Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

anger anger anger


A recent question on Hillary’s Hope page on Facebook got me thinking.  Anger.  Such a loaded topic.  Such an important topic for those of us struggling with any type of eating disorder issues or self-harm issues.  What the hell are we supposed to safely do with our anger?  Am I right in assuming a lot of us were never taught this?  That stuffing our anger and not expressing it was the “accepted” way of handling anger?  And that this only led us to more self-destructive paths?

I know I was not allowed to be angry growing up.  “Just deal with it” was the lesson I learned–except no one taught me how to deal with it.  I began cutting when I was twelve, “successfully” keeping it a secret until I went to college, when it exploded beyond my control and there was no way of keeping it a secret anymore.  And by that time, I was hospitalized a few times and eventually sent to a treatment program for self-harm.  Of course, no one had yet to teach me how to really deal with anger and the eating disorder was under full swing.  (Like most people with eating disorders, however, there were multiple causes, so the anger was just one of many.)

I still have problems with anger.  It’s “unladylike” or “inappropriate” or “better left ignored.”  There’s a problem with stuffing it, however.  Eventually it builds up, this gradual crescendo until it can’t stay stuffed anymore and something has to be done to release it or else I get tempted to self-harm or engage in eating disorder behaviors.

So here are some of the ways I have found helpful in managing my anger:

  • Journal.  I journal every day.  But I have found that writing down my anger helps diminish it.  I can be as blunt and tactless as I want because no one will ever read it.  I can exaggerate.  I can blame.  I can name names.  I can go into as much detail as I want.  It’s my journal.  My story.  It’s how I feel and I don’t have to worry if I’m representing the other person or the situation accurately.  I get down my feelings.
  • Artwork.  Different from my normal artwork where I try to actually make a beautiful picture or a meaningful image using skills I learned in art classes.  Nope.  This is when I get out my oil pastels or my crayons and a blank sheet of paper and basically scribble.  I make angry marks on the paper with furious motions and end up with spirals and black circles and thick, dark lines.  It’s a release of physical energy that I can see.
  • Going for a walk.  I have to be careful here.  I used to go for runs when I was angry, and that helped tremendously.  But I can’t do that because of my heart condition anymore.  I can’t even walk fast.  But I’ve found that getting outside and taking a walk through the nearby flower and sculpture garden really does help.  Maybe it’s just time working its wonders, I don’t really know.  But I’ll take it.
  • Cry.  Yes.  I’ve learned to cry now.  I used to not cry at all when I was thick in the eating disorder.  But a good cry in an appropriate place and time can be one hell of a release.
  • Stick my hand in ice water.  This one I learned from my therapist as a way to distract myself if I want to cut.  I found it works for anger as well.  Fill a bowl with cold water and three or four trays of ice cubes.  Then stick your hand in it.  Excuse my language here: It’s fucking intense.  I can’t keep my hand in there very long; I don’t think anyone could.  But try to.  And see if the intensity helps lower the intensity of the anger.  Or releases it altogether.
  • Knitting. Knitting allows me to focus my energy on one thing and one thing only.  And I’ve found that when I don’t have the physical energy for some of the above things, this works rather well.
  • Collage.  I have a crapload of stuff to make collages out of.  And when I’m making one for me and not as a card or letter for someone else, I can make that picture as full of anger as I want.  I can make it ugly.  I can put words in it that I wouldn’t speak out loud.  And then–and perhaps this is what makes it effective–I can tear it to shreds.  Just the act of ripping it apart is a release of energy that I thrive on when I’m angry.  So let’s add that:
  • Ripping something apart.  Find something you don’t need.  A piece of paper.  An old letter.  An old (paid) bill/statement.  Rip it into as many pieces as you possible can.  Let all that energy behind the anger fuel the ripping process.

These are just the ways that I have learned to deal with anger.  I would absolutely love to hear your   healthy ways of dealing with anger.  Let’s help each other by making as long of a list as we possibly can.

Let the comments commence:

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April 22, 2011 - Posted by | coping, Eating Disorders, feelings, self harm | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. I LOVE this post. Growing up, I too was taught that anger was something to be “controlled”. I witnessed my parents “angry” but it was more of a sense than of actually seeing anything such as angry faces or fights or things of that nature. I was allowed to be angry (as were my parents), but it was always in a very controlled and repressive way. Needless to say, it wasn’t until about 6 months or so into treatment that I even learned what “angry” felt like. I still often have trouble identifying when I am angry to this day. It’s somthing that I assume will take many years to re-learn. I do however, have a couple of things I tend to do when I am very upset (wether that be anger or sadness or any of the other “unladylike” emotions). The number one way for me to deal with these things is distraction. I often turn to a comic movie or a drama to divert my attention to something else for a little while. Most of the time, after an hour or so of distraction, the feeling of anger is at a much more manageable and less overwhelming level and I can think through it and stand to “feel” it for a little bit. The other thing I have found to work wonders for me in this department is talking to people. I will call my mom, or my sister, or my friend, and just say “I need to vent, do you have 5 minutes?” I get out what I need to, don’t ask for a response, but I get to say it out loud. It’s much like you talked about doing in your journal only since I don’t much care to write because my mind works faster than I can keep up with through writing, I like to say it out loud 🙂 These two things always help me! I’m curious to see what other ways people come up with! One other fun one that I saw working for other people (I can’t honestly say I’ve ever done it when I was actually upset), is throwing eggs… over a cliff, at a tree, etc…. It’s just fun, and I can’t imagine staying to intensly angry while doing it!

    Comment by Nikita | April 24, 2011 | Reply

  2. Definitely journaling. That helps a lot as I still sometimes have difficulty expressing my feelings or tend to feel that I am bothering others. Also lately, spending time with my puppy helps calm me down and allow me to think more clearly.

    Comment by Emily | April 25, 2011 | Reply

  3. I’ve been thinking about this post for a few days. A little about how I handle being angry when it’s only ME I’m concerned about, but more about what it is I’m teaching my son about anger. Am I teaching him that it’s perfectly allright to be angry, that some situations warrant anger, that anger deserves expression as much as more “positive” emotions do? Or am I teaching him what I was taught, that anger is to be denied and ignored and suppressed and ultimately, turned inward? I hope it’s the former. He needs to see me angry sometimes, for the right reasons (the person in the lane next to me is texting while driving and swerving into my lane vs. I shouldn’t have eaten a second cookie even though we made them ourselves and they are delicious). He needs to see me express that anger constructively and then move forward. My challenge even now is to be constructive, and not to rely on self-denial or unhealthy behaviors, and since I’ve usually got an audience, it’s been a task to become competent at naming my feelings. Sometimes just naming them helps. Sometimes it helps to cry. Sometimes my poor husband gets an earful. And sometimes….well, sometimes it helps more than anything to hug my kid. It’s hard to be angry when a toddler is petting your hair.

    Comment by michelle | April 26, 2011 | Reply

  4. Anger is my biggest emotion. I HATE that it is my biggest emotion. Anger and sadness are “flip sides of the same coin” and anger is said to be a “secondary” emotion… when you are really angry sometimes you are sad. A lot of times when I lash out and yell are the times I need to cry the most. I yell and get angry… then the tears come. I realize that I am actually just sad.

    Journaling definitely helps. Blogging helps. I’ve heard throwing hard boiled eggs in the bathtub is a good one although I have never tried it 🙂 Less messy than other eggs! Ripping pages out of a phone book. Screaming into a pillow.

    Today I was super angry about something and I called a friend. I screamed. I cursed. I am still not as constructive as I would like to be with my anger. I am considering exploring the whole notion of faith… believing in SOMETHING, although I am not sure what yet. I feel like I need some tool to help me have some grace for myself and others. To help me feel more at peace so I can spend less time being angry and more time feeling centered. Its something I want to give serious consideration to.

    If I think of any other ways I deal with my anger I will post. I am definitely not good with anger… at least now I understand it better. I’ve come leaps and bounds from years ago when I thought anger was really just about the anger. Its usually a lot more than that.

    Comment by Leslie | April 26, 2011 | Reply


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