Anger Therapy

Photo Credit: Eric Gevaert

Today gave me a lesson in the value of anger. Yes, I’ve heard it all: anger bad – positive feelings good. Fine. Too much anger, and I’d better manage it or I’ll be out of a job, family, the whole works. Right. But there are times when the purely valid human feeling of anger can save me.

That’s what happened today. I’ve been moving along at a nice clip for the past week, getting a lot done, full of a sense of well-being, as if (dare I think it) I might be done with depression and all the life saboteurs that keep it company. Then today, I’m sitting in my office, and – wham – I know I’ve got to get out of there. I just have to pack up and leave. Now!

Some force is pushing through from within, like one of those wet toothy jack-in-the-box aliens that like to pop out of normal-seeming bodies in the movies. Come to think of it, that’s one way to imagine the big D, Depression, stirring around in there, getting ready to emerge, to blow apart my mere host personality, to trot around as a substitute me. Is Mr. Big D getting ready to emerge?

That’s motive enough to move. The voltage of fear keeps building. As that nervous pressure increases, my mind suddenly empties itself out. One minute I’m buzzing with ideas of what I have to do, and then, poof! Nothing. I look around to see where those thoughts have gone – where are my mental lists! I’m dead without my lists! I try to seize a new thought – but as soon as I get one into that neuro-flow, it’s gone. Those thoughts know something I don’t. I’d better get out of there too! Perhaps I can step out of this troubled mind, go somewhere else and try a new one on for size.

I have to focus, though, even to move. I can’t think – so work is out of the question – and I know I have to get out of this 12 X 12 room box. And that’s all I know. I grab what I can, step out of my office, get past the poor guy in the hall who has been waiting to talk to me about a problem, apologize in mid-flight for suddenly having to leave, reach for that handle, push, out, open air. Where’s the car? Got it. Get in and drive on auto pilot straight home, maybe fifteen minutes away at 1;30 pm. Thank God there are still times of day when you can move in a hurry on the freeway.

Then I’m home, fear now spreading out and settling in, and the bottom drops right out of me. I’m only the host of the depression beast, after all. That body-like substructure holding me up during the day, feeling so solid and secure – now it’s a burst and bloody mess. Gone! Big D is walking around in my place, and I’m somewhere else, sinking away, as a towering wave of bleakness hits and washes over me, catching me up in currents, pulling me out deeper, inviting me to drown. For a while that’s how I feel, sunken, sodden, weighted with water-heavy clothing, sad beyond belief that everything exciting has all at once vanished. There’s grief in this water, and misery – oh hell, who cares what it is? I can’t care about anything anymore.

And then it hits. Good old anger! Truly, I just can’t take it any more. So much of my life has been lost to this mess, I can’t let go of another minute without a kicking screaming fight. STOP. NOW. Suddenly, I’ve taken back that body, I can stand on solid ground, I can feel strength returning – I can feel. I am in this corner, I have no where left to run and I am throwing myself right back at Big D. And with my strengthening arms I shove that mass of deadness right out the window – or into some sort of mixed metaphorical hell. (After all, the drop from a ground floor window isn’t all that serious.) At least I can lift my brain up in self-respecting anger if not exactly in the fullness of living, and I can stomp to my computer, sit right down here – and … write! Now that may not seem all that heroic – in fact, it may seem downright anticlimactic. But that’s what I do! At least, I can get down a few words, my mind starts to wake up, energy and buzz return.

What is anger after all but the rebellion of your deepest being against a threat to its survival? Thanks to anger, I’m coming back! At least, today.

11 Responses to “Anger Therapy”

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  1. segevgazit says:

    Anger is the biggest obstacle of, I really connect to this article, thank you, it just shows that I have a lot more work to do.

  2. Amy says:

    The way you described all of those feelings and thoughts was beautiful. It is exactly as I feel and think in those moments that overtake me. Thank you for putting it into words for us to see and for helping me not feel so alone in the way I feel. Keep on writing. Keep on 🙂

  3. Jill says:

    I am happy I’ve found this blog. I don’t know which is worse, depression or anger. I use to be able to throw things when I felt I needed a release from anger. Now I am retired, as is my husband and I can’t throw things. He can’t handle it and it makes me mad. Endless cycle…

  4. Yvette says:

    I am a woman but for me I’m just now at age 38 realizing that my everyday, all day anger for no reason at all toward my loved ones is a part of depression!!! I’m seeking the right kind of help bit am still in awww that it’s even in the same category! This website just now changed my whole look on “What the hell is my problem”! So I thank you very much! Big help here big D!

  5. Evan says:

    I too think anger is good.

    I have a friend who has been suicidally depressed. They sometimes go into suicidal despair – when they start getting angry instead I know the danger has passed.

    At the moment they seem to be through it for good – and anger, and feeling OK about being angry, was definitely part of the healing.

    Thanks for the great post.

  6. John D says:

    dextro – I very much agree that anger has to be let go once it’s out. Genuine anger does that – but anger turning to rage is always depression-related and harder to deal with. Thanks for your comment.

    inflatable – Thanks for coming by. I am feeling much better these days.

  7. John D says:

    Evan –

    Thank you – that’s interesting about seeing anger as a sign that the suicidal impulse is past. For me, a major part of the process of recovery has been to distinguish genuine emotion from depression-related feelings – which last much longer and have no immediate cause. Grief coming to the surface has been a sign for me that I’m more in touch with my real feelings. It’s part of the real turnaround I’ve been experiencing lately.


  8. inflatable says:

    I hope you in control now…

  9. dextro says:

    Anger is something you have to let go. We do not isolate anger, it will bring no good. we have to release it but don’t get carried away. once it all out say goodbye to it, don’t follow it, turn to other positive things.

  10. zania says:

    “What is anger after all but the rebellion of your deepest being against a threat to its survival?”

    I get rather tired of being told that anger is bad and we need to think positive all the time.

    Thinking positive and not getting angry when we truly need to get angry is just a shallow non-acceptance of the truth of our lives.
    So I wish I had met anon for now’s therapist 🙂

  11. Anon for now says:

    Wow. Excellent work at paying attention to what your deeper self is telling you — and acting on it. I’m going to pay more attention to my anger now and see if it offers me a way back toward balance.

    Oh, and re-reading the first paragraph reminds me of what a therapist kept telling me: All emotions (even anger) are good, healthy, useful. It’s the actions we take from within those emotions that may be “good” or “bad.”

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