Having emotions can be a good thing. It is what sets us aside as human beings.
But it can also be a very bad thing if the emotions control us rather than us controlling them, or if those emotions are unstable, have a tendency to rapidly shift from one to the other, or have a tendency to flare up to the point that the one experiencing them loses control. In those instances, even good emotions can prove to be bad.
For a highly emotional person, it is like having their own personal T-Rex trapped within themselves, ready to erupt and go on a rampage at the slightest movement or cause.
And if that person who is highly volatile emotionally just happens to suffer an emotional or mental illness, the results could be disastrous, not only for them, but for anyone in their presence if the emotions should be rage, a desire for revenge, or, in some cases, becoming obsessed with someone or something to the extent that they would destroy that person or thing rather than give them or it up.
And if you throw alcohol or drugs, even ones taken to help, into that already volatile mix, what you have is a time bomb just waiting to explode.
And obsessive compulsive behavior is one of the symptoms of many of both emotional and mental disorders.
How do I know this? Because I suffer an emotional illness, I am-by nature-highly emotional, and I suffer obsessive compulsive symptoms.
Many years ago, when I could still abide being in the public and being around people, I worked as a self employed sign painter. And I made the mistake of buying some lottery tickets one day to celebrate having just completed a very lucrative sign order, the first work I had had in over a month. I had seen others playing them, and I decided “Why the heck not, just one or two won’t hurt.”
Man, was I ever wrong.
I purchased five one dollar tickets that day. I won one hundred dollars the first one I scratched, five dollars the second, nothing the third and fourth, and on the fifth I won another one hundred dollars. And I was hooked.
For someone who spent the majority of their time living hand to mouth, gaining that much money simply by spending a few moments scratching little squares or oblongs of cardboard seemed infinitely better than sweating my tail of painting signs for days on end.
And the rush of adrenaline when that little piece of cardboard revealed that I had gained more money is something I simply, for all of my words, cannot adequately describe.
The problem came when I began to lose more than I was winning, often spending not only what I had won…
But my own money as well.
And just as the emotional highs came with each win, so thus did the emotional lows with each gradually increasing number of losses. But I could not seem to stop. I often spent every available penny I had and then went without the things I needed for the following weeks. It got so bad I even took out loans just for money to play those thrice accursed tickets.
It had begun to affect my health, emotionally and physically, for whenever I went anywhere where the tickets were, if I did not have the money, it was like a physical pain to have to walk by them and not get one.
But the true danger came when I began to believe that the store keepers were deliberately selling me losing tickets.
The day I had to turn and walk away after spending my last five dollars on a five dollar ticket which was a losing one and, for the briefest of moments, had the urge to physically assault the shop keeper, I knew I needed help.
The flash of rage I experienced that day scared me so badly that I voluntarily checked myself into a psych clinic, where I spent the next three weeks getting my meds titrated and getting help by seeing a councilor every single day of that three weeks.
The only thing I think that saved me from acting on that flash of rage was that at that time I had already begun training myself to recognize surges of strong emotion and had taught myself to, for want of a better comparison, “go off-line” until I could either get away from the catalyst for the emotion or get somewhere where I could begin using my coping skills to stabilize myself until I could get back into control.
One of the strongest emotions in a human is rage. When it is in control, the person experiencing it often loses all sense of conscience, morality, right, wrong, and compassion. In short, the emotion completely and totally takes them over…their only impulse is to destroy the object or objects of that rage by any means possible.
In a person not suffering an emotional illness, rage, when coupled with alcohol or drugs, can prove dangerous, but in a person suffering from an emotional or mental illness, where their emotional state is heightened to begin with, when coupled with the symptoms from an emotional or mental illness, that rage could not only prove dangerous, it could prove deadly, for that person’s focus will narrow to exclude all but the object of that rage, and they will attack.
Three times in my life I have found myself in that situation, and all three scared me.
The night I came close to throwing my four month old child, who was teething, onto the floor as a result of not enough rest, being a new parent at the age of twenty five, having both my husband,-who had thrown me out so he could move his lover in-and my mother and her boyfriend, all hassling me about giving them custody, was the second of the three times I mentioned, the first being one I refuse to discuss, as it still to this day fills me with anger.
I had just spent four days and three nights trying to find ways to stop my child from their endless screaming cries, walking them, rubbing their back, taking cloths off, putting clothes on, everything, but the child simply would not shut up.
The last thing I remember before coming to and finding myself holding my child above my head, about to dash it to the floor, was walking in a circle, rubbing its back, and crying…and feeling the sense of helplessness and the growing rage at the fact that I seemed to be able to do nothing right.
When I once more became aware of reality, and realized what I had nearly done, I carried my child, stiff legged, inch by inch, fighting for control, and lay it on the couch. I then went into the kitchen where my sister, who had let me stay with her when my husband kicked me out, was making dinner. (She and her husband had taken me in after a disastrous episode with my mother and her live in boyfriend, which I tell about in my post “A MOTHER’S SECRET PAIN.”)
My sister and her husband were caretakers for a huge hunting and fishing area that was members only, and when I walked into the kitchen that night, her back was to me, but she must have sensed something, for she turned and loo0ked at me and started to say something. I only remember telling her I was going for a walk, I had to get away for a while. She later told me that the look on my face that night had frightened her, but not why.
I walked for nearly two hours over trails that had seen no human foot prints save those of the occasional weekend hunter or fisherman. During that time I forced myself to think about some very brutal facts, the main one of which was…
I had been able to stop…this time…but what about the future, when I might be sick or tired or frustrated about something, and the child once more got on my last nerve? The conclusions that I came to that night were not happy ones with regards to my level of control.
And I made a decision, a decision I would not wish any parent to have to make, and which I told my sister upon returning to the house.
I told her I wanted to give my child up for adoption, rather than risk harming it. When she asked me why and what did I mean by “harming it”, I told her what had nearly happened.
She helped me to get through it, and I did not see my child again till one day when I went to visit my sister, who had become a foster parent, only to find that she had my daughter as one of the two children in her care. To say that my daughter, once she learned who I was, was bitter with me would be an understatement.
And her bitterness was to lead to the third time I very nearly hurt another human being, for she made the mistake of copping an attitude with my sister, and threatened her and I just happened to be there. To say I did not handle it well would be putting it mildly. I had to leave the room. I went out into my sister’s garage and sat between her car and the wall, crying and fighting for control.
Bad move on my daughter’s part, she pursued me and started screaming at me. I gripped my hands together so hard I drew blood with my finger nails as I looked up at her and told her she had about five seconds to get out of my sight or I would not be responsible for what happened.
She told me in later years, when she had grown and gotten back in touch with me, that the look in my eyes had been so filled with rage that for just a moment she had actually feared that I would indeed come after her.
But if she had been frightened by my anger, it was nothing compared to what I began to feel as I sat there and rationality once more began to gain control.
I was a monster. I had wanted to do physical harm to my own child, and this time I had known and been aware I was angry, or to be more precise, enraged.
What kind of person was I? And even more importantly, what would happen if I ever lost control of that rage?
That very day I began shutting down and controlling all of my emotions, keeping close watch on them, learning to recognize when they were getting too much for me to handle.
And I began developing coping skills to use to “sidetrack” myself when I found myself in a situation in which there was even the slightest risk of my becoming over emotional.
And that goes for ALL emotions, not just the negative ones. Even extreme excitement can trigger unpredictable reactions based on whether I am resting enough, have been surrounded by outside stress for an extended period of time, have had internal things that were bothering me, and much more.
The danger in becoming overly excited lies not in the excitement, but in the other emotions that lie just beneath the surface. If, for instance, I should be in an overly excited mood and someone got sarcastic or belittling, that emotion could, in a heartbeat, become rage, simply due to the already heightened emotional senses, which weaken my ability to sense the warning signs for the rage.
In short, the damage would be done before I even had time to recognize the warning signs for the rage and try to control it…the T-Rex would have already broken free.
I take medication for my illness, and I am very faithful about taking them. I also know the warning signs to watch for in the event something begins to go wrong with them.
I take being able to be as independent as possible very seriously, and that is why I am sharing some of my daily battles with this disability with the world. I am hoping that others, at least maybe one or two, who are like myself, may garner some useful or helpful information from these posting.
This post, and in fact most of the posting I have been doing the past week or so, are being made as coping skills, for once more the T-Rex is growling, letting me know to take care and beware.
MARANTHA D. JENELLE