What The Psychiatric Hospital Taught Me About Anger

What The Psychiatric Hospital Taught Me About Anger

“The more you allow yourself to be angry, the more power you give it.  It will fill your soul like the black mold that grows on your tile shower until you clean it out with bleach.”

(Warning- Sensitive, and possibly triggering content. Do not read if you have thoughts of suicide or harming yourself.)

What I Did

If you’ve read My Story, you know that I once stayed a few days in a psychiatric hospital as a teenager (16). I was fed up with life and swallowed a half bottle of pills, hoping it wouldn’t kill me… but feeling okay if it did, so that one of the adults in my life might get over their shit and wake up.

Long and sad story short, no one woke up.

Afterwards I had to suffer many concerned and awkward stares from family and teachers who didn’t know what to say, my poop was black for three days (I know…TMI) because my stomach was pumped with charcoal, and I had to convince some youth-specializing psychiatrist that I probably wouldn’t do it again (even though he would have sent me home anyway as soon as the Medicaid limit was reached).

But all for what? Everything at home stayed the same. Mission failed.

The Boy Who Couldn’t Die

Every experience teaches us something though, right? So, what could I learn from spending three nights in a facility where I wasn’t allowed to have a real fork or wear shoes with laces? And what could I learn from five or six other roommates who appeared considerably more disturbed than I was?

I’ll tell you what I learned about: emotions.

I’ll never forget one teenage boy who was a repeat psychiatric hospital offender. In group therapy he was pretty forthcoming about the several times he had attempted to kill himself. Each time, his mother found him and he ended up back here. On the last attempt, he hung himself in the garage or bathroom with one of those big orange extension cords.  He nearly succeeded.  I could still see the marks on his neck. And he was pretty sure he would try again. I was awestruck by his honesty and dumbfounded that he was still alive. I think his only saving grace is that he was caught on the first attempt and so he was probably not given enough time or the opportunity to succeed. Plus, the Universe just wasn’t ready to let him go. I hope he’s somewhere on the planet still today, winning at life.

I decided that day that I was not these people. I didn’t really want to die, I just wanted to be happy. But I was so angry at my parents for behaving like they did and for all the people in their lives who enabled them. I was so angry that I was born into this life. I was so angry that no one was around to lift me up. I often lashed out at my mother or self-harmed because, as an introvert, that was just easier. But it all stemmed from anger. I hated the world. Worse, I hated myself.

Anger will eat you alive. The more you allow yourself to be angry, the more power you give it.  It will fill your soul like the black mold that grows on your tile shower until you clean it out with bleach.

Group Therapy and Leader Dude

On one particular day of group therapy, the leader dude was doing a lesson on emotions. He asked us to contemplate anger and what it was. I was feeling pretty disgusted that I might be expected to share any personal thoughts with these strangers, and really self-conscious since I also didn’t have my blow-dryer or makeup to use after my shower (oh, teenagers). I was quiet. So was everyone else.

So he did what any good group leader dude would do, and asked one of us a direct question. He looked at the teenage boy who tried to kill himself several times and asked, why do you want to die? The conversation is far back in my memory, but it went something like this:

Boy: “Because I’m angry.”

Leader Dude: “Angry about what?”

Boy: “Angry about everything!”

Leader Dude: “Name one thing.”

Boy: “Okay, angry that I don’t fit in at school and kids pick on me.”

Leader Dude: “How does it make you feel when kids pick on you?”

Boy: “I just told you, dumb-ass, it makes me feel angry!”

Then the leader dude said something like this: “What if I told you that anger isn’t a real emotion? It’s a surface mask for other emotions. And it’s a reaction to the other emotions we’re feeling but maybe don’t want to feel. When I was a kid my parents got a divorce, and I often acted angry towards them when they tried to talk to me about it. But what I was really feeling was sad, confused, disappointed, scared, and alone. So, what I’m asking you, is how do you really feel when the kids pick on you?”

“I guess…I guess I feel sad and alone. Like I’m not good enough to hang out with them. Like, I’m sad that I’m different.”

Then the leader dude showed us a colorful emotions wheel which was supposed to be some representation of all the emotions we might be feeling instead of anger. I’m pretty sure the rest of the time I heard blah…blah…blah blah…blah.

What I Learned

You never could tell by looking at my indifferent face, but what he said struck me like half gallon of chocolate ice cream after midnight.

Anger is not a real emotion. It’s a mask we use to cover up what we’re really feeling, because the underlying emotion is just too painful. It’s easier to leave on the mask and stuff the real emotions down.  If we want to get somewhere we have to take off the mask, name our emotions, and explore them.

So little by little that’s what I did. I stopped identifying with anger. Whenever I felt it rising up, I asked myself what I was really feeling and explored the real emotion underneath it.

Bad things, terribly unfair and even horrible things, will happen. People will mistreat you, scam you, ignore you, talk badly about you.

But that’s their story, not yours. I’m always telling my kids when they argue and fuss, you can NOT control what the other does, you can only control how you react to it.

What You Can Do

If anger is an issue for you, practice confronting it this week.

When your spouse makes you mad because he or she didn’t fold the laundry…again…explore the real emotion in that. Could it be that you’re feeling ignored or taken for granted because they expect you to do it instead?

When your child screams, I HATE YOU, instead of reacting in anger consider the real emotion. Are you feeling hurt by their words, and frustrated because you don’t know how to resolve the problem with a more positive solution?

Identifying your emotions teaches you a lot about yourself and gives you power over your feelings. It doesn’t make the anger go away but it will help it subside over time if you commit exploring it and then discussing it with the person on the other side of your anger.

If anger is a deep-rooted problem for you, or if you just like to talk to someone about stuff, I always recommend counseling. It’s a powerful experience that can only help you feel better.

And if you’re still trying to figure out The Secret to Life, I’ve got it right here! I also have some tips on coping with stress.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic! Don’t forget to subscribe. I’m proud of this post and hope to someday reward my subscribers with awesome stuff!

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Comment below and tell me about your anger struggles.



25 Positive Ways to Cope with Stress

25 Positive Ways to Cope with Stress

We all have stress in our lives. The question is, how do you cope with it?

Many of us cope with stress in unhealthy ways. We eat bags of chips, watch hours of TV, scroll through our Facebook feed continuously, or even resort to medicating ourselves with unhealthy substances. We find any means necessary to distract us from our problems. My distraction of choice is Netlix, milk, and a package of Oreos. Who needs wine when you can get milk drunk?

We need to be distracted from our problems for a short period of time. But instead of ignoring them completely, and continuing habits that add to the stress (Oreos always go straight to my ass) , what we really need is a healthy break. Instead of indulging in mindless bad habits, it’s important to come up with coping tools that will give our spirit a break and allow us to revisit our issues with an open heart and clear mind.

Here is a list of 25 positive ways to cope with stress. Hopefully you can add a few of these to your healthy-coping toolbox.

1. Journal

Many people like to write but don’t know what to write. If that’s your issue check out my Journal for Wisdom Wednesdays! Every Wednesday I post a new prompt to help you dig deeper into the why behind your why.  Like, am I eating these Oreos because I’m hungry or because I’m worried there’s no other way to achieve that happy and full feeling? The next time you pass by the stationary section at Target, go ahead and pick up one of those adorable journals you’re always attracted to but never buy. Journaling is a healthy exercise and a wise cost!

2. Stretch

Stretching is a wonderful way to relieve stress and tension in the body and mind. Stretching is also a way to tune in to your body and really discover what parts of it need relief. Personally, I think stretching is a great way to start your day. Remember when we always had to stretch before activities in PE? Why wouldn’t we stretch as a way to prepare ourselves for the day? Get the blood flowing! Expand the functions of your muscles, and enjoy the great feeling you get while doing it.

3. Exercise

Exercising isn’t my favorite activity either, but hopefully we will learn to love it together. I’ve figured out the trick is finding a movement activity you like to do. That way it’s not like you’re forcing yourself to spend time on something you don’t want to do. Punishment exercise really isn’t necessary. Does anyone really enjoy cycling class, where you basically pedal until you die? Maybe you like swimming, walking, hiking, bike riding, or climbing! It can be as simple as moving around your house. Cleaning counts! I am exhausted after cleaning my son’s room! Even 10 minutes of movement per day makes a huge difference in your health and mood.

4. Create

Being creative doesn’t mean you have to craft, paint, or draw. Create anything you want. A website. A book. A piece of furniture. A road trip. A list. A plan. A schedule. A recipe. What are you good at? What kind of creation gives you joy? Being creative is so good for our soul and gets our brain juices flowing.

5. Cook

Some people enjoy this, others not so much. I honestly get sick and tired of making the same dinners night after night. I think it’s fun to look up a new recipe, find the ingredients at the store, and get to cooking! It’s a creative and fun way to focus on something that’s both new and, depending on what you cook, nutritional! If you’re really brave, get the kids involved. Kids not wanting to try new foods is often a huge source of stress for parents (at least it is for me) but many times they will be more willing to try something new if they’ve been involved in the cooking process.

6. Meditate

Meditation doesn’t have to be hard or intimidating. Check out my first Mindful Mondays’ post about beginners meditation to get started. I’m a beginner, too. If I can do it, anyone can! In the beginning all you really have to do is sit still, be quiet, and focus on your breath. Give it a try and practice daily for amazing results.

7. Be with Friends

Friends are an awesome way to relieve stress. You get to take turns bitching, relate to each other’s problems, and secretly make fun of other people, all while eating tacos and drinking wine. If you don’t have friends you enjoy spending time with, get out there and find some. Even if you got lucky and married your best friend, it’s just not quite the same as having a BFF outside the home that always has your back.

8. Do Good for Others

Sometimes the best way to stop feeling sorry for ourselves is to get out in the world and help people who have REAL problems. Donate food to the local food bank, volunteer for your church’s holiday program, read a story at your local elementary school, or stop to say hello and give $10 bucks to the homeless guy you always see on the corner. Simply do something to make others smile. It will help put a smile back on your own face.

9. Learn to Say No

Sometimes you just have to say NO. I know for some people this is really hard. You’re an awesome person. People trust and rely on you to get certain things done. However, sometimes our plates are just too full. Putting more on it than you can handle doesn’t help you or the people you’re trying to help. A good way to help this is to start saying no to all the things that don’t bring you joy. Don’t worry about being such a people-pleaser. Good people will honestly respect you for it and think you must be kind of important to be so busy.

10. Read

Nothing compares to a good book. Read something that motivates or inspires you. Read something that teaches you something you’ve always wanted to learn. People who say they don’t like to read, just haven’t read anything they like. There are as many books out there as there are meal recipes. If you begin to try them all, you’re bound to like some. Reading reduces stress because it allows you to relate to characters like yourself, learn and get inspired.

11. Organize Your Space

Look around you. Is your physical space a complete mess? Take time to get it together. For some people, organization is zen. If your space is cluttered, most likely, your life is too. Start with one room at a time, or even one corner at a time. Check out my Getting Organized board on Pinterest to make organization fun!

12. Finish a Project

Have a To-Do list that still needs to be done? Pick one and get started! It feels great to finally finish something you’ve been meaning to do FOREVER. Paint the guest bedroom, fix the sink, get the oil changed, or plan your yearly holiday gift list. Even simple tasks, when completed, help clear space in our minds and relieve us of some of the overwhelm.

13. Go For a Walk

Walking is an easy form of stress release that most people can do. Walk at your local trail or hit the track at the gym with your headphones. Don’t think of it as exercise this time, think of it as your special time to think peaceful thoughts and clear out the mental clutter. Walking alone creates a special time for you to organize the thoughts in your brain and come up with effective solutions.

14. Listen to Music

I miss my teenager days where I had the time to just lounge in bed for hours, stare at the ceiling and blast my favorite Lincoln Park CD. If possible, make the time to do this again. Put your favorite song list on repeat, rest your head on the pillow, close your eyes, and imagine yourself rocking out on stage. Depending on how your day went, this could turn into napping instead, but whatever your body needs.

15. Take a Drive

Nothing quite does it like a drive in the country or around town, all alone, with the music up too loud to hear your thoughts. When life gets to be too much, hop in the car and get lost. Drive past your childhood home, notice new businesses that are popping up around town, read vanity plates, or people watch at a red light. If you want to be really fun, do something weird (like singing or dancing) and smile at other drivers who notice. But remember, no texting.

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16. Have Alone Time

Do something alone. Take a drive (see above), take a bath, get under the covers and contemplate life, have a dance party, binge on Netflix, see a movie, read a book, but do it ALONE. Some people have this down pat, but for some others, like me, it’s a struggle to be alone. I’ve got three kids and a husband. I love them all dearly. But sometimes mamma just wants to be with herself.

17. Color

Color, and color some more! Who said coloring was just for kids? Personally, I love adult coloring books. I also really love Lisa Frank coloring books. Coloring is a creative and focused way to clear your mind of the stressful clutter. Do it alone or use it as a way to spend time with the kids. Don’t use crappy markers or crayons either. Head over to Target and buy the good stuff so you’ll enjoy it more.

18. Just Breathe

That’s it. Just breathe. I know, we all breathe, every second, of everyday. But I mean really breathe. Slow down, calm your mind, and just focus on taking slow…deep…breaths. Doing this allows you to suddenly be more present in the moment and able to focus on the task at hand. It relaxes your body and calms your heart-rate. Taking in more oxygen gives you an extra burst of energy and helps to quiet your negative thoughts.

19. Talk it Out

Sometimes all we really need is a good talk. Have a good conversation with your BFF or spouse. Connect with your parents, if you haven’t in awhile. Make time to talk to your kids about what’s going on in their world. If you want to get really serious, meet up with a counselor. Counseling is not for crazy people. It’s for all people who have problems, which means it’s for everyone.

20. Get Outside

Nature is the foundation of who we are. It not only feels good to get outside, it’s actually beneficial to our bodies. Breathe in fresh air. Spend time noticing trees, flowers, animals, sounds. Take in the true miracle that is life. Allow your body to absorb the sunlight. Doing this will reduce your stress, give you more of the happy feeling, and bring you back to the present moment.

21. Cuddle

Cuddle with your kids. Cuddle with your lover. Give hugs and kisses to anyone who will accept them! Physical affection releases hormones that reduce stress. Let your partner know you’re feeling especially down and need extra attention. Practice giving more affection than you normally do to special people in your life. People are caught off guard at first, but eventually they love it.

22. Take a Nap

Take a nap, sleep in, or go to bed early. Don’t wait until you feel better. Sleep makes you feel better. Whoever said, “Don’t go to bed angry.” must never have tried it. If you’re upset, if it’s been a long day, if you can’t come to an agreement with your significant other, do yourself a favor and take a nap. Or go to sleep for rest of the day. Every problem needs a break! Come back to it in the morning when the feelings aren’t so harsh.

23. Get Up On Time

Do you always head off to work in a hurry and in a mess? Get up on time and get moving. Stop being the person who hits the Snooze button. Make a commitment that you won’t even stay in bed long enough to think about how much you don’t want to get up yet. When the buzzer goes off, immediately sit up. If you have to, put the alarm on the other side of the room so you have to get up. Enjoy the time you have in the morning. Have a healthier breakfast, enjoy some coffee or herbal tea, and do a little stretching. Morning rituals are worth waking up for and will better prepare you for the events of your day.

24. Be Proactive

Be proactive about your life. Sometimes it really helps just to plan our day, or week, or month ahead. Is part of your stress related to the fact that you’re never ready, always late, or usually unprepared? Complete easy tasks that will make the following day run smoother. Set out your clothes. Check your calendar. Give yourself a heads up on the events to come in the next week or month so you don’t feel surprised. Make a to-do list. Being proactive reduces stress by preparing you for things to come.

25. Plan Your Future

Some of us really enjoy planning. It’s fun and relieves stress because it’s a way to organize the huge amount of information and ideas in our brains. For some of us, things don’t happen if we don’t write them down. Set daily, weekly, and yearly goals. Jot down ideas about your new business venture. Write down your current big life goals and the action steps needed to reach them. There are tons of planners to help you out. Where do you want to be in the next year? What obstacles might keep you from getting there? Get it down on paper and plan it out.


This is just a few of the many, many, positive coping tools we can all use to handle stress. I would love to hear about your positive coping tools of choice below! What should I add to this list?

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