Thursday, December 10, 2015

12-10-2015 Entry: Anger in the Guest House


“I don’t think you really know what to do with anger, Emma. Not true, lasting anger. I’m not talking about the flash in the pan kind, but the kind where you can’t just get rid of it. You can’t just do something and quickly get rid of this kind of anger. You have to deal with it and accept that it’s going to be there for a long time.”

Those were the words my therapist spoke to me yesterday, and they have been swirling around in my mind ever since. She went on to explain that she was basing this belief of her knowledge of my childhood. In the house I grew up in, I was never really allowed to remain angry, even if it was a justified anger like the one I feel now. I was always told to to “get with the program” of what my mother said was acceptable even if I had been wronged in some significant way. My emotions were too inconvenient for her and were never permitted for longer than a short while before I was punished for them. Act out in anger and I was spanked, chastised, publicly humiliated, or grounded from the things that made me happy.

Anger wasn’t okay, so the only way to cope within an environment that was punitive to any form of anger was to find ways to make it better. External solutions to an internal problem. Those solutions varied from year to year. First they started with all but living in a fantasy world rather than reality. Mental escapism from the harshness of the rage I felt about being abandoned by a father I adored and the repeated loss of father-figure after father-figure as my mother made her way through catastrophic relationship after catastrophic relationship. They always leave. That was the thing that was impressed upon my mind from the age of four. They always leave. No matter how much I loved them, no matter how much I tried to be a good kid for them, they always left, and more often than not, I believed it was because of me.

The only one who stayed was the worst of the lot. A cruel man. A harsh man. A drunk and a bastard of a man who shamed me, humiliated me, and made fun of me for his own amusement. Worse than that, though, he convinced my mother, the only person who was ever a constant in my life, to be okay with it. It’s good for him he would tell her. I needed to be toughened up if I was going to survive in the cruel world, he’d justify. Boys didn’t cry. Boys didn’t have deep and powerful emotions. Boys didn’t feel like they wanted to be girls. If I ever hoped to become a man I had to learn how to take it like a man.

Eventually the mental escapism stopped working and my sense of reality blurred to the point of not remembering where I was, where I’d been, or what I’d been doing. I felt my mind begin to splinter as it was pulled in countless directions at once. I was coming unraveled. Emma was buried deep in my mind, locked away in a prison of shame and confusion. She could not help me. I was a twin spirit, broken in half and left alone to be subjected to cruelty by the only “father” I had ever really known.

I started Therapy then. I couldn’t do it alone anymore. I felt so angry all the time. Such rage, bubbling beneath the surface, eating me alive and I had no outlet for it. I wasn’t allowed to be angry. I wasn’t allowed to express my anger. I wasn’t allowed to let the steam out, so like a pressure cooker left unattended I was a ticking-time bomb.

The therapy helped some. The mental escapism was the piece we focused on the most, but the anger was largely left untouched. We talked about it, sure, and even analyzed its source, but we never discussed how to accept it, how to express it, or how to unleash it in a healthy and therapeutic way. My step father hated that I was in therapy. He hated the fact that I was somewhere talking about feelings and, honestly, talking about how much of an asshole he was.

Things did get better, but they were never great. The mental escapism stopped but in many ways it was replaced with other things: religion and sex, primarily. I became Mormon, I became catholic, I surfed around the churches, and then eventually I started sleeping with my boss at the time. She was a woman who was 12 years older than me and it filled the hole I felt inside. When I was with her I got to be in touch with that feminine part of me that was left unattended in its prison of shame. We would become one through that physical and emotional connection and it made me feel temporarily whole, but as with all drugs, there were diminishing returns. Eventually it no longer did the trick, so I turned to love to fix me, to make me complete.

The sex with this person I loved felt so different. It wasn’t just a physical act, but a truly emotional one. Again, I felt whole, but it was doomed to fail. She moved away and started to change. She was finally free of her own oppressive home (something that drew us together) and wanted freedom that being with me couldn’t offer, so I broke her heart and ended it. She loved me so completely and so utterly that it devastated her. I didn’t want to do it but I couldn’t feel whole with her so far away. I was half a person again in her absence, and that was unacceptable.

The anger came back after that but as with before, I didn’t know how to express it. I didn’t know how to process it. I turned to other drugs to fill the gaps in my heart. This time it was food, alcohol, drugs, World of Warcraft, helping someone destroy their marriage, stealing, and eventually an abusive relationship with a person who truly needed mental health interventions of her own.

We’ve been over most of this before but the point of this reminiscent entry is to illustrate that my therapist is right about me. I’ve never learned how to be okay with being angry. I’ve never learned how to just accept and process my anger. I’ve never found ways to express it in a healthy or therapeutic way. I’ve always just tried to bury it under other things, to try to “do something” that makes it go away. I’ve never faced all the anger that’s been accumulating over the years as I’ve been abandoned, neglected, mocked, ridiculed, shamed, bullied, emotionally abused, sexually abused, lied to, led on, used, and even betrayed by those I’ve loved and cared about.

Now, I have no recourse for the anger I feel. Now I have no escapism. No drugs, no sex, no anything to take away the pain and rage I feel about how the person I loved and cared about more than anyone I’ve ever known betrayed me and left me broken apart. I am at the end of my rope, so to speak, when it comes to running from my anger. My therapist helped me to see that. It’s time for Emma to be angry, truly, powerfully, deeply angry without trying to run from it, without trying to fix it, and without trying to make it better through some external solution.

I must just sit with my righteous indignation about the way I have been treated and accept it for what it is. I deserved better than I got. I deserved more than what I was given. I deserved to be treated with the same love and respect and kindness that I showed her, and all of the others over the years that hurt me, and the fact that I was not returned the favor makes me angry. So very angry, and rightfully so. I refuse to be taken advantage of again. I refuse to be mistreated and disrespected by those I love and care about. I’m done being nice for no reason. I’m done being kind to those who mistreat me. I’m done forgiving selfishness when it’s at my expense.

I wasn’t allowed to be angry growing up and so I developed the habit of not allowing myself the privilege or prerogative to be fucking pissed off and to act from that place of power (vs. disempowerment or escapism). People don’t like you when you are mad. They would much rather you remain defeated and broken. My ex-wife would so much rather just live her life without the guilt of what she’s done. She doesn’t want to feel guilty because of her actions. That would be inconvenient for her and so she expects me to just figure out how to not be angry at her, as if it’s my fault that I’m mad at her.

Well, she’s wrong, because it’s not my fault. I’m not taking the blame this time. I’m not the reason I’m here. This didn’t happen to me because I did something wrong like I’ve convinced myself of so many times before. I always owned my own mistreatment as if it were a reflection of my self-worth. I always just assumed that I was mistreated because I deserved to be. Even with this situation I’ve done the same thing.

I’m here because of my Karma, I said. I’m here because I helped ruin someone’s marriage, I said. I’m here because I broke that poor girl’s heart so fully that she spent years hating the very thought of me, I said. I have secretly thought for the past 6 weeks that I’m here because I was selfish enough to transition genders and to think about my own happiness before everyone else’s. I always try to make it my fault, but this time it isn’t my fault. My mistreatment isn’t my fault, and it never really was. I did nothing to deserve this pain or any of the pain before. I did nothing to deserve this situation or any of the others before this one.

I was a victim, and I’m not saying that for the sake of pity. I don’t want your pity. This isn’t a “poor Emma” entry. I’m saying that because there is power in acknowledging that I have been wronged. There is power in recognizing that my anger is a messenger that’s trying to tell me something very important: I deserve better and I should accept nothing less than what I deserve.

I am a good person. I am a kind person. I am a caring person. I am a loving person. I am a giving person. I spend my time bettering the lives of others. I uplift, I encourage, I support, and I give compassion. I’m intelligent. I’m accomplished. I’m gifted in many ways. I’m beautiful. I’m sexy. I’m courageous. I’m brave, and I deserve to be recognized for all of these qualities. I deserve to be treated with the respect because I am worthy of it, not simply because of my many excellent qualities, but because I’m a human being.

I am not responsible for my mistreatment. I did not make my father leave and then hardly ever be there. I did not make my mother dismissive and controlling. I did not make my step-father shame and humiliate me. I did not make my abusive girlfriend say and do the things she did. And I certainly did not make my ex-wife cheat on me.

These things didn’t happen to me because I deserved them or because they were my fault. These things do not reflect my self-worth. I am not the shameful child who must have been bad because their father left them. I am not the shameful child that must be punished for feeling too much. I am not the shameful child who deserves to be sexually abused by someone I trusted. I am not the shamefully effeminate teenager that deserved a petty, cruel, unbalanced, and shaming step father who was more important to my mother than I was. I was not the unworthy partner who deserved to be abused, tormented, broken down, and emotionally wrecked by an unstable, manipulative, and controlling girlfriend. I am not the shameful freak of nature that doesn’t deserve love or kindness or affection because their wife left them to be with cisgender men.

My struggles in the dating realm are not because I am this in-between gender/sex that no one would want. My struggles are because I have not yet found someone who deserves me, and I have not permitted myself the room to be as angry as I ought to be about where I am at in life. No one out there is going to make this anger go away, even if they somehow made me feel love or excitement again. Dating will not solve this problem. The only thing that will make this situation better is to go through it, to accept it, and to embrace it. I am pissed off at the world, and I have a right to be. It’s been a long time coming and I’ve had enough of this maltreatment bullshit. I’ve gotten the raw end of the deal for the last like 27 years, and I’m done playing this self-blame game.

I’m taking my life back and my power back. I will be no one’s doormat. If they don’t see what I have to offer then they aren’t worth my time. I’m done accepting hurtful, imperfect, exploitative situations because the alternative is being alone. I’d rather be alone because at least I know how to treat me the way I deserve. My anger is my teacher, and it’s giving me very important lessons:

 

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.” –Rumi

 

-Emma

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