Um, how do I give a s*** again?
April 7, 2021 5:28 PM   Subscribe

Basically I've gone totally numb due to the usual depression reasons. I'm also exhausted. Need to hear ideas how to reverse course without overwhelming myself. Content warning: lots of anger.

I have a sneaking suspicion that beneath this numbness is an overwhelming amount of feeling. It's just that I have so many overlapping problems I can't even begin to solve them all.

For instance: I have few real friends. I'm barely speaking to my family. I just took a new job but otherwise I'm barely employed or employable. My mother accused me of being a selfish person last year and it still hurts because it's kind of true. I'm so chronically exhausted that I can't handle any type of relationship. I have Problems With Substances.

The last year or so has taken some sort of cognitive ability from me too so I feel like I can barely write this. Oh yeah... I used to be able to write and now I just feel stressed and guilty at the idea. (Oh, and also, and also: I've spent the last five years cocooned in the kind of cancel-happy leftist scene that makes you feel guilty for breathing.)

The real kicker is that some part of me refuses to use any healthy coping mechanisms. And I know them! I've been to therapy, CBT and DBT, I know all about distracting myself, opposite action, mindfulness, etc. All suddenly suspect to me once I realized therapy these days is indistinguishable from a corporate mindfulness webinar.

All this to say: I don't want to get better. I don't want to be a good little mentally ill person and do my therapy and fit better into society. I want to scream and scream and scream and not stop screaming until everyone around me feels the same pain I do. I want to lash out. I want to hurt people. Not badly, just enough to shake them awake.

Trouble with that too is: I know that is the mental illness talking and in fact I would regret if I reached out and severed all my existing relationships.

I'm tired of being told to heal myself, looking within, taking responsibility for anything. I feel like a child at this moment in my life, and I'm acting like one, but please understand I've been the adult in the room for so long, in so many different situations and workplaces and friend groups, and I just want everyone else to clean up their own shit for a change.

Whew. See what I mean? I'm numb most of the time because when I do lift the lid on my emotions, this vile, spiteful garbage is the only thing that comes out. I don't know why I'm so angry... have my suspicions to be sure. But everyone keeps telling me that I'm so lucky in the grand scheme of things and that I should be so grateful. It makes me want to barf on them.

Like I said, I don't even know how to begin solving any of this, especially since I've started to distrust therapists and I can't really afford therapy right now. I went to one session and a therapist said a thoughtless thing and I instantly wanted nothing to do with her. I would think this was BPD, for those of you familiar with that, but I'm in my early thirties and I've been able to integrate conflicting perceptions of people before this.

(I'm also just really not interested in being labelled at this point in my life, I've been in therapy on and off for six years and have collected labels like pokemon cards; clearly all of that has not helped me. I have a deep feeling of shame and innate badness to begin with and I do not need armchair psychiatrists adding to that.)

Please help me break some of this down. I need like, next steps. I need to be explained to like I'm five. What is the most important thing for me to focus on in all this? Like what do I start with? Thank you in advance, and I feel obligated to thank you for making it through all this junkmail of an ask post.
posted by coffeeand to Human Relations (36 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
You're in a really hard and difficult place. The first thing I would say is to be kind to yourself. You deserve peace of mind. But it's okay if you're in a struggle now. It is what it is.

I don't know if you're the kind of person who would benefit from reading books. If you are I'd recommend Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff.

The second thing is that you are not alone. Even though it may feel like it.

The third thing is don't give up on therapy. It sucks that you've had bad experiences. But a good therapist can definitely help.
posted by storybored at 5:41 PM on April 7 [4 favorites]


One self-question that has helped me: “What needs doing?” (from David Reynolds)
posted by sixswitch at 5:41 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]


Your mother sounds awful, and it sounds like you're doing a great job turning her relentless criticism on yourself. I also notice a lot of contradictions in here: You're not employed or employable but you just got a job and are in fact employed. You have the following 10 psychological and practical problems that you want help with and also you don't want to be a good little mentally ill person who fits better into society. So exploring those contradictions seems good.... and yeah, probably in therapy.

It's a good thing when a therapist says something insufferable at session 1 and you don't go back -- saves everyone time. Finding an actually helpful therapist -- especially if you're a therapy vet -- is gonna take a little trial and error. Also, maybe see someone who does Rogerian or Psychodynamic work and thus won't tire you out with worksheets and mindfulness videos.

I hear you on the expense and the labels, but maybe finding someone who doesn't use diagnostic labels and has a sliding scale fee is part of the hunt.

And if you're asking which of the problems to tackle first to improve matters most? The substance abuse. Also quit talking to mom for a bit.
posted by shadygrove at 5:45 PM on April 7 [5 favorites]


Caroline Dooner wrote a book called “the fuck it diet.” I absolutely realize your question is not about weight or body acceptance so this is a bit of a weird recommendation. But the second half of the book describes methods to feel your own feelings and I found it incredibly helpful with maternal rage (which is a lot like being the adult in the room all the time and just being DONE.WITH.IT.)

Without indulging in your fantasizes of hurting others with your words/actions, I think you might need to listen to your feelings that enough is enough. to me, it sounds like those feelings are trying to tell you something about what your boundaries are and that your boundaries have been crossed, repeatedly.

When we give people the advice to “put their own mask on first” or take care of themselves, we NEVER tell them that the price of doing this is letting other people feel mad or upset that you’re “letting them down,” by choosing yourself over them. Your mom called you selfish and you agree. But I think maybe you aren’t REALLY listening to yourself and what you need.

I’m going to adapt Dooner’s work a bit (but I seriously recommend the book): (1) let yourself feel mad. Feel the feelings as much and as long as you want, whenever you want. (Note: feeling feelings does not necessitate you act on them in a harmful way). (2) lie down and do nothing for ten minutes everyday, (3) breath & feel 3X a day, (4) write out a brain dump every day. Just sit and write, no editing and no deleting. Destroy the paper after you write. It’s not for rereading; it’s for letting it out.
posted by CMcG at 5:50 PM on April 7 [15 favorites]


I just want to say, if you can find the right combination of medication that works for you, it can make a huge difference. When my world fell apart, I couldn't even function and any therapy or activity just bounced off me, but when I finally got on meds that worked, it was like... I'd been blundering in the dark, but now I had a flashlight. It was still dark, but I could start to make progress.
posted by The otter lady at 5:50 PM on April 7 [7 favorites]


It doesn't sound like you're a selfish person. It sounds like if you're not taking care of others' needs, it's because you don't even have enough in you to take care of your own needs.

You do not have to approach therapy (or anything mental-health-related) with the idea that you're going to fit better into society. You can approach it with the idea that you're going to gain more resources and strategies and space to... still not fit into society at all, but be able to deal with that better. It can be hard to find a therapist who gets that. (It can be slightly easier, perhaps, to find a therapist who's pretty good, and push back or just mentally rewrite the bits that they don't get.)

And... if you think that meds might help, you can pursue meds without pursuing therapy. It can help a lot just in terms of getting space from the really painful stuff in your head. Some people have had good luck just going to their primary care provider. (I see a psych nurse, because I've had some bad luck with meds in the past.)
posted by Jeanne at 5:58 PM on April 7 [7 favorites]


Here is something I am in process of making myself do after a few weeks of spiraling downwards that has always helped me just get a handhold on a ledge:
1. Drink more water and go to bed earlier
2. Be kinder to myself, despite all the awful thoughts I have
3. Wake up a little early and journal for 10 minutes
4. Take two 30 minute walks a day, at least
5. Do something creative (guitar for me) for 10 minutes

This is a short-term set of tactics that just help me reset. I can’t focus on what I need to do when I’m in a deep place. For me it’s like swimming in the ocean in a bad storm - I just need to get to a place with a little more solid ground and then I can start thinking about what’s next.

I’m sorry you’re having a tough time, too. I hope this helps a little bit.
posted by glaucon at 6:01 PM on April 7 [6 favorites]


I think you could benefit a lot from the kind of therapy - either external or through, like, a book - that works less on "fixing your problems". You are 100% right that it's part of the corporate self-optimization mindfulness circuit and it can be a huge trap. The therapist who helped me the most was one who listened to my litany problems and said, "So what?"

Just remembering that I want to scream in frustration but it was amazing to just be like, what if I'm normal? What is actually making me feel like something needs fixing here? Ok. So you're selfish. So you don't have as many friends as some ideal... huh. Where did you get the idea the number of friends you have isn't enough?

Acceptance might be a viable term. Or something about learning to work with your inner child and give them a hug and some space and some kinder treatment. I got some things that helped from The Body Keeps The Score, also, might be worth a shot and is more about processing feelings than about "fixing behavior patterns" or whatever.
posted by Lady Li at 6:31 PM on April 7 [8 favorites]


It was two tricks she gave me, actually, that therapist. One was "so what?" and the other was "I don't want to hear the word 'should' out of your mouth one more time." I just... have a feeling you might also need to try cutting 'should' from your self-talk.
posted by Lady Li at 6:33 PM on April 7 [5 favorites]


I, too, have found therapy to be really overrated. For what it's worth, this book has helped me. It doesn't require therapy or meds, just incremental lifestyle changes. The closest thing to a mental coping mechanism it recommends is learning to stop rumination. Everything else is physical or social.
posted by Jess the Mess at 6:51 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]


As someone else mentioned, I would address the substance issues first.
Whatever it is, is likely making things worse for you (drinking was a bad coping mechanism of mine for years).

As far as giving a sh*t in general - do you have a pet? Is that a viable option for you? They can be wonderful for companionship and also giving you something else to focus on, and not to mention, non-judgemental.

I wish you all the best.
posted by hockeyfan at 7:27 PM on April 7 [4 favorites]


Can you lash out through art in some fashion? Like just paint some dark paintings with dark colors and angry reds, they don't have to look like anything, they don't have to have any skill, just working with paint and colors, or crayons or markers or stickers even can be a really good place to express emotions when putting words to them is hard or dangerous or frightening or exhausting.

Just like, spill those feelings out all over paper in all kinds of colors, and eventually maybe you'll feel like painting something brighter, more hopeful, more cheerful, and you can do that. And if you feel angry and dark, you can do more angry paintings. And if you just want to paint cute puppy dogs you can paint cute puppy dogs.

Just, like, doing something visual and with your hands can engage enough of your brain to shut up your internal monologue for a while. Maybe it could be something like embroidery instead. Or I don't know, building ships in bottles. With krakens attacking them.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:02 PM on April 7 [2 favorites]


I probably only have bad advice, because I was literally drafting an almost identical post to this all afternoon. Just wanted to say that you're not alone.

Where I'm at with things lately is kind of along the acceptance lines above, but you know, not in like a stable or mature way. More like: Everything's exhausting, everyone's exhausting, everyone's exhausted, nothing has been good for one million years, and it is ok to be pissed the fuck off about that.

You know what? If you start screaming and your friends are all mad about it, fuck em. You need the kind of friends who come scream with you.

everyone keeps telling me that I'm so lucky in the grand scheme of things and that I should be so grateful. It makes me want to barf on them.

I said to a friend earlier this year that I will destroy the very concept of Daily Gratitude and obliterate its memory from this earth if it is the last thing I fucking do. FUCK THAT SHIT. None of us asked to be here and none of us are allowed to leave on our own terms so we do not have to be grateful for existence. Grateful is for when someone brings you a donut or a tissue or helps you carry in your groceries, not for "I'm alive and not literally on fire." Grateful is for the bonuses. Our stupid-ass world makes us claw and scratch and grind ourselves to dust for the basics and we do not have to fucking say thank you.

START YELLING. DO COMMUNISM. BREAK SHIT. THIS HAS BEEN MY TED TALK.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:21 PM on April 7 [33 favorites]


Hello, hello, thank you so much, I really appreciate no one telling me to do deep breathing or forgiveness.

It's a good thing when a therapist says something insufferable at session 1 and you don't go back -- saves everyone time. Finding an actually helpful therapist -- especially if you're a therapy vet -- is gonna take a little trial and error.

This is a really good point, one or even several therapists not being a great fit doesn't mean I won't find one eventually.

Without indulging in your fantasizes of hurting others with your words/actions, I think you might need to listen to your feelings that enough is enough. to me, it sounds like those feelings are trying to tell you something about what your boundaries are and that your boundaries have been crossed, repeatedly.

oh my god oh my god THANK YOU SO MUCH for saying this, something really snapped into place when I read this. I hate assigning blame in relationships nowadays because I had a long unfortunate Victim Period when I was younger where I acted like everyone else was a big meanie and I had done nothing wrong, ever, but now I'm so into self-accountability that it's become this thing where I'm afraid to set any boundaries at all, because who am I to set a boundary or deserve to be treated well if I'm not perfect, when... no one is.

START YELLING. DO COMMUNISM. BREAK SHIT. THIS HAS BEEN MY TED TALK.

Yup yup I go in and out of phases of anarchistly breaking shit and it is very good and cathartic sometimes. Literally only fear of serious jail time has stopped me from, like, setting a bank on fire. I'm at a point now too where I just want other people to be radicalized but other people are sometimes not moving as fast as I would like on that front. But it gives me hope to run into a random person on Metafilter, who I don't know or know of, holding this line. <3
posted by coffeeand at 8:41 PM on April 7 [8 favorites]


I think i recognize some of this pattern.

Maybe... You are angry because you think your life is supposed to be different from hoe it is, you feel like you are doing everything you are supposed to do, and nothing seems to work or get better. And now you are so burned out you would rather burn your life down and roll the dice and hope that someone rescues you somehow, except part of you knows this would work out badly, but you're subconsciously doing it anyway, just not as fast.

I think you have a problem with narcissism, and i don't mean that as an insult, i mean i think you are cut off from your true self and are living your life inauthentic allyz trying to perform for people's approval and are cut off from experiences and growth. I think you feel tremendous pain and you think it's because you're not good enough, so your pour your energy into self improvement, but actually the pain is because you aren't really alive, and maybe havebt been for most of your life.

Your car is stuck in the garage and it needs to drive. You're angry because you want to go places and you have made your car really great and you thought you would be somewhere but you are still in thebgarage.
Noo amount of work will make it go. You have to out the keys in the ignition and step on he gas and start going somewhere. And then you will realize that you don't know how to drive at all and you are terrified of life and there was a reason you were in the garage. But at least the anger will melt away.

My advice is to stop thinking about yourself and stop working on yourslrf. It will be hard. Try picking up a practical skill like a new language or something. Stick with it. When you get angry it means you are thinking about yourselfz just focus on what you're doing and keep refocusing. You need to train yourself out ofnself-obseesion and you do that by doing things and thinking about other people and other things. You're so used to not caring about ire that you don't even know what you're missing.... But your soul knows and that's why you are in so much pain.
Stop trying to heal yourself by thinking about yourself; it won't work. You need to get out there and take some risks, t is the only way.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:24 PM on April 7 [13 favorites]


Apologies if I got it wrong. Just thought I caught echoes of myself.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:31 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]


This part jumped out at me:

I've spent the last five years cocooned in the kind of cancel-happy leftist scene that makes you feel guilty for breathing

It's OK to disconnect from that scene for a while. Unfollow on social media, stop participating in meetings/whatever. Nothing bad will happen and you can come back when you're in a better place mentally, if you want to. Exhausted bitter people don't make good activists and it's actually better for the world overall if you give yourself time to heal when you need it.

I spent a few years pretty engaged on social media with the (for lack of a better word) mean left. My low self-esteem caused me to continue engaging with the unhealthy part of that community for way longer than I should have, because it fit so well with my internal narrative that I was fundamentally a bad person.

There are joyful leftists out there too. (Feel free to PM if you want a couple recs.)
posted by mekily at 10:28 PM on April 7 [9 favorites]


I would start with stabilizing yourself using all the techniques you already know (or glaucon's suggestions, or the You feel like shit flowchart) + potentially medication.

After that what's jumping out at me is the combo of relationship difficulties and substance stuff - sounds like you've been too drained to nurture good friendships / relationships, plus the judgey leftist scene is not great vibes for you. There are people out there who are still anti-establishment but have great energy / some sense of excitement and possibility about life and the future. You can also always help radicalize some slightly more normie types and blow their minds. So anyway, if you can think of anyone in your life who makes you feel alive, lean into that relationship a tiny bit more because it's not going to feel like much effort and it's going to quickly make up for that in additional fulfillment and connectedness.
posted by internet of pillows at 10:53 PM on April 7 [4 favorites]


I've been the adult in the room for so long, in so many different situations and workplaces and friend groups, and I just want everyone else to clean up their own shit for a change.

Perfectly understandable. Sometimes watching all these restless monkeys in tall hats pouting and preening and jockeying for advantage becomes intolerable and SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU USELESS FUCKING FUCKERS is the only cromulent internal position.

I don't know why I'm so angry... have my suspicions to be sure. But everyone keeps telling me that I'm so lucky in the grand scheme of things and that I should be so grateful. It makes me want to barf on them.

The requirement that you should be happy at all times on the basis that others are worse off than you is, to my way of thinking, the single most egregious of all the toxic outcroppings of the socially sanctioned psychosis that passes for US culture. Fury to the point of nausea is a completely appropriate response. Just try not to yell FUCK OFF right in their self-satisfied pudding faces, because they'll take it badly and redouble their efforts to "fix" you.

The reason you're full of anger is because you're living in a huge pile of shit that most of the people around you are making a studied attempt to pretend doesn't stink. Which, you know, welcome to late stage capitalism.

The trick is not expecting or requiring anybody else to clean up your shit. No point yelling at other people for faults we share with them.

Work on the Problems With Substances and the rest will start to become more tolerable again.
posted by flabdablet at 11:44 PM on April 7 [5 favorites]


Also, give up on expecting people to be reasonable simply because of the way they present politically. One of the greatest shocks of my life was discovering that a few of the people I'd been hanging out with were complete arseholes heavily disguised as compassionate reasonable peace lovers for reasons that on sober reflection amounted to nothing more than easy emotional access to juicy prey.

Don't let the bastards grind you down. Use the anger they inspire to harden your resolve to outlive every fucking one of them.
posted by flabdablet at 11:54 PM on April 7 [4 favorites]


What is the most important thing for me to focus on in all this?

Getting enough good sleep.
posted by flabdablet at 12:04 AM on April 8 [4 favorites]


Oh sweetheart, things are so so hard for you. I'm in Al-Anon, the 12-step program for the friends and family members of alcoholics, I am also fuck-this-shit when it comes to gratitude. You have already gotten tons of great advice. I just want to echo the importance of 1. sleep, 2. sobriety, and 3. work (since you have it) as a kind of three-legged foundation for getting better.

Also, a fair number of folks who use substances are good candidates for Al-Anon because it turns out they are very bad at boundaries for the reasons you list. Al-Anon can be a good place to learn how to focus on yourself and deal with people being mad at you for setting boundaries, so consider checking it out as a support group. I don't believe in god or go to church and don't even consider myself spiritual and yet Al-Anon meetings taught me more about how to become a healthy adult than my many years of therapy (which were not wasted, because I learned other things there). Congratulations on the new job, and best of luck.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:49 AM on April 8 [4 favorites]


a kind of three-legged foundation for getting better

"Getting better" implies there's something wrong with you.

It's entirely possible that you're fine and that what you're experiencing is a completely natural reaction to being ground down to a nub by years and years and years of perceiving with great clarity just how fucked up so much of the rest of our species is. So, not so much depression as actual grief.

That said, a three-legged foundation for coping in a less internally tumultuous fashion is a good thing to get into place.

I'm retired now, so I've had to find substitutes for the work leg in the form of good relationships with good people. But I do use and thoroughly recommend the sleep and sobriety legs.

Howling, weeping, shrieking and raging is very helpful too, as long as it's done where nobody else is going to overhear and get frightened by it. Just don't break anything that isn't designed to be broken.
posted by flabdablet at 1:05 AM on April 8 [2 favorites]


a three-legged foundation for coping in a less internally tumultuous fashion is a good thing to get into place.

What flabdablet said. I meant a foundation for feeling better, did not intend to imply there is anything wrong with you.
posted by Bella Donna at 1:15 AM on April 8


Also, get sober if you want--if you mentioned Problems With Substances because they make your life harder, either tangibly or intangibly. But in my experience, "not having problems with substances" does little for the anger or the impatience or the depression. It's just that if the substances are causing problems you're tired of dealing with, you'll stop having those specific things to deal with.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 6:55 AM on April 8 [1 favorite]


All this to say: I don't want to get better. I don't want to be a good little mentally ill person and do my therapy and fit better into society. I want to scream and scream and scream and not stop screaming until everyone around me feels the same pain I do.

I actually found that sometimes the best therapy for me was a therapist who would let me scream and scream and rage and howl and shout. Sometimes therapy isn't about "making you fit better into society", sometimes it is there to give you a chance to express the big huge angry feelings that are dying to get out, and which are actually getting in the way of the other parts of your brain that are actually able to solve the problems. I've also found that while you may feel that you may scream for a solid day and a half, the screaming part only lasts about 20 minutes - and then the smart side of your brain takes over and says "okay, I'm still angry, but now that I got the screaming part out of the way, now I can really get to work" and you can problem-solve with a clarity and strength that gets shit done.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:08 AM on April 8 [7 favorites]


Oh, and also, and also: I've spent the last five years cocooned in the kind of cancel-happy leftist scene that makes you feel guilty for breathing.

My answer speaks only to a tiny corner of everything you've said, and might be so off to the side that it's actually not relevant, and maybe you've done all this anyway, but FWIW: I think there is a special kind of pain and exhaustion that comes from feeling that the world is screwed and you have a personal responsibility to put it right, and the only way you can do that, is by caring enough. And that if the world isn't fixed yet, it's because you haven't cared enough so you have to care more and care harder. And if other people don't care as much as you, well that's just not fair because that means you're going to have to care even more to make up for them, and you're already so tired.

It's exhausting, and it's not true. I mean, Greta Thunberg cares more about climate change than perhaps anybody has ever cared about anything, and yet climate change is still happening. That's not to decry her efforts, she's incredible and has probably achieved more towards reversing climate change than any other person on the planet. It's just to say that a single person caring a lot about something is not, on its own, sufficient to cause structural change. And yet conscientious people so often beat themselves up to within an inch of their mental lives for not doing just that.

A few years ago when the refugee crisis in Europe was escalating, I did a deal with myself, that I was allowed to ignore all the terrible news stories, allowed to not sit there feeling pain at all the suffering going on, as long as I was *doing* something to help. Something physical and tangible, and therefore inevitably finite as I only have so many hours in the day. Via a couple of local charities, I set up a social group for refugees/newcomers to my city to help them settle in, and I started packing donated clothes into boxes to be shipped to a Syrian refugee camp. I didn't get much involved in committees, or organising, or campaigning, or having long conversations about how terrible things were. I just used my body and some of the breaths I have on this earth, to make things tangibly better for some people. And in exchange I let myself off the hook for all the guilt. It helped that these were charities run by older, often retired people, who had probably never heard of cancel culture, and who know through decades of being alive that you can't solve everything, but you can do something, and that's enough.

So maybe if you feel like you're stuck with the "cancel-happy leftists that make you feel guilty for breathing", because you care a lot about the world and it would be Bad of you to disengage from them, you can give yourself permisson to leave them behind, and find some people who have a different, more practical, less dogmatic approach to the world's difficulties. A bonus is that doing simple, practical, physical things to help others, is a great way to feel better about yourself in the short term. Especially if you're struggling with a sense of yourself as being selfish. It's hard not to feel a little better about yourself and the world when you step back with sore muscles and look at a tower of cardboard boxes full of kids' warm clothes that you've just given up your Sunday morning to pack. It also reorients you to the world a little to hang out with these people in their 70s and 80s who've quietly given decades of their lives to doing these kind of things, without ever once tweeting about it, hashtagging it, cancelling people who didn't support it, and so on. Simple deeds, done quietly with integrity, over a long period of time. Grounding to be around, effective, and connects you to a modest and fundamentally decent network of people. If you want to know where to look, look for the issues that aren't timely or hot-button topics, but are perennial and unglamorous. Soup kitchens, befriending the elderly, packing aid in cold, damp warehouses on the edge of town.

Like I say, maybe you've done all that, or maybe it's anathema to you if you're hungering to be more radical, but I thought it was worth suggesting.

Also: +1 for medication and finding the right therapist.
posted by penguin pie at 7:24 AM on April 8 [20 favorites]


I was just thinking about the recent ask me from the person who broke their phone by throwing it across the room in a fit of rage, and they were really upset and ashamed about that rage.

But really, people throw and smash things not because they're stupid but because short term it helps regulate their emotions. It's a short term relief. Chopping wood, excercise, screaming, punching,...basically, if you feel strongly, it really helps if you can find some kind of physical relief. Some other askme talked about starting to cry when using a punching bag. I got so ragey about covid last week that I tore out all the dogwood and ivy on the terrace by hand (ouch) and then took a really hot shower. It helped.

I don't know if there's some physical way for you to air out your rage. It might help you feel less at the mercy of your emotions. It's not about making you a good little anything, it's about giving you back control.
posted by Omnomnom at 8:05 AM on April 8 [4 favorites]


All of the above are good suggestions, and I want to put a small additional plug in for kickboxing, if that's a feasible activity for you. (Cost of equipment or pandemic safety issues around gyms may be significant obstacles, unfortunately.)
posted by eviemath at 8:10 AM on April 8 [1 favorite]


I don't know if there's some physical way for you to air out your rage. It might help you feel less at the mercy of your emotions. It's not about making you a good little anything, it's about giving you back control.

There legitimately are things called "rage rooms" where you pay a fee for a set amount of time, and they leave you alone in the room with some old dishes or plates, or a baseball bat and some junked-out electronic equipment, or some other random junk, and you just go to town beating the shit out of things - fling things against the wall, jump on the printer they gave you, whatever. If you live somewhere fairly rural you could probably achieve the same thing by buying up a bunch of old ugly-ass dishes at a Salvation Army and taking it into your back yard.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:14 AM on April 8


Music recommendations. All require volume turned up ridiculously high.

The next few links are to YouTube. Keep the volume turned well up. Install uBlock Origin first lest tone-deaf corporate exhortations to maintain mandatory happiness bring on irony at intolerable levels.

Magic Dirt - Bring Me The Head Of

Pink Floyd - Animals (entire album, in order, at one sitting or don't bother)

Checkerboard Lounge Blues Band - The Messiah Will Come Again (this one reliably brings on the weeping for me; Max the guitarist, who also had Problems With Substances, is unfortunately not with us any more)

For dipping into at your leisure:

The Bevis Frond - particularly The Auntie Winnie Album, Any Gas Faster, Inner Marshland, Triptych, What Did For The Dinosaurs and New River Head
posted by flabdablet at 9:08 AM on April 8 [2 favorites]


+1 for rage rooms or breaking ugly secondhand china.

+1 for volunteering of some sort - ideally the kind of thing where you don't have to brain at all, just show up and move boxes or dish up food or slap labels on envelopes. In fact, my number-one-ideal-situation-oh-goody suggestion would be to find a nearbyish park that is looking for help removing invasive species (usually something like honeysuckle ime) and freaking GO HAM, project all over that pernicious shitty plant and tear it the fuck out of the ground and your life. River cleanups have less rage unleashing potential but get you in the fresh air, with other people, and making a tangible difference, so if rivers are a thing near you, keep an eye out for those activities.

I'm not sure if this sort of approach would hurt or help, but when my brain is a rotten hive of horror and hell, I like doing background stuff and then just dipping. Handle the snacks for a volunteer meeting. Doing the dishes for someone else. Walking dogs and scooping their shit. Basically - a time bound, simple, non-people-interactive task that lets me feel accomplishment while not needing to People exceedingly well. Because at times like that, I'm not a person, I'm a collection of molecules with a grudge. A collection of molecules with a grudge that still fucking needs some minimal socialization, purpose, and exercise, lol.

I have an additional suggestion that may verge on therapytalk, for which I apologize. When you talk about setting boundaries and perfection...

but now I'm so into self-accountability that it's become this thing where I'm afraid to set any boundaries at all, because who am I to set a boundary or deserve to be treated well if I'm not perfect, when... no one is.

I've never written this down before but I'm gonna try here. Patience, charity, compassion, understanding, generosity, helping otherse, all of that good shit and values and principles we want to embody in our lives to help each other and better society, let's call them good cosmic principles. They are endless. They exist in the collective humanity. They are intangible, but it feels good when we exercise them. Thing is though, we are humans, and we are so, so very finite. You have a limited number of breaths to take; you take up some semi-consistent volume in space; you travel through time in one direction usually (imo trauma makes time happen weirdly). You will eventually die one day and it will be someone else's turn to use your atoms.

Embodying good cosmic principles, taking good actions, it feels good. And reading some of your posts, I see you trying to do the good thing, repeatedly, over time, to your detriment sometimes. But! you do not exist to do those things. You exist for no reason other than existing as yourself. You can embody those good cosmic principles for a time, but you are still a person, not a principle. You are not required to forgive everybody, because everybody is worthy of forgiveness; you do not have to bend over backwards to help someone else because everyone is worthy of help. And at the same time, those statements don't reflect on your inherent worth, forgiveability, or helpworthiness, either.

I feel like wanting to embody good cosmic principles is a way to cope with how chaotic the world is. The world is chaotic, but I can be strong and steady against it by sticking to my guns. I can be the bulwark. My community can rely on my reliability, and through that, I will earn my place and prevent abandonment.

Anyway, all this to say is, I think it would be worth reflecting a little on how you exist as a physical, limited being. How precious you are as an individual person and how worthy your contributions are to the world. A situation may come up tomorrow where you could express generosity - but you have physical limitations (maybe the stress of being generous would cause you to reach for Problem Substances, or you're just tired from work), mental limitations (you are tired of being the adult), spiritual limitations (your soul feels like a toilet). It's okay to set up a boundary against generosity and not do the generous thing, because the world is full of opportunities to express it! Another one will come along, and when you are ready for it, you can take it.

Here's a clip from The Good Place that explains all of this a little more amusingly.


Oh and a Mary Oliver poem. It's always a good time to mention Mary Oliver.


Physical work is really important for understanding how you're limited as a person who exists (I moved boxes for a while and now I'm tired = I'm limited -> and actually that's fine).

anyway, in response to your junkmail ask, here's a junkmail answer. I know what it's like to open up the metaphorical mental soup pot of your mind and there's nothing but screams and agony. I'm sorry you're going through this. I hope something in this thread helps you move through it.
posted by snerson at 9:22 AM on April 8 [12 favorites]


snerson is wise
posted by flabdablet at 9:30 AM on April 8 [3 favorites]


(I should say that when I suggest kickboxing, I'm thinking of the circuit type not the sparring with other people type. For me, punching a bag that is not a living creature (however well padded and trained) and that is made for that purpose and is reusable is also preferable to just breaking stuff. The one time that I have been to a wedding related thing that involved smashing old dishes on the ground was also fun, but having the new couple work together to sweep up the broken shards was part of the symbolic point there, and anyway I guess my point now is that it's okay if that helps you, but also okay if that's not what you feel comfortable doing with your anger.)
posted by eviemath at 10:09 AM on April 8


I feel exactly like you these days.

Punching bag. Seriously. Punch it and yell and scream and howl. They are easy to install (ours is in the basement) and the catharsis is incredible. I asked a question about it a few months back if you want some more context for how helpful it can be.

Also, just know that you are not alone in feeling this way, okay? You're not. Feel free to MeMail me if you want to vent.
posted by nayantara at 8:15 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


OK I'm back, since this is a very active problem for me I can tell you some specific things that are helping me right now.

First, you have to find something you care about more than your anger and how you feel. It is probably going to be someone other than yourself. Like a partner or sibling or parent. If you don't have anyone like that you can pick a group of people that you care about, or a cause like climate change or social justice, etc. And whenever you get angry because you don't want to get well, you think "I am doing this for (person) or (people) or (cause)". Like, for me I want to work towards the liberation of women, and when I get angry and don't want to go on, I picture the women I would be letting down who could use my help. My partner, my mother, and every woman. Not to guilt myself, just to motivate myself and realign my thinking.

Second, you have to connect your actions towards these goals. The big picture of your life is made up thousands of tiny decisions. Some are going to ultimately help the people or causes you care about and some of them won't. Every day you lie in bed and waste away an evening, you are not helping people who need it. Every time you exercise and work on yourself and work on a project and get out there, you are creating capacity in yourself that you can use to make a difference in the world. And your soul knows this, it's why you feel like shit when you do nothing and that's how you start to spiral. When that happens just stop and do something that moves towards your goals instead. It is so so important to have these goals because they are going to show you the way out of the muck like a beacon.

It might sound like I'm heaping more work on your plate, but really this is about cultivating your own meaning and purpose in your life. I am convinced that there is only one cure for the kind of shame you're talking about and that is to push through it because something else is more important and to do that more important thing. And this is a kind of liberating framework, because what happens when you start spiraling into self-blame and anger, is you realize your shame is not helping the people you care about, so you stop doing that. You realize you hold the keys to your own mind and you regain your sense of agency and control over your own life.

Even one act of kindness and generosity makes your life meaningful. Even if you only do one tiny thing it means you can die knowing that at least you did that one tiny thing and somebody somewhere benefited from it. Everything that isn't kind and generous, you don't need to dwell on, because doing so helps nobody; you just need to more forward. The more kindness and generosity and hard work you put out into the world, the less angry and frustrated and ashamed you will feel.
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:36 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


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