Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Uses of Anger

I recently had a remarkable experience, one that is still going on, and one that I can’t say I entirely understand. But it shows me the remarkable power of anger. I have always had plenty of anger; it is one of my worst symptoms, in fact, which I work hard to keep within rational limits. I seem to have centuries of it, and it boils and swells without reason. It has ruined many a good relationship. I never knew before that it could have any good uses.

Background for this story: I appear to have a pinched nerve in my hip. It happened very suddenly, I have no idea why, and I have never had any trouble of this kind before. So I left it untreated until more than a week had gone by and it was obvious even to me that it was not going away by itself. The urgent care doctor gave me a Motrin prescription. That worked beautifully for exactly one day.

Unfortunately, my husband and I had to drive out of state the next day, and by the time we arrived two days later, I was in so much pain I had to be helped to a bed, where I stayed for three days straight. I could not so much as walk to the bathroom, five steps away from the end of the bed; I had to crawl and sometimes I screamed. I tried for two days to get my home doctor to call a prescription in to my local Walgreen’s, some sort of pain killer so I could sit up long enough to sit in a wheelchair and get to a local medico. Long story short, they refused.

And that’s when I came apart. At first, I cried in despair at the prospect of more and more pain without hope of reprieve. But after a while, it turned into a tantrum against whatever powers may be. “I hate you!” I yelled over and over. “You have no right to do this to me! There is no excuse!” This went on for quite a while. I need not elaborate, I suppose. We have all been angry at “Them” one time or another. And then I sort of turned a mental corner. I found myself shouting, “I don’t accept this. You don’t have the right to do this to me. I take away that right. You no longer have my permission to do this to me! I forbid it!”

And I sat up. And I stood up. And I walked.

Now, I am not saying I “got well.” I still have a pinched nerve and it can be damned painful. But I have never been as completely helpless again since that moment. It is as if the anger burned the terror of pain out of me: the worst of the muscle spasms that were torturing me ceased. I can walk small distances with a cane, and I can sit up awhile though I am not terribly comfortable and eventually have to lie down again. But I am not bedridden.

My husband did not find this remarkable: he merely said, “You took your power back.”
Yes, that is exactly what happened. But who knew my ‘power’ included the function of my nerves and muscles? And who knew that the anger I’ve feared and restrained all my life could ever do positive work?

I have decided that unbottling my anger is very effective for my health, and intend to do it regularly from now on. I can’t work it out at the gym right now, but I can beat on my husband’s drums, yell and shout when nobody is here, hit a pillow and all that jazz. Keeping it in didn’t help; let’s see what letting it out will do.

I am open to all comments and conjectures about this odd episode.

Deborah is a public speaker and the author of Is There Room for Me, Too? 12 Steps & 12 Strategies for Coping with Mental Illness. She is currently recording it as an audiobook and CD set.  Deborah has also published two romantic comedies. They are available at, Barnes and, Kindle Editions, iBooks, and other major vendors; or  you can order them from your local bookstore. Visit her web page at, or see her catalog at She has also narrated a guided meditation CD with her husband, musician Robert Hamaker; check it out at