Every day I wake up and remind myself how much trouble my mouth can get me in. I know far too well what this big mouth of mine can do; many good things to be sure, but it has the potential to cause hurt and anguish. Impulse control is an issue for me as it relates to my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That part of my brain which controls my tongue can often unleash itself if I’m not careful. To be sure, there are moments that can warrant a quick and harsh response, however I’m forever struggling with this question; “Is it a real response or a trauma response?”.
Let me be perfectly clear on one thing…..I do have a temper and always will. Whether or not that is trauma based or just a natural part of my personality I may never truly know. What I do know is that I must be mindful when anger hits me and ensure my response is appropriate. I don’t always get it right. In the past I would remain bitter and resentful while I tried to lay blame on everyone else; sometimes that blame was justified, other times not. The difficulty lay in how to assess my responses appropriately and within a context that was healthy. I’m big on self-awareness now, but in my younger days I would spew words without thinking and often the most hurt person was myself.
Outside of my temper, I know that the anger and impulse control issues I’ve had are understandable given the circumstances. I don’t know of a single person with mental illness who has not felt that anger towards what life has dealt, or who hasn’t said or done something that wasn’t fully thought through. Many of us live what are often referred to as “high risk lifestyles”. I’ve been a binge drinker and am not proud of the fact that in my twenties I drove drunk multiple times. I often ended up at parties where bad things happened and I was just lucky to avoid getting hurt. Most of the episodes of cutting I’ve had, were impulsive and made in moments of anger or anguish.
A huge part of my recovery has been to work on that anger and remove myself from those high risk situations. It’s also been a learning process to identify when I’m losing impulse control and take steps to respond appropriately. Simple things such as drafting an angry email but not sending it until I’ve had time to calm down and revise it to a more professional manner. I’ve told people on the phone I needed to hang up as it wasn’t the time for a conversation that would be productive. My goal these days is to not take actions or say words that I will later need to apologize for, however I will own any of my mistakes and do so if necessary. I recall one time about fifteen years ago now when a co-worker called me out one day for my behavior. She basically said I had been acting like a bitch for some time and needed to stop. I was mortified to realize that she was absolutely right. At that particular time, I was in the midst of cycling on and off meds and in and out of therapy. She was right to call me on it because my lack of impulse control and keeping hurtful feelings to myself was affecting other people on the team. I cried, I apologized, I explained a bit of what I was going through, and I asked for help. She embraced me in a motherly hug.
I’ve never forgotten that moment and each day I strive to use all the tools I’ve acquired in recovery to keep my anger, my mouth, from causing myself or others unwarranted grief. Believe me, I don’t always get it right. I still have to apologize some days. I still have to walk away at times. This is something I will always have to be mindful of, but knowing the reasons for its existence, and with a lot of hard work, I’m striving every day to be better and better. With a big mouth comes big responsibility.