08 February 2014

On Anger

Anger gets a bad rap. "Let go of anger," they say, "anger is cancerous," "anger is evil," and "never get angry, always remain calm." I disagree. I get the point, but that's not the whole story. Every emotion has it's place.

You see, anger and me, we have a relationship. I'd never advocate "hanging onto anger," but the fact remains: anger has saved my life. And I love it.

Most everyone knows I have panic and anxiety disorders. I've been afflicted since childhood. It got so bad in High School that my Junior year, I lost 10 pounds and I couldn't go to school much. It was too hard to go out with my friends at times. I spent my days nerve-addled, locked in chain-smoking sessions on our screened in back porch. Some of you understand, but those who don't, imagine if you were on an airplane that got hijacked by terrorists. One of them grabs you and has a box cutter to your throat, screaming something in a language you can't understand. Your body will flood with adrenaline and the terror will push you towards fight or flight. Feeling like you cannot do either, the adrenaline will make you sick and paralyze you. That's what happens to me. No terrorist, no drama or trauma, but my body floods itself with the panic response for no good reason. I feel like I am dying. I feel terror, as if something is about to rip me open from the inside. I cannot breathe. My eyes will sometimes go dim, as if I am about to lose consciousness. I feel sick to my stomach, clammy, and my heart is racing. My stomach lurches, trying to empty me of any unnecessary energy expenditures. My mind is screaming to GET AWAY. But there is nothing to get away from. Nothing to run from, except myself, and I can't do that.

For a long time I couldn't do anything. At a point, I couldn't leave my house. I was paralyzed, filled with dread and exhausted from the constant stress my own body was putting on itself.

Then I got angry.

It started as a superficial kind of anger at my situation. "I'm so mad! Why is my body so stupid? I f*cking hate myself!" You know, that kind of angsty crap. Self-loathing and fist-shaking. But then the anger grew deeper and settled in. Then, a funny thing happened.

It pushed me past my fear into action.

Anger isn't just being mad about something. Anger is a response to fear and for good reason. It propels you to move, despite of your trepidation. It's the "fight" in fight or flight.

Anger has picked me up off the floor. Anger has motivated me to compete and become stronger and better. Anger has carried me though fear and grief. It has propelled me into the lion's den and given me the strength to come out the other side, bloodied and swinging.

I'm not lying when I say anger has saved my life. I would be immobilized on a screened porch without it. I wouldn't have had the determination it takes to live this life. Life takes guts and my anger steels them. I am grateful for my anger.

Obviously, harboring anger, misplacing anger, being violent and raising your blood pressure aren't good things. Sometimes I have the temperance of a pit viper. And that's when I try to employ that calming, peaceful, Buddha shit everyone posts about on facebook. Because calm is for after the storm, at least for someone with my particular handicap.

Emotions are a balancing act that help you respond to living, not a simple set of "good" and "bad" feelings. So don't be so quick to push away your anger. Let it sit down with you, have a drink, and talk to it. You might learn something.

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