Anger is a tough emotion for me. I’m not used to it, honestly. It makes me uncomfortable, and it doesn’t feel good. I’m sure you can relate. I saw a Mark Twain quote this week that said “anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured”. He’s a smart guy, and he was right. I knew that anger wasn’t very productive, and I didn’t have a lot of experience with it growing up.
That all changed in November 2014. Quite frankly, if I allowed myself to be angry as much as I want to be, it would eat me up inside. I even know how angry some of you are when reading about my story, because I get a lot of messages about it. I do try to stay positive. I try to remind myself that the love in my life outnumbers the bad about a million times over. But every once in a while, I see something that makes it boil over and I don’t know what to do with myself. Stupid comments about public sexual assault cases always get me. “Maybe if these stupid women wouldn’t drink and act like whores, they wouldn’t get raped!” That’s a classic. The fact that the “people also viewed” on my LinkedIn profile are always the immediate family of the guy who raped me, when the last thing I have ever wanted in life is to be connected to the people who helped to destroy two years of my life and have never shown an ounce of sympathy. Thinking about how much I used to love teaching young children, and trying to accept how impossible it is for me now. Seeing the former friends who threw me to a known rapist without warning me, and then continued to hang out with him until he went to prison, wanting to scream about how much I hate them for what happened to me. Of course, I can’t scream about it. (I could, and I have, but honestly, if someone is already being disrespectful to you, getting mad at them for it probably isn’t going to make them stop.)
The world isn’t fair. It’s not. 90% of the time, I don’t expect it to be. We’ve all been through some horrible things that we didn’t deserve. I can take a deep breath and remind myself that during most of my days, and be so so grateful for the good things I have. Every time I feel the need to vent, or to be angry about the situation I’ve been living in the last 2 and a half years, I end up telling myself that it’s not okay to be angry. I need to get over it, move on, and be the bigger person. I know that if I allowed the anger to seep out of me in inappropriate situations (interviews, everyday conversations), people would stop listening to me. They would assume I’m being irrationally emotional, and they would probably be right. Instead, I try shoving it down most of the time when it starts to rise to the surface, and eventually collapse a few days later when I’m by myself. It’s messy, but so is life I guess? We all have to deal with silencing certain emotions once we hit adulthood.
I have to say, though: completely trying to push anger away doesn’t work. Eventually, you have to deal with the frustration inside of you. Even if I only feel angry during 2% of my life, I can’t ignore it and pretend that it doesn’t happen. Emotions are here to tell us things, and this particular feeling is here to let you know that something isn’t fucking right. If I ignored my anger, I would probably still be stuck with the reputation I had a couple years ago. I would be unable to move on, trying to bury my intuition about how unjust the situation at hand at been. I’ve had to learn that it’s okay to let my anger out. Maybe not in public, but just allowing myself to get in my car and scream after a frustrating day has felt great. Writing out an angry letter at the world is also a good release. I’ve even considered taking self defense classes just so I can punch some stuff every once in a while. There are so many healthy, productive ways to let out the rage. Anger isn’t the only messy emotion that we’re all afraid to let out; sadness, grief, and jealousy all have their place in this as well. It’s much easier to deny that these feelings exist, but I’m going to advocate that we actually start acknowledging and dealing with them. Whatever is making you uncomfortable is real, and it’s better to tackle it and move on with your day than deny it until you have a meltdown.
I’m here to acknowledge today that I am not perfect. I am not some glowing, gracious rape victim who is always making the best out of a bad situation. Sometimes, I’m just pissed off about what happened to me. What matters is that I’m turning that occasional bout of rage into productivity. Nothing will cleanse your soul like taking total control of your life, and that’s what I’m trying to do. I’ve gone from being completely closed off about what’s happening in my head, to airing all my worst memories on national TV and talking openly about how I feel about it. It’s…a weird way of coping. But honesty is good medicine for pain. I won’t suggest that you become one of those people who posts 15 Facebook statuses a day about their life problems (hey, more power to you if you are that person already), but I will recommend trying to cut some of the bullshit that you’re using to guard yourself. Be vulnerable. Be mad, be upset, be genuine every once in a while. It feels good.
This post was inspired by something that happened 2 years ago this month that was related to my rape. It was eating me up inside. I’m not ready to talk openly about it, but I finally shared the story with trusted people and was overwhelmingly grateful for the response. My challenge to you this week is to share something uncomfortable and painful with someone you trust – you can even just write it out and send it to me. I’ll listen. I want everyone to know that they don’t have to hide their pain forever.