Content warning for discussion of self-harm and description of self-harm.
I think as a child, I only ever heard the phrase “anger management issues” as a derisive joke. I’ve always had trouble managing my anger, and through therapy, I’ve realized I have a lot of trouble recognizing and processing it. When I was younger, no one ever taught me how to deal with anger. I saw anger as something mysterious, shameful, and destructive—something only bad people feel.
My anger always came out in hot bursts. I have had, well, I’m not sure what to term them. Meltdowns, maybe? These meltdowns were usually either rage or sadness (though, anger being a secondary emotion, there’s usually something below it). I always saw red. They made me feel uncontrollable. I would scream and break things, and as I got older, I started to turn that destruction on myself.
I hate that I put myself through so much pain. I hate that I felt like the only way I could get rid of my pain or externalize my pain was through self-harm. This may be the first time that I’m admitting that it was self-harm.
Even now, I feel a sense of burning shame. My heart feels like it’s beating in my brain, and I can almost hear it creating thumping pressure between my ears. I always felt embarrassed after calmness came to me again. How could I lose control like that? The frantic thud of me pushing my forehead into the cold white walls of my dorm room haunts me. When I think back to it, I feel as I did back then: inconsolable and inoperable. I am not that same person anymore.
In therapy, I imagined my anger as an external person-shaped figure. It was red hot, fiery, and shifting. I talked to it, and as our conversation continued, I realized what a beautiful help it was. It was protecting me and trying to tell me more about myself. It didn’t deserve to be shoved down somewhere no one could see it until it overflowed. My anger is a creature for me to listen to and respect. Now, it is smaller. It possesses the smooth contours of an emotion I’ve decided to carry with me and cherish, though it will be a long time before I decide to lay it down to rest. Until then, I’ll run my fingers along its profile and hold it up to the mid-afternoon sunlight as much as I need.