Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Anger, Resentment, and General Misanthropy

... in which our pirate hero attempts to cope with work, family, stress, and a seeming inability to find peace in the midst of chaos.

Which would be very cool if I could figure out a way to pull it off.

For the last several months, I've been coping with an outbreak of depression. For years, I've been able to keep things under control, but lately there have been times when I just can't get a grip on my moods. Fortunately, my work and my relationships seem to be intact, but internally I've been in a major funk (and not the Parliment type, either).

Today I had a conversation with a coworker who has just returned from a 30 day retreat. He went there after being abused horrifically in his former department. He's now back with us, but he needed that 30 day medical leave to keep sane and sober.

Anyway, he noted that my anger and resentment towards a laundry list of people, places, and institutions has increased dramatically. Don't worry, they know who they are, even if they don't care (I'm talking to you, fundamentalist Christians who think that the civil rights of others should be put to a vote!). During the course of the conversation, my friend suggested that I do work similar to the 4th step of alcoholics anonymous, where that sort of anger and resentment is categorized. And that is how I spent my lunch break today at work.

While I am nowhere near done with this exercise, and I have every intention of taking it to a therapist at some point - because I firmly believe that depression is something that shouldn't be handled alone; we should pay people to suffer with us! - it appears that I am a walking, talking, seething container of angst. Whereas I want to think of myself as a cool, collected, mellow zen dude who can swash my buckle with the best of them, I am also a very angry person. Or, perhaps I should look at it as anger has me.

I watch the news and get angry. I listen to my patients and become frustrated. I attend staff meetings and wonder if logical behavior will ever occur here. One Ring tells me that I can't do whatever I want, whenever I want, and resentment arises. I go home to visit my family at the ocean front in Virginia, and I mourn that I no longer live by the sea. Of course, none of that anger gets expressed. It just sits inside of me, until it turns on me, and depression comes roaring in like an evil tide.

The ironic thing is that I spend my day counseling people who have substance abuse issues. Most addicts actually start out self-medicating some life problem - usually an emotional issue. Let's face it, no one starts their day saying, "I think those folks on Intervention got a good thing going on!" Self-medication leads to addiction, and down the hole you go. The thing is, to heal you can't just remove the substance. You need to work on the emotional issues that were being medicated in the first place.

So I know, as a former chaplain, as a therapist, as a human being, what I need to do to work through my resentments. I just don't do it. Or rather, I let the feelings work through me, rather than the other way around. And, frankly, I don't have enough rum to let that remain the status quo!

At this point, now that I'm back from my semi-annual pilgrimige to the ocean, there seems to be a choice hanging in front of me. I can either choose to let things remain the same, at the expense of my health (migraines and other beasties are rising from the depths!), or I can start practicing what I've been reading, studying, and teaching for the last however many years. That means looking at the painful places in my psyche and doing the work needed to find balance. Ugh. I'm not looking forward to this at all.

It's just that the alternative - misanthropy, that hatred and distrust of humanity - is not that conducive to running a tight ship!

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