The author can’t say his temper was a direct result of OCD, depression and addictive behavior. But dealing with those things did make it go away. Mostly.
Mood music for this post: “St. Anger” by Metallica:
I had one hell of a temper when I was younger. To call it a byproduct of OCD, depression and addiction would be a stretch, because I think the temper would have been there even without the mental illness.
Some of the more colorful examples of my temper:
— 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.
— 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. Never mind that I bullied as much as I got bullied.
–Throwing rocks through windows, especially the condominium building that was built behind my house in the late 1980s.
–Yelling “mood swing!” before throwing things around the room at parties in my basement. It came off as comical, as I intended, and nobody got hurt. But there was definitely an underlying anger to it. I was acting out.
— Road rage. Tons of it. I was a very 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 a walking ball of fire.
I’m also sure the fear and anxiety that came with my OCD contributed to more anger.
But here’s the good news: I don’t feel that anger anymore.
Sure, there are days where I’m feeling pissed off and some profanity might drip from my lips. And yes, there are days where I might raise my voice over something the kids did.
But I no longer punch walls (I never hit people; just walls). I no longer throw things. I no longer set toys ablaze. And I’m a much calmer driver. In fact, I actually enjoy the quiet time I get from long drives. Even the profanity isn’t close to what it used to be, which is no small achievement for a guy from Revere.
The reasons are pretty simple. The coping tools I developed to manage the OCD also made for some excellent anger management. Losing the fear and anxiety in turn made me less angry. And my religious conversion was a huge force for calming my soul.
Finally, I thank God for the metal music. It’s great therapy for when I’m having a frustrating day. And when I was a kid, it was an outlet for my anger that almost certainly kept me from acting on much darker impulses.