Last Friday afternoon I found myself standing behind what used to be an auto repair shop with a 16-pound sledgehammer over my head, beating the crap out of a large tire. It’s not something you would expect a 56-year-old woman to do on a sweltering summer day in Florida.
But I was angry. I had just spent an hour in what I shall call “intense fellowship” with a handful of my colleagues and a lawyer and I was not at all happy with the outcome of the meeting. I knew if I did not get rid of that anger in an “appropriate” way, it would come out sideways.
Most likely I would verbally eviscerate someone and remain pissed off for days. I would relive that intense hour of fellowship over and over – fuming, stewing and creating scripts of what I would do next.
And then I heard a little voice: Depression is anger turned inward.
The first time I heard that phrase it made no sense to me. How could my adrenalin-fueled rage morph into profound, debilitating depression. How could the mental acuity, singleness of purpose and raw energy of my rage devolve into a listlessness so extreme that I had no desire to get out of bed, eat or finally, live?
I’m sure it was explained to me by a therapist or self-help book. I hit home and I remember thinking, that’s an interesting concept. I was so frustrated that nothing seemed to be lifting me out of my depression – medications, therapy, 12-step meetings – that I was willing to try anything.
My first attempt at dealing with my anger – which at the time I could not see in myself – involved a pillow. Beating the crap out of a pillow with a whiffle bat. I instantly realized that not only did this make me feel stupid, it wasn’t enough. The sound of a whiffle bat hitting a pillow wasn’t doing it for me. But I was on to something.
So, I grabbed a metal baseball bat, put on my steel-toed boots, drove to a junk-yard and beat the crap out of a green truck. The whole thing got a little out of hand and I kind of lost control but I knew I was on to something, despite every muscle in my body aching for days afterward.
I had never hit anything hard before, except a tennis ball. Damn, did it feel good.
So, after my intense hour of fellowship last Friday, I knew I needed to hit something. Lucky for me, my gym is a few hundred feet from my office. Several years ago I took up CrossFit – an intense, controversial, cult-like exercise program that provided a healthy outlet for the mania that fueled my hypomania.
Between my medications, 12-Step meetings and CrossFit, my life had become stable. I learned to like stable. No more extreme ups and downs. Just stable.
I realized that very bad things I would happen if I didn’t get rid of the rage I felt when the intense hour of fellowship ended. Then I though of the sledge hammers at the CrossFit gym down the street. Wouldn’t it feel good to swing that mother and bash it into a tire until the rage was gone?
So, that’s what I did. It went on for awhile. I swung for as long as I could, then rested, and swung some more. The rage finally petered out. I took a shower and went back to work. Everything was peachy. I felt lighter. I could focus on my work. I could hold a civilized conversation.
I had a lovely weekend. I am still not happy about what happened at work, but I had not let it consume me and drag me down. I had righted myself and it felt good knowing I had the power to do so. God bless that sledge hammer and my willingness to pick it up.