I read somewhere that depression was often a side effect of repressed anger.
I struggled for years to contain my anger. I was raised by generally decent people who–through indifference on one parent’s part and more than occasional cruelty on another’s–managed to produce a very depressed, angry and emotionally stunted child. That child was a target. He was sensitive and brutalized about his intelligence, appearance and future. No child should ever have to hear that their mother’s life would “have been so much better without you” or that they are “Stupid, stupid, stupid.” A father should never say “We never liked you that much.”
I survived it as best I could and the emotionally battered child is inside me now. I have forgiven my parents their failings. But the memories still linger, like tape recordings from a phone tap on my childhood. Those hideous tapes get played when things go south: a mean or unreasonable boss, liars, two-faced backbiters, people who try to take advantage of me, people I perceive as a threat to my family, etc.
You are stupid, stupid, stupid. The tape is played at half volume; just loud enough for me to hear.
The past is the past, but the echoes of that past are with me, despite therapy and the understanding that only the distance of years can provide.
I think that’s why often when I feel grievously wronged or on the defensive, I get physically sick. Not because I am frightened, mind you, but because I have swallowed something sickening.
I have swallowed platters of anger and a banquet of resentment. My guts roil not because I fear the people who wronged me, but what I would do to them if I ever vomited up that anger. Would I release a verbal torrent as deadly as the “smoke monster” on Lost? I say verbal because I’m basically pacifistic by nature. I wouldn’t harm anyone physically, though my inner smoke monster has been known to kick a trashcan or knock a few things over as it escaped the environs of my personality.
I have figuratively destroyed people in my past: unleashed a grotesque treatise on their every fault, flaw and lack of worth as I saw it. I’ve menaced those in business who have tried to screw with me–and some who have not. I’ve reduced friends and lovers to tears. I have wounded friends who to this day seem wary of my anger. It has cost me. I am my mother’s son.
In my heart, I’m defending myself. I’m protecting something– perhaps that little kid who got the short end of the stick from his parents.
By God, I couldn’t fight back then, but I will now and I will win.
I fear the sickening feeling. I fear the smoke. And fear is as bad as anger sometimes.
Now that I am a father, I am determined to keep this in check. I will win out over this. Therapy, yoga, whatever. I will channel this.
My kid will never smell the smoke.