Day 167: I was an angry young man. Built up rage. Bottled frustration. I suffered bullying in junior school, pretty bad at times and then a bit of pisstaking during secondary school but nothing too sinister. The thing is, I was an introvert. I just kept my head down and took it. It wasn’t until I was 15-16 years old that I finally realised that fighting back was the only way you’d get noticed and left alone. Yeah sure, teachers and mature folk would say not to react and walk away. It isn’t that easy in reality though. I remember one afternoon in Business Studies this lad was sitting behind me in class and he kept kicking my chair. It wasn’t hurting me but it was distracting me from learning and learning was all I cared about in that place. I wasn’t there to make friends and improve my social life. I wanted to make something of myself unlike all of these oxygen thieves I had to spend the day with. That was honestly how I felt. I finally snapped and chased the lad out of the classroom with a teacher hurrying behind us (and probably secretly wanting me to catch the dickhead and give him a slap). He never kicked my chair again though. Actions speak louder than words in the mean corridors of school.
I always remember my Dad taking me to Karate when I was about 7. I didn’t last the session. I didn’t like it and got upset. I sensed disappointment from my Dad who is a man of few words but was an old school fella from the council estates of the village. He liked motor bikes, drinking, tattoos and shooting. I was not the first born son he expected in my eyes. He wasn’t pushy though. He never took me back to karate.
He floated the idea of Boxing to me and my little brother when I was a bit older but it never materialised. I was more content playing in my bedroom or kicking a football around in the street.
So anyways, back to my adolescent years and the frustration felt with going to school to learn but witnessing violence, verbal abuse and an unwillingness from classmates to allow the rest of us to learn. I went to a rough school. Statistically the poorest performing one in the area. I’d performed well in junior school and was one of the highest scoring students in my academic year group. My Mam floated the idea of me going to a neighbouring secondary school that had a better reputation but I lived close to the school I ended up at and all my friends were going there so I chose the easy option. It was demolished 8 years after I left. A school that my parents went to before me but my own kids won’t be going to. My final year at school was spent largely reacting to the troublemakers and not taking any shit. If somebody in my class was getting bullied I’d speak up and put myself in the firing line. I didn’t care anymore and I was prepared to fight if I needed to. I don’t know where the newfound confidence came from but I can only assume it was from years of suppressing my annoyance and frustration within the environment I was part of five days a week for six hours a pop. There was one particular day I reacted to a heavy tackle when playing football in P.E. from a known ‘hard kid’ in my year. His name was Martin and he wasn’t the sharpest tool. Just a big lump. Anyways, I took exception to a very heavy battering ram tackle off him and called him out. He went to grab me round the neck so I threw a punch which landed perfectly on the end of his nose and sent him to the deck. He jumped back up with a bloody face and started shouting that ‘nobody makes me bleed’. The teacher intervened before he could get any retaliation my way but I knew this wasn’t the end of it.
I remember being in my next class. It was English and the whispers and looks I was getting as the rumours started going around that little old me had knocked Martin on his arse were making me anxious. On my way to Geography later that day he ran through a crowd of people and threw a punch at the back of my head from behind. He didn’t land it very well and I laughed at him. I was petrified but I nervously stood my ground and laughed it off despite my skull throbbing. The supposed hard man of the year group had been shown up twice in one day by this little swot. He never bothered me again after that. I did see him about 3-4 years later on a night out in our town centre. He gave me some death stares from afar but never came over to say Hi!
So why am I sharing this? I guess my school years shaped the way I managed my anger for years to come. I’ve always known the difference between right and wrong. I’m generally a law abiding fella keeping myself to myself and avoiding conflict. Throw in alcohol and I was a different beast. I had many a scrap or altercation on nights out. Sometimes my fault, sometimes me defending myself or others. To be honest, it doesn’t matter who was to blame because there were probably always wiser alternative decisions I could have made. It wasn’t always the drink though. I often lived life on the edge of snapping. Many times I got road rage, rage in shops when folk pushed in and occasional rage when out running past groups of teenagers who would think it was funny to shout abuse my way. Rage at work, at home, in the gym – all because people crossed into my path uninvited and happened to do something to rock my inner equilibrium. I mean, thinking back I would react to the silliest of things like somebody pulling out of a junction in front of me when in my car – we all make mistakes but I’d go crackers and be aggressive and gesture for them to pull over! In the gym if somebody threw the weights on the floor instead of placing them I would say something or stare at them to make it clear what I thought. People not saying thank you when I held doors open at work. A real pet hate. The thing is, these are all pretty minor events in your day but for me I would carry the anger and annoyance with me for hours later. I could not get over the behaviour of others when I was sober because I considered myself somebody who played by the rules and showed other people respect. I was a hypocrite though because once I had alcohol in my system I was so unpredictable and unobservant of the things that ruled over me day to day.
My anger was generally bottled up well at home and very well bottled from my daughters so at best they would generally get a sarcastic, grumpy Dad – my wife getting the brunt of it because my obsessiveness of having things in order / tidy was being challenged and my line by line diary was not going to plan. You see, not only have I struggled with anxiety since my teenage years but I have mild OCD which was never diagnosed until I was in hospital and we spent time discussing and dissecting my mind. I struggle with deviation from what I have planned in my own head and I don’t like things to be not in an order. You can imagine that my fridge is a constant head f*uck for me – as are the kid’s bedrooms. Thankfully I have worked on my obsessive behaviour in recent years (even before being sectioned) and it is much better than it was but when I am feeling particularly anxious, stressed or depressed the OCD comes back in spades. My inability to have everything how I want then leads to anger and resentment.
So all in all being sober has meant that my drink fuelled anger is not there anymore – that of course is the most dangerous type of anger. It means that I can focus on my ‘sober’ anger which is not as prominent anymore (you guessed it) because I’m not as anxious anymore because (you’ve guessed again) I’m not self medicating with alcohol. If I feel stressed, agitated or anxious I can generally work with it a lot better than I used to. My aggression is restricted more to thoughts now which I can suppress and then let go. I no longer carry anger into the next day. I certainly don’t chase people home in my car!
I wanted to yabber about something today and I landed on this. I hope you can relate to or understand what I’m trying to articulate. I do find that most of my blogging at the moment is born out of the random urge to empty my brain. Maybe subconsciously I was thinking about my old mate Martin!