Jeanette Hargreaves describes overcoming her anger like breaking out of a prison she didn’t know she was in. Through various sources of help and incredible perseverance, she found joy and confidence in her parenting and freedom from nights of lying awake with guilt, shame and regret. She learned that anger isn’t an emotion to stuff or ignore, but one she could learn to feel in a healthy way simultaneously breaking the pattern that had been handed down to her and teaching her children a new way to handle angry feelings.
In her new found freedom, Jeanette wanted to help others so she became a life coach, a temper coach, offering her experience and services to walk with moms who are struggling with anger. She offers coaching packages of varying lengths, appears to speak at retreats, businesses and small groups, and meets via Google Hangouts or Skype so that moms anywhere can connect with her.
She shares her story of overcoming her anger through this poem.
I Used to be a Yeller
by Jeanette Hargreaves
There was a time when I didn’t have a word for it.
I didn’t know I could get help for it.
I thought that everyone did it.
When I got upset, we never talked about it.
I used to be at the end of my rope. All. The. Time.
Everything used to get on my nerves.
Everything used to make me crazy.
It was normal, and regular.
When my kids were small, I put a name to it:
I called it the “anger bug.”
I said I wanted to “squash” the anger bug.
I had gotten the bug from my dad, and he had gotten it from his dad,
And I didn’t want to live with the anger bug anymore.
When I grew up, anger was always scary.
I didn’t know how to feel it in a healthy way
Without hurting people.
I used to be rather numb, so feeling angry, well that was kind of a thrill, too.
The unpredictability of it, it made me feel like I had to brace for the apocalypse,
The ceiling was always about to fall in.
I held up that ceiling for a long long time.
It made my arms and my back strong.
It also sealed my jaw, locking and grinding at night.
I thought everything had to be “just so,” to keep that ceiling up,
So I took to controlling everyone – thinking “they should do that” and “they should do this” and “I should do that” and “I should do this.”
My honey-do list had a few items on the fridge, and it was a mile long in my head.
The pressure of “the should” was maddening in itself – the should came from all places, from myself for myself, from myself for my parents, my kids, my husband, my neighbors, and even people on the news.
Even imaginary “shoulds” haunted me
– shoulds I imagined coming from God, from my kids, from my work-out teacher,
from my parents and neighbors, from Pinterest…
My should-itis was part of my anger condition.
It caused me to live in an alternate reality,
Enraged by how I thought things out to be,
Never really seeing who was right in front of me, the people we all were with the lives we all had.
I did better than my parents, and they did better than theirs,
But still there was the one thing I couldn’t shake.
I used to lose my temper with my family.
I used to think that everyone lost their temper.
I used to think it was everyone else who had a problem.
I used to feel ignored and helpless, full of shame and blame,
Enough shame and blame to go around for everyone.
I used to read parenting books
And experiment with parenting advice
To get my children to change
So they would stop pushing my buttons.
(I thought it was them that made me angry.)
My dad, my husband, especially my kids – they used to push my buttons.
It used to keep me up at night.
I used to tell myself “that’ll be the last time,” over and over.
It used to be my dad who lost his temper when I was a kid.
It used to be my grandfather who lost his temper when my dad was a kid.
I used to be a yeller.
I used to be a mean texter and emailer and internet poster.
I used to lose my temper all the time.
One time, ok, maybe a few times, I threw something.
One time, I threw banana bread.
I don’t lose my temper anymore.
I got help…. (But that’s a story for another day.)
I was upset about how I had been. I was angry about my anger.
I wrestled with myself, I worked so hard to stop the anger from bubbling up.
But the fighting didn’t help.
The anger kept winning. It kept coming back.
So I got an idea to write a love letter:
Dear Old Hurtful Controlling Anger,
You made me strong.
You were there for me when I needed you.
You got me through some really tough times. Seriously.
Thank you for being a friend.
I will never forget you.
And now, dear Anger, I’m ready to let you go.
It’s time to say goodbye.
I’m learning how to be strong in different ways.
I would not have gotten this far without you.
In some ways, you have been a blessing to me.
As you go (and when I see you again), here is what I want to say:
I love you. Thank you. You’re showing me how to heal.
Love and kisses,
Your biggest fan,
When anger, instead of hidden or stuffed, is brought out into the light, it begins to lose its power. Jeanette’s vulnerability reminds moms that we aren’t alone, beyond help or shamed when we feel anger toward the ones we love the most. If you find yourself in a place needing someone to help you get unstuck from unhealthy angry patterns reach out to her at www.tempercoaching.com.
Disclaimer: In case of emergency, this is not the place to get help. If you or someone else is in danger, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.