What Do You Do With the Mad That You Feel?

Can I admit something?

I’m not doing well.

The last couple of months have taken their toll on me and it’s all just beginning to hit me.

My therapist once famously told me, “You don’t have the infrastructure for emotions”. That was early in our therapeutic relationship. Since then, I think I’ve at least developed a dirt road and perhaps an aqueduct for my emotions. But what she was getting at is that I’m really bad at feeling things. I’m bad at feeling good things like love and happiness. I’m bad at feeling “bad” things like anger and sadness. Because of that, the “bad” things often turn into depression and the good into… well… seeming underwhelmed.

On the receiving end of my denomination not restoring me to good standing, my job “accepting my resignation” (a euphemism that I’m really growing to hate), and wrestling with the realities of job hunting including being rejected for things for which I am overqualified and realizing that I don’t have another paycheck coming my way anytime soon, I’m starting to realize that I have gone back into my old survival mode of numbing. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had some outbursts. I cried violently on the night my “resignation was accepted”. But my general mode of operation in the world right now is numbness. Numb enough to survive. Numb enough to make the kids lunch or dinner. Numb enough to water plants without really taking care of the garden. Numb enough to submit resumes without writing cover letters.

Numb isn’t my best look.

The thing is, I’m choosing numb over anger. Because the truth is, I’m furious right now. I’m mad at people, mad at God, and of course, mad at myself. Really mad at myself for letting my life get to this point. Again.

And I’m bad with anger. Really bad. I’ve never wanted to be the “angry black guy”, despite the fact that I often am and with every right. I push anger down until explodes. I’ve gotten better at that, but the last couple of months have been so extreme that a lot of my old bad habits have picked in like auxiliary batteries. Default settings: suppress emotions.

My wife is doing a sermon series on Mr. Rogers and as I was thinking about what I wanted to write, this song came into my head:

I wish I knew what to do with the mad that I feel. In the past, I’ve dealt with my anger in some really unhealthy ways. I know I need to do something, but I’m not really sure what that is. I know I can’t keep it bottled inside of me. I see what that’s doing and it’s not good. Maybe the answer is just to throw myself more into my garden. Maybe I need to be writing more. Maybe I need a more physical outlet. I don’t know.

What I do know is… I’m not doing well. And I need to do something with all of this mad…

5 thoughts on “What Do You Do With the Mad That You Feel?

  1. I think you are doing something with the mad you feel by writing this post. Huge first step. It’s ok to acknowledge and give yourself credit for that.

    You could’ve suppressed everything you just said that you were thinking and feeling. But you’ve put it out there and made it public, made yourself vulnerable. And that’s a really good thing. Don’t sell yourself short on that. It’s a super big deal.

    I truly admire your self awareness and how you own your stuff.

    Take it all one step, and breath at a time. There are many moments that suck. Keep on pushing through.

    I love you and I’m proud of you. Just the way you are and who you are continuing to grow and be.

  2. I empathize, struggling with a similar nihilistic numbness that turns everything into what seems less than what I’ve hoped for. And church tends to fan the fame more than anything else… I keep telling myself that I need to do more physical activity to help with energy levels/attitude, but I always find excuses not to. No answers here either, but know you’re not alone; knowing that has been most helpful, personally, so thank you for sharing.

  3. Derrick: talking about it helps and forgiving yourself while getting to truly know why you act out against yourself. You are gifted. Don’t forget that. I miss your presence and I’m sorry that the road in the Presbytery is now closed . There are so many things you can do with your skills. I wonder if you’ve gotten back into therapy and I hope you give yourself time to heal. I heard a good term yesterday from a colleague “ compassionate self responsibility” as a key toward acceptance of the good the bad and the ugly and as a force for change

  4. The only thing I know to do when a friend tells me the truth is to listen and to walk with them. I’m sorry for all the chaos and emotion and paths and closed doors. When something you value goes away–your *self* is disrupted.

    Your friends are there with you, and it is OK to say all these things & not worry about what they’ll think.

  5. I am so sorry to hear this about your job, Derrick. Please know, I understand how hard it is not to internalize such a setback. Also know, from someone who’s been there several times, and is the better for it, when I tell you it is their loss, it really is, and the joy for you will be in your next position, which will be far better. Please find release and therapy in your writing, which is a huge help to me and many others out here in blog land!

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