Rage On (Originally published 11/20/12)

“Then someone will say what is lost can never be saved
Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage”
— Smashing Pumpkins, “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”

I realized something today; standing in line at KFC for more than five minutes renews my hatred for humanity. It’s not just KFC; it’s any line that doesn’t move because one person is taking an inordinate amount of time trying to free his head from his ass. It throws me into a complete rage. Another example is the day I ran into CVS for a pack of cigarettes and the line was ridiculously long. I got on line like a good little boy and immediately my rage hit eleven on my internal meter. To further my dilemma someone saw an ornament on the shelf that plays Christmas music. They then proceed to set off two of them at once. Immediately I wanted to turn around and let loose a torrent of profanity at the dumbass who thought this was amusing. Instead, I practiced a deep breathing exercise I learned in the partial program. Finally, I calmed down and the musical ornaments stopped.Until I learned different techniques to calm myself I would have stood there and let my anger simmer until I took it out on someone; whether it was yelling at someone in traffic, or even worse, someone close to me. Since I was a child I’ve had anger issues. I’ve always had a short, violent temper. I’ve yelled and screamed profanities, thrown and broken things, and then shut down afterwards. It wasn’t a daily occurrence, but it still happened more often than I would have liked. I would get into screaming matches with my parents over the most ridiculous things and then regret it for days. It still happens occasionally, but I am learning to deal with it.

The most recent and memorable occurrence was last April. My wife and son moved out at the end of February. I figured they would be gone for a couple of weeks and then return home. One weekend in April my wife came back with her brother to pick up a few things. I started to get irritated because I figured by now we should be back living together. Instead, there were clothes and other things leaving the house. I went into the bedroom and hid under the covers. I was shutting down and refusing to deal with the situation. My wife and her brother went out for a while and returned with a U-Haul trailer and began loading in my son’s furniture. I suddenly realized that they weren’t coming home anytime soon, if ever. Watching the pieces of my son’s bed get loaded into the trailer pushed me into an incredible rage. I lost it and began unloading a most violent, profanity-laced diatribe that would’ve made Mel Gibson proud. I left my wife with the only decision she felt she had left. She called the police. Rather than get involved in further confrontation, I left the house. I got in the car and headed to a nearby mall because that was as far as I could get before a panic attack hit me. I sat in the parking lot, shaking and hyper-ventilating. It took almost twenty minutes before I regained control of myself. I called her to apologize and ask if I could at least come back to get my Xanax to get through the panic attack.

The fact that she felt there was no other option than calling the police was utterly humiliating for me. How could I make someone so afraid for their safety that they felt the need to call the police? How many other times had my wife feared for her physical safety because of my verbal tirades? I had never thought of this. In my mind, I knew I could never physically harm someone, but in the midst of one of my rages, how would someone else recognize that?

When I was at Four Winds I was working on other issues, especially my suicidal ideation. It wasn’t until I had a session by phone with my wife that mage rage issues hit home. She told me she was attending a group for abused women. Again, I felt horrendous that I was responsible for someone else feeling abused. I decided then that this was something I needed to resolve as quickly as possible. I began working on my anger issues during therapy. I learned several anger management skills and they have mostly proven effective. I still slip occasionally, but my outbursts are minimal. Like most parts of therapy, it’s a work in progress.

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