How can I help to strip away some of the dogma still attached to getting professional mental health help?
This isn’t something to hide from.
This isn’t something to run from.
This isn’t something that should be whispered about, shunned, ridiculed, or ignored.
I wish to open up a transparent dialogue about mental health, the stigmas attached, and my personal experiences with it all.
This is a humungously broad topic, so there is a high probability that I will get sidetracked and go off on tangents. I apologize for that now.
And although I have a pretty good opening for a different blog, I’m going to focus on one topic, rage.
I’m 30. I’ve had my fair share of experiences with mental health “issues” regarding those around me and how my genetics and environment(s) have manifested in myself. Even now, as I wish to open up a vulnerable dialogue, I realize I have to be very, very careful. Not because of paranoia, but because of real possible dangers. I have 3 children. I let my oldest go live with her father when I was going through a lot of transition(financial abuse, taking care of my elderly grandma, moving, pregnant, and caring for a toddler). I routinely have her and stay involved in her life via the telephone when she’s not with me. For whatever reason, he’s chosen to ignore me when I’ve requested a set visitation schedule. I can give all the possible why’s, but that’s another blog post all in itself. She doesn’t live with me, and although her father has never kept her from me, I do believe that anything I say here can and would be used against me if we ever had to go to court for custody rights.
I’ve already muted 2 of my blog posts for my eyes only, because I realized my most recent ex(the father of my youngest 2), absolutely would be malicious and use everything he could against me(just because). He’s already called DCFS on me with false allegations and tried to have my children taken away from me. He didn’t want them, mind you. He wanted his sister to care for them. For him, it’s strictly about control. When he doesn’t have it, he seeks it, and quite unfortunately for the rest of us, in very unhealthy manners. Several times in the past, he’s said I was out of touch with reality, and mentally unstable. The thing is, he has never spoke any of those words to me, so he never expressed his supposed “concern” for my welfare to me. I’m guessing he was basing my supposed mental diagnoses on my spiritual experiences. But I’m just guessing here…
I’m agnostic. I don’t believe or not believe in any deity/ies, but I have had many, beautiful spiritual experiences. I believe in the power of life and love. I believe there is power in anything that we choose to give power to. I believe in tools and mantras, whether those be a product of my head depends solely on who’s listening. I can find documentation and “science” even, to back up anything I want to contribute to a conversation about spirituality.
For the sake of this article alone, I will not nitpick and discuss my ex’s spiritual experiences. I realize if I choose to call his spiritual views “crazy”, that I should be taking a good, long look into the mirror and doing the same to and with my own experiences. I have been, mind you, I’m just not talking about it now. I’ve already heard several conversations with his sister, who is a clinical therapist, where the word “delusion/al” was used(not all pertaining to me…), so I’m very hesitant to share any of my experiences here or with his family.
Instead, I choose to focus on rage. Thankfully, I’ve only experienced rage around a handful of people my entire life. Unfortunately, they’ve been some of the most monumental: my dad, my brother, my mom(although rarely), a college professor, an ex best friend, and the father of my children. Rage is not characterized by physical violence alone, although it’s often associated with it. I was raised around unpredictable rages. It’s part of what built who I currently am. I don’t want my children to be raised in the same manner, so I’m trying my damndest not to cultivate the same cycle I grew up in. I’m trying a gentler approach, a more mindful approach, one that takes clear communication and effort, rather than terror and guilt. I’m not perfect. I yell. I get fixated on things I should be able to breathe out. When I notice my anxiety rising, I realize it has everything to do with me, and nothing to do with my surroundings. That doesn’t always mean I know how to shut off my nit pickiness(that is associated with anxiety), or that I can magically breathe when I’m having an attack. I’m a single parent, so I can’t just go run by myself, go to the store by myself, fuck, I can’t even go pee BY MYSELF. So occasionally anxiety happens, and it’s ok. You know what’s not ok? Rage.
I’m trying to figure out how to take the stigma away from the rage itself in order to try to help someone else, which is useless, I fully realize, because no one can seek help for anyone else. Ok, so let’s pretend I can magically take the negativity out of the word rage. Let’s get to the whys. Why do people rage? What benefits come from the rage? Why does rage keep repeating itself? I’ve explored and read about a lot of theories. Obviously, we all have different perspectives. My life is viewed ENTIRELY differently than that of my brother, and we grew up in the same childhood home. I share some genetics, but that’s about it. I’ve researched different personality disorders, even labeled a few, but labels don’t necessarily help us if they’re met with disgust, unease, and silence.
My ex rages.
That’s a pretty simple statement. He’d probably try to dissect it to attempt to tell me that his way of communicating when he’s angry is not a rage, but perfectly acceptable. I’m going to explain why it’s not. I’ve known him over 3 years now. We’ve spent more time apart than we’ve ever been together or ever actively communicating. Because of his pathological lying, his manipulations, his gas lighting, his financial and emotional abuse, and his rages. Of course, according to him, you’d hear an entirely different story. The beauty of perspective, huh?
Anyway, he rages. About sponges not being squeezed out properly, knives not sitting on the counter correctly, meals not being ate together, miscommunication over who cooks a meal, bills not being paid on time(by his past tenants), dogs that chew shoes, dogs that eat poop, kids that don’t listen, supposed man bashing, supposed pitbull bashing, politics, kids not doing as he asks when he asks.
The repetition here is “loss of control”. I get it. That’s why my own anxiety ats up. It’s how our brain works. The thing is, just because I understand part of the why, doesn’t mean I excuse it. Just because your OCD needs for a sponge to be squeezed out juuuust so, does not mean you have the right to get in my face and to declare me wrong over, and over, and over again.
I asked for my toddler and infant not to be left alone with 2 dogs who have a history of getting in bloody, vicious fights with each other, who’ve attacked other animals, and one who previously bit my son. I was not shaming those dogs. I simply don’t trust them, and for solid reasons. They show strong signs of anxiety. The pauses and scared, side eyes, the snapping when you blow air in one’s face, the startled reflex. No, I wouldn’t trust a tiny dog with those same characteristics with my small children alone. You blew up in a rage unable to identify these as solid points. Immediately I was wrong and you tried verbally to force me into saying I was wrong. You also tried blaming your rage on me. It’s all my fault. You never raged out on your sister over a decade ago for using your toothbrush. You never raged out on your mom in the middle of a mall when security was called on you. You never raged out on your ex and her parents, ultimately being the end cause to that relationship. You never raged out at a court worker almost having a security guard called on you. You never raged out at the simple statement of, “Most men don’t.”(In response to his mom saying she didn’t understand how her mom didn’t go crazy raising 7 kids without her dad helping in the kitchen.).
I’ve heard rage is often the response of much deeper feelings, feelings of sadness, depression, guilt… I understand, because I choose to stay angry at the man who rages against me. Why? Because it’s much easier to be mad at him, than it is to be sad for him, my children, and myself. I’d like to be able to teach my children to walk away when they have such immense emotional triggers they can’t control. Is it not better to hit a pillow than to hit someone else, even if it’s only with words? My ex regressed into that of a 4 year old in one rage. He gets completely belligerent. He literally picked up my 2 year old, as I was trying to leave his house so our babies wouldn’t have to hear him screaming, in attempt to keep me from leaving, so he could continue to yell at me. In that moment, what is the point? To get endorphins running high? Just control? To manipulate the situation to cause someone to retreat or admit defeat? It’s not ok to yell at me to get your point across, and I will not teach my children that that is what we do when we don’t get our way. There are going to be people throughout our entire lives disagreeing with us, and that’s ok. We can only control ourselves. He was so far gone that he was following me around shadowing everything that I said, getting up in my face, attempting to intimidate me. It felt wonderful not letting it put me into anxiety or fear. Fight or flight, and I was ready to fight, but I had/have two children to tend to, and they are my first priority. My children are young. What’s going to happen when he wants them to eat broccoli and they’re chanting ice cream? Will he scream at them until their light leaves and the tears cascade down their faces? Will he smack them like he hit a 1 year old for picking at a button? Will he starve them because they’re overweight, lock them in rooms for destroying a toy, refuse to acknowledge them as people with their own requests when they choose not to agree with him? These are very real fears of mine, because of the history I’ve lived with him.
He has rage.
Ok. Now what???
I acknowledge it. He’s acknowledged anger issues in the past with remarks of, “I’m working on it.”. His family acknowledges it. How do you get one to see it’s about much more than a fear of being ridiculed to seek mental health help? It’s about fixing, cultivating, and creating better relationships, both old and new. It’s about being courageous enough to step up and say, “I need help.”.
That takes immense vulnerability. That takes courage. It doesn’t make one unfit or unhealthy. It means you’re trying to solve the initial reasons rage is happening to begin with. It’s hard. It’s complicated. It’s complex, and you don’t have to do it alone, but you have to take the first step in admitting you need help. Honesty is everything. Whether it be in counseling, medications, anger management, meditation, yoga, exercise, a combination of all, what-have-you.
Rage can be disastrous. It creates chaos. Be a part of the solution. Sometimes, you have to be willing to step outside the comfort of your own box…to not only mend yourself, but to help mend the wounds inflicted onto others during your bouts of rage. I invite you to be courageous.