spilling my guts

The Anger Post



I took a quick poll on Facebook the other morning because I didn’t know what to write about. The choices were:

1. Dog Surfing Competition in Huntington Beach

2. Holiday Illos on sale! (I need to pay my bills!! The usual monthly stress)

3. A photo essay on my new hardback books

4. My journey with anger management

I should have just written the Dog Surfing post because that would have been easy or knocked out the anger post because it was forefront in my mind but no, I sat on it like I always do and now I don’t know if I’ll ever write anything ever again. Blarg-en-FARG!!!

Just kidding. But seriously, why did I promise an anger post? Of course everyone wants to hear about my struggle with anger. Dirt is way more interesting than dogs on surf boards.

But you know what? I think it’s just pms.

Joke on me!!!


Nobody believes me when I say I have anger issues but that’s because I hide it. And that’s what scares me. I read somewhere in a self-help book about abuse that if the person hides their behavior from outsiders then that’s a warning flag.  I didn’t really read the rest of the book so I can’t carry on like I’m an expert but of course I worry.  I’m very good at worrying. My mind has been a hamster cage of worry for the last three years, scratch that, make that 41 years.

I was texting a good friend about my horrible, no good, very bad day (which totally wore my thumbs out by the way) and she said she remembered me losing it back when we were in college and I better get a handle on it before my kid becomes a teenager with crazy hormones of her own. (Yikes!) She was recommending falling back on medication but her affirmation that I do have a problem hit me like a ton of bricks. I do have a problem.


Last Saturday I was so mad at Bug because we were late. Fifty-seven naggings later and she wanted me to find this one very important hedgehog-printed coin purse. Why, I don’t’ know.  Because she’s Bug and she gets a vision of how things are going to be and then falls to pieces if they don’t go as planned.

Kinda like her mom.

She didn’t care that if we didn’t leave right this very minute we would miss the big dog division and the little dog division and be stuck paying premium parking only to see a bunch of vendor tents handing out Eucanuba dog tags and tiny cups of dog ice cream. I was livid. Really? We’re going to miss the whole entire show because you need a hedgehog purse?

So I did the stupidest thing ever: I dumped out all her toys to look for the purse. Then I dumped out her dress-up clothes too to make a point. Even when I was doing it I knew it was insane. I knew I was the scary mom. I saw it in her eyes and even though it broke my heart, I couldn’t stop the raging.  It was terrible. I knew I was losing it and yet I felt like I couldn’t stop. I did stop and I did try to be calm but then the sarcasm and guilt trips would set in and they are even worse than the dumping.

I remember my aunts pulling guilt trips on me and they messed with my head so hard I still hear their voices in my head twenty years later. Not that it ruined me or anything but I so badly don’t want to be that person.

And here is where I want to say  how much I love my aunts. And I’m not just saying that because they are reading. They raised me right along with my mom. It took a village. Their words formed me. In some bad ways but probably in more good ways so I don’t want to paint a picture like I was abused. It’s not black and white.

But I am that person. I have a raging hot temper. It runs in my family.  I hold out a very long time but when I’m pushed, I lose it. I lose it big. The good news is I get over it pretty quickly. I apologize and I forgive. I go to bed and I wake up an entirely different person. I always feel calm after the storm. But that doesn’t make it any less scary to those around me when it’s all going down.

I knew I was going to rage all day so instead of spending the rest of the day picking up the toys (which probably would have been a great lesson if I could be the calm mom and not the raging mom) and we went to the dog show anyway. We were totally late and only saw the small dog division but it was fine. I went with a friend and she insisted that I calm the f— down. It was going to be okay.

We parked in metered parking and we only had so many quarters. I set a timer on my phone and it went off entirely too soon. I stressed. She said, just let it go. We’ll pay the ticket if we get one. This was really hard for me to do but I stayed. I took pictures of dogs on surfboards and my kid frolicked in the surf with her friend.

So there’s that. My kid had a good time. She forgot about the dumped toys and the trashed house that we had to go home to. She didn’t even really mind all that much when we did go home and we cleaned it up together. I let her go to the pool with a friend and I spent the rest of my day cleaning everything from top to bottom and getting ready for the rest of the week. I felt better.

But I do need to handle my anger issues. When I said I’m on a journey I meant I’m at the beginning. I don’t’ have any words of wisdom yet because I haven’t learned much yet. But I really really really want to work on this. I know it’s worse right now because of hormones and financial stress but this is something I was born with and I want to learn how to manage it. I want to learn how to NOT react when things set me off.

I don’t really want to go the medication route. I know it’s there and I’m not saying I won’t ever go on medication to moderate things. But if I can do this with a healthy diet and breathing techniques, I’d really rather do that. Maybe I’ll take up yoga again or start training for a marathon. I just need to do something. I need to get ready for when the next wave hits.

I know there are readers out there who suffer from this too. Who knows, maybe it’s just part of parenting a small person who can push you to the edge and then over it and around the block.  Some of us channel our stress into illnesses, some into depression or insomnia, some of us have rage issues. Some of us have all of the above.  If you have rage like me how do you handle it? Have you gotten better over time?

I also want to say that the flip side of my anger is that I’m a passionate person for good things too. I feel things deeply. I have incredible energy and enthusiasm when I need it. I’m usually a very happy person. Maybe even annoyingly so. But when my positive energy goes bad, it turns into anger and it can be scary.

Even to me. Especially to me…

So who’s ready for a surfing dog post tomorrow?!!



  • gorillabuns

    I voted to hear about anger issues because I have a bad set myself. I come by it honestly as my father is a lunatic.

    It is very brave to admit a fault about yourself. My thinking is at least you acknowledge it is something you need to work on. At least you know, it is a problem. There are so many who don’t get it and don’t care to work on themselves.

    It is hard when the rage comes on. You feel like crap while doing it and know all the while, you causing unintentional damage.

    The only ass-vice I can offer is, admit your fault to your child. Sit down and talk about it with her. Tell her it is something you are working on and don’t feel the greatest when you are doing it. You love her and want to always strive to be a better parent. Admit you have faults and most of all say you are sorry. We expect our kids to say they are sorry about everything but when it comes to us? We aren’t the best at it.

    Thank you for sharing. It is so hard to admit a not-so-positive side of ourselves. I haven’t had the guts to do so myself. xoxo

    • SAJ

      You’re so right. Bug and I have talked it out, apologies included. I told her once that listening to music sometimes made me feel better and not so mad inside. So now she’s taken to turning on itunes every time I nag her, even when I’m not mad. I guess we’ll just have a very musical house!

  • Julie Anson

    You don’t need medication!

    I think letting out anger is more healthy – in many ways – than repressing it (which I think leads to illness). But letting it out in a way that never hurts others/your child is something I’m still not sure about.

    I have the same problem with losing it, which I am continually trying to improve upon. It used to be PMS, but am now on mini pill which has been amazing for me and no longer suffer at all on that front. But I obviously have ‘control’ issues and things like being late/mess really get to me (we have tiny flat so mess is in your face! Nowhere to shove it out of sight! ).

    My 6 year old can be a nightmare in the morning before school and before bed…and before going somewhere. She needs telling a gazillion times to put her school uniform on/brush her teeth etc…and sometimes I just crack (generally if there is something else bothering me, which is sooo unfair on her). Like Bug, she will get something in her head and be fixated on doing it/finding it before we can leave the house. And she will argue and argue and always has to have the last word.

    I sometimes find myself doing things like emptying out her toys too and you can see yourself doing it and you know its irrational, but you can’t stop it. The rage has got to you.

    I try and walk away now, with her in tears of frustration because she can’t see she’s done anything wrong (“I was ONLY looking for my spotty scarf…”) with threats of cancelling all activities.

    I feel totally crap. But like you, I do apologise and try and explain why I got angry. It doesn’t happen THAT often – majority of the time we get on great.

    But how are those occasions when I do get angry really affecting her? I don’t know. That’s what worries me the most.

  • Maddie

    I get those frustrated tear-your-hair-out rages with miss 4 sometimes too. I forget she’s not intentionally doing naughty things but has her head in the clouds most of the time and take out my exasperation on her. I think maybe I need to look at getting some help too. Thanks for the honest post. Sorry I requested the dirt instead of the dogs ;)

  • DeeJay

    Such a great post, Brenda. I appreciate how honest you were about your feelings. It made me feel better (which sounds really wrong) to see that somebody else reaches that verge of destroying worldly possessions in a fit of anger. Saying things to hurt those we love the most only to immediately regret every word that was uttered. I tend to channel my anger into depression and end up back in the dr’s office for a little help with the ‘tude control.

    When my kids were young I heard somebody say “If this will not matter in a year from now then keep it in check.” Much harder work to keep it in check at that moment but it stopped me from the full anger explosion on many occasions. Not all, but many.

    When my kids hit their pre-teen years and their own tudes were coming into play I would start reciting the Lord’s Prayer out loud over and over until the anger subsided. It’s amazing how quickly they picked up on the fact that me cleaning the house and reciting the prayer loudly meant to leave me alone and knock it off.

    You have my number. Please. Know you can call at any time. Day or night. You got this!

  • minutepapillon

    I have the same issues, the passion, the anger, the guilt trip, the never ever again et it all starts again. I agree with you both, letting the kids know is a good thing. Let me know when you find tips to grow out of it because I’m on that journey too! Bon courage!

  • Caroline

    I can relate to nearly every word of this. I don’t have a child, but I can relate to seeing my Mom go through periods of rage and what that was like. Now I experience it myself – not often, it’s like it bottles up and reveals itself in dramatic fashion.

    I have, personally, gone the medication route. It was a huge blessing apart from the side effects. It doesn’t really solve the problem so much as it allows me to feel “safe” to address what is at the root of it.

    In any case, you’ll know what’s right for you and I wish you all the best. I appreciate that you are a brave and honest writer.

  • Susan:)

    I get angry at the kids sometimes too, usually when I’m trying to get them out the door and they’re dragging their feet on getting ready. Sometimes I do feel the rage and it bursts out and it scares me. I don’t want to be like that! But if it does happen, i do talk it out with the girls. I tell them I’m sorry for getting angry and it’s because I was frustrated that we weren’t going to be on time or whatever but I shouldn’t have yelled. Lately, I’ve tried to hold back on yelling and getting angry by giving a warning. When I feel it coming on, I’ll say something like, look, if you don’t do what I asked I’m going to get angry and start yelling and I really don’t want to. That’s helped a bit because it gives me a minute to calm myself and it gives them a chance to do whatever they’re supposed to. I don’t even know if that’s the best way to handle it but we all do the best we can, right?

  • Jennifer

    Thanks for this. I think you’re going to hear from almost everyone today that they do the same things. I’ve been going through some of the same things, and my own personal method of trying to cope now includes reflection after the fact about why I lost my temper for each incident.

    I’ve found my three biggest triggers are, in no particular order, (1) yup, PMS, it’s real (2) being late myself i.e. I get up half an hour later, which means everything needs to go smoothly to get out of the house on time, and nothing ever always goes smoothly and (3) not having really prepared sufficiently.

    My means for coping so far…(1) My PMS is dramatically improved when I lay off the chocolate and sugary snacks all month. I’m not ready to give up caffeine, which I know also ought to help, but I was shocked how much better my PMS was when I changed my snacking habits from sugary treat to those prepacked bags of cashews or almonds you get from Trader Joe’s. It was dramatic. (2) Recognize that I made the decision to not get out of bed on time, so I have to deal with the consequences of that. I don’t like it any more than I did before, but acknowledging it helps me to take a deep breath, turn on some music, and cope a little better (3) Only for example, not a cure-all, After a disastrous dinner out last night, I need to look at how I’m planning to take a three year old to a restaurant, and why I’m really expecting her to sit still for the time between ordering food and receiving food…I’d never expect her to sit still doing absolutely nothing other than talking with her parents for the same amount of time at home.

    This seems very long, but thanks for sharing, and let all of us with the not-so-in-control tempers know that we’re not alone.

  • beck

    Wow, yeah, I can relate. I hate it, too, especially when I can SEE what I’m doing in the moment and feel powerless to do anything different. And then the guilt and shame sets in… awful cycle. I think that PMS makes me MORE of whatever I’m feeling, so it’s not that if it weren’t for PMS I wouldn’t be feeling it, just that I’d be feeling it LESS. At least that’s how I explain it to my husband. It’s not that he can just ignore everything and blame it on PMS and nothing is valid, I AM bothered about something, and it may even be something that needs to be addressed, but I could work on my side of coping, too. Meh. Bleh.

    I like that you’re talking with Bug about it. No matter how things go, I feel that’s so crucial and gives her a voice to express how it effects her and stuff. I admire your honesty and willingness to work.

    I’m not sure if you’ve heard of the “How We Love” book but I strongly identify with the “vascillator” type and just knowing that and reading what they have to say around that has helped me quite a bit. Their website is here: http://www.howwelove.com/love-styles/

    P.S. I really like the font used in the comment boxes. =)

    Hope you have a good day! Thanks for sharing the tough stuff. It helps me. =)

  • Rachel

    Wow, I can totally relate to this. I have a lot of trouble with that very same kind of rage. Always have. My dad was always like that too–he was an amazing father, always there for us, but when he lost it he really, really lost it, and it could get scary.

    I have struggled with bouts of rage especially for the past few years–the adult temper tantrum where you’re just losing it, terrifying the kids, you know it’s awful but you’re powerless to stop yourself. The maybe squeezing an arm a bit too tight. Hoping nobody else saw you do it. The feeling like you could do a lot more than that if you just let the rage have its way. I was terrified to talk about it for so long, I even saw a counselor for a bit and I couldn’t really even ask for her for help because I was so afraid it might lead to my kids being taken away.

    Then this summer, after losing it epically, I shut myself in my bedroom and made an appointment with my nurse practitioner. She really, truly listened to me–and then she prescribed a mild dosage of an antidepressant. It’s now been almost two months (and two menstrual cycles!) and I haven’t lost my temper one single time. I have gotten angry, felt anxious, yelled–I still feel like myself, with all my emotions–but I can control myself. It feels like a miracle.

    I know you don’t want to resort to meds just yet. I had already made a ton of changes to diet, exercise, etc., and I just felt like I couldn’t afford to waste any more time–I was damaging my relationship with my kids. I am still a little ashamed about it…but also so, so grateful that I have that option.

    Good luck…

  • Sarah

    It’s extremely hard and a scary thing to do but you have to find a way to be ok with letting the rage out and not feeling guilt about it afterwards.
    Rage is a part of all of us and if you can find a way to release yours as it comes or daily then you will be much less likely to explode. I speak from personal experience.
    It also will teach Bug that all of her emotions are safe to express and are a welcome part of her instead of a piece to hide or be ashamed of.
    Everybody has their own releases, for me I like to throw pillows and sing at the top of my lungs or meditate. For you there may be some things you do when it’s just you and other’s you do when Bug is around. The moral of the story is just to do it and be kind to yourself when it comes.

  • bethany actually

    I don’t think I have anger issues per se, but I do know that I am much, much more likely to lose my temper with my kids when I’m stressed over other things, when I’m hungry, when I’m not getting enough sleep. The number one thing that really helps me keep an even keel, though, is exercising every freaking day, enough to get sweaty. I am so much happier overall and it’s just easier to deal with the things that might otherwise make me lose it.

    I know you know this about exercise already (yoga!), and I know how much of a challenge that is for you right now, and I’m sorry I don’t have any practical advice to help with that. I guess I’m just saying…I’m here to listen if you need it and I think you’re a great mom, rage and all. Bug knows you love her and that you don’t want to get all angry at her. Shana’s right, too, that talking to her about the rage is the absolute best thing you can do when it happens. Those are teaching moments too.

    Looking forward to the surfing dog post. :-)

  • carrien - she laughs at the days

    First, I think you are incredibly brave to post this here, and to get so vulnerable in this space. Also, I love you for the way you care so much, and seek help, and genuinely want to change and keep growing and becoming a better version of yourself.

    You have an amazing heart Brenda, and it’s posts like these where it really shows, whether you realize it or not.

    The way I see it you have too things going on. One is a parenting thing, and one is a fear thing.

    I honestly think that anger is a normal and natural reaction for parents to have to some of the really stupid, foolish, and childish things that children do. I don’t think anyone ought to feel bad for getting angry because, oh, and older child led a younger child into the street and left her there in order to come and tell on her for being in the street. (A completely hypothetical situation that I just pulled out of thin air and has nothing to do with when the Boy was 4 and the Girl was 2 and that time we lived in Vancouver.)

    What we do with that perfectly healthy, normal, angry reaction however is where it gets tricky. Because a lot of the things we do when we are angry aren’t helpful, are often harmful, immature, and damaging to others. But everyone knows that already.

    I think it was Mary, at Owlhaven.com who said of herself, now parenting 10 children, that she doesn’t feel anymore patient on the inside than when she first started parenting, she’s just a lot better at faking it. And in the end, acting patient is being patient, even if you don’t feel at all patient on the inside. I take great comfort in that knowledge. Because I can fake it, for the 15 minutes it takes to get past whatever situation requires it, even if I don’t feel it.

    But on to the parenting thing. (Man, this is going to be an essay after all, I was trying to make it short. Sorry.) Often we get angry, about the same things over and over again, but we don’t do anything about it. We don’t act in a way that changes the situation at all, we just seethe and get frustrated and then calm down until the next, exact same, incident occurs again.

    I’ve done the same thing with getting out the door, been so angry with the dawdling and the one last things and the feeling that we will never, ever, get out of this house. And I have it times several kids, as you know. And then one day I realized I really hadn’t taken the time to teach them what it is that I expect of them when I say, “Get ready to go.”

    So I explained it. For me it’s having every last thing they need already packed in a bag, or in the car, shoes on or right beside the door, and they’ve made sure they’re right beside the door rather than assuming, and then, if they are all ready, helping whoever else needs help to get ready, including me, until we all are able to walk out the door.

    Also decide in advance, and tell them, what will happen if these things don’t happen. If they tell me they are ready, and I’ve asked them to make sure, they don’t get to go in to find one last thing they just remembered they “need” as we are locking up and heading out. Not allowed. I will make and exception for an already packed item right inside the door that they walked out without, and there’s always a last minute potty break, just plan for that. But if they aren’t ready by a time I set for something fun for them, then we don’t go. (Remember, I expect them to help each other so the fact that one isn’t ready while the others are is no excuse.) If it’s somewhere that I need to be and they have to come then they come not ready and suffer through it unprepared, or lose out on something, like game time later. These are just examples, the point is, have a plan.

    Figure out what sets you off and figure out what you are going to do about it when you are calm and then you don’t end up angry and frustrated because you are just executing your plan. You are in control of yourself, and the situation.

    It’s a heavy thing to be giving away control to Bug, which is what you are doing. You are perpetuating a cycle by which your emotions are in the hands of a 7 year old and tied to what she does and how she acts. What the above does is makes you take a step back from that and puts your emotions back in your control. Clearly voiced expectations, plan for what to do if they are not met, calmly executed consequences. The end. Bug learns to get more efficient at getting out the door on time, you learn not to be emotionally attached to the outcome as she is learning it.

    It’s the parenting philosophy of moving the action forward. Acting on something a child does that is a problem for you before it goes to extremes and makes you lose it.

    So that’s the parenting thing.

    (Please don’t think I have this all figured out yet. There’s a gap between knowing what I need to do that is helpful, and having things work when I do it, and being consistent with it every day.)

    The second thing is the fear thing.

    It’s my experience that anger is one of the voices of fear. At the root of all the “Grrr, we’re going to be late” there is often a voice saying, “You’re a horrible mother. You’re so disorganized. Now your kid is going to be a disorganized failure too because you are such a failure and you just can’t get anything right.” Add to that all the other stresses, “I’m afraid we can’t pay the bills this month but I”m trying to take time off work to do this fun things for you and can’t you see what a sacrifice it is?” and you have another layer below the first layer, and below that I’m sure there’s another, all to do with wondering essentially if we are worthy at all.”

    So if you deal with the fear voices, often the anger voices just melt away as a side benefit. Just recognizing that it is fear that is triggering you often immediately diffuses the situation a bit as well.

    Just ask, “What am I afraid of in this situation?”

    Be honest in your answer, and you may be surprised what you find out.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts for now. Maybe one or two will prove helpful. Hugs to you, you are doing great. Really.

    • bethany actually

      OH. Yes, Carrien is very wise, as usual. The stuff about giving away control to Bug is dead-on. That’s so easy to slip into, and frustrating because OF COURSE the 7-year-old (or 2-year-old, or 9-year-old) shouldn’t be the one calling the shots. That’s just a disaster for everyone. (With Bug I know the consequences of saying, “Nope, sorry, we have to leave now and you just need to do without the thing,” are long-lasting and frustrating, though. I get why you don’t want to deal with that fallout. Sigh.)

      Also, “fake it” is excellent advice for being patient. There are definitely times I don’t FEEL patient and kind even though I’m acting that way, but acting that way makes me feel less ragey, or at least less out of control. And then there are the times I say, “I need a time-out,” and turn on the TV and go shut myself in the bedroom and breathe deeply for a couple minutes.

      Laying out expectations clearly. Having a plan. Following through. All excellent suggestions.

      Carrien, why are you so far away!? We miss you! :-)

  • Jen

    Thanks for sharing. I feel like I have a short fuse, but I’ve been working really hard not to get to ANGRY. Molly, of all people, has really helped me improve. She gets very upset if she feels she has disappointed someone. So I do a lot of “fake it, til I make it.”

    I love Carrien’s words of wisdom.

  • Ashley S

    HUGE HUG! What a brave post and one that I’m sure more people appreciate than you’ll know. Anger is something we all struggle with I think on different levels. Parenting small children can simultaneously bring out our best and our worst behaviors.

    What ever route you choose to face your emotions I’m sure it will be the right one for you. Bug knows you love her, you know she loves you, each day you get up doing the best you can in that day – the rest will work itself out in the wash.

  • Bethany

    Here’s my anger post. Maybe you won’t feel so bad, or at least you will know that you are not alone. I didn’t tell you this the other day because the conversation was about YOU, not ME. So I will tell you now. I have anger/rage issues too. A few weeks ago I was SO ENRAGED because a friend of mine stood me up. We were supposed to go do something that night and instead he got drunk and forgot all about me. This is not the first time he has done this. I became enraged. Like, shaking enraged. (Side note: he grows medical marijuana in his house, has the licenses, etc, totally legit, except for he has more plants than legally allowed.) Well I took my enraged self, drove to Lowe’s, bought bright green spray paint, drove to his house, and proceeded to write in HUGE letters on his garage door: GROW HOUSE. Yeah, I tagged someone’s house like a teenager with out of control hormones. I couldn’t stop myself. I wanted all his neighbors to see and maybe even call the police. So………………that’s how enraged I get. Mature, I know. Anyway, you’re not alone my dear.

  • Sarah K

    Two things helped me: (1) cognitive behavior therapy and (2) Paxil. My therapist said that every negative emotion wants us to do something to perpetuate itself. For example, depression wants us to withdraw and anger wants us to act out. If we do that, we give the emotion more power. She recommended this when I feel enraged: step back and promise myself I will deal with this, but I will wait at least 10 minutes and no more than 24 hours. That way you deal with the anger and don’t push it down, but usually 10 minutes is all you need to realize there’s no need to freak out.

    Wonderful post as always. Thank you.

  • Anon

    I have to admit I am a pretty patient person. My problem would be that I don’t explode often enough!

    Instead I internalize the stressors, let them gnaw at me, get depressed and indulge in habits that are bad for me! There is no winning in this game of parenting ;) None of us will ever be PERFECT!!

    Sort of related, I read this post tonight and then surfed over here. May or may not relate to you at all but think I wish I had read this kind of information when I was a young mom. http://www.yarnharlot.ca/blog/archives/2013/10/04/the_meanest_mother_in_the_world_.html

  • Missy

    I am late to this party, but man, I could have written that post. I am the angry mom all too often, and I hate it. I yell, I guilt, I rage, and it’s scary. I wish I knew the answer, the one true way to let the upset feelings escape without the red-eyed rage boiling over and clearing a path of destruction all around me. For right now, I do my best to apologize afterward and do better next time. And the time after that.

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