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How I Channel the Poisonous Fury of My Past

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I used to be angry. I used to be filled with rage and hatred. I couldn’t stop the memories, the thoughts flooding my brain – anger over past hurts. Over being stuck with the ramifications of PTSD, bipolar disorder, isolation, fear, self-loathing.

• What is PTSD?

The anger in me spread. It filled every part of me — my steps when I walked, my fingers when I painted, my words when I tried to communicate.

Every part of me was filled with poisonous fury.

I’m not going to lie – I had every right to be angry, to feel justified in being furious with the past, with characters in my life who played a role in setting the stage to my un-wellness. One simple thing in my day would go wrong and it was an absolute disaster. And all the injustices of my past would come flooding back — abuse, rape, shame, hatred, cutting, alcohol, drugs, suicide attempt, hospital, suicide attempt, hospital, suicide attempt.

Silence. Silence. Silence.

I was so silent.

Until I erupted.

And what an eruption it was. Filled with vile, vitriolic hatred. With smashed objects and screaming and agonized heartbreak. I remember hanging up on my dear best friend in an alcohol induced haze, throwing my phone over the balcony, walking into the house and seeing my husband’s eyes as he looked at me, confusion and worry over his face. I remember sinking to my knees, a scream bursting out of my lungs. I screamed and screamed. The emotions were too much.

I can’t I can’t I can’tIcanticanticantnononono….

Only this wasn’t just a one-time thing. It happened again, and again, and again. And it was exhausting. The pain, I can’t even describe how much my body hurt from three decades of pain. Pain piled upon pain.

It was shit. Just unholy hell.

I look out my window today. I think about that anger. The rage, the misery. I felt ashamed for so many years. I still do a little bit. I have aches and losses that I will probably feel for the rest of my life. But when I started writing about my shame, somehow, slowly, a fog lifted. I created a blog and wrote the words I’d be hiding from the world. I wrote about abuse, rape, self-harm. I wrote about mental illness. I wrote about how my 20s were a black void, hazy to me now. It’s still hard to look back on my younger years. But I wrote it. I put it out there and with every click of the “Publish Now” button, I felt as though I’d stripped down naked, exposing everything that was me for the whole world to see.

So why did I do it? Why did I share my story? 

Why do I continue to write?

My first true public unveiling, a colleague came up to me, tears in her eyes. She told me how she’d suffered. And she wrapped her arms around me and said thank you.

My second, a stranger commented with “I needed to hear this”.

My third, a man from half-way around the world told me he had extreme depression and felt he had nowhere else to turn.

Each time I write, the pain lessens. I learn to accept myself, just a little. I see the flashbacks and I meet them as an equal. Depression, anxiety, hypomania are my old friends – I greet them instead of fighting them. I ask them what they need. Like ghosts, they just need to be heard.

My mother once said, “Pain is like a grain of sand against your skin. It rubs and irritates. It makes your skin raw. But you can never be rid of it. So, you just hold it there, letting it rub against you. You hold it for years, and it grows to be a part of you and you even forget that it is there. Until one day, you look at that grain of sand only to discover that through the years of letting it rub against you, it has become a pearl.”

My mother and I no longer speak, and that too is OK. I have my memories. Painful and good and I will hold onto those.

Each lesson is about learning to live with pain in your life. You can fight it or you can let it sit with you – be OK with the past. Be OK with the memories. Be OK with the hurts. Be OK with the ensuing mental illness – PTSD, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, should these come to pay you a visit.

Be OK with it all and one day, you’ll find yourself surrounded by pearls.

Thinkstock photo via AnkiHoglund

Originally published: March 28, 2017
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