Regretting an angry outburst? Don't waste time beating yourself up. Repair the damage and limit your chances of lashing out again.
by Stacey Turis
It was one of those mornings. I don’t know if I woke up on the wrong side of the bed or what, but I had a thread of annoyance pulsing through my body. I know that feeling, and when it’s there, nothing good comes from it.
I kept myself in check while getting the kids ready for school. We had done the entire song and dance, and all that was left was breakfast. Even on a good day, breakfast raises my anxiety levels. I live with a couple of miniature lollygaggers that either won’t stop talking, insist on taking little, tiny bites, refuse to sit in a chair, or all of the above at the same time.
After repeating myself over and over, I finally lost it. I had a big bottle of vitamins in my hand, which I started slamming against the counter with each syllable I spoke. “Shove. the. food. in. your. mouth. be. fore. I. flip. the. freak. out!” Apparently the tantrum looked hilarious, because the kids looked at each other for half a second before they both burst out laughing. Wrong answer, kids.
I felt anger instantly scream through my body, and, without warning, my arm shot back and then forward as I launched the vitamin bottle as hard as I could toward the counter. It torpedoed the newly brewed pot of coffee. Shards of glass from the pot, along with hot coffee, rained down on most of the kitchen, including my white cabinets.
I was so shocked by what had occurred, it was my turn to get the giggles. I doubled over in laughter. The poor kids didn’t find it as amusing. The tears rushed to their eyes, and their eyes were huge after seeing mommy do what she had always threatened: Flipping the freak out. I ran to the eating area, apologized, hugged them, apologized some more -- everything a good parent does after traumatizing their children. But I still felt like a big jerk for the rest of the day, especially after finding out the kids had reenacted the scene to teachers, kids, the principal, and the guidance counselor.
Bouts of anger or rage are fairly common among the ADHD tribe. For one thing, we feel things more intensely, so we react more intensely. Throw in some anxiety, a little depression, maybe some overwhelm, and you aren’t looking at someone that runs at the baseline of “just chillin'.”
When we don’t have time to lock down our emotions, and the inevitable happens, the most important thing is to not waste time beating ourselves up -- we have more urgent things to attend to.
First, apologize to any innocent bystanders who happened to witness the fit. Sweet “sorry” goes down a lot smoother than bitter blame. Though ADDers operate at a more intense level, we still need to be accountable for our actions. That’s how we prepare better for the next round.
If you made a mess during your hissy fit, immediately clean it up, or patch the wall or replace the door hinge -- whatever needs to be done to get the environment back to normal. You don’t need a hole in the door to remind you of the time you acted like a wild person at the breakfast table.
After you’ve cleaned up the physical environment, it’s time to work on your mental environs. Think about the factors that contributed to the angry outburst. Is it hormones? Stress from work? Being overwhelmed? Get to the root of the anger and figure out what steps can be taken to relieve some of the pressure.
It’s also a good idea to replay the whole ugly scenario. Don’t wallow in it; just try to understand what you might have been able to do to prevent it. As for me, I should have left the room when I heard my voice getting louder and deeper. That’s my “crap-about-to-hit-the-fan” voice. Now I recognize it and remove myself from the conflict as soon as I start to sound like Barry White’s third cousin.
We need to forgive ourselves and move forward. Period. I love this quote from Maya Angelou: “I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself, because if you live, you will make mistakes — it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better, I’d have done better,’ that's all.”
See? If you and I had known better, you and I would have done better -- and the next time we will.