Living Well: Coping with anger

For many years, especially in my twenties, I struggled with anger issues from past traumatic experiences. It took me a long time, nearly twenty years to be exact, to finally open up to someone I trusted about my experiences of sexual abuse and abusive partnerships.

The first person I told my entire story to was my ex. For the sake of this blog, I’ll call him Trigger.

Trigger suffered from PTSD from his experiences in the military and it was something that we bonded over. It was also what destroyed whatever relationship we could have had together as our anger issues would eventually become toxic – and addicting.

And yes, you can become addicted to anger and toxic relationships. I’m living proof of this. It’s a big part of why I choose a single life. I’m a better person for it. And happier – for the most part.

Our relationship was unhealthy. He’d shut me out for weeks at a time and blame it on his PTSD. I’d get mad at him and would send him a very hurtful email. Then he’d call me and scream at me on the phone or come crashing through my condo door and let at me until he was red in the face.

That man was a ticking time bomb and I knew all the right buttons to push to set him off. It was a vicious cycle of abuse and we did it to each other. Over and over again.

The cycle of abuse

The sexual abuse is not something I’m willing to write about here. I don’t feel it’s appropriate in this blog. But I am willing to share with you is how the anger from that abuse affected my personal life, and my interpersonal relationships. I’m also going to write another article on how to recognize abusive behaviour – because it isn’t always easy.

The cyccle of abuse is real and very damaging. Abusive traits and behaviours can be learned or passed on genetically. For me, I wasn’t abused at home. I found myself attracted to the alpha male type personalities. Their attitudes were “it’s my way or the highway”. You know the kind of guy I’m talking about.

I also felt a rush of excitement and often found myself in dangerous situations. It’s a wonder I’m still alive today. I made so many bad decision.

The root of your anger

Finding the root cause of anger is sort of like finding the root cause of an illness. In a way, anger is an illness. It’s part of your overall mental health. And anger and anxiety can weigh you down. It can affect your physical health, your sleep – and even the way you feel about yourself.

For me, addressing my anger meant really looking into my past and finding the root cause of the anger. I wrote about different experiences and finally started opening up about the abuse in junior high about ten years ago when I reconnected with “Trigger”.

I went to junior high in 1989. Here in Alberta, junior high is grade 7, 8 and 9. My homeroom class was full of the worst boys in school. And while the abuse wasn’t that bad in grade 7, it started to get really bad in grade 8 and 9.

I was quiet and painfully shy. I was also fairly chubby for a kid that age. You know how kids are when it comes to weight. I’m just glad we didn’t have cell phones or social media back then. I’m not sure I would have survived.

We didn’t have the supports back then that we have today. We only had one school counselor and he was kind of a joke. I do remember my French teacher in grade 8 and 9. Mrs. G. She could see that I was struggling and even though we didn’t talk about the bullying issues – she was incredibly kind to me.

All it takes is one person to reach out. One person to make a difference in someone’s life. One person to show that they cared.

Music as an outlet

It’s no coincidence that junior high was the time that I dived into music. It was my therapy. My escape from the real world. It was a way for me to express my emotions without words. By the time high school rolled around, I was completely immersed in the world of music.

And thankfully, by the time grade 10 rolled around, the bullies from junior high were split up and went to different schools. Some moved from Edmonton completely.

High school was a fresh start for me. And I made a small group of friends who I bonded with quickly.

I was taking morning band classes. I had auditioned for and made the Edmonton All City Senior Band conducted by Mr. Frank Dunnigan. I was touring, competing, studying theory – I wanted to do it all.

Life was better by the time high school rolled around. But that anger was still there. And even though I had music, it wasn’t enough.

More than anything, I wish I could revisit my thirteen year old self and pass on wisdom that I have gained today on how to deal with people.

All I needed to do back then was tell the abusers to “fuck off”. That’s it. That’s all I needed to say – just once. Maybe life would have turned out differently.

But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I couldn’t find the right words to say or the strength needed to tell an entire class to simply, “fuck off”. I didn’t even tell my parents what was happening. I just took the abuse. I took it all and lived with it.

I think that’s where some of the anger started coming into play in my life and I carried it with my for all those years. It weighed heavy on my shoulders.

Living with anger was draining

Living with anger was physically and emotionally draining. I remember sometimes my whole body would shake after interactions with people that triggered it.

My face would turn red. I would raise my voice. Curl my fists into tiny little balls. And then I would hop onto the computer and write nasty little emails which still haunt me to this day.

My stomach would hurt. Sometimes I’d spend hours in the bathroom crying. Or I’d just come home and sleep. Or – I would eat my feelings which resulted in weight gain over the years.

The anger became over whelming and I knew I had a problem. It wasn’t until I learned about hormones and received help from my doctor with the use of anti-depressants back in 2011-2012.

It sucked being on the pills. And I managed to ween myself off them around 2013-2014. I’ve been off them since.

Healing from anger

It took me a long time to let go of anger from past traumas. I still carry hurt from them today. But as time goes on, it gets easier. Writing for me is therapeutic in many ways. Sharing my expeirences in a way of helping others – it really gets me through the day.

I learned to stop sending angry emails – because that never solved anything. Instead, I learned to write a draft email and walk away from it. I gave myself a day or two to think really hard on the issue. If I was still angry, then I would either ask to speak to that person, or re-draft my email without the anger. But most of the time, when I revisited the email, the anger had passed.

This simple change improved my relationships so much. I realized that by hiding behind emails I was being a coward. It just made situations worse. And at times, it destroyed relationships. You can’t really take back emails. Just like you can’t really take back things you say online. Nothing is really deleted forever.

After taking some courses at work on learning to deal with difficult people and situations, I learned some really great techniques on how to manage my anger. And eventually, anger from past hurts faded away.

Overwhelming grief

I know when my mom died I was really angry at life in general for a while. That was back in 2013-2014. It was writing and music that got me back on track and feeling good again. There are still bad days. I still have that temper. But I’m much better now at managing anger.

It helps being single. I don’t have a man to nag me about “overthinking” the relationship or harass me about my anxiety.

Losing a loved one comes with a whole bunch of mixed feelings that you may not be prepared to face. I went through the 12 steps of grief with my mum. As the years went by, things did get easier.

The anger finally subsided. I still miss her a lot. The grief is there. You never really get over losing someone you loved. I think love is forever. It’s infinite.

It’s a feeling that never goes away.

You can still hate and love a person at the same time – my ex was a prime example of this. I will say this for him. He helped me through the loss of my mum. At least, he tried to.

Getting help

If you are living with anger and find that you can’t control it – you aren’t alone. I do suggest reaching out for help. There are crisis centres around the world. In Edmonton, we have the intake centre at the Royal Alex Hospital. The number is 780-424-2424.

If I can offer any advice from my own experiences with trauma and anger resulting from trauma is this:

Talk to someone. A friend. A family member. A teacher. Someone you can trust. If you have no one, then reach out to a crisis centre and ask for help. There is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to seeking help. Know that you are not alone – and there are people out there who can help you through it.

Just talk to someone. It was one of the best things I could have done for myself.

Be kind to yourself

But the first and foremost thing you need to do is first – admit to yourself that you have a problem. I know. It seems like an impossible to thing to do. But once you get through that tough spot – you will find yourself feeling lighter around you.

During difficult times, I turn to music and meditation. Check out my meditation music page for suggestions.

Remember to be kind to yourself.

I’m going to leave you with this gem of a video from The Honest Guys. Even my therapist suggested this one and we had a good laugh about it. It’s one of the few things that help me sleep at night time.

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Editor’s note: I fixed some grammar and stuff. I really shouldn’t write at three in the morning.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Mountain Eagle says:

    Excellent article.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wendy says:

    Thanks! It’s something I’ve wanted to write about for a while.


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