There’s been something that I have thought about writing about for a while. It’s something that so many people, those affected by mental illness and those that aren’t, experience and deal with on a daily basis. But, well, it’s a little taboo, a little shameful, something that I probably wouldn’t like to admit. It’s been drummed into me, for obvious reasons, that it is something a person should hide, to never be and to prevent at all costs. After all, it can be dangerous.
I’m talking about rage.
Recently, I came across a blog or two discussing rage, in relation to post natal depression. And like many aspects surrounding my mental health ‘adventure’, the penny didn’t drop until I seen the words ‘rage’ and ‘mental health’ in the one sentence. How stupid of me, considering I have been ‘angry’ at life for approaching three years now.
But rage is a strong term isn’t it. Most likely when you think of rage you have the image of the incredible Hulk smashing a building or two, or you think of a cartoon character with steam coming out their ears, or you might even think of that poor chef desperately trying to place the olive atop the stack. People describe being ‘blinded by rage’ which lead them to commit a terrible act of violence or destructing, ones they would never, in their right mind, commit. Rage, by it’s definition is a terrible, threatening, destructive force, so those that feel enraged, with no apparent reason for such strong emotion, well they must be terrible too? As children we are discouraged from acts of aggression (well, most people are, there are some that slip the net judging by the monster kids at soft play), we may even be physically scolded (hypocrite) for lashing out or losing our temper. I would know, I have zero patience and a whole load of temper. As a child (and adult) I was often told off for my outbursts, stamping, tantrums and cries. Rage is bad, to be avoided at all costs.
So you can see why a person might be less than forth coming admitting to their rage. Nevertheless, it’s something people should talk about, I’ve been suffering from depression for 2 years, granted to a lesser extent now, and it was only within the last few months that I read about rage in relation to depression. Speaking about mental health can be extremely challenging and intimate, there are still days, really tough days, when my partner asks ‘what is wrong?’, in my head I will be screaming the answer, desperately wanting to explain and be comforted. Yet, my mouth won’t open, I twitch, I become vulnerable and so uncomfortable that I will kick around the truth, maybe give a snippet of the truth, but not the whole story. For the most part, these tough days revolve around feeling too much pressure on my shoulders, feeling the weight of responsibilities and a lack of optimism for the future. Those are the ‘easy’ tough days. But there are days when I’m a beast, days when I want to tell my partner that I would love nothing more than to knock my head into a concrete wall, days when I feel full of anger and rage.
How do you talk to another person about such a taboo topic? What do you say without fear of judgment? Do I even have ‘the rage’, it is a very powerful word, I wonder if it applies to me, after all I haven’t harmed anyone, nor myself. I haven’t trashed a room. I haven’t lashed out in Hulk like state. Like most aspects of mental health, I believe it to be on a scale. I have depression, yet never considered suicide. I have anxiety, yet never had a panic attack. I experience rage, yet have never physically hurt someone – mentally hurt another person out of rage, sadly, yes. Can I really say I have the ‘rage’?
Whenever I try to describe how I’m feeling to my partner or my close friend, the term I normally use is ‘frustrated’. I get very, very frustrated. There will be periods of time, days, weeks to a month, where I am, at best, frustrated. At what? I may not even know. All I know is I have a short fuse, no time for shit and I couldn’t care less about how you might feel. The fuse is short enough that, a minuscule, none ‘thing’ will cause me flip. I become angry, I will lash out in the form of, on a good day, being rude and cutting. On a bad day, I’m spiteful and intent on causing whoever caused me grief some form of hurt, emotional hurt. Not enough hurt that they push me out their life, but enough hurt that I will deeply regret what the fuck I’m doing and apologise…usually.
However, frustration is merely a comfortable and acceptable term I can use to hint that I’m a little bit of a angry monster at times. It’s easy to say I get frustrated, I’ve always leaned more towards the frustrated and impatient side of character traits, laid back and easy going aren’t really on my C.V. If I’m completely honest to myself, I have felt rage, and I do feel rage. I felt rage at my daughter, my newborn daughter, on more than one occasion. Never was she in harm, I was in enough control to prevent that from happening. I did scream in a rage, a confused, upset, tired and what I now know, a depressed rage. At the time, I had never felt like that before. So angry. So confused. So isolated and so ashamed. More anger snaps occurred as Jess grew. Depending on my emotional state, the length of my temper changed. More often than not, there was no give or take in my temper. I could be, seemingly, fine one minute and snap the next. To this day I struggle with my impulsive temper, the quickness in which I go from zero to verbally ripping someones head off.
Frustration is what I feel, angry and rageful is how I act. Not all the time. Only when the pressure build. Pressure being how I feel mentally. When I’m placed under pressure I will physically look angry, it’s easy for anyone to read. Anger can build so quickly, and without, any apparent real reason. Once, I seriously considered mounting the pavement while driving. I was so fucked off with the traffic, that I felt justified to drive on the pavement, past all these bloody arseholes causing congestion, to get to where I needed to be. And where I needed to be was no where. I wasn’t late for work. I wasn’t late for an appointment. I wasn’t late for anything. As much as I would have loved to John McClane all over the street, what the fuck was that all about? I scared myself. Who seriously thinks that is an acceptable thing to do? That’s mental. I’ve been so full of anger and rage that I have, again while driving – maybe I should see someone about my road rage issues – split up with my partner. I don’t know why. I don’t remember what happened before hand. I do remember being so incredible angry, and I wanted to hurt him in the only way I know how to really hurt him, by ending our relationship. Luckily he’s very supportive and understanding, and hasn’t let me actually end our 12 year relationship.
There doesn’t need to a ‘big’ event or fall out for rage to manifest, when I’m in that pressure filled frame of mind. It’s almost as if I’m hormonal, that one time when, as a female, you get given a little more leeway. You’re a bit on edge, you know it, he knows it, your friends know it and if you’ve got a face of fizz like me, then even your co workers may know it. You may as well have a sign on your back saying ‘Approach with caution’. At least then, there is an obvious explanation for your behaviour. You wake the next day with the ‘ahh, so that’s why I bit David’s head off for eating my Cadburys Twinpot’ – to be fair I was heavily pregnant and dreaming, the whole way home, about eating it. Only to get home and find that absolute horror had eaten it. I went mental, cold shoulder, angry, huffy, the whole shebang – to this day I’m still bitter about it. Who does that?! He doesn’t even like them! Dick. Lately, I’m that same angry, hormonal woman, minus the delicious treats. I experience rage over nothing, really nothing. And it’s almost as if I can’t control it. As quick as you would try to catch a falling glass, I will snap and react to Jess knocking something over or needing to repeat myself or the bin not being emptied or the bin being emptied abut no fresh bag in it’s place. Annoying things for sure, but do they warrant clenched fists and mutterings under the breath, or really REALLY audible mutterings? No, of course they don’t. I know that, but it comes out quicker than I can police. And in all truth I don’t want to police it, I’m angry and feel justified in my horrible behaviour.
The very worst rage offences always, always, prompt sadness and regret. Self loathing. Why can’t I just be normal? Why do I need to snap? Why did I do that? It’s a vicious circle. One I cannot control. I can acknowledge it, apologise. But I cannot stop rage from filling my veins, of course you can’t. That’s the point of it surely. What I can do is work on the who, where’s and whys of my depression – something that has been lacking for a while. Mental health has taken a back seat, after all I do feel so much better than I have in a long time. I’ve been complacent, and life has become fast paced and stressful at times. Everything my therapist taught me has gone out the window – me time, mindfulness, relaxation, promoting self love and acceptance.
Just as sadness, isolation and confusion are all my ‘depression’ and not me, so too is my anger and rage. I don’t feel guilty or ashamed for being sad, so I shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed for flying off the handle. It’s not an excuse, but it is a reason. Nothing will improve if I constant berate myself over my temper, constantly comparing myself to others that, seemingly, don’t lose their shit over their kid bouncing on the bed when they’ve been asked a hundred times to lie down and sleep. It will only serve to increase my hot head temper. Plus, I know for sure that most parents lose their shit on a daily basis, and feel just as shitty about it as I do. Most of us don’t really like to admit we would like to pull our eyes out when our kid is being a class A pain in the arse. Maybe it would help a lot of people if we could all be honest with each other and just say it like it is, I know it makes me feel better to hear that other people struggle with life and feel the same as I do. It’s a weapon removed from my depression arsenal. The big D can’t hurt me with feeling like a failure for shouting at my child, if the majority of other parent’s lose their temper after a long day from time to time. From time to time I break down in tears, life is tough, depression is tough, but I never feel silly, embarrassed or ashamed when I do. Everyone breaks.
Maybe, in time, we could change our perception of anger and rage, especially in relation to depression and other mental illnesses. There doesn’t need to be a ‘it’s ok to scream your head off’ campaign. There just needs to be an awareness and open minded approach to the subject, and at the very least acknowledging rage happens. We’re all in this messed up, pressure driven life together, the least we could do is be honest about how shit and hard it can be at times…and actually, maybe we should have a ‘scream your head off’ campaign, a national scream the word ‘fuck’ day (I did hear, recently, that saying the F bomb relieves stress and releases feel good hormones) that way I might be able to get a some rage out without considering a little Grand Theft Auto style driving on the pavement.