Pride is a strange word to apply to myself given my ongoing belief that no success I’ve ever had outweighs the catalogue of mistakes and failures that have preceded it, but one of the things I’ve often “prided” myself on is that I’m not an angry or vindictive person. In personal matters I have always considered myself a pacifist. I strive to not hold grudges because they serve no useful purpose.
Of course the easiest way to believe oneself possessed of equanimity is to simply discount the multitude of times when one is angry.
The everyday unhappiness I feel has been there at least as far back as college. On good days I wake up without enthusiasm. Most days I just wake up miserable. I plod through the day doing whatever I have to do—a lifetime of plodding to no real avail. There are moments that lighten the mood but none of those moments are lasting or significant—none of them make an impression of consequence. The anger, though, has been something new.
It’s been going on for at least the last year. I first noticed it in connection to my job. I was the general manager for two wine and cheese shops in the San Francisco bay area. I woke up angry at having to go in. I left work angry at having to return the next day. Interacting with my coworkers made me angrier—especially when I had to run interference between subordinates and the business owner. Being interrupted when working on my myriad administrative duties and constantly having to reprioritize because the owner changed his mind added to the agitation. Customers who had the temerity to linger in the store for long periods of time or ask me for help provoked a desire to scream invectives at them; how they, to a man and woman, didn’t notice me rolling my eyes as I attended them I will never know.
Perhaps most of all I was angry at myself. I knew I should have left the job but because of the near certain pay cut I would take to do so and the agreement with my employer to provide six months’ notice I repeatedly talked myself into staying. I was on call every day whether at work or not—I’d never had a vacation during which I didn’t have to do some level of work remotely. I sacrificed my health to work long hours while short-staffed—in 2016 I suffered an eczema outbreak, the first of my life, over much of my body and it resulted in numerous infections. All of this I was doing for an owner I had not a shred of respect for and who I held in almost constant contempt. From time to time I still feel furious with myself—that I wasn’t smart enough to realize what was happening and escape the situation before it became untenable.
This anger probably sounds unremarkable. I disliked my job and the stress of it was weighing heavy on me. It wasn’t just the job, though. As I said I only first noticed it at work—possibly because my job was excessively stimulating as compared to other situations. But I was experiencing it everywhere I was forced to interact with the public and by the day, it seemed, the anger intensified. At Starbucks, a place I used to enjoy going to write, I grew agitated and lost the ability to concentrate when the ambient noise increased. At the grocery store, when people cut in front of me or blocked my path so they could browse or talk, I immediately felt a desire to hit them with my basket or cart. After I lost my car and was forced to ride public transportation, an experience that daily made me tense, every person who boarded the bus or train after I did dialed up my agitation; time spent standing or sitting in close proximity to others was torture.
A notable highlight, and personal favorite moment of mine, happened a week or two before I left San Jose. My boyfriend and I got in an argument—one of relatively minor consequence. He left our condo (he’d had standing plans) and I proceeded to beat the ever living tar out of one of our plastic recycling cans, eventually throwing it across the kitchen. Unsurprisingly to anyone who’s read the first two of these entries I put the recycling bin and kitchen back together and didn’t mention the outburst to anyone. Nor, it should be noted, was I discussing my ongoing anger with other people.
The anger still pops up here and there, though in the last almost three months it’s become less frequent and intense. I haven’t thrown a garbage can in quite some time. People in crowded stores still draw my ire, though (I badly wanted to ram my cart into someone who was blocking an entire aisle at Costco two weeks ago). What is more apparent is my anxiety in public settings—something I wrote about last week. Was the anger an expression of anxiety? I don’t know, but it certainly distracted me from those symptoms. My counselor has suggested that the anger may be another manifestation of my mania; in the same way that my compulsive behavior (a topic I haven’t gotten to yet) gave me brief highs in an otherwise miserable life the anger is an emotional burst that breaks through the dismal monotony.
My motto of late has been to take things one day at a time. I’m a long way from getting well—and from resolving the mess I made in this most recent existential crash and burn. I’ve gotten to the point where I can look back and recognize that the anger in these situations exceeds any reasonable reaction but like my impulsive behavior it’s still difficult if not impossible to stop myself at the time. Until then, though, it’s possible that no garbage cans are safe.