During “The Troubles”, which is what I call my dark days of mental illness, when I had a nervous breakdown, was diagnosed with ADHD and discovered my BPD, I did a lot of yelling and crying and confused arguing.
I wasn’t able to express my thoughts through words, which I had always been able to do, especially when it came to writing, so I would find myself looking for another way that didn’t involve smashing something on the kitchen floor to exemplify my frustration.
Let me begin by saying that I am not a visual artist.
When I was in day-treatment at the hospital, I painted a plaque for my young child’s room. When my partner saw it, he told our kid that she did a great job. Then I told him it was me who painted it and…yeah.
I’m cool with that, though, because I’m a great writer, I just didn’t think that I was much of one back then.
So, I threw caution to the wind, and to art critics everywhere, and began to scribble my thoughts on a dry-erase board.
It was liberating and it seemed to unclog my communication pathways.
I was also proud of my work – seemingly cute little doodles that told a dark and painful story – so I photographed them in the hopes that I could use them for the very purpose that I’m using them now: to help others understand what’s going on.
The drawing that I’m sharing here was one of the most effective for me in terms of being able to communicate, not only to my family, but to my doctors, about how I was feeling when I’d get angry.
Here is how the floor plan to The House of Anger goes:
Begin at START (the main entrance/front door).
This door locks behind you and is impossible to open from the inside.
INCIDENT/IDEA – This is the initial action, perpetrated by an external circumstance.
You’re in the foyer (of your mind), where things enter and are flowing through, coming in and out and memories are being displayed. You can’t pay attention to all of them, but, often, one in particular will catch your (mind’s) eye.
You walk through the doorway to the next room, which is:
FIRST THOUGHT – This is where our own feelings, emotions and triggers come into play. We’re presented with a thought that is influenced by our past experiences. I imagine this space as an orange-painted parlour, so anything that I look at while in this space, will have a tinge of orange to it because of the reflection off of the walls. That colour influences our perception, and there’s nothing that can be done to change that.
We are now facing two doors (not including the one which we came through – because going backwards resets the entire journey, and you have to begin again).
It is at this point when we feel what we feel about the thought, and decide which door to go through: the “I’m unhappy about this thought, but I’m going to go forward, deal with the uncomfortable feelings it’s caused, and leave this house.”
That’s the door on the LEFT.
If you choose this room, you’ll feel that it has a worried/anxious vibe to it, perhaps there’s kazoo music playing on surround as you walk in. Across the room, you see the sliding glass door to the rain outside, but you also see that, just beside that exit is a pair of rubber boots and an umbrella to help you weather that storm and leave the house.
Once you’re out in the fresh air, you’ll never have to come back (to that thought) again.
If you choose this room, you’ll feel that it has a worried/anxious vibe to it, perhaps there’s kazoo music playing on surround as you walk in. Across the room, you see the sliding glass door to the rain outside, but you also see that, just beside that exit is a pair of rubber boots and an umbrella to help you weather that storm and leave the house. Once you’re out in the fresh air, you’ll never have to come back (to that thought) again.
The door on the RIGHT, however, takes you deeper into the house. This room has an aggressive vibe to it, and, in choosing this door, you’re ready to beat the crap out of that thought until it can’t communicate with you anymore because it’s lying dead on the floor.
Walking through this wing of The House of Anger, you are taken, room by room, through misery and torment. Distress (squiggles), pain (hail-like dots), self-doubt (question marks), and each room is surrounded by pounding exclamation marks that expose your already unstable self to a cacophony of confusion.
You end up in a large room that reminds me of being in a heavy metal mosh pit (here’s a video that shows exactly how I imagine it).
As with a mosh pit, the dangers of getting hurt are real, but some of us cannot stop ourselves from joining in; it’s like you’re drawn into it by a need to find pacification and quiet in the riotous havoc. This can also happen with addiction. You can get so into the thrashing, trying to escape the pain of the reality, that you lose control and just black out.
That’s when you fall into THE DARK PLACE.
This closet-like space is tiny, lightless, cramped and it’s very hard, not only to get out, but to even exist in there. It’s almost like your body and brain are in stasis and can’t move or fathom a logical thought – you want to curl up into a ball and just not “be” anymore. If you go into there, it’s really hard to get out of, and usually requires resuscitation from professionals. This is where the breakdowns, the thoughts of suicide, self-harm, and harm to others happens. You look around and see nothing but darkness. You are left alone with your thoughts, wondering how you allowed yourself to get into that scary place, and you hope for a way to get out, but you feel helpless.
Some people are able to crawl their way out of THE DARK PLACE on their own, but so many require help.
If you managed to get out of it, or if you didn’t enter it in the first place, you stomp towards the only available door, irritable from the turbulent experience and the accompanying harsh noises.
You open it only to see a long, dimly-lit tunnel ahead of you.
There’s nowhere to go but forward, so you’re left without a choice, increasing your aggression toward this House that you’re trapped within.
You make your way through the tunnel and come to a heavy door. You maniacally push on the door, weak from your journey through the House, as you try to, finally, get out, all the while getting more frustrated that your freedom from this horrible experience is potentially behind that door.
And that’s when it happens. When you open up that door at the end of the tunnel and see that you’ve ended up right back where you started, you lose your shit.
The entire trauma that you’ve endured has put you right back where you started. It was all for nothing…or was it?
This is where things can change. This is where, knowing what happened in the past, based upon the choice that you made – to pursue anger – you can now, consciously, choose the other door.
As a side-note:
Metal and other extreme music is not a bad thing for those of us who are angry. In their essay “Extreme Metal Music And Anger Processing” published in the journal Frontiers In Human Neuroscience, Leah Sharman and Genevieve A. Dingle report: “The findings indicate that extreme music did not make angry participants angrier; rather, it appeared to match their physiological arousal and result in an increase in positive emotions. Listening to extreme music may represent a healthy way of processing anger for these listeners.”
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