Tuesday, 20 January 2015

On Anger

[Content warning: this article contains references to depression, anxiety, and self-harm.]

Sometimes I will make little quips about how angry I get. They vary, but the gist of them tends to be the same: I have to be angry, or I will just stop. I say it with a smile and a shake of the head, but it's not a joke. Not really. My anger powers me. If I wasn't angry, I don't know what or how I'd be.

Anger is an energy. Sometimes this energy manifests in me another way. I have a lot of feelings, and I feel them strongly. They could be excitement, or joy, or crushing depression, or unbearable anxiety, or something else entirely, but they are coins. If you turn them over, anger is most often the queen's head you'll find underneath.

I don't know when it started. My parents insist I was a happy child, though that's not what I remember at all. All through school I was an outsider, and it didn't take long for my misery at this to turn into resentment, which turned into rage. It was worst when I was a teenager - a simmering pot of sadness and fury that could bubble over at the slightest provocation.

Back then, and for a long time afterwards, I would send my anger outwards and hurt the people close to me, or I would turn it inwards and hurt myself. With the benefit of life experience (and no small amount of psychotherapy), I have gradually learned that it's best to express it - to channel it in ways where it targets no-one, but floats into the atmosphere and disappears. That, for me, is the only way to deal with it without harming anyone. If I keep it inside, it becomes depression and anxiety and threatens to explode out of me, burning anyone it touches.

So I talk, and I write. Sometimes I'll turn it into acerbic wit, and sometimes I'll leave it as it is, incandescent and untouchable. Bright flames are hard to look at, I know. Many people accept my anger happily. Some even love it. But other people tell me that it's too much - that I feel too much and they cannot bear it.

That's what they tell me, anyway. What they mean is that I say too much, and they will not tolerate it.

Often it is to do with the things I am angry about. Usually, it's some form of injustice. I hesitate to call myself an activist - I feel this term makes my actions sound more meaningful than they are - but I talk freely and openly about the injustice I have experienced, and I freely and openly express how much I deplore injustice against others. I am not one to mince my words. I swear, I use strong phrases, and I avoid euphemism. Some people find this intimidating. Some simply find it objectionable - often, I suspect, because they perceive me as a woman, and women should not be as strident and forthright as I am. Women should bear injustice against themselves with good grace, and be calm and measured in their defence of others. Emotion is weakness. Robotic logic is strength.

Fuck that.

If I become aware that I am harming someone, I will stop and moderate my tone, because the entire reason why I express my anger the way I do is to stop it from hurting anyone. But if it is the strength or the existence of my feeling that offends you - if your eyes are sore from staring at the fire - then I have nothing further to do or to say for you. My feelings are mine. They are valid, and a lot of the time they are worth hearing. By silencing me, you are telling me that your comfort is more important than my well-being, and I will not stand for that. Not any more.

My voice is my healing, and I will wear my words like armour to protect myself and the people I love most. You will not buy your comfort with my silence.

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