“I used to be a yeller,” A poem.

I’ve read this at a few places around town. It was featured in an article.

There was a time when I didn’t have a word for it.
I didn’t know I could get help for it.
I thought that everyone did it.
When I got upset, we never talked about it.

I used to be at the end of my rope. All. The. Time.
Everything used to get on my nerves.
Everything used to make me crazy.
It was normal and regular.

When my kids were small, I put a name to it:
I called it the “anger bug.”
I said I wanted to “squash” the anger bug.
I had gotten the bug from my dad, and he had gotten it from his dad,
And I didn’t want to live with the anger bug anymore.

When I grew up, anger was always scary.
I didn’t know how to feel it in a healthy way
Without hurting people.

I used to be rather numb, so feeling angry, well that was kind of a thrill too.
The unpredictability of it, it made me feel like I had to brace for the apocalypse,
The ceiling was always about to fall in.
I held up that ceiling for a long long time.
It made my arms and my back strong.
It also sealed my jaw, locking and grinding at night.

I thought everything had to be “just so,” to keep that ceiling up,
So I took to controlling everyone – thinking
“they should do that” and “they should do this” and
“I should do that” and “I should do this.”
My honey-do list had a few items on the fridge, and it was a mile long in my head.

The pressure of the “should” was maddening in itself –
the “should” came from all places,
from myself for myself,
from myself for my parents, my kids, my husband, my neighbors,
and also people on the news.

Even imaginary “shoulds” haunted me –
shoulds I imagined coming from God,
from my kids, from my work-out teacher,
from my parents and neighbors, from Pinterest…

My should-itis was part of my anger condition.
It caused me to live in an alternate reality,
Enraged by how I thought things should be,
Never really seeing who was right in front of me,
the people we all were with the lives we all had.

I did better than my parents, and they did better than theirs,
But still, there was the one thing I couldn’t shake.

I used to lose my temper with my family.
I used to think everyone lost their temper.

I used to think it was everyone else who had a problem.
I used to feel ignored and helpless, full of shame and blame,
Enough shame and blame to go around for everyone.

I used to read parenting books
And experiment with parenting advice
To get my children to change
So they would stop pushing my buttons.
(I thought it was them that made me angry.)

My dad, my husband, especially my kids –
they used to push my buttons.
It used to keep me up at night.
I used to tell myself “that’ll be the last time,” over and over. 

It used to be my dad who lost his temper when I was a kid.
It used to be my grandfather who lost his temper when my dad was a kid.

I used to be a yeller.
I used to be a mean texter and emailer and internet poster.
I used to lose my temper all the time.
One time, ok, maybe a few times, I threw something.
One time, I threw banana bread.

I don’t lose my temper anymore. 
I got help…. (But that’s a story for another day.)

I was upset about how I had been. I was angry about my anger.
I wrestled with myself, I worked so hard to stop the anger from bubbling up.
But the fighting didn’t help.
The anger kept winning. It kept coming back.
So I got an idea to write a love letter:

Dear Old Hurtful Controlling Anger,
You made me strong.
You were there for me when I needed you.
You got me through some really tough times. Seriously.
Thank you for being a friend.
I will never forget you.
And now, dear Anger, I’m ready to let you go.
It’s time to say goodbye.
I’m learning how to be strong in different ways.
I would not have gotten this far without you.
In some ways, you have been a blessing to me.
As you go (and when I see you again), here is what I want to say:
I love you. Thank you. You’re showing me how to heal.

Love and kisses,
Your biggest fan,

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