It seemed like I couldn’t feel anything for months. Then, when I finally tapered off my medication, a peculiar thing happened. I started to get very angry. Trivial things provoked the most intense anger. Although I didn’t fly into rages or become outwardly hostile (and certainly not violent), I experienced what are known as anger attacks. Apparently they are not uncommon, particularly in people with Major Depressive Disorder. Although the published science notes the relationship, there hasn’t been much research into why people with depression experience anger attacks or whether there are correlations with different approaches to treatment.
With my transition back onto medication, the anger attacks have faded. In their place, I have become aware of feelings of resentment, frustration, and anger that were quelled when I was heavily medicated. Some of these emotions are easy for me to understand and accept. I’m upset that my mental health deteriorated to a point that I had to step away from my job. I’m angry about external situations that contributed to my depression (note to my parents who read my blog: I am not talking about y’all ♥️). Fear and anxiety about my future employment along with a nagging sense that I am missing out, although not entirely rational, compounds these feelings.
At the recent Allied Media Conference, Mariame Kaba, the founder of Project Nia, was quoted by the Black feminist author adrienne maree brown calling on our society “to examine the pleasure we get from inflicting punishment. The fantasies of revenge when we have been harmed.” In her speech, Kaba was addressing the prison industrial complex that has eclipsed restorative and transformational justice. As her words reverberate in my mind, I recognize my own revenge fantasies, the ways in which I want those who caused me harm to suffer as I have. Not only will these thoughts never come to fruition, but contemplating them is in no way generative for me. My anger at my hurt only serves to create more pain for me. It’s no way to live and certainly not a model for recovery.
As Dr. Harriet Learner wrote, “anger is a signal—and it’s one worth listening to.” Taking the time to understand the root cause of anger is a first step toward reconciling with what gave rise to it. It’s also a way in which we can stop punishing ourselves using the pain others inflicted upon us.