Earlier this year, I established a new nightly ritual. I’d come home from a long day at work, where my job involved interacting with some of the internet’s worst people, smile and kiss my husband and kids, slowly walk into my bedroom, grab a pillow off my bed and scream into it.
I’d always grab the same pillow. I’d always scream until my voice was horse. Sometimes, I’d punch the bed a couple times. Then I’d get up and walk away as if nothing had ever happened. Throughout the day, I used to let the anger build up inside of me, until I could practically taste it. This tiny, 2-minute ritual was all I had to look forward to and keep me from losing my cool in the office or with my family.
It was my darkest secret – that I, Ally Jean, certified cool-cat, was secretly an angry bitch.
Then one day, my husband, Justin, and I were making the bed. He picked up my anger throw pillow by its corner like it was a dirty diaper and said “What happened to this thing?”
“What do you mean?” Figuring my darling precious children had turned my precious target throw pillow into an extension of their artistic abilities.
He turned the pillow towards me. I immediately gulped. There, smack dab in the middle of the navy and white chevron pattern were four noticeable spots – two eyes, a nose and a mouth. The transferred face of an angry bitch who forgot to take her makeup off before screaming her contained anger into the fabric.
I shrugged. Trying to move on. “I must have fallen asleep on it” Justin didn’t let up.
“Seriously, Ally?! Either you were making out with this thing, or Voldemort is coming out of it.”
And I seriously considered admitting to making out with it.
That’s the funny thing about hiding your anger, you don’t realize how much it deteriorates you. When it’s burning inside of you, festering, you don’t see the physical damage it’s doing to your psyche. There was my damage, right there on the makeup stained, Voldemort-looking rage face imprinted on the pillow.
There has to be a way for us as women to express our anger but as women, we’re consistently stuck walking the boundaries of our own institutionalized sexism. If I tell off a coworker for something shitty they did, no matter how professionally I might do it, I’m being erratic, or throwing a fit. If I yell at my husband because he’s not listening to me when I was trying to talk to him, he rolls his eyes and says “You need to calm down.”
(I WAS CALM WHEN I WAS TALKING TO YOU BUT YOU WEREN’T LISTENING, JUSTIN.)
It’s totally okay to be angry. We live in a social and political climate that can throw even the most mild-mannered lady into a raging feminasty on a mission to burn the patriarchy to the ground after three scrolls of her Twitter feed.
But if you find that your anger is monopolizing your life, keeping you from enjoying your passions and destroying your beautiful throw pillows, you need to take some action to establish some habits to calm that anger.
Here’s some things I do to contain that monster inside me that involves limited property damage
Put on music you can scream to
Music has long been a source of emotional release for me. I have dedicated playlists on my phone for when I need to cry, get pumped up, get work done and, most popular, scream my anger into the void.
Here’s the thing about having music that you enjoy screaming to, after a few tracks on my anger playlist – which is 90% variations of Ska music because I know what I’m about – I find myself not angry anymore. I’m taking in those sweet-ass horn riffs and rolling down my windows to shout at passing cars “SKA’S NOT DEAD!!!”
Angry music? You say, But it’s all Kenny Loggins and sweet smooth jazz on this end, Ally.
You can borrow mine then, you should check out Somewhere in Between by Streetlight Manifesto. The absolute best album for getting out all the shouting related to your feminine rage.
It doesn’t have to be music either. If dealing with your anger involves you reading your favorite book over and over again – do it. If it means watching “House Hunters” so you can yell at the ridiculously hipster couple who doesn’t understand they can change paint colors – do it.
Find that resource you have to express some anger with and help bring you from a roaring fire to a tiny ember burning quietly on a pile of ash.
Invest in ways to relax
This means putting aside actual dollars to give yourself the time you need to be zen. Massages, Mani/Pedis, a day at the spa, fancy bath bombs from Lush.
We are women. We will always feel guilty about spending money on ourselves before we spend on someone else. You need to make a personal promise that you will give as much TO yourself as you give OF yourself. If that means setting aside money each week to go full relaxation, or to promise yourself you’ll leave work early one day a week to sit in a Starbucks writing, make sure that time is always taken and don’t break that promise to yourself.
THE BEST CARE IS SELF CARE. You can’t take care of all the shit you’ve got on your plate being a boss bitch if you don’t take care of YOU.
Sometimes the hardest thing in the world to do is to let the people you care about know they’re making you angry. I know I struggle with this a lot because I hate conflict.
In this age of texting and tweeting, I’ll read a message from people I care about and instantly get angry. Then I let that anger fester rather than just saying my peace.
The other day I texted my mom with the date of my daughter’s birthday party. My parents are understandably busy these days as they prep for their retirement, but since they didn’t make it out to her birthday last year, I wanted to make sure they had the date in case they wanted to make it.
My mom replied that they didn’t think it was in the cards (see all the reasons above). My mom by nature is a short texter. But being the overdramatic ass I am, I fill in the space around her messages with my own assumptions, and it’s always in these assumptions that my anger latches on and infects.
I started thinking, “Why doesn’t she want to come. It’s her GRANDDAUGHTER’S BIRTHDAY. They didn’t come last year, I can’t believe they’re not making the time this year. Especially since they didn’t go last year. They came to my other daughter’s parties. And I know they’ll go to all of my sister’s kids’ parties. (Sorry my erratic mind brought you into this, Jen.) They must not like THIS daughter of mine. They must not like me. WHY WONT THEY LIKE ME? I WORK SO HARD FOR THESE THINGS FOR MY KIDS AND THEY CAN’T MAKE THE FREAKING TIME TO COME???”
You see how this goes.
This is how anger works, DESPITE having completely legitimate reasons to not be able to drive from Louisiana to Florida for a 3-year old’s birthday party, I was furious.
But then I had a moment of clarity. My parents had an obligation to these things in their life, yes. But I don’t get to be angry about them not caring about things I care about, if I don’t even tell them they’re important to me.
Let me put it this way, Let’s say I won an award at work, and as part of winning this award I got to attend a networking cocktail hour after work. Let’s also say that the night of the cocktail hour also happens to be the date of Justin’s standing game night with his friends.
If I go home and say “Hey, we were invited to this thing after work, want to go?”
And he says “That’s the date of game night, and we’re hosting.”
And my response is “Oh, okay.”
And THEN I go into my room and SCREAM into my pillow because how DARE my husband care more about his buddies than this award I got. I’m only torturing myself.
In this scenario, I didn’t tell him I won an award. I didn’t tell him this was important to me, regardless of how casual the moment was. It’s not fair or healthy for me to harbor that anger when my husband is two feet away and we can have an adult conversation about it.
Going back to the conversation with my mom, (after I calmed down) I sent her another message. I acknowledged that they were busy with this stage of their lives, and I told her that if they could find the time to be there, It would mean a lot to me, and it would mean a lot to my daughter.
Almost immediately, my mom then reached out and we scheduled time for all of us to be together before my daughter’s birthday since they couldn’t make the weekend of her party work.
Speak up. Not everything has to be a conflict. Get yourself to a point where you’re not reacting to whatever made you angry, think over what piece of information you’re leaving out and make sure you include it.
Write it Out
One of the best ways I unpack my anger is by taking a moment when I’m really mad to write (or in my case, type) why I’m really mad.
As a perfectionist, it’s hard for me to just write without correcting spelling, or revising as I type, so I use my laptop, I open Word and I zoom waaaaaayyyyyy out. And then I let my angry lady fingers go to work.
I write everything down that I’m mad about. Things I’m thinking but don’t want to say out-loud. EVERYTHING. Your bullshit meter is never higher than when you’re talking about yourself, so don’t let yourself say anything but how you really feel.
Usually, as I’m typing, I’m able to bring myself down to a mild to moderate level of irritation (where I can be rational again) and I can review what I wrote. (After correcting the spelling.)
In reading through this I can usually identify the root of my anger. Selfishness? Insignificance? Disrespect? Loneliness? Anxiousness? It’s always something.
The other day, as I was putting the girls to bed, my 3-year old told me – to my face – “I don’t love you.” A human child I literally pushed out of my lady bits, who literally gets ALL MY MONEY told her HIGHLY EMOTIONAL mom—who, by the way, does nothing but smother her in love and kisses and tickles—that she doesn’t love her.
I was hurt, then sad, then MAD.
When I went through the process of writing out why I was mad (the true rantings of a mad woman) I found that “Justin” came up more than anything.
I was mad at Justin. He was home with them. How dare he teach them to be so mean to me. Why is he so great that he gets to be the one they run to? Why does he get to be the stay at home parent and I’m the one going through an existential crisis?
Justin isn’t the one who told me he didn’t love me, and I know he’s definitely not the kind of person to throw tiny supervillain classes while I’m at work called “YOUR MOTHER LOVES YOU AND HERE’S HOW TO MAKE HER MISERABLE.”
I took this instance with my daughter and made it about me and my own mom guilt. That maybe if I didn’t work so much, she would spend more time with me and would NEVER EVER say those things to me.
I’m not even going to touch Mommy Guilt today, but this process helped me realize the roots of my anger were my own feelings of inadequacy. I wouldn’t have gotten there without writing it all out.
Ladies, check yourself before your wreck yourself. If you are constantly angry. If you are gnashing your teeth and flying off the handle and finding your happiest is still a state of moderate irritation.
If you’re mad as hell all the time and no matter what you do you can’t unpack your anger. Get some professional help.
I’ve been doing therapy on and off since I was 15. My therapists have helped me with my anxiety and depression and has talked me through my anger enough times. I am not at all ashamed of the decisions I’ve made to have someone to talk to, and you shouldn’t either.
Look into your insurance and see what your plan covers and book yourself a session.
Sister, has someone told you lately that the anger you have matters? Your feelings are valued and important and make you into the perfect magical unicorn mermaid that you are.
But when those heavy emotions like sadness, inadequacy, loneliness and especially anger get in the way of you living a life focused on finding and pursuing your passions, take action. While your feelings are important and demand to be felt, they don’t have to consume your life. You don’t have to be an angry woman.