When I Realized Depression Was My Anger Turned Inwards
I’ve never thought of myself as an angry person. Frustrated maybe, anxious often, but it is so rare that I feel that bubbling, swelling sensation of anger. Now, that might seem to some people like a good thing, but sometimes it isn’t when you are depressed.
It’s often said that depression is anger turned inwards. When I was in DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy), I had to keep a log of my emotions including how often and how acutely I felt anger. Every day I rated high levels of depression, anxiety and shame with only handful of days where I logged feeling joy. But every week when I went back to therapy, the anger column would be left blank. For some reason I could just never feel it. My therapist at the time had invited me to explore my anger and I had firmly resisted because it just didn’t feel like a real emotion to me. It’s not until now that I can see very clearly how depression makes me extremely angry with myself.
When I am struggling, depression and anxiety tell me I’m worthless and my actions are pointless. My brain convinces me I should resort to harmful things as punishment. I recently wrote down these thoughts and read them back to myself the next day. The voice that was so real to me, that sounded so much like my true voice, now sounded like a very angry one. It was as though someone was shouting at me, violently telling me to believe every doubt and every mistake. Hearing this voice made me realize how furiously I talk to myself when I’m depressed.
In a lot of ways, it’s super uncomfortable to acknowledge how long you have been angry for. In another way, it does help you question the validity of that anger. After journaling this voice for the last few weeks, I’ve been able to take a lot of comfort in the idea that I don’t need to hold onto that voice. It’s OK to be angry sometimes, to feel passionately opposed to someone or something but staying angry at yourself will just reinforce everything depression wants you to believe. It will probably take a lot more hard work for me to exercise anger in an outward, healthy way but for now I am going to try to forgive myself and quiet that voice when it shouts at me again.
Getty Images photo via Marjan_Apostolovic