivalent anger. Yes, I’m aware that’s an oxymoron. Fuck you, oxymorons. It makes sense in my brain. I was calm, cool, and collected when I removed this person from my life. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, because I hate giving up on friends, but I realized finally that I. Deserve. Better.
And then I let it go. Mostly due to the support from friends, but also because I think I’m finally internalizing that people shouldn’t walk all over people. If you care about someone, you treat them like you care about them. If a friend doesn’t treat you that way, they are not a friend. Get rid of them. You deserve better. You deserve to have butterflies in your stomach, not African Killer Bees. And anyone who can’t justify their shitty treatment of you, make up for it, and prove that it was a one-time thing, deserves nothing from you. Not even a swift kick to the ‘nads.
We deserve the moon, friends. Don’t settle for a petrified piece of shit that kind of looks like moon-rock.