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