Snagging anger. “If you could see anger, what would it look like?”

Heather’s #MadCovidDiaries 06.12.2020

TW: Abuse

Snagging anger.

Therapist asks me ‘If you could see anger, what would it look like?’

I know what therapist is getting at but I can only summon up anger as a little rocky boundary kicked over until it becomes useless rubble. The grown ups used to tell me ‘there is no point getting angry, nothing changes.’ I can’t tell Therapist what strong, sturdy anger might look like.

***

Today, I decide to hem a pair of stretchy yoga pants. It’s a simple job but I methodically set up my sewing machine to get the sewing gods on my side. I select a feisty pop playlist which creates a wall of sound while I sew. So far – so good.

Until the thread snaps. I rethread the machine and the bobbin case. The thread snaps. I change the needle. I change the thread. Now every few stitches, the needle skips. I clean the bobbin case, I blow into the machine to dislodge fluff, I promise the sewing gods that I just want to hem these pants so they don’t drag in puddles, I only want to sew two seams. I change stitches. SNAP! Broken needle.This is beginning to feel unfair, there is no reason why the sewing machine should be causing me grief.

I swap in a new needle, then I push the pedal to the floor. My sewing machine, the judders, accelerating in my hands as the motor hum reverberates in my body. I realise, this is what pedal to the floor anger feels like in my body. What does this anger look like?

A song fills my headphones, it’s a giddy Pixie Lott song from one of the most traumatic years in my adulthood. It was the song I played as I walked from the couch a friend let me sleep on each night to my temp job at CAMHS each morning. I needed caffeine and pop music to fire up my exhausted body, I was wracked by insomnia and nightmares of being abused. I had to fire up my mind to spend the next four hours audio typing reports about other children being abused.

The crap NHS psychotherapist I had trusted had recoiled from my neediness into a hastily announced ‘retirement.’ She had left me with a kind of emotional whiplash. I was alone again with my memories. I was also withdrawing from Lofepramine at the time. I was experiencing brain zaps – an odd sensation throughout the day, something between a headache and an electric shock. My psychiatrist assured me these zaps were not ‘real’, they were just in my head and they would pass. Yeah right. My head is a huge chaotic place and I have to live in it all the time, so whenever anyone tells me something is ‘all in your head’ I want to punch them. In the end, I solved my brain zap problem as best I could, wore travel sickness acupressure bands to ward off anti depressant withdrawal vomiting.

***

Each day was the same. Zap. Zap. Flashback. Phones would clamour, another cassette tape would drop in my tray, another brown foolscap file piled up on my desk. Another child. In my memory, I’m in a stuffy archive that heaves with files bearing children’s names and I am nauseous trying to find one name in the vast cabinets that run from A to Z. I’ll forget this child’s name and their folder eventually but I think of todays kid all the way home and when I wake up at 4am covered in sweat, their name is there on my lips.

***

I’d walk to work, zappy and lonely and focussing my mind on the temp wage I desperately needed. I can do this. The way to psych myself was to pretend I was a Pixie Lott pop waif. My feet would strut like she would strut in her music video. I pretended that I wasn’t going to work. I pretended that no one was being abused. No one had run out of ritalin, no one was couch surfing homeless, no one was in any kind of adolescent agony. Nope. I was on my way to a club. Dancing and singing and climbing up on the tables, rocking this body so tell the DJ don’t stop-

I stop and rethread the machine, snipping off the mountain of threads I’ve collected. I think about that past me. Where did she get that determination? Was I really powered by caffiene and manufactured pop music? I was pushing onward despite all the snagging and sickness and I did it because I was angry. Sick I was back then, I did a great (if not raging angry) job at CAMHS. Ironically, I was often congratulated for spelling long medication brand names correctly. Secretly, I had been on so many of these meds myself that I found psychiatrist prescription pad handwriting easy to parse. I knew not to take any of the social workers snippiness personally, nor to let the psychologists diaries get too full. I had a ‘gentle way with callers‘ because my heart literally bled for the callers I empathise with; I self harmed in the loos in my lunch hour to take the edge off. I cared. I methodically got up and got through the day only to do that again the next day, alone, day after day. Alarm, travel sickness wristbands, pop music, audiocassette psych assessment, a phone ringing off the hook, a mother crying down the line while I grabbed a message pad. “What can I do to help you this afternoon?”

That’s what anger looks like. I reconnect to the core of it while I seam these trousers. Anger looks like my wonky self back in 2007, anger had eye bags, it wears Primark ballet pumps and a cheap polyester skirt suit. Anger wears travel sickness wristbands like Diana wears the armour of Themyscira. Anger is me, I am a force of nature, a furious fool vamping down Shearbridge Road, lip syncing to my ipod shuffle. Anger accelerates onward to keep showing up. What can I do. I care. It keeps me alive.

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