It’s a gorgeous beach day in Miami. I’m watching the cruise ships come in the port from my balcony. The sea breeze blows through my hair. It looks like the perfect scene. But it doesn’t feel perfect.
Today I feel angry.
These are my current thoughts as I chug a cup of coffee and stare out in the beautiful scene:
“I have to leave in 15 minutes for shift tonight, 7p-7a. I didn’t get to sleep – I had deadlines for my side job. These kids were so frickin extra wild today. Potty training the youngest was a complete failure, I can’t believe I gave up around 11:30am. My scrubs are fitting kind of tight around my bellybutton. I’m definitely gaining weight. Is that 12 page paper due tonight at midnight or tomorrow? Ugh, I can’t wait for this semester to be over. If Alex doesn’t get here in the next 6.5minutes, I’m going to be late to work again..”
In the distance (real life) I hear a faint call, “mom…Mom….MOM!”. On the third “mom” I was snapped back into reality. “MOOOOOM!” A louder fourth one came out 2 inches from my face.
“WHAT?!” I yelled back in the most frustrated way I could. It was obvious to myself and my child that my response was disproportionate to what she gave me. “I’m thirsty” she answered in an almost whisper.
“Sorry, yeah, ok, I’ll get you water.” I feel the adrenaline coursing through my body. Why the F- did I get so angry? What is wrong with me? Why would I talk to my daughter like that? Don’t I love her?
Scanning my soul, “Yeah, no, I definitely love her.”
Then why am I so angry lately?
I Became An Angry Person
This was starting to become a weekly thing. I was getting upset at my mom, yelling at my kids, snapping at other departments at work and just not myself.
Who is this person? I’m not an angry person? OR AM I?
It’s not Anger
I started to feel physical symptoms (skipped periods, trouble sleeping, hair loss) and consulted one of my “internal med” doctor friends at work. She laughed at me. “Meg’s you’re working nights, finishing your bachelors, starting a side business, have 2 small kids! Honey, you’re just stressed. I’m not going to prescribe you a damn thing until you try to manage your anxiety.”
My head cocked back and my eyes squinted, “Anxiety? I don’t have anxiety. That’s for people with mental health problems and weak people who can’t handle life. I don’t have anxiety. I don’t have mental problems. I’m healthy!”
It’s Anxiety | TGIF
Turns out I have anxiety. It took me 30 years to figure out my own brain. But I finally made the connection between my anger and my anxiety. It clicked one day. Here’s the Friday that changed my life:
On this day I was overwhelmed with my To Do List and future responsibilities. I was letting every little thing bother me. From the lady at target, to the front desk at my building, to my kids. I was angry at the world. But I was really just stressed and anxious.
In the middle of target I had a stabbing thought, “You didn’t turn the oven off. You left it at 500 degrees, broiling. 45 minutes ago. You definitely burned the building down.” I had never felt panic before. This was panic.
I called my friend Megan who worked downstairs from me. I screamed like a crazy person into the phone crying, “I sure I left the oven on in my apartment and I’m going to burn the whole building down. Get your key and please go check my oven!!!!”
She was so calm, she walked into my apartment and quietly told me that everything was perfect and my oven was off. No smoke. No emergency. Everything was fine.
I’m still at panic level 11, “Ok, thank you! OMG I love you, thank you!” I frantically hung up the phone. The panic was still growing inside me for some reason. I started to hyperventilate.
“Control yourself!” I whispered through my teeth at myself. But it wasn’t working. Then I started crying.
I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t hide it. I sat on the floor in the middle of an aisle in target and started balling. I was still hyperventilating and crying hysterically. My daughter (who was 5 about to turn 6) started consoling me. My son sat next to me totally confused. A couple well meaning strangers tried to interact. I must have looked like a psychopath.
With shaking hands, I called my younger sister in tears.
Me: “I’m having a f–king panic attack! What do I do?!”
She was so supportive and loving. She talked me down. She talked to my kids. 30 minutes later, I left target and drove home.
I had a new perspective on life, anxiety and my own brain.
Don’t Ignore your Anger or Anxiety. It might be the same thing!
Anxiety is real and when you deny it – it can take over. In terrible ways! My anger was really just anxiety. My first ever panic attack started out as an angry morning.
Does this sound like you? Do you also struggle with anger? It might just be anxiety.
Ok, now how do I fix this?
There is no cure for anxiety or anger. It’s not a disease. It’s a force that needs to be redirected. Today I have found what works to manage my anxiety and it results in less anger towards everyone.
When I procrastinate. When I say yes to too many responsibilities. When I don’t organize my time well. When I don’t have a quiet meditation time in the morning – I get anxious.
Finding your best distressing strategy is key if you are prone to “anxious anger”. It won’t be erased but it will be managed.
2020 will be different. I will live a happier year than last. I will live a less angry year with my loved one. Anxiety will not win! I will laugh in the face of anxiety! WHO IS WITH ME?