what to do when you don’t know what to do with anger

I’ve been grappling with anger lately.

Over the last year I’ve noticed that I spend more and more time agitated and disappointed and feeling hurt by others. I often harbor feelings of anger that seep into my chest and seize me and can’t be shaken off. I find myself awake at night, with a loop of angry thoughts in my head, having imaginary fights. My heart rate increases, the pit in my stomach makes me nauseous. I want them to know, how they’ve let me down, how poorly they’ve behaved. I want them to know how much I hurt. But I don’t tell them, I just lay awake, angry and agitated.

None of this makes me feel good. I don’t feel like a good person or my best self sheltering those feelings. It doesn’t make me feel like the person I want to be. It doesn’t make me proud. It weighs me down, cripples me, impeding my path to lightness and balance.

I’ve always been sensitive, easily hurt, and often disappointed, but this feels new. This level of heaviness and fervor. It feels like too much, and more than I want to carry.

I want to release it all.

So I brought it to my therapist. After my rants, I pleaded with her. How do I let this all go? How do I stop being so affected by others? How do I stop caring what they do and what they don’t do? How do I forgive?

As we broke it down, I realized the anger I was feeling was only directed towards people that know about our struggles of the last two years, know about our losses, and know about the profound effect it’s had on us. But they are the ones that didn’t come through.

The ones that didn’t provide the right kind of comfort, never said the right things, and left us alone in our pain, grief, and isolation.They are the ones that don’t understand how deep this goes. They are the ones that act like life just goes on. They are the ones that said thoughtless things.

I don’t want to have to feel bad about being pregnant around you. Just relax, that’s what I did, look at all my kids! You miscarried because you are too skinny. You miscarried because you are too stressed. Don’t be upset about your miscarriage, it’ll happen, just stop thinking about it.

And then there are the ones that stayed quiet. And continue to stay quiet.

I feel angry at them because I have been hurt by them.

But my therapist and I started to dissect further. Why was it affecting me so much? I have such a huge network of love and support. I have so many people that never let me down. That listen, and try to understand even if they haven’t been through it. That never forget that no matter my smile, no matter my laugh, I’m always carrying a bit of pain inside. And I know, that this kind of loss is not easy to understand if you’ve never experienced it. I know that there’s really no way to understand. 

But eventually I realized the paradox. I have all this anger because I’ve never allowed myself to be angry about our actual miscarriages.

I’ve felt sadness, pain, grief, and loss, but never anger. Subconsciously, I didn’t think I was allowed to be angry. If I get angry at the universe, and start screaming, why me, that means I’m just throwing a pity party for myself. That means I’m not grateful for everything I have. If I get angry that I continue to have to fight so hard for everything I want in life, I’m ignoring all the things that I’ve been given easily.  If I get angry that means I think my struggle is worse than someone else’s struggle. If I allow myself to be angry, what will that do, besides create a pattern of negative, bitter thinking?

Underneath the surface, this is what I thought. And there is truth to it, if you hold on to the anger for too long, you will allow it to permeate, fester, and grip you, making it harder and harder to release and move on. Making bitterness and cynicism a default.

But when something happens to you that sucks, something that’s not your fault, that’s random and throws your world upside down, it’s ok to be angry. My therapist let me know I can be angry about one thing, while still grateful for all the other things. I can be angry without discounting all that I’ve been given. They can co-exist.

I’m a gentle soul with a soft personality, and exploding with anger does not come easily to me. Expressing anger does not come easily to me.

But harboring anger does.

So instead of expressing my anger over our losses, I found targets to direct my anger at, silently and secretly. Easy targets, since I already felt let down by them. But I allowed the anger to grow out of proportion to the slights. I let my anger towards them consume me. I let it dictate my day, my emotional balance, my wellness.

So now I need to go backwards. I need to go back to our two losses, the sweet angel we lost in July 2013, and the sweet angel sibling we lost in December 2013, and I need to allow myself to get mad. It’s not easy for me, when I try to access that I anger I get blocked, like I’m in a dense forest that I can’t get through, and the only thing I can find is the anger I feel at those that didn’t understand, who left us alone. It jumps in front and impedes the true reason for my anger.

But I need to keep trying. I need to get mad.

Get mad so that I can release it, and let it go.

Get mad so that I can feel forgiveness and compassion towards those who have let me down.

Get mad so that I can feel gratitude for all of my loved ones who have chosen empathy, who felt my pain with me so that I wouldn’t have to feel it alone.

So here it goes.

I’m angry.

I’m angry that I lost two babies, two babies that I loved so dearly and wanted more than anything to watch grow up and love and cherish the person they would become.

I’m angry that I have had this joyous rite of passage to motherhood ripped from me, trampled on, and gutted so that it will never resemble what I felt so briefly after that first positive test.

I’m angry that two of the closest women in my life shared my due dates and are now mothers to beautiful babies, while my womb and arms are still empty.

I’m angry that my miscarriages have made me feel like I am not deserving of motherhood.

I’m angry that my miscarriages have taken a toll on my self-esteem, my self-worth, and my confidence.

I’m angry that our once easy and innocent marriage has had to undergo strain, and that now we have to work so hard to stay united and not let the stress of this struggle destroy us.

I’m angry that I have to feel pain with every pregnancy announcement.

I’m angry that we are pressured to stay quiet about our losses. That so many don’t perceive them as real loss.

I’m angry that miscarriage and infertility have controlled our life for almost two years. Causing my career to suffer. Forcing us to always live with uncertainty.

I’m angry that my miscarriages have caused a tear in some of my friendships. The friends that are moms who don’t know what to say. Who look at me with pity and discomfort.

I’m angry that I have to carry this pain, day after day.

I’m angry that my miscarriages have caused so much suffering, for me, for my husband, for my family.

I’m angry for all the other women out there that suffer in this way too.

It’s time for me to work through this anger, the real reason for my anger, and the real reason for my suffering. When I get fixated on how much I’ve been hurt by people, I can remember, it’s not about them. I haven’t been hurt by people, I’ve been hurt by miscarriage. And even though I haven’t completely healed, I am getting there, little by little. And soon, I can release. Pain, hurt, anger. Because this too, shall pass.

my baby will decide

I’ve always been a girl with a plan. I like lists and schedules and thinking things through and knowing what will happen ahead of time. And even though we know it’s futile, I approached baby-making the same way.

I got married when I was 31. We moved to Los Angeles after the wedding, and shortly after, I turned 32. I insisted I find a job before we started trying to get pregnant, which I did a few months later. I stopped birth control, and waited 3 cycles to load up on prenatals and folic acid, and to make sure I would receive full maternity benefits from work. And then we started trying.

I was determined to become pregnant by 33. Which I did. But I lost the baby 6 weeks before my 33rd birthday.

I then became determined to have a baby before turning 34. I became pregnant again, with a due date 6 weeks before my 34th birthday.

But I lost that baby too.

I then thought, ok well at least I’ll be pregnant again before I turn 34.

I turn 34 in eleven days and that’s not happening. So now I keep thinking, as long as I’m pregnant by the end of 2014, as long as I have a baby before 35….

These are self-imposed arbitrary deadlines, and they cause me so much stress and heartache.

I had a meltdown in therapy last week. About how I’m dreading my 34th birthday. About how I never wanted to get this old before having kids. About how my fertile years are slipping away. About how sad I’ll be if I’m not pregnant by Christmas. About how much I’m trying to make this happen for us.

She looked at me and pretty directly and said, “Alexis, you have no control over when you will have a baby.”

How could she be so mean? How could she say something so hurtful?

And even though the tears that followed were an involuntary reaction to those words, I knew she was right.

I fantasize all the time about letting go. Could I just trash my ovulation sticks, my basal body thermometer, never pay attention to what cycle day it is, or when my period is due? Could I ever just not care about when this actually happens? I know my therapist is nudging me in that direction. She wants me to acknowledge that this is out of my control, and to let go a little. She wants me to stop putting all my hope and desperation into each current cycle, and have faith that eventually, it will happen.

But how do you climb out when you’re in so deep? Every little bit of this is so loaded. I would just be pretending to not know the cycle day, or that I wasn’t anxiously awaiting the verdict at the end of the two week wait. Because I’m too scared to let go. Too scared that if I don’t try to control it in some way, it will never happen.

“The greatest suffering I see from people,” she told me, “are those that cannot accept the reality of their situation.”

I know that despite however much heartache it causes me, I’ve accepted that we’re fighting this battle. I pushed and advocated for our care every step of the way, even when doctors have written me off or rolled their eyes. I’ve accepted that we’ve needed help and that we had medical issues that needed to be fixed. And after the second loss, even though I was told over and over to “just try again,” and I wanted so badly to do exactly that, I accepted that it wasn’t the solution.

But what I still have trouble accepting, now that we’re fixed and primed and ready, is that I still have no control over when this baby will come. That every plan, every bit of effort, obsession, and desire, makes no difference.

And so I tried to think of it another way.

My baby will decide.

My baby is waiting for that perfect time to emerge. Waiting for the right time for its journey from zygote to the little human in my arms.

My baby is forcing me to get strong, to learn about perseverance, and patience, and faith. My baby is forcing me to learn when to exert control and when to let go. When to be assertive and when to be passive. When to perfect the art of equanimity and when it’s ok to meltdown.

My baby is waiting so that the joy of his or her arrival will be that much more overwhelming. Waiting so after all these tough lessons, I will be that much better of a mom.