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To Sleep with Anger

Posted Aug 05 2008 6:12am

8 steps to dealing with anger & the depression it causes.

This is a sculpture I did of my ex-wife Kim in my first year of grad school. We had married and then moved to St. Louis in August and by December she was pregnant.

This is a scan of a photo from an old newspaper article about me so it doesn’t do it justice but it does give you an idea.

I thought it would be a pretty memorable piece to hang on to. It may not mean much to anyone but family, but that was okay as that’s who I was making it for.

I had slathered Kim with soap to act as a parting agent and then made a mold of her belly with plaster. Plaster heats up a little as it cures and Kim was starting to get a little uncomfortable. Just as it was firming up enough to carefully pull off, Sasha kicked and moved enough to crack the mold. Fortunately I was able to pull it off in one piece.

When the mold was dry I pressed a thick layer of clay in to it to get the positive of her body. I added it to another thick slab I made for the backing. I put a nice texture on it and a wash of several colors over it.

This was the start of my relationship with my daughter. This was the time I read to her in the womb and lulled her to sleep.

A year or so after the divorce my folks picked up Sasha and Ben one night. Sasha was very upset that night and when we asked her why, she said her mom and her boyfriend had destroyed this sculpture and laughed as they broke it in to pieces and dumped it in the trash. Sasha was around 5 then, but she knew what it represented. Somewhere I have a photo of my thesis show where Sasha (who was less than a year old) is in her stroller, looking up and reaching out her hand to this sculpture.

At the risk of sounding like a bitter divorced dad - my ex is a real piece of work. As the years progressed from this incident, I found she never hesitated to use the children against me with little regard for their welfare. For too long now I’ve sat on top of so much anger from things like this. I wanted to protect my kids and didn’t know what to do with my anger and frustration. The bottom line was Kim had residential custody and I was afraid she’d withhold the kids from me and I didn’t want to risk that. I didn’t have the money to fight it either so I just sucked it up as best I could and concentrated on being a good dad.

They say that anger turned inwards causes depression. I can vouch for that. My black dog lapped it up. Well, that time is long past and while there may not be anyone to yell and scream at, I can at least get it out in this blog. It was surprising how much writing the letter to my daughter last week helped. It felt like a weight has been lifted. Sure my daughter is still gone but my voice is out there now. Allowing yourself to have a voice is a vitally important part of your life and in controlling your black dog.

Too often we let depression suck the breath out of our voice. We don’t think we deserve to be heard or to be happy so when we feel like saying something, we don’t and therein lay the seeds to growing your black dog even bigger.

There’s nothing wrong with expressing yourself even if it’s an ‘ugly’ emotion like anger. The trick is to do it in a healthy way.

  1. speak up - tell the person you’re mad at you don’t like what they did or said.
  2. avoid ruminating - give yourself a time and place to go over things & then let them go
  3. talk to family, friends, counselor, etc. - this goes with #1, just remember to get it out & let it go
  4. exercise - get your heart rate up and sweat
  5. find a creative outlet - art, music, writing, etc. are all good healthy ways to express emotion
  6. divert your attention - movies, books, music, being around others
  7. keep a journal - write it down but don’t keep writing it down, see #2!
  8. work it out symbolically - write a letter to the person you’re angry with and then destroy it.

I’ve always heard that you get the behavior you tolerate. They were of course referring to others but I think the same can be said for ourselves. Don’t wait, speak up now. The anger and frustration will dissipate, others will respect you more, but even better - you’ll respect yourself more. Combining all of the above will go a long way towards showing your black dog the door out of your life.

Do you have any ideas you’d like to add to this list? Leave a comment and share them.

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