Although this blog is brand spanking new to me, the thoughts that whirl around my slightly confused and beleaguered brain are not. I have pretty much spent my whole life looking inwardly – considering, pondering, musing, wondering, questioning… I don’t think I’m alone in this by any means, however, I do think I’ve always had an over-active sense of self-awareness and self-criticism which I think sometimes can be quite detrimental – the self-analysis chip in my head has been running hot for so long, I think it’s beginning to wear out. How I have wished on occasion to simply not care. Unfortunately I do – too much. Whenever I unearth something I really don’t like about myself, or something that I have done, or my behaviour towards something /someone, my brain seems to send out these little nano-ninjas to go and attack the defect – to destroy the bad thing and purge myself of the offending trait to make sure it never happens again.
One example of this is how I have learned to control my temper. I can be quite hot-headed and let’s face it, that is never a very attractive characteristic in anyone. I loathe that beast that lurks in the back of my personality – it is tightly leashed and controlled most of the time, but every now and then it rears its ugly head and it bites. I inherited my temper from my dad, as did my sister. This led to a rather fiery childhood – there would be regular arguments and tantrums always involving at least two of the three of us. My sister was truly horrible to me when we were younger – I just irritated her. She was the oldest, I the youngest with 5 years between us. My brother was only one school year behind my sister and so naturally they were always allowed to do stuff years before I was. I was always jealous and just wanted to join in and I wanted nothing more than to get on with my sister, but she was having none of it. She would be horrible, so I would lose my temper, there would be a big row, my dad would get involved and often just make things worse by tearing strips off my sister for being horrible to me… which just made her hate me even more. My brother used to just sit back with a smug smile on his face and occasionally push mine and my sisters buttons (which he was an expert in) and set us off rowing again. We would then get into trouble again. My brother would slink off to his bedroom laughing at us. I lost my temper and threw a Tonker toy at him once when I was really young and I think this was payback. I could never control my temper as a child, but it was always triggered by a feeling of injustice. I never wanted to get into an argument with my sister, but it felt like she was forcing it upon me all the time. Once in a blue moon she would show a little compassion, but for the most part it was a pretty miserable relationship, and I seemed to spent a lot of time getting upset, losing my temper and having tantrums.
As I mentioned in a previous post, going to senior school quickly stopped my brattish behaviour and temper tantrums – it was necessary to pass unnoticed at my school. I would still occasionally get into a big row with friends which perhaps would become a little more of a deal than it should have done, but I don’t think there was ever anything too bad… I never ‘lost control’ of my temper at school.
It was in my 3rd year at university that I first remember totally and completely losing control. Admittedly these were drink and drug-fuelled days, but usually drink and drugs just made be happy and fun. Being a completely broke student, we were going for maximum effect as cheaply as possible, so we were drinking Kestrel Super lager this particular night. If you’ve never had Kestrel Super, don’t. It’s very bad – god knows what they put in it. So there were a group of friends round at the house getting drunk and smoking spliffs – nothing unusual, but this particular evening I started losing my temper in an argument (I forget what about), but rather than keep control of it, it rapidly spiraled into a total loss of control. I turned into a ranting madman and my friends were shocked into silence. I was completely aware that I had lost control and a little voice in the back of my head was desperately trying to make me stop, but I couldn’t. In fact the little voice was me trying to calm the monster down that had just taken over my mind. I’ve never been a violent person, so it didn’t end in physical violence, but in the end all I could do was run upstairs to my bedroom and barricade myself in. A few concerned friends followed me upstairs trying to calm me down, but by now I was just horrified at what I had just done and felt so humiliated and ashamed that I couldn’t bear to talk to any of them. I eventually let a couple of them into my room and they tried to calm me, but I just had to get the hell out of there, so I stormed out of the house and started walking. I walked for miles, hating myself, humiliated, so ashamed. I hadn’t even put a coat on before leaving the house and it was the middle of winter and freezing. I remember finally lying down on the grass in some park just staring up into the sky – I had no idea where I was. After about an hour I started feeling drowsy and could quite happily have drifted off to sleep… thank god I remembered that falling asleep in the freezing cold with no protection was very dangerous, so forced myself to get up and walk back home. Had I fallen asleep I would have probably died of hypothermia – I think the quantity of alcohol in my blood probably saved me that night.
After that night I never drank Kestrel Super again, but nothing would ever remove the shame of my behaviour.
I had spent my life witnessing and despising my dad’s lack of control over his temper tantrums, his were usually over the most petty, irrelevant things. Looking at the way he was, I became determined that I would always remain in control my own similar temper as it was something I hated so much in my dad – I did not want to ever turn into him. His temper was never alcohol fuelled thought, and only once did he ever hit me. That was a bad moment for all of us.
It was new years eve, I was about 16 or 17 years old and my mum and dad were going away to friends for a couple of days leaving me in the house by myself. As they were packing the car and getting ready to go, my dad was being his usual stressed-out self – shouting and being generally irritable. It was always the same whenever he got ready to go away anywhere. I was getting sick and tired of hearing his shouting and yelling and so in my great wisdom decided to take him on about his temper. I had the moral high ground and was using it too well – giving him back-chat and lip and telling him in a rather unkind way to calm down and stop being so pathetic. I pushed it just too far and for the first time in my life he slapped me hard round the face leaving nice angry red finger marks. Needless to say I was shocked. Then disgusted. Then furious. I then called him a f***** b****** or something and went and locked myself in my bedroom. About 5 minutes later my mum came upstairs and asked me to let her in. I was crying and still in shock and I didn’t want my mum to see me like that so I refused (I think I may have even told her to f*** off too – the only time I’ve ever done that!) and told them to just go wherever it was they were going. She said they couldn’t go until this was sorted out and that my dad was sitting in the car in pieces. I just wanted them to go, but realised that I wasn’t going to be able to hide behind a locked door this time, so I eventually let my mum in. She paved the way for my dad to come up. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen my dad cry and that was almost more traumatic that getting slapped by him. He cried & apologised and hugged me. I gritted my teeth and cringed my way through the whole thing, wanting to be anywhere else but in that room. Eventually they got into the car and drove off.
I know he should never have hit me, but looking back, I do feel really sorry for my dad. He was just being his usual irritable, annoying self getting ready to go away and I purposely pushed every button I knew to wind him up. I’m certain it would count as one of the lowest points of his life and I’m truly sad about that, as it was just a very young me being (if you’ll excuse the language), a twat. However, because of my dad’s terrible temper and often irrational irritability, I have spent my entire adult life determined never to become like him and to take firm control my own temper.
The other time I totally lost it, was about 10 or 11 years ago, again with a group of my friends and again at my flat. We had been out drinking and I was drinking Staropramen lager at the Falcon in Clapham North. We got very drunk and decided to move on to the Duke of Edinburgh on Ferndale Road. I was amusingly drunk and wiped out spectacularly on the way which caused much hilarity. After a couple more pints at the Duke, I’d had enough and was starving, so said I’d go back and cook some food and my friends said they’d follow on in half an hour. All was going well, I somehow managed to cook some pasta in my drunken state (I’m amazed I didn’t cut a finger off or burn the house down), and my 4 friends arrived back. We ate the food and were sitting round the kitchen table just chatting when some petty disagreement ensued and for some reason, completely out of the blue, I totally lost it. I started ranting and raving and that was it – nothing was going to stop me. Even in my drunken state I knew what was happening and that little helpless voice in the back of my head was screaming for me to stop and to shut the f*** up! Bizarrely, at one point during my rant I even said to them that I had totally lost control and couldn’t stop and suggested that they should just leave – now. They obliged. They must have thought I had totally lost my mind (and they’d have been right) – there I was, shouting and ranting and apologising and throwing them out. Scary state of mind.
Needless to say the next morning I was utterly wretched, totally mortified, ashamed and absolutely furious with myself that I had lost control so badly. Again. What the fuck? The only thing I could do was apologise to my mates the next day and put another beer brand on the list of banned substances. I put Stella Artois on the list as well for good measure.
These ranting ‘episodes’ which, thank goodness have been very rare and each time alcohol induced, have definitely left a scar of shame on me, but I think one of the key things I did to help myself come to terms with these events was to take the positive step to never drink whatever it was I’d been drinking again. I am usually a very good drunk, so it was a shock on both these occasions to find myself suddenly on the other side of the sanity fence. It scared me. I didn’t know where it was going to end up and I hated being aware of being out of control, as I was experiencing it.
So they were the biggies. Aside from those, I often have bursts of temper but they are usually flashes in the pan and they are always when I am alone. They are also very much mood related. A few examples of such mini-flashes of temper would be…
If I burn the toast… flash… the toast is ripped out of the toaster and thrown violently against the kitchen wall.
If the yoke breaks when I crack an egg into the frying pan… flash… I scoop the egg out of the frying pan and throw it in the bin… controlled, but 30 seconds of burning rage as I ‘calmly’ punish the egg.
If I stub my toe on the door… flash… I (stupidly) kick the door as hard as I can or punch it, like I’m trying to hurt it back.
The DVD player starts playing up… flash… I grab the DVD player, lift it about 2 inches then slam it back down again as hard as I can. Then again. Then again. Then slam slam slam slam! Then I usually realise the lead isn’t plugged in right or something.
When I accidentally break something… flash… I will smash it to smithereens.
When I played computer games and I kept losing… flash… I’d throw the controller on the floor or punch the computer keyboard.
All of these instantaneous ventings of anger would usually be accompanied by a scream of rage.
They are all basically, childish temper tantrums. Some are more controlled than others (i.e. I never pick the DVD player up and smash it against the wall… there is always an element of consideration, like ‘how expensive will it be to replace that’), but if it is something like burnt toast, that will get flung with every ounce of my fury at the wall, or I’ll stamp on it, or crush it, or rip it apart… or all of the above.
I hate these temper flashes too, but at least they are contained, controllable and most importantly, nobody sees them. (Cats don’t count). The flashes of rage are usually followed by a few hours of being in a very black mood. There are days where I will have an entire morning of these rages. Usually by stopping whatever it is that is causing the rages and doing something completely different (stop playing the computer game and watch tv instead, for example) it brings me back down to a semblance of normality.
If these things happen when other people are around, I AM able to control the flashes – bury the anger and ‘laugh’ it off. My language will invariably be appalling, but I am able to let it pass. As I laugh however, the burning torrent of rage is still very much there, just controlled. I should also point out that these rages have never resulted in physical violence against another human being, or animal.
So there it is – my temper – my rage – something I have battled with all my life, but something I do have a handle of control over.
I just wish I could say I was as successful at controlling my black moods. Once I’ve gone into that void, I find it all but impossible to pull myself out. Once I’ve started down that particular slippery slope, I never know if it’s going to last an hour, a day, a week or a month. Thankfully it will usually be just a day, but longer is by no means unusual. As often as not, I have no idea what has triggered it…. I think perhaps this one needs it’s own post…