Acknowledging Anger as a Part of my Healing Process

Phoenix Lee
3 min readMar 11, 2018

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(CW; mental illness, self-harm mention)

This is the best eye-catching image I could give. All credit goes to Pixar, and all that.

Recently, I’ve been going back and considering things I’ve discovered are at the root of my depression within the past year. In my journey, I’ve realized that one main emotion at the root of my depression is…anger. I have a lot of unresolved anger issues.

My family, to some degree, discouraged me from expressing negative emotions when I was growing up. Consequently, I don’t think I ever learned to deal with sadness, resentment, envy, frustration, or anger in a healthy way. A lot made me angry as a kid; unfairness from teachers, bullies who would pick on me and my few friends, my older brother and parents’ unfair treatment… and none of these were things I was taught to express my feelings about in a healthy way. I recall being angry and sad and just going to my room to cry it out until I couldn’t cry anymore.

As I got older, there was so much more I felt that, again, I didn’t know how to express healthily. After 9/11, when I was 14 years old, for a long time, I became fearful, paranoid, and withdrawn. I would watch comedy movies and TV shows, read Calvin and Hobbes treasuries, and just try to forget. That’s not to say that watching and reading funny and uplifting things isn’t good self-care, of course; the problem was that I wasn’t really dealing with my emotions. I was running from them, trying to ignore them and hope they’d stop bothering me.

The worst part was that my inability to deal with anger healthily has followed me into adulthood. My history of self-harm began in my mid-20’s, not my teens; the pressure of trying to finish school, work at that underpaid job I hated and trying to balance it all with my parents breathing down my neck got so overwhelming that turning my anger on myself seemed like my only outlet.

I’m only now learning that I need to let myself feel angry. I’m angry about a lot of things. I’m angry that people get rewarded for spreading misinformation and verbally abusing others with money and clicks. I’m angry that the system we live under causes so much suffering for the earth, humans, and nonhumans. I’m angry that I did everything “RIGHT” (getting good grades in high school, working, and earning a Bachelor’s Degree) yet still lived under my parents’ roof until recently, and I still struggle to afford my own home or even an apartment. I’m angry that there are still people who don’t even know me who feel entitled to try to hurt me and then have the gall to play the victim when I hit back (something I’ve discovered when I started making YouTube videos).

These things make me angry…and I’ve decided I’m okay with admitting that. THAT’S part of healing. Being angry is just as valid as being joyful or sad, and acknowledging, and moreover expressing anger is a vitally important part of self-care.

I’ve found healthy outlets for dealing with my anger, including:

  • taking breaks from social media as needed;
  • roller derby (though I’ve had to give it up recently due in different parts to chronic pain and going back to school);
  • writing/doodling; and
  • talking things out with a trusted friend.

If you struggle with similar issues, don’t be afraid; feel what you feel, and talk to someone you trust about it.

Originally published at http://veganforjusticeforall.com on March 11, 2018.

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Phoenix Lee

Black vegan anarchafeminist crippled queer (they/he/she). Giver of hot takes and spiller of tea.