The Word Rabbit

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This article was written on 09 Feb 2017, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Me and conflict

I’ve seen a lot of right wingers accusing people they’re arguing with of being ‘triggered’ as though it’s all a bit of a laugh and anyone who gets irked when they’re spouting racist bilge is running for safety in the cupboard under the stairs. Needless to say, seeing people being racist, xenophobic and otherwise idiotic doesn’t get a reaction beyond a bored yawn, because when I was a teenager, I was also a racist xenophobe. It’s something I grew out of and cured by moving away from an area that was filled with morons. But, fact fans, I can be triggered.

My trigger is anger. Specifically, when people get angry with me, or with something I’ve done, I get really, really scared. I’m not talking about idiots online threatening to come round my house and beat me to death, because they’re hilariously impotent, or even times when I’ve had people go off at me as a Street Pastor, because I know they’re getting angry with the jacket, rather than me as a person, or beyond that, with religion, which frequently seems like a reasonable target of their ire. There are times when I’d have taken my head off as well, and deserved it.

But where my problem with anger exists is squarely in my childhood. I was surrounded, or felt I was, by two volcanically angry men. The first was my granddad, who I know loved me, but who would occasionally flip into insane rages at apparently mundane things and, with the benefit of hindsight, clearly disliked my Nana, who I think was one of the most beautiful people who ever lived and who, although she died in 1996, still has my unquestioning loyalty and love. And the second, much more difficulty, is my Dad.

My Dad is still alive, and we have a good relationship, I think, but it wasn’t always thus. I found out some years ago that he was beaten, savagely, by my granddad behind my Nana’s back for nothing other than being a child and then, a teenager. He never said anything and, when my granddad died, was a model of loyalty, visiting him dutifully in the hospital up until shortly before he died. And when he did die, there was savage rain that flooded the roof at home. We were both there, both crying and both our tears were lost in the rain. It’s one of the most lacerating emotional times that I can remember.

Perhaps as a result, he became a very, very angry man. While he never, ever raised a hand to me or my mum, children don’t know that and can be made to fear for their physical safety very, very easily, so I worried he’d run amok and kill both of us in a rage. Driving made him angry, domestic stuff could make him vibrate with annoyance and he was, on occasion, violent with things rather than  with people. I’ve seen him break items, slam doors, put his feet through things and even, one terrible night, shout that my mum was a ‘stupid bitch’ and smash a wine glass to smithereens. I watched it all, with that quiet, Midwich Cuckoo-esque intensity you do when you’re an only child and stored it away in my memory banks.

Late on in her life, my Nana was diagnosed with MS, a condition that was not well understood and still less spoken of at home. My Dad’s response was to get very angry with her, often on fairly thin pretexts, and scream at her for about an hour. We would leave, my Nana on the verge of tears and my Dad puce, with nothing achieved and no advances made. Again, I was the mute observer to all of it, watching as one person I loved laid into another person I loved and who was not in a place where she could defend herself. In time and, perhaps, inevitably, I came to hate him and, although this period of time was mercifully brief, thinking about it makes me recall the unwritten and unspoken rule of the house – don’t upset your Dad, everything is fine.

Except it wasn’t, of course. You don’t expose children to horrors and expect there not to be some adverse consequences. And there have been. I have inherited the family temper and also get vastly angry with things, but since my breakdown, I know why. I am scared.

I am scared I’m not enough, I’m scared that I’m a failure, I’m scared that I can’t influence the course of my life, I’m scared that people I love hate me, I’m scared that I have no motivation, I’m scared that I will lapse back into depression. I’m scared even, when I’m driving, that the person behind me is judging my ability to pull away in a timely fashion. Fear, at the moment, defines my life, but then, thinking about it, I realise that it always has done. I’m just being more honest.

When my partner, pre-period, got angry with me, a trivial affair that would have been over in half an hour, I went to bed for two days with nothing but two boxes of bread sticks for company because I was frightened. When I was in the depths of my depression, and staying with my parents at home, my Dad got volcanically angry, again, and started hurling things at me. I cowered. This is despite the fact that I am tall, broad-shouldered and would not, in the normal order of things, have to worry about a short, batey seventy year old having a strop. I have never so much as hit anyone in my life, preferring to walk away, feeling sick with fear, than get into a scuffle. And in that moment, I thought I would have to become voluntarily homeless rather than stay there.

This is, of course, a problem, as getting angry and having people be angry with you is a part of life and shouldn’t be remarkable. But, for me, it is. Raised voices make my stomach contract into a tight knot and getting involved in arguments at home triggers some strange urger to bolt out of the back door, across the fields and for the distant A23. And depression has exacerbated it, because I have no control over my finances, having ceded it to my parents, so that each angry conversation when I overspend isn’t something I can walk away from, but must endure. My life, right now, is not really my own.

My motive in saying this, as often with these blogs, is just get this truth out into the world and to see it in black and white. I get angry because I am afraid. And anger makes me afraid. There it is.

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