I had a vicious temper when I was younger.
To call it a byproduct of OCD, depression and addiction would be pushing it, because I think the temper would have been there even without the mental illness.
Examples of my temper include:
- Hurling a fork or steak knife at my brother in a restaurant on New Years Eve 1979 because he made a joke I didn’t like. The more dramatic among my family members say it was a steak knife, though I’m pretty sure it was a fork. That the utensil could have embedded in my brother’s head and caused serious injury didn’t occur to me.
- Lighting things on fire out of anger, including a collection of Star Wars action figures that would probably be worth a fortune today. I would pretend they were kids in school who were bullying me. I was a bully, too, but that didn’t matter.
- Road rage. Tons of it. I was an angry driver. I would tailgate. I would speed. In the winters I would intentionally spin out my putrid-green 1983 Ford LTD station wagon in parking lots during snowstorms. While in college, I nearly hit another car and flipped off the other driver while my future in-laws sat in the back. Traffic jams would infuriate me. Getting lost would fill me with fear and, in turn, more anger.
I could go on, but you get the picture.
There were a lot of legitimate causes of rage for me. The drug I took for Chron’s Disease had a lot of nasty side effects, including violent mood swings. A brother and two close friends dying — one by suicide — gave me a lot of anger. Being stuck in the middle of turf wars and working late nights while at The Eagle-Tribune certainly made me a walking ball of fire.
I’m sure the fear and anxiety that came with my OCD contributed to more anger.
I’m even convinced the anger was useful in a way. Finding things to fixate my rage on had a perverse way of making me feel better, like I was somehow above the insanity because I could point my finger at it and call it names.
But somewhere along the way, it stopped working and started to suck the life from me.
That’s what anger does when you let it rule for too long. The burning feeling starts off as an energy that lifts you. But left unchecked, it becomes a parasite that takes everything and gives nothing.
Once that happened, I had to do something.
I kept going to church and a real faith took root. I found it could sustain me far better than rage could.
I went to therapy and started to face the demons that made me angry so much.
In time, the anger left. It comes back for a visit sometimes, but it no longer rules my life. It’s better that way.