I recently read over something I had written in high school. It was a 91 page, unfinished novel that I had started and extensively worked on but somehow never finished. The story was pretty awful. It was unrealistic, it was littered with typos and grammatical errors, the plot wasn’t compelling nor did it make any sense, the characters were striving hard to be something other than flat, but completely failing. But what surprised me the most about the story was the deep-seated anger I read between the lines.
When I thought back to being in highschool, I came to terms with the fact that I was, indeed, very angry. In my family, anger isn’t something that people freely express and communicate, so I think part of the problem was that without an outlet, my anger was just bubbling over and spilling into things like my writing. Which is harmless. But it’s still frightening to think that I was so angry that even my fictional world was peppered with rage.
Looking at myself now, I’m no longer angry. I can remember when I would think of past events and just seethe with hatred, but now I can think of the same events and I just feel a little sad. I’m really not sure how I got from one state to another.
Growing older and the wisdom that comes with age has no doubt had something to do with it. When you’re younger you want to take everything deathly seriously and when you grow up, your realize that a lot of the things that used to upset you just don’t matter anymore. But I also think that there are other factors that caused my cool down.
First and foremost, I was correctly diagnosed with a mental illness and started receiving treatment. Part of my episodes, particularly one that I had the year before my diagnosis, was intense feelings of anger. I would want to rage and scream and be violent, something that is not at all in my normal character. Something completely insignificant would happen and I would be barely able to keep control of myself.
After my diagnosis, I was going through therapy where I learned how to deal with my feelings in a productive way and communicating with others more effectively to help stop some of the triggers that were invariably setting me off. I also started taking medication that evened out my moods and kept me from the extremes of fury, sadness, and even happiness. In the right frame of mind, I can handle an event that would have made me irrational in the past with a cool head and a measured outlook.
But I think a lot of it has to do with my new Humanist-brand philosophy. I no longer see people as black and white. I understand the failings of human beings. I strive to temper my reactions with compassion for people instead of writing them off as bad people. I’m also kinder to myself. If I do or something something that I don’t like, I’m able to remind myself that I’m human as well and I make mistakes.
None of this is to say, however, that I never get angry. I get passionate on my blog a lot, which is mistaken for anger sometimes. But when I’m truly angry, and it does happen, even though it takes a lot, I’m usually able to separate myself from the situation, cool down and think about it rationally. I’m also better about reaching out to talk to people about what’s going on and getting other thoughts on what I’m experiencing so the event doesn’t become overblown in my mind.
There was no singular moment where I just stopped being angry. But through a combination of things and through the years of learning and experiencing more life, I have stopped. Although I might express anger on occasion, it’s just an emotion like everything else. It doesn’t drive me or control me or push me so hard that it comes out in my writing. Being angry is a normal human experience that we all have from time to time, but anger that impacts your life is something that can be dealt with. No one has to live a life of anger and pain.