Thursday, January 7, 2010

Anger Loves Me

I think anger and depression are only separated by helplessness and hopelessness.

My illness and the doctors who misdiagnosed my illness made me feel helpless, but my anger gave me power in some situations, and knowing that I still had some power helped me remain hopeful that I would eventually find health again.

Though anger let me feel alive, there was only one time it actually helped me.

A few years ago I ran into a confrontational toughy in her mid-forties. Her fifteen-year-old beat-up Mercedes was parked at the pump of a small gas station. When I pulled up to the pump, I couldn’t get close enough because the Mercedes was hogging up the space. So I turned off my engine and waited for her to finish.

I watched her walk back from the store after paying for the gas and then get in her car. For some weird, possibly territorial reason, this woman aggressively gestured for me to back up so she wouldn’t have to reverse and go around my car.

Before sizing up the situation, which included the facts that the has-been party girl was bigger than me and had two male passengers, I shook my head and rolled my eyes. She hated the fact that I didn’t act as commanded. She got out of the car.

By this time, of course, my heart was pounding, but thanks to my flowing anger, I was ready for a fight.

This is another surreal moment in my life. As she approached the car I wasn’t sure what to expect. My window was open and my seat belt was on. She stood next to my car and got right in my face. She grabbed my door, her fingertips inside of my car. She called me out as if we were guests on Jerry Springer.

She expected to have the advantage by taking advantage of the element of surprise.

But I surprised her by undoing my seat belt and opening my door.

Honestly, I didn’t get out of my car to fight; I got out to protect myself. Years before this incident, I had seen a high school friend get attacked through a car window. And I really didn’t mean to hit her in the stomach with my car door when I threw it open. I was glowing with adrenaline and I had misjudged the space she had suddenly made between herself and my car when she saw me put my hand on the handle.

In thirty seconds, by instantly answering her call to fight, I turned the element of surprise around and threw it in her face. It wasn’t something that I thought out; it was just something I did because anger was at the ready.

She didn’t back down immediately, but she didn’t throw a punch either. She got back in her car after some face-saving encouragement from her friends, and then she reversed and drove around my car.

Luck played some part in getting me out of the situation without a broken nose and a criminal charge, but if I wasn’t regularly raging during that period in my life, I would have hesitated. I have no doubt that hesitation would have changed the outcome of that confrontation.

But living angry is hard on health and relationships.

It helped me stifle depression for a while and avoid one ass kicking. Was it worth it?

Has anger ever helped you?

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