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Anger Allowed  

       Anger is scary. Anger is dangerous. I won’t allow myself to do angry

I’m sitting across from my therapist, Mimi, reviewing my homework.

In an effort to get a handle on my emotions — the bouts of sadness, melancholy — she’d recommended I track different feelings that came up for me.

I’d been diagnosed with a physical illness, and had done some necessary grieving work. But still, the depression persisted, and it seemed there was no particular rhyme or reason to my triggers.

Sad, Mad, Glad, Scared: Mimi had written the four primary emotions on the top of the chart, encouraged me to jot down situations that triggered those feelings, and the physical sensations that accompanied them.

Ever the good student, the columns extend all the way down the page; all except one. The label “mad” is conspicuously empty.

Without so much as glancing at my comprehensive notes, Mimi points to the void. “What happened here?”

“Oh,” I shrug humbly. “I don’t really struggle with anger.”

She cocks her head, considering.

I squirm in the plush armchair.

Thankfully, the hour is up.

Mimi encourages me to try again this week, focusing specifically on the column that remains bare.

I don’t want to think about it.

Anger is scary. Anger is dangerous. I won’t allow myself to do angry.

Still, I’m a conscientious student, and find myself looking for it. And slowly, I notice it bubbling, just under the surface: a note of irritation at the cashier; a whiff of frustration at a child; a sprinkling of road rage at the car that cuts me off.

I write these down, dutifully, regretfully. Me? Angry?

And then it happens. It’s a stressful morning, I get everyone out of the house, in a rush to make a slew of back-to-back appointments.

The first is at a government office, where after waiting too long, I’m told I’ll will need to come back with more documents.

I’m am now running late to the doctor, get lost on the way, and find myself circling and circling in an unfamiliar neighborhood.

My husband calls: “Is everything okay? The secretary at the medical clinic said you’re not there yet, they’re trying to reach you, and have my number on file. They want know if you’re keeping your appointment.”

I’m overwhelmed, I’m stressed, I’m frustrated.

Okay, I’m angry.

I unleash it, physically expel it into the car so it wafts around, taking up space. The irritation at the clerk. The frustration at the wait. The raw, unchecked flood of emotions at the reason for that appointment, and this one.

The rage at the medical saga that has affected my life, in too many areas to numerate.

It all comes out, in one fell swoop; the lid has been lifted from the bubbling cauldron of pent-up emotion. My husband listens, prodding gently, ever patient, holding me over the phone.

It doesn’t look pretty.

He’s supportive, allowing the process to unfold, until I trail off, until it’s out there, in all its goriness.

As I take a deep, shuddering breath, wipe my cheeks of streaked mascara, and enter the office, I feel calmer than I have in a long time.

It only helps that my husband surprised me by hopping into a cab, and is standing in the waiting room, holding an iced coffee from my favorite bagel store.

“I’m proud of you,” he whispers.

So is my therapist.

So am I.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 788)

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