The idea for today’s post comes from a friend of mine in Maine, with whom I was discussing the problem of anger and its management. I’m one of those people who was born pissed off, and it’s only the years (and the meds) that have mellowed me out a bit. As it turns out, this friend and I both have pretty bad tempers when unmedicated and provoked, although I can say she’s probably never threatened to kill anyone. I have, and at the time I meant it.
She also has probably never gone after anyone with garden implements, and I’ve done that as well. How I’ve escaped assault and menacing charges, I’ll never know, but I’ve always suspected God saved me from myself on this score because He wanted me to grow the hell up and become a nurse so I could help people. And He did a good job of it, for I’ve never physically injured a living soul in all these years (and was a pretty decent nurse in the bargain).
My mouth, however, is an entirely different story, because it has a history of going off completely without permission from my brain. I have stood in the pouring rain in front of a packed restaurant, hollering at my husband. (I know, how white-trash is THAT?!) I have thrown screaming fits out on the front lawn where everyone within the considerable range of my voice could hear every profanity I uttered. There have even been times when I was so out of control that I burst blood vessels in my eyes from all the shouting.
Where did this rage come from? I was told all the time when I was growing up that I’d come out of the chute a month late with a scowl on my face, a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other, and yelling “OK, who the hell is in charge here!?” But my older son has the rage factor too, and since he shows signs of being bipolar as well, I’ve got to wonder if it’s part of the illness. I don’t know…..all I can tell is, I haven’t had a single conniption since I’ve been medicated. And that makes Dr. Awesomesauce, my family, and me VERY happy.
I know Dr. A worried a lot about my temper in the early going. What landed me in his office in the first place was an unfortunate remark to my internist’s assistant along the lines of “I hope you don’t see my name in the newspaper because I’ve killed something!” Of course, we know now that I was under the influence of Wellbutrin at the time, and Wellbutrin is bad for me. But for the first six months or so that I was seeing Dr. A, he asked me often about my anger (“You haven’t killed anyone or gotten banned from a website this week? Good!”) and taught me coping skills so I could deal with it better.
Now we hardly ever talk about it, because I’m no longer an angry person. Sure, I still get ticked off at times, but there’s a big difference between that and being full of wrath. I’ve literally been medicated out of it. Not only do the meds calm me down, they’ve given me time to assess myself and realize that there really isn’t much that’s worth getting worked up over.
The process does slip at times, but the blind rages are gone and even when I do get mad, I usually get over it quickly. There are also varying degrees of upset—not everything deserves a full-throated response—and situations that used to infuriate me in many cases are now merely annoying. Sometimes I can even look at things from the perspective of the person who just cut me off in traffic or said something less than nice, and I’ll think “Well, we all have bad days, maybe this is one of his/hers”.
It’s not always sunshine and roses, of course, and sometimes there are flashes of the old anger, but overall I am a much more relaxed and pleasant person than I used to be. Even my blood pressure has come down to normal levels—and stayed there—for the first time since my 30s. It’s all good. And I hope my son gets to experience it one day. :-)