Don’t Worry…Get Angry

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I use Verizon for all of my communication needs. I have four cell phones (one for each family member), one land line and one FIOS internet connection. I receive two monthly bills. One bill is for my cell phones, the other bill combines the charges for my land line and FIOS internet…well…it used to.

On November 29th, 2010, my FIOS internet stopped working. Since I have “the gift” of ADHD, I called their billing department. Maybe I missed a payment. Nope. Payments were up to date. I then spoke to their technical support department. It took a bit of digging to realize what the problem was. No payments were made for the FIOS internet. “How is that possible? Your computer said that my payments are up to date.” It turns out that in August 2010 (possibly earlier) Verizon had instituted a major change in their billing system. As a result, my FIOS internet billing was split off from my land line bill. I had never received a separate bill for the FIOS internet. However, the charges kept accumulating for FIOS and the internet service was turned off because of lack of payment. I promptly made a payment and service was restored. I was told that this billing error will be addressed. From then on the bill would consolidate land line and FIOS internet charges into a single bill…just like it was for years prior to August 2010.

You know where this story is going…right?

On January 27th, 2011 my FIOS internet stopped working. I called technical support who explained it was a billing issue, the same billing issue that caused the service to be turned off in November. A trouble ticket was being issued and it should all be cleared up in two days.

On February 23, 2011 my FIOS internet stopped working. This time I was angry…really angry. I called their office at 7:30am. The billing department was closed. I called back at 9:00am. I was on the phone for fifty-one minutes. The representative tried to straighten out the problem. She transferred me to their finance department. I was disconnected.

Now my inner lunatic started to emerge. I snapped at everyone…even my poor dogs. The obscenities poured forth, interspersed with sarcastic remarks about the virtues of the free market: “Look, honey! You can choose from Company A which provides crappy service or Company B which provides their own brand of crappy service. Isn’t competition wonderful?”

I called again.

I spent ten minutes explaining the situation to the representative. “Can I have your FIOS internet account number so I can pull up your records?” I had to swallow hard to keep my inner lunatic in check. “That’s the problem,” I said as I carefully monitored my volume for traces of anger. “I never got a bill so I can’t give you my FIOS account number even if I wanted to.” We reached an impasse. “I can only see your telephone bill and there’s nothing there about your internet. Without the FIOS account number I can’t help you.” My anger increased. I apologized for getting testy but, as I pointed out to the rep, this problem has been going on for months. “Call this number. They should be able to help you.”

I made my third phone call of the day.

“I apologize for this but I need to speak to a supervisor.”  I was put on hold. Thirteen minutes. Nineteen minutes. Thirty minutes passed. Same crappy on-hold music.

Thirty-five minutes passed.

I hung up.

I threw the phone across the room.

I’ve had a long relationship with anger. Like a good friend (and my State Farm agent), it has always been there. But it has a devilish streak. It often shows up at the wrong time, weeks or months after an egregious wrong has occurred. When it finally appears, it’s usually the result of some trivial event, like someone touching my pile of books. [note 1] This triggers a Vesuvius-like eruption, curses pouring forth with a blazing heat that burns the ears and sensibilities of all who are near. The eruption does not end until every real or perceived wrong, starting from the time of the REAL precipitating event to the triggering event to events that have not yet occurred, have been buried under the molten curses.

I’ve never really known what to do with this anger. I tried to get with the “happiness program” but it felt wrong. It irritated me. It made my skin crawl. It felt a bit phony.

So for years decades, really I kept my anger inside.

And periodically Vesuvius would explode.



When I was prescribed Wellbutrin for my ADHD, I noticed a momentary pause between precipitating event and outburst. The Wellbutrin allowed me to step between the event and the (potential) outburst and stop it from occurring. That helped…a lot.



Later I learned that “ADHD was the source my anger” but I wasn’t really sure what that implied. Did it imply that my anger was not justified? Did it imply that if I got my ADHD under control then the anger would be under control?

Maybe that’s what it implied.

Paradoxically, if ADHD was the fuel igniting my anger, ADHD also made it possible for me to contain it. It became a place for me to put my anger. Where’s your anger? I put it in the ADHD box. But when I entered my post-ADHD phase, the anger container was broken and the anger was released. I was back where I started so many years ago. I was back to being a person with an anger problem.

But that is all wrong.

I do NOT have an anger problem.

I have an outburst problem.

The way I expressed my anger may have been inappropriate but the anger itself was not inappropriate. In fact, I realized that ANGER IS GOOD! When towns shrivel up because jobs are shipped overseas, the appropriate response is anger. When a woman is a victim of domestic violence, the appropriate response is anger. When a parking spot in front of your house is taken by someone else after you spent hours shoveling snow so YOU could park there, the appropriate response is anger. The question is, NOT how to suppress that anger but, quite the opposite, how to EXPRESS IT. And I am learning how to express it in appropriate ways. Many times I feel better after releasing the anger. Sometimes I don’t feel better and that’s okay. So the next time a person parks in front of my house, I’m not going to cover his car in snow. That’s childish and inappropriate. Instead, I will knock on his door, explain why I am angry, and then shoot him. I’m sure THAT will make me feel much better. ;)

  1. Book pile touching” is a cataclysmic event within the ADHD universe, equivalent to the explosion of the Crab Nebula (1054 A.D. if you must know). “Book piles,” for ADHDers (and this applies to many of the other piles they create) are meticulously crafted arrangements of objects that have an order discernible only by the ADHDer. When a non-ADHDer touches the pile, the order is irrevocably destroyed and, in accord with the laws of ADHD quantum mechanics, can never be put back into the exact same order it was prior to the touching.
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  • Judy

    It took me many years (and countless thousands for therapy) before I came up with this metaphor, which I find more helpful than the volcano one: I now look at anger as a kind of burglar alarm. Some boundary that is important to me has been crossed. It’s a warning, but I don’t always know what of — so then the job is to figure out what boundary it was, and then what to do about it. Sometimes a simple request is merited — like when a “dependent child” takes my spot on the couch while I was downstairs fetching another load of HIS laundry — but sometimes sterner measures are required. I have no recommendations for Verizon, except maybe a Tweet campaign. (Actually, my own answer to things like that is writing a humor column about it, which helps me in the long run but does nothing to restore internet service.)

    • Jeff

      Judy, you’ve touched on a different aspect of anger, namely, what is it telling us when it occurs. I’ve used the metaphor of my antennas going up, meaning that its picked up some signal and I should pay attention to it. So, I agree with you. It’s definitely some sort of alarm warning us that there’s an intruder in our physical, mental, moral space. But I spent years of suppressing that anger, not knowing what the heck to do with it. Collectively we are so obsessed with the “happiness” mantra that there didn’t seem to be anyplace for my anger so, for me, the major personal revelation was that I was right to be angry about many things but not necessarily right about the way I expressed that anger…except for the son-of-a-bitch that took my parking spot after I spent hours of shoveling snow. ;)

  • Scott Hutson

    ” “Book piles,” for ADHDers (and this applies to many of the other piles they create) are meticulously crafted arrangements of objects that have an order discernible only by the ADHDer. When a non-ADHDer touches the pile, the order is irrevocably destroyed and, in accord with the laws of ADHD quantum mechanics, can never be put back into the exact same order it was prior to the touching.”

    That’s a fact! The way I stack things are stacked that way for a reason.

  • Katy R.

    “Did it imply that my anger was not justified?” THIS IS SUCH A GREAT QUESTION! And I have the answer. Your anger makes perfect sense. It’s the actions following from our anger that we have to temper, lol. I am an expert on this, I would tell you why, but that would be embarrassing. It is sufficient to note, as any sane therapist will tell you, that feelings aren’t generally the problem, it’s what you choose to do with them that really matters. Otherwise, lots of people would be in jail right now for thinking some REALLY weird shit! Feelings just…are.

    • Jeff

      “THIS IS SUCH A GREAT QUESTION!” – I must be gifted or something, no? ;)

      And you are 400% correct. Anger = Good; Inappropriate Expression of Anger = Bad. And I have my share of embarrassing stories too but…sometimes…some things are best left unsaid.

      • Katy R.

        And yet, because I have ADHD I have such a hard time not saying things…bwahahaha…mmmmmm, monologuing…

        • Jeff

          “I have such a hard time not saying things” – Ah…yes…that “other” common, comorbid condition. ;)

  • Neil Eldred

    Jeff: Thanks! You did it once again; you nailed it right between the eyes–no, not when you shot the neighbor. I’m talking about the concept of anger = good, outburst = bad. Just this morning, my wife kept interrupting me just as I would get focused, so I blasted her with, “You keep coming back, just like herpes.”

    Obviously, this was the wrong thing to say as I’ve been told 6,358,719 times today. The ADHD gurus like to recommend mindfulness training, like we’re all monks, (I’m going to be celibate like one for about a month thanks to the herpes remark) but if we cannot pay attention, how the hell are we suppose to be mindful and control our mouths? After all, outbursts are a form of impulsiveness, the hall mark of a “gifted” ADHD individual.

    I really am clueless over controlling outbursts; I’m sick of the damage they do to my relationships and the way I keep getting banned from stores, restaurants, and whole neighborhoods.

    I think you’re on to something and can’t wait to see how you solve the problem so I can adapt it and stop dodging the principal at my kids’ school.

    No pressure.

    • Jeff

      “You keep coming back, just like herpes.” – I assume that this is NOT a good line to use if you expect to get any sex. Is that correct? ;)

      “see how you solve the problem” – I hope to have a post on this later this month. Basically it expands on the “Anger=Good; Outburst=Bad” formula.

      “you nailed it right between the eyes” – Thank you! And thanks for letting me know that I’m on the right track. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for a blogger to hear this.

  • Jay

    Anger is on my mind these days. When not on meds, I am also subject to outbursts…

    My current issue is work while I’m on my meds. There are many frustrating situations I find myself in these days and I’m getting angry – a lot. My meds mean I’m not blowing up. Instead, I’m finding myself paralyzed.

    For example, I’ll find out someone else on my team designed some software in a remarkably idiotic way and I’ll stew on it for hours, getting little done. I may express this anger to another colleague, but the venting doesn’t get me over the hump. It is in my power/influence to do *something* that may help correct the problem, but I can’t get passed “pissed off”.

    Maybe I need to go to the gym or go for a brisk walk when this happens. I haven’t tried that, though I fear I may not have the stamina given how often these frustrations occur here. :)

    Any other tips for expressing and getting on with life?

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