Get me a sledge hammer: Depression as anger turned inward
About 8 years ago, during my last major depression, I was told that depression was anger turned inward and that if I did not get rid of my anger, I would not get better.
This baffled me because at the time I felt nothing but hopelessness. I had emotionally flatlined. I didn’t feel angry. I felt exhausted. However, the people who told me this – my psych nurse and therapist – knew what they were talking about. They had spent decades treating people with depression. If they said I would not get well until I got rid of my anger, then I would get rid of my anger.
My therapist gave me a whiffle bat and wanted me to beat a pillow. Really? A whiffle bat? A pillow? I figured that if the amount of anger in me was enough to reduce me to a listless, despondent lump of flesh, a whiffle bat was not going to do the trick.
I put on my steel-toed work boots, found a metal baseball bat in the shed and drove to a junkyard. I asked the guys if I could have a few minutes alone with one of their vehicles. They raised their eyebrows and took me to a green truck. They left me alone.
I have no idea how long I was there but when I had finished, there were no windows in the truck. The side-view mirrors were gone and there were some serious dents on the hood and quarter-panels where my bat and boots had seen some action.
Being the good little doobee I am, I asked the guys if they wanted me to clean up my mess. They raised their eyebrows and said, “Don’t worry about it.”
Every fiber of muscle in my body was quivering. I had no idea I was that angry. My psych nurse and therapist were not pleased. That kind of adrenaline-fueled rage can get out of control and cause a heart attack or serious injury to muscles and joints.
It took nearly a week for the sore muscles to heal but I felt better. My therapist helped me learn ways to release my anger without shredding every muscle in my body. Screaming underwater in my pool or with the car windows rolled up and Alanis Morrisette blaring worked. Taking a metal baseball bat to a few pillows worked, too. Although replacing pillows started to add up.
Today, I am dealing with some anger/rage again. I need to get rid of it before I can return to my regularly scheduled program: my job. The screaming underwater or destroying pillows ain’t going to be enough. I need to hit something.
Luckily, in the years since I demolished that green truck a new exercise program has emerged: CrossFit. It is hard to describe CrossFit but suffice to say a CrossFit workout often leaves me in a puddle of sweat on the floor, gasping for air.
Among the many strange CrossFit exercises and equipment are tires. Very large tires. The kind of tires that come off of tractors and back hoes. We flip them over. I don’t know why we do this but it’s hard work. We also beat the hell out of them with weighted sledge hammers – an exercise reminiscent of my junkyard rampage.
Today, I’m going to go in back of the auto-repair-shop-turned-CrossFit-gym and hammer away at those tires. I am angry. I have been angry for a couple of weeks. Something work related. I have taken some time away from the office and won’t return until this anger is gone. It’s not healthy for me or my co-workers for me to be there.
This anger pushed me to the edge of my black hole. If I fall in that black hole again, no telling how long I will be there. I don’t want to fall into that black hole again – ever.
After I have my way with those tires today, I am going to assess my feelings – physical and emotional. Then I will decide whether to return to work.
Wish me luck.
Woman with a sledge hammer image available from Shutterstock.
Stapleton, C. (2014). Get me a sledge hammer: Depression as anger turned inward. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 21, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/depression/2014/05/depression-anger-turned-inward/