Why staying angry won't get you anywhere

David Heitz

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It eats you up.

I’m talking about anger, but I could just as easily be talking about cancer.

Anger does eat you up like cancer. Just as cancerous cells multiply, so do angry thoughts.

Anger picks up steam like a snowball rolling downhill. If you don’t get a handle on your anger, I honestly believe it can and will kill you.

The year 2019 probably was the angriest year of my life. I was homeless on the street for most of it.

The year 2020 is the year I started to get better. I finally understood that my anger would kill me if I did not work through it.

I wrote a blog about homelessness while living on the street. I used to go to the library to write it.

It did well, and it got views from all over the world. But I was so angry in many of the posts I became embarrassed.

Indeed, I was so angry I acted a little out of my mind. And I was scared.

So, a few weeks ago, I deleted the blog forever. I want to focus on new beginnings, not past angry thoughts.

Growing up in an angry home

I have written about this before, so I won’t go on and on, but I grew up in a violent home. Mom was angry. Dad was angry. I was yelled at constantly and got the belt.

I grew up with so much anger I began to consider it normal. Don’t everyone’s parents throw down now and then?

My mom received a cancer diagnosis in 1979. She was angry when she lost her breast.

My dad was angry because he told people he was sick, and nobody believed him. In fact, he had an extremely rare brain disease, we learned years later. It did kill him, just like he said it would.

My brother and I fought quite a bit. He is nine years older and he picked on me now and then. It would make me angry.

Once, he caught me in a lie. He told me that when I lied, black dots appeared on my face.

The next time he caught me in a lie, he tiptoed into my bedroom and painted black dots on my face as I slept.

I woke up the next morning, looked in the mirror, and screamed bloody murder.

My brother made me angry that morning.

Angry about corrupt politicians

I had horrible things happen to me in my hometown when I began to write about human trafficking and political corruption. Someone shot my house up twice.

Soon I was so angry I began to yell at everyone. Every bad thing that happened to me was in my mind related to the corrupt politicians.

The more obsessed I became with all of this, the angrier I grew. I was so angry and scared combined on the nights someone shot my house up that I had chest pains.

I began to gain weight due to cortisol production. Cortisol is a stress hormone.

It got to where I was so angry, I could not have a normal conversation with anyone.

My solution was to get out of my hometown for good. I moved to Denver.

I didn’t even know what real anger was yet.

I was about to become much angrier.

Bad luck continues in Denver

When I got to Denver, the same sort of things that happened to me in Illinois happened here, too. When the people across the street kept harassing me and I called police, the Glendale, Colorado police took me to a mental hospital.

For the longest time, anyone doubting my story of what happened in Illinois would make me angrier than a hornet.

I don’t know if I have become desensitized to it or what, but those remarks no longer bother me. I still get them all the time, usually from anonymous online trolls, but sometimes from people I know.

I know I’m telling the truth. I know what I’ve been through. And I like myself too much to let remarks from people with an agenda to hurt me.

But it wasn’t always that way. In 2019, when I became homeless, I slowly transformed into an angry monster. When people would say, “Get a job” or try to call me an addict, I would explode like I was crazy.

Addiction or lack of a desire to work had absolutely nothing to do with my homelessness. Mental illness did.

When I would become especially triggered, I would dump over trash receptacles and yell so loud my hernia would pop out.

Tips for managing your anger

Most people today would not even guess I had an anger problem. I had to develop some coping tools for when I get angry. Here are a few:

1. Take a long walk. This sounds cliché, but it works wonders for me. If I get an email during the workday that upsets me, I’ll head to the park and walk a few laps. I often find that when I am walking, I get my best story ideas, too.

When I have the time, I like to walk until I’m a bit tired out. It does wonders for stress. Sometimes I will walk for three hours straight.

2. If you can’t walk, at least take a break. If something is upsetting you, change whatever you are doing. Always walk away from unnecessary conflict such as drunk people.

3. Don’t drink alcohol if you’re angry. Try chamomile tea instead. Alcohol is like throwing gasoline on a fire for most angry people, especially those with PTSD.

Chamomile tea, on the other hand, truly is soothing. It makes me yawn when I drink it.

4. Write down your thoughts in a journal. Sometimes writing about what makes you angry helps you find ways to resolve that anger. Maybe while writing you will find that something good came out of what upset you.

I still get angry. Much of it is a deep-seeded feeling of being screwed over.

But I don’t let it occupy my every thought.

If I must write 18 hours a day to keep my mind occupied with something else, so be it.

I’m not going to let anger kill me.

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best newspapers in the country. Today, I specialize in Denver local news, health reporting, social justice issues, addiction/recovery/mental health news, and topics surrounding homelessness and human trafficking.

Denver, CO
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