If you were to meet me, you wouldn't think I have trouble with anger. I come across as friendly and outgoing. I'm quick to smile and laugh, and not above embarrassing myself to make others chuckle. I don't care in the slightest if, in public, my daughter wants to sing, dance or make weird animal noises – I happily join in on the fun.
Though, I do not look like an angry woman, I most definitely am.
I didn't have the most healthy of upbringings. My mother was in and out of psychiatric facilities and, as a child who didn't know any better, I thought that was my fault. That, unbeknownst to me, is where my anger originated. It was an oppressive, misplaced anger toward myself that grew to define my existence for much of my life.
As I grew and was nearing young adulthood, so did my anger. Like an infection, it spread and evolved until I was no longer simply angry at myself, I was livid with my mother. I told myself she did this to me, she was why I was this broken version of myself and I hated her for it. Eventually, our relationship devolved to the point we were constantly hurting each other, and I stepped away from her – and, eventually, the rest of my family. But the rage remained.
For years, I tried to deny my anger. I pushed it down and distracted myself from it. I tried to reinvent myself as a happy-go-lucky partier, using alcohol to repress the rage. Of course, that led me down an even darker path, but I simply did not know the impact of my ignored emotion.
Eventually, I sought help and am much healthier, but it was only recently I was able to look at my anger for what it is. And, to my great surprise, it's not the shameful emotion I thought it was. Was my simmering rage serving me? No, but it was an understandable response to my situation. Yes, it held me back and soured my outlook on the world and myself, but it also motivated me. I escaped my family, I developed a new one with friends, I went to school, found a career, built a life, all in an attempt to be nothing like my mother. I don't know what my life would look like if I didn't have that rage encouraging me to be better.
I've since learned that I can forgive my family without welcoming them back into my life. I can see they did the best they could in the circumstances we found ourselves in, and I do believe they loved me.
That anger still lives within me – I can never get the years I suffered under my mother's illness back – but I'm no longer afraid or ashamed of it. And I don't hold onto the guilt of doing what was best for me.
So, yes, I'm an angry woman. But I can live with that and still be a happy, healthy individual.