I have spent a lot of my life with a quick temper. I am a little more frustration than most. I dwell on things. I worry and then I lash out. At friends, at family, at my sweet kiddo. For the longest time, I have had a bad temper but as I dove into some emotional issue with my therapist, we discovered that it was not anger that was causing my temper, it was anxiety.
I have talked in length about my constant “what if”” and the need to plan for every, single “what if.” (Read more here.) It is exhausting. It was leading me down a road that was causing me to have a short temper. Who knew that anxiety could present itself as anger? In some, it is fear. Some just shut down and hide from it. It overwhelms their ability to function in day to day life. It’s panic. It’s frustration. It’s tension. It’s overwhelming and controlling. It’s scary and chaotic. It’s uncontrollable. It’s anxiety.
For me, it presented itself as anger. It was like a light switch. One minute I was fine, the next i wanted to slam doors and throw things. I wanted to scream at the top of lungs. It was something I have no control over. I couldn’t stop it and I couldn’t calm it. I couldn’t prevent it. It made me feel out of control. And once I was at the point? Watch out world. There was no bringing me back down unless I could just walk away. I had to completely separate myself from the situation or out came the silver tongue. It was the only defense I had. It was the only way I coped. The tongue was cruel. It would tear you down and it didn’t matter who was in my path. I just wanted to hurt them so bad that they would just leave me alone. I wanted them to walk away. I needed them to walk away. I needed to get away from it all. I needed to shut down and restart.
The more I tried to rationalize my feelings about ending my marriage, losing my Dad and missing half my small boy’s life, the worse it seemed to get. I am a very logical person. I want to solve problems with my intellectual brain and I couldn’t solve this. I couldn’t find the route cause so I could not figure out how to stop it. All along, I was looking in the wrong direction. I was trying to put a square peg in a round whole.
One afternoon, my therapist ask me to describe my day in terms of my thoughts. Alarm goes off and the brain turns on. Can I sleep for 5 more minutes? Will I make it to work in time? Will I get to have a cup of coffee before I go? Is my small boy having a good day? Does he need anything? Did his Dad remember his folder? Is his jacket going to be warm enough? Do I have any meetings today? Did I drop off those nails? Is my Mom okay this morning? Did I empty the litter box? What am I going to wear? Is it hot? Is it cold? Maybe I should grab a sweater? What sweater? Will it match the shirt I am wearing? Do I need to dress for anything important? Is Riley happy today? Is he waking up in a good mood? I hope he has a good day at school. He has karate tonight. Will his dad remember to put his uniform in his back pack? I hope he is not to tired after a long, Monday. I hope he behaves at karate. Oh, I need to remember to grab a snack for the car so he has something on the way to karate. He alway hungry. He rarely eats his lunch. I hope he eats his lunch. Please eat your lunch small boy.
Well there goes the snooze alarm. 5 minute is up. Time to get up. Showers on and I am in. Should I wash my hair? Maybe just a messy bun? Can I really wear that shirt with that sweater? Did I turn on the coffee pot? Did I feed the cat? Remember to feed the cat and check the hamster’s water. Don’t forget breakfast and lunch. You’ll be hungry at work and it is a busy day. What do I need to get done this morning? Did I return that email? Showers off and getting dressed. Dang it, I wanted to wash my hair. Okay, a messy bun will have to do. Now I look… ugh. Do I have time for extra make-up? Maybe I should change my outfit? Crap, I need to feed the cat, pack my breakfast and be out of the house in 5 minutes. Shoot! I never turned on the coffee. I need coffee. I am exhausted. I didn’t get to bed till late. Turn on coffee, feed cat, check hamster… Now, you realize that this has all occurred in 25 minutes? From the time my alarm went off at 6:15 and when I am walking out the door with my coffee at 6:40, it about 25 minutes.
This is the inner-monologue of my day. It never stops. It never shuts off. It keeps me awake at night. It interrupts my life. When you think that I am not paying attention, it may be because the monologue in my head is so loud that I can’t focus. I can’t hear you over the noise in my own head. Shut up. Stop asking so many questions. Focus on the subject at hand. But what about lunch? I didn’t remember that this morning. Ugh. I don’t have time to run out. I guess I’ll make time. OMG, what did he just say? Focus! Yes, I have the project in my cue. No, answer him out loud.
They can’t hear my inner-monologue in the Monday morning meeting. And so, I answer and hope that I am responding to the right question. I am frustrated and I say something flippant in response to the second question. Now, I am annoyed and frustrated and my fuse is at a quarter of an inch and it is only 8:30 A.M. Calm down. It is only 8:30. The day will get better. What time is that meeting? Can I finish that project? Do I have time to meet with…? I need to call the doctor about Riley’s meds. I have a vet appointment to make. What was I doing? Oh yeah, focus.. the meeting, you are in a meeting!!!! Ugh.
I am exhausted just typing this and I didn’t even include the monologue from the 20 minute drive to work or the one that happened while preparing for my 8:30 meeting. So, where does this leave me? Frustrated. Annoyed. Short-fused. Exhausted. And what caused it all? Anxiety. That inner-monologue was flying questions at me so fast that I could not answer them. This caused more questions and with every question, I added another unfinished task to my to-do list. The longer it got, the more questions, the more “what-if’s”, the more to-dos. It was snowballing and I was about to get knocked down my the avalanche.
Anxiety? I never, in a million year, would have described myself as anxious but I was and I am. I just never realized that was what was wrong. I never realized it wasn’t just a short-temper. I assumed it was the Irish in me. I assumed it was the frustration. I assumed it was a character flaw which, of course, caused more anxiety.
Will it ever go away? Probably not, but recognizing the cause and effect makes me more aware of my action. It makes me more apt to fill that inner-monologue with something else. I feed positivity with music and laughter and things I enjoy. I take time to re-center myself. I take a deep breathe. I fill my brain with good thoughts. I take more notes and write down more things. I let questions that I can’t answers go. I am slowly learning to stop asking them.
We can’t know all the answers. I always thought that I should and that led me to the place that I was in. It led me to feel panicked and frustrated and angry. It led me to act in a manner in which I am not proud of. It also led me to realize that maybe I needed help. Maybe, what was going on in my brain was not normal. Maybe, I was not as normal and okay as I wanted to be. Not as okay as I thought I was. What is normal, anyways?
Anxiety. When I was given that word as a diagnosis, it was like a light switch flipped on in my brain. Why had I not thought of that? All the sudden, I had something concrete I could work on. Something I could learn about. Something that could explain why I was doing some of the things I was doing and feeling some of the ways I was feeling.
Maybe, just maybe, my beautifully blessed, messy life was not as messy as I thought it was. Maybe, I was going to be okay. Maybe the chaos was going to slow down. It seems to be moving in the right direction and I am finding the skills to minimize the negative effects it has on me. I laugh a little at the inner-monologue now. It is gaining a sense of humor. It is becoming my friend and not my enemy. And when the questions get loud and fast? I remember, in the midst of chaos, sparkle. Don’t let life dull your shine.
The Manicured Mom