Thoughts: Happily Angry

Outside, it rains. A dark kind of day, the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred. Talking to my son this morning, he commented that we are getting more rain out of than he did down in Florida when it was fresh. I am sitting in my second choice diner. A breakfast sandwich and hash. Mediocre coffee.

I am thinking of depression. My depression. Not feeling it mind you. It has been largely at bay for the last week or two as the surgical pain subsides. Now and again it weasels into my emotional universe, but not for long.

I have written about my depression often. A book even. Lots of poems. Not to make people feel sorry for me. I don’t even feel sorry for myself any more. Not because I like to wallow in it. But because I want people to know it’s pretty common, and that there are paths through it.

One of my paths is anger.

Now, I am not an angry person as a whole. People who know me will tell you I am pretty mellow. Almost to the point of zen. Mostly, I am calm. Mostly, I don’t rattle. I take things in stride. Mostly.

Underneath however, I carry a lot of anger. Anger at the people and circumstances that contributed to my not always perfect mental health. But mostly, anger at the depression itself.

Anger has a way of going terribly wrong. I’ve always been afraid of anger, even my own because it so often runs out of control. And out of control it is terribly destructive. I was often at the wrong end of that out of control anger as a child, and again in mid-life. It marked me. for sure. Likely, it was part of what led to my depression. (Only part, so much of depression is chemical and neuroscience gone bad.) Anger, uncontrolled, is only destructive.

So what to do with that anger? The stuff that seeths?

For me, I use it to fight my depression. I treat my depression as a living thing, a personality, almost like a person, and I use my anger to give me the motivation and energy to do the work of fighting it. When I say I fight depression, it’s not just a term, it’s what I do. I wake up in a bad place, I get angry. “Damned if I am going to let you win today.” I say. And I get up, shouting (in my mind), “It’s showtime!”

Just to make depression mad.

Depression is like one of those bad horror movies where the evil character gets stabbed, shot, blown up, hung, drawn and quartered, then burned and buried, and in the last scene a hand rises from the graveyard. Depression is like the Zombie hoard. You beat it back and it keeps coming. ‘

Which just makes me madder. I am fifteen or twenty years into the battle at this point, so you can imagine just how mad I am each morning I wake up and feel the lie.

I hate liars. I hate manipulators. I hate people who put down others in any way, shape or form. I am a true believer that everyone has value, lots of it, and deserves to be treated as such. And depression lies. Depression is a thief of joy. Depression manipulates. Depression is, it seems, everything I hate. That makes it easy to be angry at.

I never understood that anger, applied purposefully, can be a powerful force for good. It’s been a lesson for me. It has been the source of a lot of my self discipline. You may not see it, but it is there. Anger, applie purposefully, makes me feel powerful, and depression (and most mental/emotional battles) can make you feel weak.

We are not weak. We are strong. Stronger than most people realize. We battle stuff day in and day out that people who are more “normal” can barely grasp and still live life. We go to work. We get things done. We help other people. We create. We live and love, all in the midst of that battle.

And anger helps, applied with discipline and work.

I often write of being a warrior in my poems. If you were to see me, I do not look the part. Five foot eleven. A hundred and seventy pounds. Baldish. I am told I have kind eyes. A peaceful demeanor. But I am. So is everyone you know who actively fights their diagnosis.

For they are not their diagnosis. Their diagnosis is their nemesis, Their enemy, and they have every right to be angry at it. (It, not the rest of us.). And if it is you, then your diagnosis is not you. You feel like it is, but it is not. You are more. You are what you dream of being, just not there yet in your journey.

And trust me, that anger is not wasted when we put it to work. We become what we do not feel: Powerful. Don’t make the mistake I always made of fearing anger. Harness it. Make it your weapon, and aim it where it should be aimed, You will be surprised at how strong it can make you, anger, controlled and aimed.

It is raining. I should be blue. A lot is going on. More than I would normally be able to handle. But I have brought my trusty sword to the Jabberwocky battle of my depression. I will win this battle. Not the war. THe hand of my enemy will rise from the ground again tomorrow. But for today I have won. I can dance my victory dance and move on.

Happily Angry, if that is a thing.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

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