short fuse


I have always had a short temper, but I have learned to control it–by identifying triggers, by negotiating with myself in my head, coaching myself through all the steps of dealing with my anger. Not that I’m in a rage all the time, but there are things that “piss me off easily.” Over the years, I have become fairly skilled at dealing with my temper, and remaining calm, even though I continued to have moments I was NOT proud of.

However…one thing that I’m left with these days, post-stroke, is this incredible short temper of mine…without all the tools to manage it (are the tools located in the headquarters of my stroke, the thalamus?). This means that now I have blown up in line at a store TWICE this month. First, I thought at a clerk in the pharmacy gave me attitude (but later my hubby told me not to the extent that I had believed) a couple weeks ago. I had already been waiting over an hour for my prescription and she told me to come back AGAIN. When? She wouldn’t say. She was not apologetic, and her voice had an edge of irreverence.

Perhaps that’s how she always is, but at that moment, the curtain of her horrid attitude made my skin ITCH. I asked her, “Can you tell me that again WITHOUT THE ATTITUDE?” Of course she didn’t take that well, and the situation escalated.

Today, I was at a store buying a few things with my husband. A man walked in front of us, and my husband reminded him that we were in line ahead of him. The man brusquely let us ahead again.

All’s well that ends well, right?

Nope. He ran his mouth off telling us that we didn’t LOOK like we in line and blah blah blah. I told him something benign. He kept talking. I said something again. He kept talking. Then he addressed my husband and told him HE needed to talk instead of letting ME talk. I don’t know what his problem was, but he was trying to engage my husband somehow, repeating, “You shouldn’t let your wife talk like that, when you can just tell me what you’re thinking, it seems like you’re really upset!”

Oh boy.

My husband finally told him, “I am trying to ignore you.”

The man kept going on and on–and what did I do? Instead of ignoring him like I normally would have pre-stroke, I kept engaging him at every turn. In the end, it was our turn to go to a cashier and the man said one last word. He decided to insult me to my husband. At that point, I rushed back to him and shouted (okay maybe I screamed…what I had been repeating over and over again), “GET OVER IT!”

The line of people took a deep breath. I was out of my head with rage and bit my tongue from saying any more as I headed to the cashier.

Ugh. My husband told me that I needed to keep my mouth shut instead of giving the man what he wanted and engaging him in a conversation of anger (or that’s what I think my husband said, because my head was just swimming with red and orange and black).

I am astounded at my lack of control–on the one hand, I can hold my anger in and then feel totally destroyed…or I can blow up and move on. I don’t like either. My ability to manuever sticky situations and obvious pitfalls is seriously damaged.

Maybe, come to think of it, it has to do with being in line (both incidents happened in store lines).

In the end, I ask, who have I become?



Filed under The Stroke

15 responses to “short fuse

  1. Oh, that sounds so stressful and terrible! Of course you would get angry when someone says those things. Who WAS that guy?

    I have no advice on how to temper anger. Me, I would probably have turned tomato red and stewed with so much seething rage but have been unable to say one word. Later I would go over all the things I should have, could have, would have said and wish I had said SOMETHING. I hate that about myself, my inability to handle confrontation, even (especially) when someone is plain mean. Which reaction is better? I can’t say.

    I’m sorry you had such an awful experience. You seem aware, and that can only help if something like that happens again.

  2. Yeah, as I’ve become older I have become much more outspoken toward people who get on my nerves (whether they be strangers or friends) and, as awful as it is to get in a screaming match with a stranger at a store, it’s probably better than keeping it all in. And the stroke must be so stressful; of course you’re going to have a shorter fuse!

  3. At the risk of being completely off-topic, those are some lovely canines! Nothing prettier than a plaque-free fang.

  4. I have a bad temper and come from a family of bad tempers. Though the best bet is to let it go, the guy in line was a jerk.

    And the pharmicist deserved to hear a peice of your mind. Rude pharmacists get to me more than most. (Also rude insurance agents). When my dad was sick, the people at the local sav-on ran out of something very basic like gauze or something and were so rude to us. Here we had a seriously ill person we were worrying about who had just lost an eye and the pharmicist doesn’t think twice about being snippy.

    When a pharmicist is being rude around your medicine, it’s as if they are witholding wellness or playing god with our lives.

    Don’t feel bad. We all have our moments where we lose it.

  5. but I don’t WANT to deal with my anger in that way–that wasn’t my preference…and I want to land somewhere in the middle, which is what I used to do more often before I had my stroke! I feel awful when i lose control like that, and awful when I feel mad, and I feel awful that I even have to deal with this yet AGAIN in my life, and learn these lessons OVER.

    nova: thank you for your encouragement!

    momentums: thanks. πŸ™‚

    wildguppy: you’d think pharmacists would know they’re dealing with largely sick people in line–thanks for the helpful story.

  6. Good point, Jade. It’s a defeat for people to become good at getting angry. (I have learned this the hard way.) Dealing with anger has been my own personal struggle lately. I realize I’ve never been good at it. I have had a hard time trying to let things go. I’m trying to get better at this. I feel like anger builds over time and it becomes hard to release little things for me if I am in genral blocked by anger.

    It shows you have strong moral character that you don’t want to get angry. Maybe that is the first step in managing. OK some strategies: Have you tried saying a mantra over an over again while people are making you angry? or counting to ten? Sometimes when people are pissing me off, in my rare good moments, I try to see them as somebody’s child, I look for the good and pure in them, and think of this while they are talking. Then I respond and I just say, Sorry.
    No matter what it is. What can be more potent at dispelling other’s anger than abject humility?
    Sorry if this is seeming pedantic. It helps me to work it out in words.

  7. When my husband first became ill–his mobility is seriously impaired, his disability visible to the naked eye–I blew up at people without a thought. Once a guy parked his motorcyle in the handicap lines beside our car. This was in a strip mall. I went into every store until I found the guy. Like, ten stores. I am 5’2 and weigh 120. He was six something and at least 260. I was screaming at him. Screaming. Totally out of control. And I looked into his eyes and realized I was scaring him. Which scared me.

    You have a right to be furious, and the anger will spill everywhere, (this asshole sure deserved it) and then–God knows when–it will taper off. Our situations are different, so my timeline ain’t yours. It took me two years not to want to kill everybody. Now I just want to kill the insensitive, who exist even in our enlightened city.

    It will get better. It will.

  8. BarkingKitten…you have enlightened me. It just never dawned on me that I may just be ANGRY about my current state (I keep thinking, “Why can’t I MANAGE my anger better? Do I have a cognitive impairment there, too?”). But that may not be the case. And also/or perhaps my energy is being spent in so many directions I just do not have enough for “managing anger.”

    Yes, that could be it.
    See how out of touch I can be with my own anger?

    It makes sense. I could be harboring a ton of anger these days. Must investigate that.

    Thank you very much, BarkingKitten for sharing and helping to enlighten. I am very sorry that you had to go through all that hell (it sure sounds like it SUCKED) but you have helped me today. I hope your journey has hit more level and greener meadows with better views and good resting places. πŸ™‚

  9. Dearest Jade – wow – I have been struggling with my own anger too these days. Thanks for describing what’s going on for you.

    I’ve been looking for trouble in my neighborhood – very angry at the young hoodlums acting out. What do I think I’m going to do, fight with them? But I’m just mad that they are around, on the avenue, engaging with *me*. Some kids were beating up some other kids yesterday, and they wouldn’t stop when I told them to, and later they saw me again on the avenue and said “waht the F*** you lookin at?” I really wanted to show them a thing or two (they were maybe 11, but there were four of them in a pack, never good) but what am I going to do? Spank them? Their big brother might come around with a gun.

    Anyway. I, like the rest of you, have a terrible temper and have worked on managing it for years. I just can’t believe Jade and Guppy are the same, because in their public lives they are the sweetest, most even-tempered ladies around. Just goes to show, you never can tell about people.

  10. What do you do in store lines that is common with being a stroke victim whose memory has been affected and new neuro-pathways are being formed? Both require waiting – taking time and that is frustrating. It seems as if some of your emotional screens have been affected that pre-stroke would have inhibited your emotional responses. What you are displaying is raw emotion without any screens you normally would have used to filter the response.

    Although you feel embarassed (possibly) and upset by your response after the fact, this could be a time to consider the positives. Most people screen their thoughts and emotions when they express them. These screens are developed over time from childhood onward. Ever listen to kids say what is on their minds without the slightest thought about what others might think?

    Kids are highly creative in their expressions. This could mean that while your expressions are screenless at times, they are also primal, pure, uninhibitedly expressed and highly passionate. I think I would write down or record as much as I could during this period because what is coming out is coming from the heart, not the head (where the screens develop).

    Just my two cents for what it is worth.

  11. Huh. You know, when I’m dealing with people who piss me off and don’t speak Korean, I say the most horrible things in Korean, and since they cannot understand, I feel better, but they don’t know what I’m telling them to do to their mothers. (However, I can’t use this strategy when my girlfriend is around.) Meanwhile, when dealing with Koreans, now I mostly just speaking in complicated English to myself, so most people don’t know exactly how I’m reacting.

    The interesting thing is this: it took me a long time to develop my method of coping with the kinds of frustrations I run into over here. Things I took for granted in Canada, just don’t always work the same way in Korea, and new frustrations — for which I suppose I never developed screens — gave rise to a number of strong reactions on my part, until I adjusted. (And even now it sometimes still happens.)

    Maybe there’s some parallel, if you think about the difficulties of adjusting to your current situation. It’s kind of like moving to a foreign land, isn’t it?

    But yeah, I’m sure some of your temper has to do with anger about your situation itself. When someone is angry about one thing, sometimes anything at all can set one off.

  12. Glad to be of service. I wish somebody had told me I would be angry, to expect rage. I did some awful things in the early days of my husband’s illness. Eight years down the road, I am better–that is, I no longer fly into towering rages–but insensitive behavior and/or remarks still upset me. I have become mistress of the sharp retort…but at least I’m not screaming. πŸ™‚

  13. I just got the news- so sorry to hear about what happened but glad you’re doing well. As for the short fuse, embrace it! Sometimes you just have to treat people like children: acknowledge their action, let them know it’s unacceptable, and that it won’t be tolerated πŸ™‚

  14. Jade, I really sympathize with you. I have had some serious anger problems in the past. And it’s strange how now, I’d rather cry in a corner than stick up for myself. You may not want to react in such a way but like BarkingKitten said, the anger will spill out. This is part of your recovery, as painful as it may be. That’s just my .02 cents.

  15. Pingback: i can’t hear you « Writing Under a Pseudonym

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