Sorry I couldn’t resist naming the somewhat dramatic title of this post after the 80s Depeche Mode song I listened to this morning. I think Dave Gahan is singing about having a temper or being moody, but DM tend to let people have their own interpretations of their songs. In any event, I choose to think that it is about dealing with emotions, particularly negative ones like anger or depression.
Yesterday was, frankly, a shit day. I have been suffering from a lung infection for the past two weeks, haven’t slept without cold medicine that whole time and it just felt like my household was caving in one me. My kid was screaming and whining, my dog was demanding food ASAP, my lungs are (still) on fire and I was feeling the rage bubbling up. Plus, that previous blog post brought me right back to that terrible and humiliating year of school, which made me consider deleting the post and this whole blog, despite my enjoyment of casual writing. So I hit the roof and screamed at my dog, who promptly scrambled out of the kitchen.*
Of course being sick and tired and dealing with sometimes stressful dependents wasn’t the only reason I lost my temper. We are also just at the beginning of getting treatment for my son’s autism after finally getting a diagnosis. Believe me when I tell you that it is a gut wrenching and emotionally trying experience, but I’ll save that story for another day. It’s just a heavy weight to carry around.
Luckily, my husband was there to fill in and has always got my back. He knew I was frazzled and told me to go lie down, which I did because I needed a break. After feeding our son and the dog, he came up to our bedroom and we talked about it. It really helped, and I do the same for him when he’s feeling angry, but I’m really tired of feeling so out of control sometimes. I like to think of myself as a fairly rational and logical person, but I am also FAR too sensitive and empathetic at times. I readily absorb any and all negativity and take it all personally and it completely distracts me from the work at hand. When things go wrong, I automatically assume people all think I’m an idiot and panic, angry and frustrated. This tendency probably stems from past negative experiences of bullying and exclusion. I never really learned how to cope effectively with stress or difficult people or situations, and would simply retreat into the bubble of my own imagination or hobbies. It is likely a very ADHD trait, and the main reason why I have struggled so much in terms of employment. My listening and concentration skills have dramatically improved over the past few years, but emotional regulation and stress management still remain challenging for me.
Knowing is half the battle, and I’m kind of grateful to have this kind of self awareness of my flaws and challenges. Many people go through life with negative thinking patterns or misguided beliefs, they blame society or the government or some other imagined nefarious outside force for their struggles. Given how unfair life can be, and how much some people suffer due to reasons beyond their control, it is certainly an understandable thing to do. But it’s also incredibly important to recognize how much power your attitude and outlook has on your reality. Getting angry and bitter is to be expected when shit hits the fan, but staying there will do nothing but waste any potential for improving your situation.
For a whole chunk of my adult life, I have met and spoken to a number of therapists or social workers. Some were helpful, some were absolute knobs who were very UN-helpful and made me feel worse, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that ultimately it is up to me to take control of my mental and physical health. No amount of crying or complaining to a therapist, my mother or my husband will change my toxic habits or thinking patterns. Before I got sick, I had plans to grab the sour grapes that I carry around-Past negative experiences, lack of career anxiety and insecurity, my son’s diagnosis, my age, etc-and smash them into some good freakin’ wine; I signed up for a gym membership, started creating a new diet plan, created some paintings and began to consider career options related to HR, like becoming a career counselor. But then I got sick and it all seemed to be put on pause. You might think ‘So what? Colds happen’ and you’d be right. But life hasn’t exactly been “normal” for the past two years of living in a pandemic. It has been a jarring merry-go-round of starts and stops, over and over. Frankly, it’s enough to drive anyone batty. On Saturday, I was prescribed antibiotics and an inhaler and did two at-home covid tests that were hopefully accurate as they showed up negative, but this sickness has forced me to spend a lot of time overthinking, as I was too tired to do anything else.
Given this rough period, I suppose, it’s no wonder I lost my shit in the kitchen yesterday. But the medication is slowly working and I do feel a bit better, even if I still cough regularly. I’m 41 and don’t have a career, my kid is neurodivergent (like me and my husband!), I struggle with regrets and wonder what the hell I’m doing with my life and if I’ll ever feel competent or genuinely happy again, and of course there is the ever present threat of covid.
Yesterday was a bad day, and more will come, as that’s life, but my reaction to them will hopefully change. We all carry heavy emotional burdens of things beyond our control, but we don’t need to let them control our reactions to more minor stresses or inconveniences. Having emotions can be a great thing, but they have dominated my life for too long. It’s time to learn how to put out fires calmly. It will be difficult and take work, and there will be bad days, but I know I can do it.
*And yes after getting angry with my dog, I immediately felt guilty afterwards and apologized, giving her lots of pats, which she appreciated. She really is a good girl and I should be more patient with her.*