Where Do You Hold Anger?

My therapist asks me where I experience certain emotions in my body. Anxiety is in my neck and shoulders. Sadness twists my stomach. Stress sits on my chest. 

I never thought about anger until today. I didn’t have an answer until after my post-therapy walk. 

I hold anger in my eyes – piercing, scrutinizing. If looks could kill, I’d be a murderer several times over. 

I hold anger in a clenched jaw, tight lips pressed firmly together, teeth literally biting my tongue into submission. 

I hold anger in my throat – burning with the equal desire to choke me into permanent silence or release a never ending, agonizing scream. 

I hold anger in my hands – clenched so tight that half moons are creased into my damp palms. Fists shaking, itching to make contact with a person, wall, or my own body. 

I hold anger in locked knees and firmly planted feet that urge me to fight instead of flee. If I flee I prove my worthlessness. But if I fight, I prove my self inflation. 

I am always ready to fight or run. I’m waiting. So, anger is always with me. Even when it isn’t at the front, anger is keeping me safe. 

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It Started Hopeful

It’s been four years, but I can still hear the moment she turned on me. The moment I knew I couldn’t do this anymore.

This was the last conversation I would have with my mother. 

It started hopeful. 

Even though this was the middle of a family crisis, I had found out four days prior that my mother’s husband was entering my twenty year old sister’s bedroom without invitation, while she slept. He had been cornering, intimidating her, forcing physical contact on her, and then repeatedly telling her she is worthless. 

She needed to get out of that house and our mother needed to understand how fucked up her husband is. 

It started hopeful. 

I had emailed my mother, expressing my concern. Emphasizing the importance of safety and distance from a man who is no friend to women. 

For the first time in ten years of him being in our life, she agreed with me. A single text message that read, “everything you wrote is true.”

Everything. I am right. I’m no long being hung out to dry with claims that I am too sensitive or man-hating. I am right. Everything is true. 

It started hopeful because I thought we were on equal footing. I thought we were working together. I thought I could finally save my sister and my family from years of disconnection. 

But by the time I got a phone call from my mother, I wasn’t right anymore. She explained to me that her husband just didn’t understand that he isn’t suppose to do all the things he had been doing to my sister. She explained that in fact, he was in danger from my sister and needed protection. Her voice encouraged me to stop fighting and give in to her reality. It encouraged me to accept this truth – the one that isn’t mine. The one that keeps my sister victimized. The one that allows abuse to keep going, and going, and going like it always had. I was suppose to shut up. 

Instead, I spoke. I told her this was wrong. I told her he was wrong. I told her I wanted my sister safe. 

Then she turned and sunk her teeth. 

“What did you think I was going to do,” she snapped, “leave him?”

My answer was and still is yes. 

Another bite, “you just don’t understand what it means to be a wife.”

“You don’t understand what it means to be a Christian.”

“I need harmony in my house. This is how I’m getting it. Your sister isn’t stable. If you want to whisper in her ear and stir the pot, then whatever she does is on you.”

Each phrase stabs into me then rips chunks away. I don’t even know how to escape. Instead I am stunned silent, save for the gasping tears I am holding back from her. She can never see or hear me cry – she enjoys too much satisfaction from my pain and apparent weakness. 

“Listen, you claim to want to talk about these things but you aren’t even talking. You just have to have things your way all the time.”

I knew for sometime that my mother is manipulative, abusive, and has little interest in protecting her children – even as adults. But I had never experienced her viciousness so clearly. She had kept me in line with years of put downs and deniable manipulation. But this was different. She needed to get me back in line or emotionally bleed to death on my own. 

My chest tightened as I managed to gasp a coherent, “I have to go” before I hung up and broke into pieces. I curled up on the study futon and sobbed. My heart was broken. She may have left me mangled with scars I carry all this time later, but I think the thing she tore from me that day was the last shred of trust and hope that I had a mother who loves me. I’ve begged for that love my whole life. I twisted myself into someone I thought she wanted in the hope I could finally be enough. 

Instead, I never was. Instead I was too whiny, lazy, wrong, angry, emotional. I questioned too much. I wasn’t feminine enough. I was too stupid. Too unmotivated. Too liberal. Too feminist. Too queer. Too radical. Too fat. Too out of shape. Drank too much. Liked to talk about sex and sexuality too much. I just needed to do as she said not as she did. I wasn’t suppose to ask why. 

I tried. I did. But I kept coming out. Who I am refused to be silenced. She screamed inside me, beating against her cage, demanding to be free. To be enough. 

So, that day four years ago, I let her. My mother broke me but not in the way she intended. She finally broke all trust and all hope that I could change her from the abuser she had always been. 

I then I would never talk to her again. I was finally free to say that I don’t need abuse in my life. I am happy for this freedom. What I wasn’t expecting was how much it all still follows me around. 

So, on this four year anniverary, I can still hear the moment she turned on me. The moment I knew I couldn’t do it anymore. 

2015 is the Year

I’m trying to understand where an entire year went. I increasingly feel like 2015 is like a piece of paper folded in on itself so that each end touches one another. All the things from this year compressed in on themselves and instead of having lived another 365 days I am walking across them from one December 31st to another. A phrase I have used a lot this year is “I just don’t know where time went.” It feels like I have lost days, weeks, and even months where I know things happened, I know I did things but instead they all seem irrelevant or non-existent.

I am taking this moment to make it all relevant and exist.

2015 is the Year I Advocated for My Mental Health

This is the big one. After two very specific years and many others before that, I have struggled with depression and anxiety. I have struggled silently and alone. I thought it was a character flaw. I thought I was broken. But this year I advocated for myself. I told my nurse practitioner how long I have been suffering and she prescribed me SSRIs that have changed my life. This daily pill brought me back to me. I also started weekly therapy this year that is so emotionally hard but also amazingly rewarding. I started sharing my experience outward and the response has been overwhelming from friends and strangers who become new friends. I am at a lack of words to express how grateful I am for everyone’s support and honesty about their own mental health struggles. I’m not alone anymore.

2015 is the Year Gary Died

Gary was a cat like none other. I miss him. I’m still sad that he suffered without my knowing. I still wish I could have done more for him. I wish he was here to curl up with me and read books with his quiet, loving nature wrapping around me in kitty loveliness. Gary loved love – a notion that I strive to live life by.

2015 is the Year I Reconnected with Home

Until this year, I had not spent any significant time in my home town for six years. My feelings about home are complicated by lack of contact with my mother but growing relationship with my father. Visiting him this year has taught me that home can be safe, accepting, calm, and non-judgmental.

2015 is the Year I Claimed My Bisexual Identity

I spent a lot of time being scared about this. I didn’t come out to myself until I was already in a committed, long-term relationship with my husband. I wasn’t sure what he would think of me, what others would think of me, what I thought of me. I wondered if it was worth being open about. But, like so many things I try to keep secret because of shame, I knew I had to embrace this for myself as well as others. This is who I am. Bisexuality is important. My queerness isn’t attached to who my partner is or not. My queerness is about me and what I know to be true about myself.

2015 is the Year I Read 39 Books

That’s 9 more books than my goal!

2015 is the Year I Watched 121 Movies

Of those movies, 35 were written by women and 23 were directed by women.

2015 is the Year I was Paid to Write

2015 is the Year I Lost My Job But Found Another

2015 is the Year I Valued Making Art

2015 is the Year I Embraced the Power of Selfies

2015 is the Year I Biked Further and More Often than I Ever Have

2015 is the Year I Dyed My Hair Purple

2015 is the Year I Decided to Live With Intention

2015 is the Year I Asked for Help

2015 is the Year I Learned I am Resilient 

2015 is the Year I Valued Self Care

2015 is the Year I Started to Challenge Shame

There is more. There is always so much more. But these are some of the things that stand out in my mind. 2015 was the year that I fought for myself shoulder to shoulder with people I love and who love me. I want 2016 to be the year of love. I want to accept love and give it and know that the more I do that, the more I will understand I am deserving of love.

 

Day 17: #30pages30pics

   
I hang up the phone and look at my list of accomplishments for the day. D called to congratulate me. He’s one of my growing team of cheerleaders, a team I’m starting to accept. But I still feel like everything is so minuscule. I feel unaccomplished. But there is that list staring at me. I did do stuff. 

“Do I have unrealistic expectations of what I should do in a day?” 

Don scoffs, holding back a laugh, “well, yeah. I mean, I’m not even going to try to soften it. Yes you do. We both do.” 

Have I always been doing this? Why have I never thought about it this way before? But then again, striving for perfection but always missing it has just been normal for far too long. 

Day 5: #30pages30pics

  Her office was in the back of the store front. We walked through an aisle of bottles full of pills made of crushed herbs and minerals. Everything was bright, clean, organized. Merchandise promising an answer that doctors couldn’t give. 

Her office was small but tidy. Certificates hung on the wall framed and official. This place was a lot different than the dingy homes we had been going to. Homes that always had the curtains drawn and carpets embedded with cat fur that my mother was allergic to. Homes with the Lord’s Prayer hanging on the wall. Homes with florcent lights buzzing in the kitchen while a homeopath couple tested my muscles before preparing twelve tiny bottles of liquid for me to drop under my tounge daily. 

The drops tasted like lemon juice. 

Homes that taught my mother to tap different parts of the body to stop an “allergy” attack. Homes that claimed that placing folded coloured wire in the shape of a capital “G” under our plate of food would “neutralize” allergies. 

These wire “G”s became as ordinary as forks when setting the table for dinner. A “G” under every plate. 

This new place seemed legitimate. She still used muscle testing to determine my herb dosage but she also took picture of my irises. She showed me the map of my eye and how she could tell certain areas of my body were out of harmony because of a gold fleck here or enlarged pupils there. 

I started taking a handful of herbal pills everyday. Some so large I choked trying to swallow them. 

  • two Alfalfa
  • two kelp
  • one calcium 
  • one magnesium
  • three zinc 
  • one ounce shot of liquid chloraphyll
  • A glass of water with echinacea drops 
  • Chewable vitamin C

At 12 years old I was perscribed ten day cleanse diets. I stood in front of the microwave waiting for my plain popcorn hoping that I at least lose weight from this even if it didn’t take away my lack of energy, and excruciating menstral pain. 

I never told my mother or the people she took me to about how some of my physical issues were there because I did them to myself. She just thought doctors didn’t have an answer about her daughter. I’d sit alone shaking, crying, sad, lonely, empty, praying to God to help me stop. The anxiety wouldn’t go away. The darkness never left. 

If she could just find the right combination of herbs and diet, the. I would be cured. I just needed to be stronger than any of my problems and I would be cured. I needed to choose to be happy because someone always has it worse. 

I’ve stopped looking for cures.

When I began studying psychology and mental health my mother bitterly told me, “physician, heal thy self.” Mental illness is nothing more than weakness of character and a lack of trust in God. 

Now I take pills that actually do something. Pills with purpose. They aren’t a cure but they let in the light. 

I know this isn’t about cures anymore, though I sometimes wish it was.

Day 3: #30pages30pics

  
As I dig into the knots my exhaustion becomes decimating. I’m scrambling for control as my vulnerability grows. How do other people survive their days with this kind of therapy? Why can’t I contain my emotional process to Monday’s so I can feel normal the rest of the days? I wish I didn’t have to carry all this. I want to put it all down and walk away forever. It makes me angry that it doesn’t work that way. 
I have so much to do today. I don’t wanna.