I’m angry all the time!

Menopause may be almost over, but I'm not over menopause

Topics: Since You Asked, Menopause, depression,

I'm angry all the time! (Credit: Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

I am in my mid-50s and I am struggling with anger and negativity issues. Menopause has not been easy, and I think I’m mostly through it, yet these overwhelming emotions continue to haunt me. I was on antidepressants for a number of years but I went off two years ago, deciding that I don’t want to go through the rest of my life in a fog. For a while things were OK, but more and more lately I find myself plunged into such negativity, such bitterness, such anger — I don’t want to be this person! It’s like I get pissed off and/or have my feelings hurt over situations where I feel slighted or left out — for example, it seems that every time I turn around, friends are planning a trip to Europe or somewhere I’d love to go but can’t afford, and then I’m envious and resentful. Or I hear about a big gathering of friends to which I wasn’t invited, and I wonder why and my feelings are hurt. Or I feel bitter toward my job and co-workers because it seems everyone is moving forward and I’m stuck and feeling marginalized. I seethe inside over stupid stuff like if someone fails to say hello to me as he rushes past or when someone cuts me off in traffic. I really try to stop myself from being so ridiculous, but I can’t seem to do it. My husband once remarked that everything seems to be an affront to me, that I take everything so personally, and it’s true.

The good thing is that I don’t feel this way all of the time. It’s quite the roller coaster I’m on, though the highs aren’t extreme or manic — I just feel a little better, less negative. But the lows are downright scary at times. I’ve been seeing a therapist since last November, and I felt that I was making breakthroughs and learning about myself a bit (though I can’t say I’ve reached the point where I like myself any better), but we seem to be at a standstill. She keeps promoting meditation, and I do understand that once I make the effort to include it in my life on a regular basis (I’m sporadic at best), it will hopefully make a difference, but I’m starting to feel a little desperate for a more immediate relief from all of this negativity and anger. It wears me out! I feel like I’m distancing people from me, and I can’t blame them. My closest friends have been supportive (yet I haven’t been totally forthcoming about what’s going on with me — they just know I’m going through a really bad time), but I suspect my more casual friends wonder what the hell is wrong with me. I feel like a blob of paranoia, insecurity, and self-doubt, and those feelings all too easily merge into the anger and negativity.

As I said, I don’t want to be this person. Thanks for listening.

Angry All the Time

Dear Angry All the Time,

Have you talked with your therapist about the automatic thoughts that occur right before you feel this anger? Can you bring them to consciousness? Can you say them out loud and/or write them down?

You Might Also Like

These immediate thoughts are sometimes the key to our subsequent emotions. If we can get to them, we can avoid the negative feelings. That’s what I’ve found.

For instance, when stuck in traffic, I may find myself impatient, gripping the wheel hard, having vengeful thoughts about the other drivers, offering uncharitable words for their hair or the way they jut their chin or their clothes or the state of their cars; all these thoughts swarm in my head, but if I can calm down and go back to the original thought that went through my head, it may be something like, “Fuck! I’ll never get there!” or “I’m going to be late!” or “I’m always late!” or “People don’t know how to drive!”

It is these thoughts that cognitive behavioral therapy teaches us to catch and evaluate for truthfulness and relevance. The idea is that if a statement is neither true nor relevant (or, I suppose, even if it is true, but not relevant), it doesn’t make sense for us to feel badly about it. It doesn’t matter. If we can substitute other words for these automatic thoughts, we can avoid the subsequent feelings. And if we avoid the feelings then we can be happier. We may even come out of a bad depression over time.

We take such thoughts apart and substitute more realistic, appropriate thoughts, like, “I may be late, but if I’m late, my friends will wait for me,” or, “I’ll get there eventually if I just stay in the car and keep inching forward,” or, “People’s driving styles really differ from mine, probably because they were taught differently, or they don’t have as much experience as I do, or they aren’t as skillful as I am. But they’re legally allowed to drive, so I should steer clear of them so they don’t succeed in running into me.”

The book Feeling Good describes how to do this. Ask your therapist if you can get to work on some kind of cognitive therapy.

I’m glad your therapist is suggesting meditation. How are you doing with it? Sometimes it’s hard to make time for something that involves doing so much of nothing. If you were going bowling, that would be one thing. But you’re just going to sit there. What is that? That’s so close to nothing, it’s hard to schedule time in for it.

But it works. It works for me anyway. I emerge from 15 or 20 minutes of sitting with a new, fresh outlook. Stuff that made me angry seems just fine now!

Make some time for it. Give yourself a break. You deserve to feel better!

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>