When I stopped taking drugs ten years ago, I was angry—very, very angry. There are several possible explanations for all that anger. First was the fact that I have bipolar disorder, type 2. Professionals say that in some people the presenting symptom for this disorder is what they call “irritation.” It’s what my sisters called “being a bitch.” If there’s any distinction between being irritated and being angry, it was lost on me. So maybe the anger came from the illness.
The second possibility is that the anger was born of drug damage. For twenty-six years I’d altered my brain with drugs. With the drugs withdrawn, what was left? Had places in my brain been rubbed raw? Were there connections laid down that shouldn’t have been? Had I been left with some kind of ultra-sensitivity that made me prone to anger? I couldn’t tell, and nobody else knew. Drug damage is not studied by the American medical industry and who had ever stopped taking drugs after twenty-six years? I was out there alone on the frontier and the industry didn’t want to hear about it.
The third explanation for my anger was justifiable. I had been treated and mistreated almost to death. Terrible, humiliating, damaging things had been done to me by people who insisted they were helping me.
I didn’t know why I was so angry and I didn’t understand anger—after all, people who are kept drugged don’t get angry. That’s the main reason why we drug people. We live in a society that knows nothing of peace but wants the appearance of calm at all costs. On inpatient psychiatry, a nurse said to me, “You seem angry—do you want an Ativan?” Instead of finding out why I was angry, she just wanted to shut me up—which had a lot to do with why I was angry.
So there I was ten years ago, undrugged and angry, and I had to figure it out. I started with a single premise: everything that is natural exists for a good reason. Anger is a naturally occurring emotion, so what’s good about it?
It keeps you safe from harm. You don’t get angry at a birthday party—until you realize that your brother-in-law has left the gate open to the swimming pool and your three-year-old child—your DNA!—has just walked through it. Then you go grab your kid and tell your brother-in-law what a moron he is.
When the part of you that is your child became unsafe then you got angry. The anger changed your physiology. It made your pancreas put out more insulin; the insulin liberated more glucose for your muscles to burn; your heart beat faster to pump more oxygen into your muscles, and your muscles ran you real fast to get your kid out of harm’s way. Anger triggers a complex set of body responses that give you extraordinary strength and energy.
Anything that disables your anger response puts you at risk. Every man who beats his wife knows this. My aide was a battered woman and her husband was doing the battering. The reason she didn’t fight back was because she felt guilty; it was her fault; she’d brought it on herself: she’d “almost” had an extra-marital affair. My father convinced my mother that it was shameful for her to raise her voice to him, consequently, she couldn’t really fight back because it filled her with guilt.
Guilt is one way to disable the anger response and make you unable to fight back when you’re in danger. However, if you decide that you have nothing to feel guilty about then you can retain your capacity to experience anger and you are safe. The anger response is not triggered solely by threats to the physical safety of yourself and the people you care about. It is also triggered by threats to who you are: your ego, spirit, personality, self-respect, integrity. Many men are so secure and relaxed that they rarely get angry about anything, but if you impugn their integrity then they come out fighting.
You need and have a right to a domain of physical and emotional safety. When that domain is compromised, then you should get angry. You are designed to get mad and fight back to restore your safe boundaries.
And the American psychiatric industry literally drugs you out of your mind so that you won’t fight back—particularly on inpatient psychiatry! What psychiatrists, nurses and aides want—above everything else—is calm. They want everybody to be under control—not the patient’s self-control but the staff members chemical control. When I was very sick, a skilled nursing facility refused to take me because I couldn’t take any drugs and, they said, “They couldn’t control me.” They had no idea whether I needed to be controlled, and no intention to work with me if I was angry. They required absolute assurance that they could drug me into passivity whenever they wanted to.
For twenty-six years I was kept drugged by psychiatry. My brain wandered around in a soupy haze that prevented critical thinking—and prevented me from fighting back.
I was hospitalized repeatedly under circumstances that denied all my rights—my right to think, to feel, to maintain a distinct identity, to have contrary opinions, and to be safe in my person.
The result is that I now have post traumatic stress disorder and wake in the middle of the night swamped with vivid, vicious anger. There were so many people I should have killed in order to maintain my right to live as the person God created me to be. I didn’t because I was drugged.
How many stories of inpatient psychiatric abuse must I tell before I will be free to sleep the night without waking?