Checking up on Rage

The pandemic, this house, my room have all become the container in which I am doing this recovery work. I want. I need, to make sense of it, to understand how the bad things that happened to me formed me into the person I am now. I need to see the story of my life all laid out before me so I can gain the wisdom it has to offer and feel emotionally invested in my present, as well as my future.

I know that some recovery philosophies suggest that the survivor leave behind their story but to me, story is everything. When I was a small child I learned that I could create stories in which to live and feel, for a short time, safe from my father and nurtured by my mother. In stories, my own as well as the ones I read and watched, the protagonist escapes capture, creates her own justice, and becomes someone wise and whole. I will hold tight to my own story as long as I am still reaching for wisdom and wholeness because it is only from within my story that I can put things to right.

Right now, much of my story is about rage. The rage I am beginning to touch and the seemingly endless rage I have yet to touch. It was almost a year ago that I began to experience rage and I wrote about it in this post: Rage.
I want to tear everything down. And since the self-loathing was born from the hands of men, it’s their world I want to pull down. I would see everything they’ve ever touched turned to dust.
At the time it felt shocking to discover that I carried such a deep desire to destroy. I gave it some space and then tucked it away again until recently. Now it only sleeps lightly under the surface and when it arises I can identify why it has reared its wild and furious head. It still unnerves me a bit. It goes so deep and exists in such a vast space that I fear it could overtake me, drive me to do something I’ll regret, if I allow it the agency it desires in my life. I’m trying to figure out what to do with it when it comes up.

I bought a punching bag and some gloves and for a while they just sat, unused, in my room. I was afraid to let the rage have space. One day while I was practicing yoga, I dissociated and try as I might, I couldn’t bring myself back. I wanted so badly to come back. Suddenly, the rage was there. Furious at my abusers for fucking me up so badly that I still lose control over my ability to stay present. I was shaking with the rage as I crawled towards the gloves, put them on and approached the punching bag. I was crying as I started punching it and then there was nothing but the rage. I saw my father’s face in the bag and I punched it over and over again until I was on the floor sobbing and present again.

This morning I finished watching the series, Black Sails. It’s a fictional portrayal of the struggle for control of Nassau Bay between pirates and the English government. (As I said at the beginning of this post, Story is the most powerful way I have of making sense of my own experience. I eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.) I began watching it with the notion that it would be entertaining and historically interesting but soon realized it goes much deeper than that. The pirates are fighting for agency over their own lives, freedom from a tyrannical England. It’s almost impossible to discern who the hero of the story is because, well, pirates. I promise, I won’t spoil the ending for you if you haven’t seen it and want to keep reading this post.

During the final episode there is a moment, for me the most important moment of the whole series, in which two of the pirates are in confrontation over the direction of their efforts. One speaks about the loss of a loved one, feeling the need to make sense out of it by battling ever harder against English rule. And then recognizing something beneath those desires and speaking to it. He says:
It was rage. And it just wanted to see the world burn.
He acknowledges the injustices they have all suffered under English society and rule. He owns his experience of deep rage. And he chooses to move through the rage without causing the world to burn. Because he also wants to live a life in which he can find meaning and joy. I had to pause the show at this point because I was crying so hard I couldn’t see through my glasses. And I wanted to process what he’d said. The rage didn’t dictate his path, he did.

I

Rage sleeps lightly

My therapist and I have an ongoing conversation about my anger and rage. We’ve worked out that the reason I stuff it is because I learned at an early age it was useless against the nightmare that was my father and often made things worse. I don’t know if one of my alters still feels afraid of what will happen to me if I let myself get angry. I do know that I will face any other feeling, but rage I try to keep sedated. I often search around for it inside of me and instead of finding the boiling feeling in my stomach, I find the concept of rage. These days it sleeps lightly and erupts when I least expect it.

My mom received a letter from my dad yesterday. Same old shit, only my mom said he was even more narcissistic than usual. He used to write to her almost one a year but in the last 10 years his letters have become more sporadic. He writes about how he’s sorry for not being a good husband and father (though never admits to anything specific), he describes how he suffers because his children won’t speak to him and he pleads with my mom to intercede.

My mom called to tell me about it because the return address on this letter was different than the one she gave me when I wrote to my dad a few months ago. I don’t think he ever received it. And that’s ok; I can print it out and send it again. It was the conversation with my mom that brought up so many unexpected feelings. My mom said the only reason she leaves the lines of communication open is to always be able to reach him if me or my sister ever want to get in touch with him. She said what she wants more than anything is for everyone involved to find peace. I told her I can’t imagine ever wanting to speak to him or hear anything he’d want to say.

And that’s when it all came pouring out of me. Rage.

Looking back, I think it was her saying she wants peace for all of us. First, how the fuck does my dad get included in people who deserve peace? Second, I don’t believe peace is possible for me. Not the kind of peace she’s talking about. But I couldn’t process that in the moment.

I found myself yelling on the phone.

“What could that man ever say that would change the suffering I’ve been through? Even if he did get to a place where he could sincerely offer apologies for raping me as a child, I wouldn’t want to hear it. I don’t give a fuck what he feels.”

I started to break down in tears because the rage always terrifies me. It’s so huge and there’s nothing I can imagine doing that would truly release it. It also reminds me of how much I suffered as a child, how much of a ruin my life has been since then, and how much effort I have to expend to get through most days without falling into a pit of exposed trauma wounds. That’s when I said this:

“Honestly, mom, I wish I could just shoot him in the head. I would do it and I wouldn’t think twice about it. I wouldn’t be sorry. He deserves to fucking die in a violent way.”

And I meant it. I mean it. If I could kill my dad and not spend the rest of my life in prison, I would totally do it. But even that wouldn’t be enough to release all the righteous rage that lives in me. I can’t imagine ever getting to a place in my life where I wouldn’t want to stand 6 feet away from my dad and shoot him in the head with a bullet until he was dead.

I’m sure he does suffer because he lost the right to have contact with me and my sister. Maybe that suffering consumes him. I hope it does. I hope it slowly kills him because I doubt I’ll ever be given the opportunity to do it myself.

I’m trying to find a punching bag for when my rage erupts. In the past, I’ve only ever let it be a destructive force I couldn’t control, or a feeling that had to stay shut down completely. After I ended the call with my mom, I cried and pounded the bed (a step in the right direction, my therapist would say) and then I dissociated. I was shaking and crying and I poured water over the back of my neck. And then I was gone. For a while. I spent the rest of the day trying to find stable ground to stand on. Glimmers to nourish me. But I actively tried to avoid the rage. Consequently, there were several more dissociative episodes and eventually I felt really nauseous and woozy. I fell asleep last night with my heating pad pressed against my stomach and listening to my favorite D&D podcast. Sleep was fitful and the dreams I had were dark.