The Storm Inside

The Storm Inside

I have worked hard to maintain my mask of normalcy over the years. I was trained by my family that there could be no external signs of abuse, physically or behaviorally. And since I was convinced the abuse was my fault, I thought it imperative to comply. When I felt anxious, I would use the manic energy to be more productive, so it came across as a positive thing. When I felt depressed, I would hide from the world. Those were the sick days from school or work. I was proud of my ability to preserve my mask no matter how difficult things became.

But the anger and rage was a different story. I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I knew that acting out my rage was unsafe in my home because my father had made it clear that he would kill me. The rage was seeping out of me on all sides with no outlet. It was in my energy. It was wrecking havoc on my life through manifestations of chaos and drama. Interpersonal relationships were severely impacted by my anger and inability to allow the smallest indiscretion. Sometimes, I would self-harm or find any way to numb out. Sometimes, I would be passive aggressive, finding a way to sabotage something important, especially if it mattered to my parents. I did everything possible to avoid acting out my rage in a noticeable way.

But with the intense rage that was building inside me, it was difficult to avoid the explosive impulses when they came up. I knew it wasn’t safe in my house, but when I became a teenager, I discovered that expressed rage could have a place in my life. There were people who were “safe” to rage against. Unfortunately, those people usually meant no harm. They may have been playing a joke or trying to help me, but they paid a price. They learned very quickly not to surprise me, tease me or attempt to be brutally honest with me. They knew I had a short fuse. Through my explosive reactions, I was abusive to them. This is not surprising. This is how trauma perpetuates itself.

Since my teenage years, I have kept the “raging fit method” in my back pocket as a potential strategy when a situation is overwhelming. In my first marriage to an emotionally-abusive alcoholic, the raging fits would back him off. He was shocked by them. It was as if I became a different person. And in a way, I did.

For a while, I worked in an environment that allowed for anger to be expressed in unproductive ways. I “thrived” in that environment because I could hold my own against the other angry people in the office. I felt safe enough to let loose on them and they felt safe enough to do it back. It was completely dysfunctional, but it was also very productive at the expense of a positive working environment.

When my children were born, the rage that I was striving to hide started to bubble up. I had made a pact with myself to never use physical punishment and I stuck to the pact.  But the children were triggering me and I was losing control. And my own child part had assessed them as safe enough to rage against. That was not a good combination. I raged a few times in their toddler years. I would yell at them about not eating their food or not going to bed, the normal toddler stuff. But it wasn’t just raising my voice while remaining emotionally in control. It was a temper tantrum. It was not pretty. Once I started to retrieve memories, the anger was directed where it belonged, but to this day, I kick myself that I raged at all.

So I continue to work on expressing the rage through my writing and physical activity without giving it the power to affect my life through unwanted manifestations. I question my teenage belief that a fit of rage can resolve anything in a positive manner. I stay conscious when I feel it welling up inside of me like a storm. I remind myself that the rage doesn’t have a place in the present moment. And I take self-control back in a loving way. It is hard work, but the rage must stop with me. My children and friends must understand that I am safe. My children must understand that rage is not the way to resolve differences and disputes with others.

Every day I feel less controlled by the storm inside. I feel more comfortable that my life is my own. As the anger is expressed in healthy ways, I feel it letting go. And I let go of the abusive past that has no place in my future.

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20 Comments

  1. It’s only now, only now in the last 2 months that I started feeling this anger and rage. I don’t know how to handle it? I have no idea how to control it. I turn it against myself. I do every single thing that hurts me. I punish myself and feel full of self hate. I want to end this continuous pain. I just can’t handle this anger

    Reply
    • I know how you feel Nikky. It can be so hard especially since we have been encouraged to hide it our entire lives. I spent one solid year hitting couch pillows by a baseball bat and screaming in my car so loud that I would lose my voice. After that, I was finally able to work with the anger to help me heal. It takes time.

      Reply
  2. I don’t know. I’m not sure I can heal. If I bottled it up for all my life, I hide everything so well. Now that I want to talk, there is no one to listen. I can tell a friend, I’m not okay, I’m hurting and scared, and i feel I’m not allowed to that. No one needs to hear other people’s pain. I do because I know hpw it feels to have no one.

    Reply
    • I used to feel like I could not burden anyone with my pain. Even worse, I thought I had to hide it to be safe. But when I started sharing, some (not all) people were very receptive and even saw it as an opportunity to share back. At the beginning of my journey, the most healing sharing came in therapeutic groups.

      Reply
  3. Elisabeth, I thank you again for verbalizing what I have also experienced! It feels so good to not be alone. I do recall having fits of rage in the past but for years I find myself very out of touch with the anger towards my abusers. I will feel angry or even rageful when I sense someone is being deceitful so perhaps it would help me to process these situations more closely as the intensity is usually way out of proportion to the current situation…Instead I think I have been avoiding dealing with these feelings out of shame.

    Reply
    • The shame is so strong in us. The abusers made sure of it. But the more we make ourselves aware, the more the shame dissipates. Your awareness is really strong. I can tell. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Thanks for this article. I have struggled to express my anger and am currently trying to move through the numbness to let it out. It’s hard to do this constructively without hurting others and so easy to blame ourselves when we do. I admire your honesty and determination, it helps me in my own healing. And I admire your strength to reach out and share, I’m very glad you do!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much Jane! Anger really does sit on the other side of numbness, doesn’t it?

      Reply
  5. I feel very at home here and totally relate! I’m following you!

    Reply
  6. Hi Elizabeth,
    Thanks again for writing something we are trying to manage “alone” but it’s nice to know we’re not alone in this world after all. I personally don’t deal with anger another alter personality was created for that, though I desparately try now to manage those bottled up feelings and the biggest one of of all… Fear.. Fear that letting go and sharing means that we will die because that is what my father and others threatened. We learned that from an early age we mattered not and we’re not even worthy of our own tears.

    What you said about being safe for your children and others is so key. We owe it to ourselves to heal those deep wounds and get a grip on the inner storm in order to heal and be safe for others around us. Knowing is half the battle! Thank you for being such an inspiration to us. We fight daily in pain and trying to cope with the inner storm, it’s nice to know we link arms with others in the battle.

    Peace,
    -k

    Reply
    • Thank you K! I can relate to the fear too. Recovery brings the fear in mass quantities because we have to do exactly what we were told never to do.

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  7. Thank you for the honesty and truth together. Rage is the final frontier and it seems important to have safe adults with whom we can express that rage with clear boundaries, as opposed to rage against. When I stop and allow myself a temper tantrum (not a rage at the children but a jumping/growling/flopping) my kids laugh pretty hard at me. I do find it better to let the rage swell up and funnel through me though because then I’m a more reliable parent. I kick myself too for the times I’ve raged. And I also am so proud of all the work I’ve done so far. Thank you again.

    Reply
    • Ha! I do that too. Sometimes they join in and we just make a bunch of noise for a while. It is so much healthier to embrace it than let it come out sideways. It is interesting how everyone processes different emotions in different orders. For me, rage was not my final frontier. I didn’t struggle with being angry and rage-filled. The hardest thing for me is the feeling of powerlessness and futility. I have tried to power through it so many times, but I always have to give it some time in the end. That being said, I have talked with many survivors who are terrified of their anger and I get that.

      Reply
  8. I have slowly been dying for many years now. I have been so terrified of almost every single emotion I have. So I cut myself off from every body and told myself repeatedly that if it got to bad I would kill myself. I became my abuser and have neglected myself for years. I don’t even think about the anger because if I were to truly express my anger God knows what would happen. Now I have lost almost everything in my life and I am left alone with only my sick thoughts. I have been through so much pain in the last month and how I have gotten through it amazes me. But once again I’ve had to do it all alone and I get to watch the people that have tortured me have wonderful LIFES and to know that they have gotten away with it absolutely kills me. I only wish that someday they have to feel just a bit of the pain they have caused me. I just don’t understand how God lets people like that get away with it. To say it’s unfair is just the tip of the iceberg. I have spent my entire life trying to destroy myself because it was what they did to me. I have carried on where they have left off. That horrible voice in my head that always tells me how evil and cruel I am keeps going on. And to constantly battle it is killing me. I gave up on life long ago and I have just been existing. The pain, anxiety, shame, terror and anger is going on deep within me and I can feel my inner child yelling out to please help her but I don’t know how. I am barely able to stay sane and I have created the perfect life for myself so that I am able to isolate and shut the world out. I don’t work and I basically don’t do anything. Money is not a problem because my father is fine with me just existing as long as I don’t create any problems. He knows the life I have lived but to him money is the solution to everything. If he can just set me up and give me the material things than he doesn’t care that I have a tortured soul. And my biggest abuser my mother had totally abandoned me all together and I am desperately trying to understand how the woman that brought me into this world could just abandon me and leave me for dead. How she could dare me to commit suicide. I don’t get it. I just don’t understand why she hates me so much and as a precious little girl I felt that same hate. I thought she was evil and when I came home from school I never knew what to expect. But please tell me…how can a mother hate her child ?? And I’ve known it all my life but I kept running trying to destroy myself and everyone else in my path. But on Feb 15 my best friend-my cat Spirit died and he was the only living thing that gave me unconditional love . He was my rock for 17 years and now I am totally alone trying to make sense of it all and carry on with my life when I really feel like at any moment my sanity is going to snap. But I learned at a very young age to keep it in and suffer alone . Almost every person in my life has abandoned me and I don’t want to reach out because that abandonment is something that I take to my core and it destroys me.Recently I had met a lady that said she would help me. She said I would get trauma therapy, take a DBT class and help me get through this . But she lied. She promised to call the next day and I haven’t heard from her since. And she is supposedly a trauma counselor . She gave me hope and then when I didn’t hear from her it validated my feeling that people are just full of crap and I don’t understand why someone would say something one day and then they aren’t even true to their word. I have had a lifetime of promises that never happened and I would think that a trauma counselor would realize that a person like me that has been through so much trauma would need someone to follow through with what they say they are going to do. I am just reminded again that I don’t matter and that my problems don’t require anybody to take me seriously. Once again they have just talked a good talk and have nothing to back it up with. People can say anything but what matters is the action that is taken. And I truly believe that if I were in her position that I would see the pain and terror in that person and that I would help in any way I can. I would not just BS them and then leave them for dead. She knows the suffering I am going through and yet she has just turned her back on me. No wonder I get angry. No wonder why I have chosen to suffer in silence and almost become non existent . I am tired of being hurt by people so I cut every body off and my cats became my family and now I have lost 2 and I’m starting to wonder why I am hanging on. There is something very deep within that is fighting like mad to just survive. I keep going terrified and I don’t even know where I am going. But something deep inside of me really wants to live. Not just live but to experience the wonderful quality of life that I have always dreamed about. And it has nothing to do with money. It’s the unity of body mind and Spirit and knowing that I am going to be okay .

    Reply
    • Hi Amber, I am so sorry for all you have been through. You have been treated horrifically by so many people. Of course you matter. I emailed you yesterday and today. When you have a chance, email me back, so we can talk. I would like to help you in any way that I can.

      Reply
  9. This is resonating with me on an intense level. My biggest challenge is being triggered by my daughter and not unleashing the cascade of rage/fear on her. I even agreed to take psych meds- lithium and clonopin- to help me control myself around her. They help but there is a soul damage that no medication can touch. I would like a therapist but the five I’ve seen over the past 20 years were terrible.Incompetent. Narcissistic. But anyway thank you for your writing. Really. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Thank you Allison. I am sorry you are dealing with those triggers. I work with many parents who struggle with the same thing. Here is the link to my guidance program. If you are interested in one-on-one coaching with me, send me an email at beatingtrauma@gmail.com anytime.

      Reply

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