A River of Rage Runs Through Me
I am filled with rage. I remember this feeling, all too well, from about six months after my stem cells. It hit me like a cement brick on my face — I was angry that I had lived nearly half of my life (at that time) in an obscene amount of pain. I was angry that I had to hide it for so long. I was angry that people didn’t understand what I was going through. I was angry at my life and my existence for allowing that to be my experience. I was angry that I didn’t have a “normal 20s”.
I allowed the current of rage to run through me; I stopped dating, I distanced myself from friends I felt were toxic (they were), and then…
I pushed it back down into a neat and tidy little box where it stayed for years. I kept going to therapy, but I boxed that blind rage right back up because I didn’t know how to “handle” it. I did know that my anger angered others and so I thought that I wasn’t allowed to be angry.
Just like growing up as a girl. I truly can only blame society, but girls are brought up to believe that if we aren’t kind and pretty and well-mannered, if we don’t follow the rules and let “boys be boys”, if we aren’t always accepting and let things roll off of our backs, we won’t be liked. So, better not show that anger, sweet girl. You have nothing to be angry about anyways.
(I do notice the shift now in the past year or so and I feel so grateful for the little girls, and boys, of today.)
However, there is a little girl in me that still understands there is no place for my anger.
And the grown woman that I am is fed up with that bullshit.
I have all the time in the world right now as I continue to heal from spine surgery, and that same river of rage has boiled up to the surface. This time, I am allowing myself to feel the anger; to sit with the uncomfortability of it, even though I am still unsure of how to deal with it. In the past I would go running or lift weights but those options are not on the table right now. So, I write. But it doesn’t seem to be enough.
My body is taking its sweet ass time to heal (as well it should from spine surgery). I tend to have exceedingly high expectations on myself, of which there is little self-forgiveness, so I am working on that, too. You see, my body needs to take it’s time to heal. I need to be okay.
Okay, so I’m laid up and walking and moving around and driving on errands now and using resistance bands and I can do some squats. I’m very proud of myself. Go me! But it isn’t enough. Any little set back infuriates me, and I have to remind myself to be gentle with me. I feel a bit helpless (I’m not), but a lot of my anger stems from helplessness and then manifests into things like controlling my environment and my body, overcompensation, sadness, fear, and anxiety.
Fear is Anxiety is Anger.
That’s all a bit broad, so, where else does this rage stem from exactly?
I have rage at people for constantly making my body a piece of their conversation, starting when I was a “skinny” child. Adults would comment but it wasn’t sexual. How do you sexualize a skinny, tall, gangly child with giant glasses and a crooked jaw? You don’t. But it was there — “I wish I could be skinny like her.” “How do you stay so skinny?” “You’re too skinny. Eat something.”
I’m angry because that translated to me not being at all confident in my own body; for thinking that all I am worth (to this day, even) is what my body looks like. I obsess over the state of my body, which is annoying to everyone close to me, including myself. Even as an adult, when I’ve been nothing but skin and bones (because that’s what that type of conversation does to young girls who become women) grown ass humans would still make those comments. Not just comment on my “skinniness”, but physically touch, poke, and grab at my bones. For example:
One day when I was working, I’m in my mid-20s mind you, a woman came up to me, grabbed my protruding hip bone, and commented on how skinny I was.
I’ll let that sink in.
A woman I didn’t know felt it was okay to not only comment on my body, but to TOUCH ME without any kind of consent (not that I would have given it anyways). This is the type of thing that pregnant woman experience, too. Honestly, all women have experienced this type of aggression onto their persons, no matter their size and/or shape.
That. Is. Not. Okay.
I’m angry because I’ve worked incredibly hard to be healthy and develop good eating habits and when I show off my hard work, even my friends think I’m being cocky. I feel so unsupported by them, in that sense, that it makes me so very angry. Why can’t I be proud of myself for that achievement? I’m being told, again, that what I have to offer isn’t enough. People transitioning into fitness are “allowed” to showcase their progression (and they should! Go them!); but the minute I post a photo I can feel the side-eye across the interwebs.
And that’s some bullshit.
I’m angry because as I’m healing, I am logically aware that my body is going to go through some changes that I won’t take kindly to. I’m obsessing over the amount of food I eat, down to the gram on the food scale. I’m angry that I’m back to a place where I pick at my body and admonish it, even though I know damn well it’s working really fucking hard to be okay, to heal.
Most days I fill myself with love, because I need it. I’ve learned to say loving things to myself, but when the anger comes up, I have to acknowledge it. I’m afraid that if I don’t, I will be eaten alive by this monster inside of me.
I’m angry at people who tell me I have nothing to be angry about. I am angry at people, who, when I try to express hurt or frustration, or god forbid, my actual anger at something someone has done to me, I am the one who ends up apologizing. I get gaslit into thinking I’m a terrible person and I shouldn’t have been angry or hurt or upset. I am the one in the wrong.
I am angry when people tell me “everyone has pain”. Of course they do! And we should be allowed to speak on it without being admonished for having personal feelings around the topic.
This is what telling young girls, albeit it often in an unspoken way as a society, that our negative feelings do not matter. We end up not being able to correctly express them. I know fairly few women who are able to express their negative feelings in a way that isn’t care-taking the person they are trying to express them to.
And that’s some more bullshit.
This conversation also translates to young boys being told that they’re emotional feelings should be repressed. But that’s a topic that is not mine to speak on.
I’m angry at men for leading me on and then making me feel that I’m crazy. I’m super communicative and my expectation, which I state up front, is that the other person needs to be the same. I can’t read your mind and you can’t read mine. I’m still angry at one man from last year who was so egregious in his rollercoaster behavior that I somehow haven’t been able to let go.
I’m angry at men in general and that hurts so much because I love them so. I would love to be able to date and find a partner, but this river of rage at the man who kept sexual assaulting me as a teenager keeps getting in the way. His behavior towards me as a child has literally informed all of my relationships with men; allowing me to be treated so poorly by them. Knowing my triggers is one thing, but getting sucked in is an entirely different beast. I work incredibly hard to know and understand my triggers and to walk away when they get pulled, but every now and then those beasts rear their ugly head and I’m already way too far down the rabbit hole to acknowledge them. Women shouldn’t have to do this kind of work all the time; we shouldn’t have to continuously shoulder the anger of men.
I am angry for all of the little girls inside all of the grown women who feel that they cannot express their anger for fear of being reprimanded, but who observe that their boy counterparts can express their anger and it’s justified.
And that’s the most bullshity of the bullshit in all of this. All of that information as children has screwed up the way we deal with each other as adults. Personally, I have oscillated from being entirely shut down emotionally, to bleeding emotion like a wound that won’t clot, to oversharing as a means to build walls but desperately wanting connection, to working on healthy ways to share my negative feelings and building boundaries but constantly aware that I am afraid to do so for fear of being shunned.
That is some bullshit that’s gotta go. I now understand that my anger is here and is justified. More so, I comprehend that I don’t have to “handle” it; I need to acknowledge it’s presence and then hope that it extinguishes into peace… piece by extraordinary piece.