I am an anxious person. I am an angry person.
Every time I drive I find myself screeching against the windows, pounding the wheel under my white knuckles as I hurl expletives and my eyes bulge out of my head. Somehow, perversely, my anger is fuller when other people are in the car.
My fury hath no bounds and certainly does not know mortification, as my anxiety works its way under every nerve ending until my shoulders are hurting and I don’t realize my jaw and elbows are clenched until my muscles ache and blood is pounding at my temples. Over the years people have laughed both with and at my anger. I have come to associate my anger with my sense of humor and my self-worth, I have blended them all together to the point that anger is intrinsic to my identity.
My freshman year of college I wrote about falling in love with the recklessness of my anger. I held my frustration and impatience against my chest like shining armor. My anger anchored me, gave me the confidence to lift my chin and stick my chest out, pulled me out of the depressive episodes pressing me into the scratching carpet of my dorm room as my fingers clawed toward my heart, trying to keep the sadness in, trying to curl my body inward and together as it fell apart. Some long talks with my mom and some horrible fights with my partner have helped me understand the nature of my anger and to trace the ties between it and my anxiety. The red at the edges of my vision has been my fury at the world around me, but it has also been the anxiety constantly pressing at my sides, closing in and weighing heavy on my racing mind.
I often allow anger to define my relationships, my irritation with others forging some of my closest bonds. I am drawn so irresistibly to these ties in fury which are toxic and cement me to shaky ground.
What if I stopped being angry at everyone? What if, for the sake of my health, I needed to start relating more positively to my environment? What would become of all these relationships founded on spikes in blood pressure?
I mentioned previously the painful arguments I’ve had with my fiancee, though the pain is my doing. I get anxious about remaining in control or needing to take care of everyone around me. I don’t get frustrated when others don’t know how to do anything because it’s just annoying. My frustration is my fear for the other person paired with the knowledge I cannot always fix their problems, that I can’t do everything for them not because I don’t want to but because I simply cannot always be there with them. This is still hard for me to explain clearly and effectively.
I don’t fully realize the appearance or impact of my anger as its associations with anxiety skew my perception. My mind is so preoccupied with worry I have no mindfulness left for the tone of my voice, for the sharpness of my words and the jerking of my hands and the aggression in my posture.
I’m taking important, difficult, steps toward positivity and expressing my concerns carefully and thoughtfully. For years I have lived under the thumb of my anxieties and insecurities, ignoring them under the guise of anger as I deemed that more acceptable. Slowly I am coming to terms with the frankly awful way I’ve expressed my love for family and friends, that I have let my anxiety rule me to the point of becoming rabid, barely able to function under pressure as I have so long refused to acknowledge it, have avoided it under another name.
My journey toward letting go of my anger, once my very best friend, what I thought was the only thing I truly understood, has helped me examine the sources of my anxiety by forcing me to consider its symptoms. I am stopping to ask why I’m so angry and am instead asking if I’m actually angry at all. I’m finding that I’m afraid, not angry. Confronting my anger has allowed my to reflect on my personality and decision making. It has given me a chance to breathe around my anxiety and fight the way it feeds on itself. Withdrawing from anger has taken some of the power of my anxiety, has pulled my own claws from my chest, brought the color back into my knuckles as I loosen my grip on the steering wheel.
I am an anxious person. I am trying to get better.
Kirsten Holsomback is a writer fallen out of practice after a period of isolation and severe anxiety. She is currently studying History with a concentration in Women’s History and Social Justice. She works with the Home Depot (which she loves despite her hatred of capitalism and corporate America) and lives with her partner and their two cats, Leo and Libby. You can find her on Tumblr, Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook.