April came to a close as if it were deepest darkest winter, the weather changing from a subtle spring sunshine, to a ferocious biting cold; bringing with it snow, hail and a dense milky fog.
My morning commutes to work offered a glimpse of the moors above me, their usually colourful and tree-lined foresty hilltops out of sight, masked by this uncustomary meteorological shift. It wasn’t the only change on the horizon though, as the seasons battled back and forth, I too was poised on the brink of transformation.
For anyone who knows me, you’ll already be clued in, but for those of you that don’t, here goes. For the past few years I’ve been living with a physical pain condition for which I am able to get no relief. It isn’t the end of the world, not at all, just the end of things that for the last twenty-something years I’d foolishly taken for granted. I’d like to think I bore-and bear-my strife with a positive attitude and a degree of decorum, trying my hardest to carry on as normal, despite the constant feelings of sickening pain niggling away at my body. Very occasionally though, I break down. Whether it’s about the elements I miss from my old pain-free life, or letting the little day-to-day things rile me up; sometimes, just sometimes, I get downright angry, and I am as savage as the April weather.
Anger. Bitterness. Frustration.
The types of feelings that can gnaw away at you, eating you up from within, until all you are left with is rage spilling out of every pore. On the horrible instances my current predicament has led me to feel this way, I begin to shake. My body is taken over entirely by an uncontrollable force. Like a hurricane, it whips me up into a frenzy, so that I could explode, scream, or cry at any given moment, so choked up am I with this intense ugliness.
In my former role as a Therapist, I worked with plenty of families where the adults or children felt this way. Such were the multitude of problems, misfortunes and worries flooding their daily lives, that they were left angry and bitter; seething and distressed. You may have heard the term ‘red mist’. That’s how one father described it to me, that when he became so angry with the way his life was, this ‘mist’ overtook him, he saw red, and had no control over his emotions. He asked me for anger management the first time we met. Begged me for a solution to avoid being infected with this scarlet, airborne toxin.
But there is of course, no such thing as ‘red mist’. Some Psychological Theories suggest that anger comes from a place of fear and humiliation, that deep down buried in our subconscious is this teeny tiny hidden thought. That maybe, we aren’t good enough, or that the world is not a safe place to be. Anger is a protective function guarding against these secret shames and uncertainties we feel. When we experience anger we are often bogged down in all the little things we can’t change, instead of the things we can, and our thoughts can spiral out of control. We struggle fruitlessly to overpower this, and plummet into a well of venom and bitterness, going over and over the same problems with no solution; making unrealistic appraisals of other people’s behaviours, or the way the world is, so blind-sighted are we by emotion. At this juncture, like the veiled April landscapes, we no longer see the wood OR the trees.
Knowing and recognising these feelings for what they are, is-of course-no mean feat. It requires real, and sometimes professional, help to achieve. But if you can stop these thoughts in their wake, gaining some element of control and insight, then you can take some ownership over them; making and practicing subtle changes to this thinking that will eventually dispel this fear and rage. Change is hard though. It takes time, and effort. That’s what I used to tell my clients, with the proviso that if we worked hard together, we could make these changes.
And so a few weeks ago I had another set-back following the results from an investigative procedure. They drew a blank, and for the umpteenth time I was told that there’s no answer to what I’m currently going through. No end in sight. A few more head scratches and the suggestion of another referral to another department. I’m not too proud to say I cried like a baby. Unashamed, abandoned tears. Then of course I got mad. I let each little thing get to me, until I found I was angry at everything from the wind daring to blow, the way someone on the train caught my eye, audaciously looking at me, to the clumsy people around me aimlessly blocking my pathways with their perfectly able bodies they were taking for granted. Death by a thousand cuts.
I was inferior, not good enough, a prisoner of my own body who cannot do what she wants. And the world wasn’t safe, not at all. There were no answers, no reassuring doctors handing me a diagnosis and a solution. I saw myself tumbling into this pattern of out of control thinking, stomping the well-trodden path of anger, like many before me, and I didn’t want it. Therefore I made a choice. To change trajectories. To avoid anger enveloping me, as a boa constrictor, coiling and embracing me in earnest, before swiftly squeezing all the life out of me.
I didn’t want to be burned up inside about things I couldn’t change, a sorry, wounded existence, my spirit dulled. As my favourite cowboy George Strait sings (and to a more popular extent, Princess Elsa from Frozen), sometimes you have to just ‘let it go’. And I wanted so very much to let it go. I began by asking myself what type of person did I want to be? And the answer to that question was not angry. Or bitter. Or frustrated. It wasn’t someone who clung on to all that was wrong in her life, and festered on it.
So I’m starting to make some changes, in order that I can feel a little safer in the world. I’m going to try and follow the advice I spent years imparting to others, and those important and useful skills learnt in a previous life. I choose to take that first baby-step towards avoiding these emerging feelings of anger, and frustration at my current situation, leaving them far behind me. It might be hard work, but if it keeps that typhoon of rage from hitting, it will be well worth it.
It’s May now, and we are currently experiencing some much finer weather. The sun is back out, warming the air around us, and the the skies have cleared to a piercing azure blue. The winter of April has long-gone. A seismic shift has occurred in the seasons, and we are back on track as we should be. As am I. I’ve started to make some changes, for the better. The curtain is beginning to lift.
I can glance across my lovely moors, no longer gloomy, and see the trees once more, as well as all of the glorious, newly-blooming, wonderful woods reaching into the expanse far beyond them. Wildly alive. Growing; changing.
If you or someone you know is struggling with feelings of depression, anxiety or anger then visit:
to find local NHS support services in your area. Don’t suffer in silence, you are not alone and a change is coming, take the first step.