I am pleased and excited to have guest blogger Susan Kingsley-Smith sharing a piece of her story with us today. Susan is my friend and fellow truth seeker, as well as the author of her own Website and I’m also blessed to have her as a frequent commenter here on Emerging from Broken. As always, please feel free to contribute by adding your own comments and feedback ~ Darlene Ouimet
I Began to Feel Anger by Susan Kingsley-Smith
I was not born an angry child. Yet as I grew and became a part of the bigger world this is how people would describe me. I often got comments like “you seem so angry” or I would be told to “stop being so angry” as others expected me to make them feel better by not having any feelings of my own.
As a teen-ager I took pride in not having any feelings, in being tough, unshakable. As an adult, the face the world saw was the one that smiled and said everything was fine but inside I felt dead and fake; I was going through the motions of life, but I was not living.
I’d learned from early on that my feelings didn’t count. The thing I remember the most about my feelings was that they didn’t matter. To anyone. I became invisible in an attempt to avoid being bullied and shamed for existing, for complaining about siblings that were cruel, for not liking being forced to stay indoors on a beautiful summer afternoon or shoved outside the morning after a blizzard in my thin winter coat and cloth gloves that were soaked and would freeze around my fingers. I had learned to silently tolerate being unheard, physically violated and to try to blend into the walls so no one could see me, to keep quiet, to deny that I was angry and accept that the abuse and neglect was my fault; that I was bad, dirty and ugly.
And throughout my journey as I turned to the common resources like the church or the mental health system for guidance – my history of abuse was not the issue, my anger was most often the focal point of many conversations. I was frequently admonished to “not let the sun go down on my anger” and to “forgive” those who had offended me by pastors and friends in the church. In the mental health system my anger was a “symptom” of a disease and would require lifetime medical management. And family and friends would tell me to just “get over it” and “why can’t you just be happy?
The result of all this “stuffing” of my feelings – my anger at the way others treated me – was that I began to use other ways of dealing with my feelings by “acting out” and “acting in”. This was the pattern of coping skills I’d developed to deal with my feelings since I was not allowed to express them appropriately. Acting out was typically those behaviors that could be classified as outward expressions of my pain; as a teen-ager acting out was running away, drinking, drugs; risky behaviors were common.
As I got older and those behaviors were no longer acceptable I turned more to becoming a care taker and trying to find value and worth in rescuing others and being so wrapped up in everyone else’s issues that I didn’t have to look at my own. Eventually though, I physically and emotionally shut down and could do no more.
My coping became more internalized in behaviors like depression, anxiety, dissociation; mostly anything that would simply allow me to check out to avoid the deep pain that I lived in for many years. I felt completely powerless to change how I was and I had no hope; I’d already been told that I had a disease and that I would be “sick” for the rest of my life; that this was the best I could hope for.
But it was when I finally began to put the pieces together and break through the lies that the abuse was my fault, that I deserved every bad thing that had happened to me, when I started realizing that my thoughts, my feelings, my choices, opinions, my dreams and desires DID matter that I began to see something happening in myself. I began to feel something besides an intense self-hatred. I began to feel anger.
And while it took some time to learn how to let the lid off the kettle bit by bit what I discovered is that by allowing myself to feel my anger I found the door to grief and the tears that would set me free from the anger and at the same time open the door to joy.
Susan’s Bio: “I am a trauma survivor…but I no longer live only to survive. In 1992 after a lifetime of trauma’s ranging from physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect as a child to two violent marriages, I entered the mental health system seeking help where my lifelong history of trauma was dismissed. For over 15 years I was given a variety of “diagnosis”, numerous mind altering psychotropic drugs and a routine of weekly “talk” therapy. In the fall of 2007 I was abruptly taken off of the drugs I’d been prescribed all those years and began to reclaim both my mind and my life.
Today, I no longer accept any labels for myself and live the life of my choosing, following my dream and passion to share a message of healing and hope as I write and speak about this journey that has been my life.”