As my Facebook followers know, I’ve been going through a dark period in my life. I thought of it as a kind of depression—where nothing seemed to go as planned. I felt there was nothing I could do to change things to where I wanted them to be. At the same time, I felt fortunate to have a place to live, food to eat, and love in my life! The conflicts between these things were swirling around in my head for days, then weeks, then months.
One day I snapped at a company representative! I did not like their policies, and thought of them as unfair. I became consumed with ANGER! Suddenly, I felt better, as if I’d awakened from a deep fog. My dilemma became clear. Often times, forms of depression are merely anger turned inward! (Depression caused by chemical imbalances in the body are different and can require medication. This was not that kind.) It was paralyzing. Since you can’t seem to do anything to change the situation it makes you feel helpless and not good enough, causing self-doubt. Self-doubt leads to not believing in yourself and questioning your own abilities and worth. It’s not like suddenly being dipped into a pit of despair. It’s more like a domino effect. One negative feeling leads to another—until you’ve sunk in that deep, dark depressing pit! It doesn’t matter what the anger is about. As I’ve explained in other blogs, each emotion causes your body to release a specific hormone into your bloodstream. Anger is Anger! As a psychologist, I should have known and recognized the symptoms. However, it’s not easy to diagnose one’s self!
You may be angry about something you don’t feel you should (or have the right) to be angry about! I’ll give you an example from my own life. My parents divorced when I was a baby, and I had no contact with my biological father for many years. When I had problems in college, I decided to withdraw for a while. This gave me the opportunity to go live with my father. Thinking of my problems one day, I started to cry. My father looked up from his easy chair and said to me: “Come here baby.” I went and sat in his lap while he held me. I felt so protected and loved. While rubbing my back, he said: “I don’t know what is wrong, but you don’t have to worry about anything. As long as I have a home, you have a home.” That gave me such hope for my future. Then eight days later he died! It wasn’t until 30 years later, while in counseling, I realized that along with the sadness and despair of his passing, I also felt anger. I was angry with my father for dying! He left me when I needed him most! Of course, with an older, more adult mind, I realized that was wrong of me. To deal with these emotions, I wrote him a letter, forgiving him for something over which he had no control—a fatal heart attack!
I googled “depression and how to deal with it.” The first thing that came up was an advertisement for a mind-bending drug! I knew there had to be another way for me! During my creative arts studies, we learned about the many different ways one can get emotions out of the body.
Writing: You can write letters, poems, short stories, and essays. Since this is only for you, there is no need to worry about spelling, rhyming, or grammar. The only important thing is to get the emotions out of you onto paper—where you can see the words. Once these emotions are outside of you, rip the papers to shreds or get a metal pail and go outside to set them on fire inside the pail (Be sure to have some water handy to put out the fire.)
Exercise: Go swimming, to a gym, YMCA, or community center. Many apartment complexes have workout rooms. Get an exercise DVD or VCR from the library. Turn on the radio to some fast music and dance! You don’t have to have a partner. Be creative and move as fast as you can. You can even dance while in a wheelchair! (Been there, done that.) The important thing is to get your body moving. Don’t sit and stew! If you have little time to be alone and small children, get them to dance with you. If you insist on a dance partner, get someone who is dieting. Years ago, while watching what I ate, I danced every day for a week—lost 10 pounds!
Vent: If you have a close friend or relative that supports and understands you, talk to that person and express the feelings you have. (However, sometimes friends are better than relatives!)
Art: Draw (use pencils, pens, crayons, whatever). Paint (The Dollar Store has coloring books you can mark up any way you want—even put names on the faces!) Clay (or kids’ Play Doh) can be transformed into all kinds of shapes.
Just like after my father’s death, we’re not always sure exactly what we are angry about. Meditation can help. Sit quietly and pay attention to how you are feeling. Keep a pad and pen handy in case you want to jot down something to check on later. The mind is complex. Some things happening in the here and now may remind you of things from your past that you never resolved. I’m still learning—no matter how much I may believe in someone, it doesn’t always mean anything if that person does not believe in him/her self! Times like this I am reminded that: The hardest thing to learn is to learn about yourself!