Mental Health: This is Exhausting

In my defense…

It’s just never good if you feel compelled to start a post with the words “in my defense.”

But in my defense, Tuesday was an all around bad day. September 11 isn’t easy for any of us.

I got home from work and had an unpleasant task at hand and got on my laptop.

Of course, I had to check twitter first, because my task involved calling a stranger and I hate doing that. Anyway, the first thing I saw was that image of the man falling from one of the towers, head first with his leg casually bent at the knee. That image disturbs me making me feel sad, frustrated, and scared.

Then, I read that we diverted 10 million dollars from FEMA to ICE. So, instead of helping Puerto Rico or preparing for the devastation that Florence could bring to the east coast, we spent that money caging babies.

I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but please please please make it a priority to vote in the midterms on November 6. Please. Vote like our lives depend on it because many lives do. 

So, I had to call IKEA, because back in July, I ordered a shit ton of furniture and it sat in boxes for the longest time because we were painting and getting things put away.

As it turns out, I didn’t get two book shelves I paid for. I knew I was missing something, because there weren’t enough boxes. I just didn’t know what.

I let this go for a long time because I didn’t want to deal with it.

Last night, I decided to deal with it.

I signed onto IKEA’s customer portal and attempted to send a correspondence to them letting them know my issue.

It didn’t go well.

The last time I threw a fit of this magnitude was 1,964 days ago. I know this, because I wrote a blog post about it.

First, the form I had to fill out cleared itself about 5 times. I have no idea why. So, I had a good head of steam going. When I did get it filled out, they wanted, and I am not kidding, the page number of the manual of the product I had a problem with.

Well, what if you didn’t get the product in the first place? And while I don’t want to say providing the page number wouldn’t be helpful to customer support, it sure as fuck shouldn’t be mandatory.

I don’t handle frustration well. I don’t process frustration maturely. I don’t usually melt down, though. This time? I was already on the path to a major tantrum before getting the customer service number.

So, I called the number, which is what I wanted to avoid because talking to strangers on the phone is hard. My anxiety hates strangers on the phone.

But I did it. And I went through the voice mail labyrinth only to get to this: We are experiencing a high volume of calls and cannot take your call at this time. Goodbye. 

Wait…wait..what?

And then something snapped. I had a complete screaming meltdown. It was loud and childish and I felt trapped. I didn’t want to behave that way. I wanted to stop, but I didn’t. I had lost all control.

Randy came in the bedroom, and he meant well. But he told me to calm down.

I explained, as calmly as I could, telling me to calm down was the same as dousing the situation in gasoline. And then I started screaming at my computer again. Randy left to go to the store. I think he needed to get away from me.

Joey, who I missed more than anything for two months and who has only been back a week, came in the bedroom and said “Mom, chill out. Just chill, okay?”

I ranted at him. I told him the same thing I told Randy. Telling me to chill is making it worse and then  I said “Aren’t you the one who throws a little bitch fit whenever a restaurant gets your food wrong?”

So, he left me alone as well.

I got through to IKEA, after being kicked out of their voice mail two more times. I was on hold for 14 minutes. The wait didn’t help. I felt like I had electric eels made of bile and vitriol climbing up my spine and spitting into my brain. When customer support finally answered, I calmly explained to Morgan, the woman who answered, that I was unreasonably upset over my experience with their shitty customer service portal and their stupid voicemail hell.

Morgan was friendly and efficient and processed my refund within five minutes. I thanked her and hung up.

Then I cried. It was not cathartic but was snotty, painful, and ugly. I was terrified by how angry I had gotten. I was terrified by how out of control I was.

Which allowed all the bad thoughts in.

You aren’t better. You are still the same angry person you used to be. This calm, or at least more calm, demeanor you have is a lie. It is a mask. A paper thin facade. You have made no progress and this is proof. 

Randy had returned from his errand. By the time he got home, my sobbing had devolved into me wailing about what a horrible mother I am. And that I’m crazy. And I suck.

He attempted to cheer me up by putting red duct tape over his nose and above his eyebrows. I was too distraught to laugh at it. He made a little mustache with the tape and said he was red Charlie Chaplin. I hiccuped and buried my face in his shirt and said he was red Hitler.

He didn’t mind the snot and tears. Joey also accepted my apology and took his share of snot and tears on his shirt as well.

This really scared me. I don’t want to be that person anymore. I was such an angry person when I was younger and I have worked very hard to leave her behind.

Then something like this happens and I question everything.

I guess if my current demeanor is just a mask, I’ll tighten the straps, adjust, and move on.

I need to remember that there isn’t a linear path to improved mental health. I need to remember to forgive myself when I behave in ways that I don’t find acceptable. I need to give myself the same break that I would give anyone else.

This is hard for me to do.

All I could hear is that drumbeat that I heard from my narcissistic father as a child. Failure failure failure failure

Going to sleep was the only way I would shake the headache, so I went to bed early and woke up feeling hung over and anxious. I got to work this morning and poured my heart out to my office mate. She said that I probably just needed a good cry.

But it wasn’t a good cry. It didn’t make me feel better.

I’ve gone at least 3 weeks without having to use my anxiety medicine. That streak ended today. I had to keep reminding myself that I have anxiety medicine for a reason and it is not because I am a crybaby failure.

I think, maybe, I’ll sleep well tonight. I’m still exhausted from my outburst and xanax makes me sleepy as fuck.

Here’s to hoping I get another five years before I have a screaming toddler tantrum again.

I have no idea how I managed that level of anger so often when I was younger. No idea at all. It is fucking exhausting to be that upset.

Now, I think I’ll go paint a wall and see if I can forgive myself a little more.

So, if it’s not asking too much, can you tell me about a time you behaved like a complete lunatic over something stupid? I really need to feel not alone in this. And if you have never behaved that way, just make something up. That works, too.

 

Photo courtesy of Splitshire

 

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Add your comments below. Profanity is encouraged, but not required. ;)
  1. Maria P says:

    I get unreasonably upset at technology not responding to me or things literally getting tangled up when I am frustrated or just tired. I tap the screen a million times like it’s the last thing I’ll do or shake everything violently and make a lot of noise to free the mess. Once I even pulled the GPS off its holder in the car when my purse got stuck as I was shaking everything and pulling. My family shakes their head and doesn’t understand but it makes perfect sense to me. On a smaller scale than your event but glad to know it’s not just me.

    Reply
  2. Barbara Womack says:

    I just had to write and say I’ve been there. TOO many times.
    That loop in our heads left by those narcissistic parents is the worst. It simmers under the surface and all too often unexpectedly boils over.
    I could regale you for ages with my tales of over-reaction, but suffice it to say…it’s not just you. Technology, injustice, just plain stupidity, and judge-y people all send me. I generally just throw things and swear LOUDLY. (after nearly 35 years together, my husband has finally-almost-gotten used to this behavior…LOL)
    I love reading your posts.
    Sending love,
    B

    Reply
  3. Shari says:

    Sounds like you were in control when you finally got someone on the phone to speak with and that is something to be proud of. Letting go of everything in your own bedroom is acceptable in my opinion!!
    I was super tired and cranky on a recent road trip and took it out on the poor waitress who brought me my food with CHEESE on it. As soon as she walked away I looked at my husband and said “I was a total bitch, wasn’t i?” He confirmed it and I apologized when she came back and gave her a big tip. Not remotely the same as what you went through but my point is, you acknowledge that this is not the person you want to be and that is a huge step forward. We are only humans after all.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      I did. I warned her that i was super upset but that I would try to remain calm. I only cursed a few times and she was super helpful. I was proud of myself for that. Like you, there have been times I’ve taken my anger out on others and I am ashamed of those incidents. I am glad you apologized and tipped her well..making amends is all we can do. Thank you for this. xo

      Reply
  4. Deb says:

    You ‘re surely not alone. Thank you for bearing your soul and admitting your recent fits of anger. This gal gets it! I think I have what’s called Emotional Intensity Disorder (preferred term over Borderline Personality Disorder). One thing that helped was to take a course called S.T.E.P.P.S (Systems Training for Emotional Predictability and Problem Solving) which came with a workbook. It helped me understand the reasons I grew up being this way and it helped me notice triggers. Being in a group with others talking about this real shit was salve. Granted, all the lessons and facts did not completely eliminate the fits but it sure as hell improved the times when I wasn’t overcome by emotion and I’m better able to draw out lengthier periods in between bursts. It helped me understand how unselfish taking care of my own needs is. I don’t put blame on myself as much AND I take the reigns more. Just reading the workbook isn’t enough. I hope you find someone in your area offering this potentially intense course and can take the time to try. I know a few people who have gone back to take the course a second, third time. Dynamics of a group effort paired with sharing for many weeks, though uncomfortable for us introverted emotionals, was worth the social discomfort in the end (for me). Rearranging your shitty thoughts is better than beating yourself up and trying to eliminate something out of your control (including emotions) Continue being strong and determined and your own best advocate. Sounds like your husband and kid are already supportive. I knowI hate to feel angry/hurt and cry myself to sleep. I also hate to see someone I love overcome by angry/hurt and probably say stupid things like “calm down”.
    There’s power in the fact we are in this together.

    Reply
  5. Poppy Aisha McCarroll says:

    I feel like this last year has been one large hissy fit. My spouse who used to abuse me, me wondering if I am actually the bad guy, the narcissist, the abuser. Me in therapy learning to feel my feelings. My wondering if I’m loveable, me wondering if anyone I involve myself with will love me or if they’re faking it for company or validation, me wondering if I’m being devalued or when I’ll start to be devalued, me wondering what normal boundaries and feelings are, me feeling guilty all the time, me hurting, me lashing out over the smallest things like people touching me or people asking me to smile or people … existing.

    I read this and I just wanted to hold you while you called me Hitler. I just wanted to nurture and let you be exactly as you are. Because sometimes everything is too much and I wish someone would take it all away for five seconds. Just five seconds so I could feel like it’s not all up to me.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      I feel every goddamn word of this. And I can ASSURE you that if you are considering that you are narcissistic, then you are NOT. A true malignant narcissist would never question themselves. Never. They think they are beyond reproach.

      I would accept that hug and give you one in return. Peace and love and light to you. xo

      Reply
  6. Denise says:

    Last year I was in a really great place. Working out, writing, reading, and meditating. Had my shit together. I happily drove to the grocery store on a beautiful Saturday morning. Kept thinking, this is pretty easy, change your mindset, look at the bright side, and the bright side opens up for you. Pulled into the parking lot and some asshole decides to start rolling over the line at his stop sign and I literally yelled “LOOK FUCKHEAD, IT SAYS STOP, SO FUCKING STOP!!!!” Back to the drawing board . . .

    Reply
  7. Christine says:

    There is nothing more likely to get me from zero to tantrum than trying to deal with AT&T customer service. We recently switched to T-Mobile solely because AT&T customer service SUCKS. I can’t be the only one who swears at the computerized automated voice when it can’t understand my response. Sometimes I write the words “stay calm” on a piece of paper while I’m on the phone trying to deal with some BS.

    Reply
  8. Pam says:

    Recently I stopped at the pharmacy to pick up my mental health drugs and they charged a co-pay. “No, that can’t be right,” I said, “I met my deductible in April, after that the plan pays 100%. I haven’t paid since May. Why is this happening in September?” The pharmacist shrugged and handed me the phone so I could call the insurance company. My irritation ratcheted up when I had to press numbers or say commands and could not get to a live person. I hate that so much! Finally they answered and tried to tell me about my coverage and that I was being penalized for buying retail. I was in the middle of the grocery store trying my best not to yell into the phone “are you F’ing kidding me!” Then they told me I had to call the specialty line and they were closed until Monday. Tears streaming down my cheeks, I bought a lottery ticket on the way out and cried in the car. When I got home I put my head down on the cold granite island and sobbed. My husband asked, “did you have a bad day?” I wailed, “why is everything so hard, my life is sh!t, I just want to disappear in Costa Rica!!’

    Reply
  9. Pam says:

    I always am hard on myself for not being calm and poised. Like it’s not OK to be angry or frustrated. When my husband tries to comfort me I push him away because somehow he’s part of the problem. Then I’m embarrassed that I’m such a b-i-t-c-h. I saw that you allowed Randy and Joey to hug you and thought, “See that’s really healthy that Michelle did that.”

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      I did, but it was at least an hour after the major meltdown. I get pushing away as well. We want comfort..we don’t want comfort..it’s scary to be out of control.

      Reply
  10. Joyce says:

    So, reading your story this morning is perfect timing for me. I had a meltdown yesterday. The triggers for it were a couple of inconsequential events. First, I stopped at the health food store to pick up a couple of items. I was standing next in line behind the only checker who was on duty when the Customer Service lady waved me over and said she could help me. So immediately she got a call and checked me out while she was on the phone. She proceeded to put my stuff in two plastic bags, and I didn’t feel like I could interrupt her to tell her that NO, I do not need plastic bags, you fucking killer of the planet, what the hell, this is a health food store for god’s sake. Then she hung up and said in this very perky voice, “I put your stuff in two plastic bags, is that ok with you?” and I just stood there, stunned, it happened so fast. Plus she had twisted the handles together so I couldn’t just take the stuff out of the bags without making a big fuss, the best I could do at the moment was lie and say, fine, and leave….
    Soooo, then I go to my bank drive thru to deposit $11 in cash to an account where I am the treasurer of this group (like who the hell sends me cash to deposit) and the teller, behind his/her window (I never could figure out if it was a man or woman) keeps asking me if there is anything else he/she can help me with. NO, just deposit the money, did I not send a deposit slip? “Well, yes,” he/she says, “I just wanted to know if that was all you needed” Like YES, just deposit the money. So then he/she comes back on and asks for my drivers license, “To deposit CASH?,” I ask, what the bloody fucking hell. Okay, I didn’t say that last part, but I was over the top steamed at this point and it didn’t help that he/she asked at least two more time if I needed anything else. Good thing for him/her that I was safely in my own vehicle and my venting was hopefully not dumped on him/her. It feels so good to cuss and swear sometimes…
    So anyways, by the time I get home, I am realizing I am over the top about to meltdown, and I have a conference call with several of my closest friends who THANK GOD understand when I say, “I can’t talk right now, I am having a meltdown, I need to put my phone on mute”, and I let myself meltdown…
    I don’t live with any actual humans and one of the two dogs I live with was really worried about me, and I had to lock them both out of the room. Anyways, it was SO GREAT to not have to try to control the meltdown, I put the phone on mute and beat the heck out of a bunch of pillows over a whole long list of things over which I have no control including the president* and about an hour later I felt much more calm. Somewhere in the midst of that session things had taken a turn and I tapped into a bunch of grief (it’s my mom’s birthday this week and she has been gone for 3 years) and other stuff. Anyways, I talked it through with someone and made it out the other side….
    Dogs were happy to see me much calmer. That is the worst, when I am bitchy and yell at them for no good reason. I feel bad about that.
    Anyways, thanks for listening. For some reason it felt good to tell this story this morning to someone I have never met. I really enjoy your blog so much.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      Thank you, too. I appreciate you sharing this. I am sorry you lost your mom. 🙁

      I totally feel you on all of this. I’m glad your dogs were happy after you calmed down. My kitties didn’t give a shit if I was upset or not. haha.

      Reply
  11. I hear you! Modern ‘customer service’ is enough to drive anybody up the wall. It’s always an ordeal – you’re not alone!

    Reply
  12. Kelley says:

    After my father-in-law passed away, the family home had to be sold. We all took things of importance to us. My husband and I got the glider from the front porch. It doesn’t seem like alot but that wonderful, kind, gentle man had spent hours on that glider rocking all his grandkids. I loved that man so very much-especially because he was so very different from my step father! Well a couple of years later someone in the family decided that they wanted the glider and called to let us know they were coming to take it.
    I went from 0 to Full on Bitch in less than 20 seconds. Shouting, crying, things being thrown-threats made. Oh it was EPIC. BUT I was not letting that glider go.My husband had to hold me back and “have a talk” with that person. It has generally not been forgotten by said family member -even after 7 years but I have the glider and when I sit on my porch, I can still feel him there with me and see him rocking my babies in his arms. (here come the tears)

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      I am so glad you had a father in law who you loved. I loved my mother in law with all my heart. She died 11 years ago, but I don’t feel 11 years better about it. I feel zero years better about it. But I am grateful she was in my life, even if I have to feel the pain of her being gone.

      Reply
  13. Shani says:

    So the fact that you can actually see yourself and look into yourself and wonder about what changes maybe should you make and ask yourself why is proof positive to me that you are a lot further along in your journey than you give yourself credit for. Give yourself a break and be kind to you!
    Since you asked for an example though for the most part I am quiet and suck feelings up and curse to myself or in my writings or late at night when I should be sleeping. But I don’t let things go. And all of that builds up until I explode. Sometimes I have a good reason at least to me while others it can be one of those “how many times do I have to fucking tell you cups go on the last shelf!!!” The last time was Tuesday when I was picked up from work. I was running late and I know that bastard I live with (oh we’re still barely talking right now because of it so he is currently that bastard I live with as a term of endearment)!hates waiting so I was rushing because it was alreasy a crappy day and I knew he’d be in a crappy mood. I came out about 15 minutes late and reached through the window to manually unlock the car door and was reminded in a passive aggressive way not to do that something about the car’s electronic system and then told to “put it back down so I can unlock it right.” And that did it. But I was in public so I did as I was told and that is all that was running through my mind “Who the fuck do you think you are TELLING me what the fuck to do” and once I got in the car we rolled up the windows and I started yelling and cursing him out. Who the hell did he think he was talking to me like that and I only needed a ride because I gave my car to the eldest because this is her last year in high school but I will fucking take it back (angry me is petty to everyone). And let’s just say he had some choice words as well so it escalated. Like I said we still are barely talking. Based upon what usually happens sooner rather than later one of us will do something to move us out of this issue. Unhealthy as it is it is kind of what we do and deep inside I think we both on some level do things like this on purpose because of our own households growing up and how it effects us to this day. We still have a self improvement journey ahead.
    But no I didn’t take my car back; I am using Lyft right now though.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      I would have reacted the same way. And one of our cars is used exclusively by a kid, so I feel your pain there as well.

      Reply
      • Shani says:

        Thank you; I feel less bitchy about it now! I have a bad trigger about being ordered to do something. Even if someone’s “jokes” about it. To the point that when I hear about people enjoying that sort of thing more power to them but my immediate thought is “Shit…I wish he fucking would!” And a glare just the thought lol.

        Reply
  14. Mila says:

    I’ve acted like an actual complete lunatic and landed myself in a lunatic asylum. Like as in psych ward. So….yeah. Now, I spend every day convincing myself I have the right to walk among ‘normal’ people. It’s not exactly working, but I keep at it. Like with anything else these outbursts are cycles that won’t go away, and the best solution is to learn riding them with the least impact possible to others, but most importantly yourself. Also, xanax rules.

    Reply
  15. Mary K says:

    I won’t tell the whole story, but I got so angry at work a few years ago that one of my co-workers (above me on the food chain but not directly), came up to me in the middle of my rant and said very calmly that maybe I needed to calm down because she was afraid I was going to have a stroke right there. I calculated and realized that about every two and a half years I used to have a meltdown at work (but that has been better since I changed jobs where I rarely deal with co-workers).
    However, Sunday night I came home emotionally drained from a day at my mother’s and my husband had done a shitload of chores around the house and I burst into tears and had to go to bed early.
    So I still have a ways to go.

    Reply
  16. Connie says:

    Yes I still meltdown. And sometimes it doesn’t seem to take much but then again I have to remind myself that something is triggering me and it’s a big deal to me.
    You just sold and bought a house, not to mention redoing some things like the kitchen counter. That’s a BIG deal. Moving is a REALLY BIG DEAL!
    So there’s that.
    Then going back to WORK while dealing with the moving was a VERY BIG DEAl!
    There’s that.
    And on and on and on……
    It squeezes our resources until something has to give.
    I guess being sensitive to your last nerve and backing off the to do list helps but hell if I know exactly how to do that.
    You’re just human and we’re raised in an intolerable situation and trying to get over the damage inflicted. It’s not work for sissies. You’re doing fine actually.

    Reply
  17. Doug in Oakland says:

    Well, let’s see, there was the time when Briana and I were fighting and I lost my shit and threw our motorcycle. Like picked it up and threw it. It went up before it went down.
    I have a sore spot for devices that tell me no. My first Mac (the oldest, slowest G4 they ever made) caused me to fly into a rage once when I went to delete a file that came with a program I had uninstalled and it told me that I did not have permission to delete the file.
    Why that bothered me so much, I can’t really say, but at least I can admit that it did.
    I got obsessed with deleting that file, and had to learn how to write an “Apple Script” to make it go away, and by that point the name “Apple Script” itself pissed me off, but god damn it, I’ll learn a “Nose Turd Script” if I have to, that fucking file is not gonna just sit there and tell me I don’t have permission to delete it from my computer.
    Basically, I was insane over a file telling me I didn’t have permission to delete it. Completely bugfuck over a goddamn file.
    I haven’t thrown a fit like that in a while, because as you point out, I don’t want to be a person who throws those kind of fits, but I think that might be what they were talking about when they said that there’s a time and place for everything. We all go there every once in a while, and for most of us it just passes and fades into the mists, but for those of us with the temerity to want to do something about it, well we have a bunch of extra work to do, and yes, it is exhausting.
    Can I say that I admire you for your efforts at getting a handle of these things, and that I live with someone who I wish had just the tiniest fraction of the self-awareness that it takes to do what you have done?

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      Not gonna lie, I kinda want to see someone throw a motorcycle now. 🙂

      And finding self awareness..damn. That just isn’t something you can force. I went through many many years without examining ANYTHING. We’re all doing what we CAN do, right now. Thank you. This space has helped me more than anything else. It really has.

      Reply
      • Doug in Oakland says:

        Upon re-reading your post, it occurred to me that the band I was in in 1979 was called “Melt Down.”
        And Briana, whose birthday was Wednesday, requested that I clarify my statement by pointing out the fact that she is NOT the person I was referring to in the last sentence of my comment above…

        Reply
  18. Mary-Anne says:

    Like the time the dripping faucet was making me crazy and I had the faucet taken apart, the downstairs water turned off and was wailing with tears and snot running down my nose when my son came in and quietly inquired what the hell I was doing?
    I couldn’t fix the drip (I needed a washer which my dh bought the next day) and I was overwrought for many hours.
    Not my finest moment.

    But then, non of those moments ever are.

    Breathe, just breathe.

    All will be well. All will be well. In the end all will be well. If it is not well then it is not the end.

    Reply
  19. BarbaraM says:

    I don’t want to admit to the quantity of melt downs I’ve had in the past year as my husband’s stroke-induced dementia has gotten worse. It makes me believe that I’m a horrible person, because who yells at someone like that? Only a really horrible person. So now I’m mad at myself and beating myself up about what a bitch I am. (Xanax is my savior). But I will mention a time years ago when I had a cast on my leg and the doctor’s office told me I had gone through all the “no cost” visits and to remove the cast I had to pay many hundreds of dollars. I was yelling at the receptionist (no four letter words amazingly) when she calmly said, “I don’t have to take this” and hung up on me. I stared at the phone and thought, “You can do that? Hang up on someone irrational?” I had to call back and (gulp) apologize and she told me oopsie, I still had 1 appointment left so that they could remove the cast. (I was really going to spend the rest of my life with a cast on my leg?). But in the mean time, I went through all of that and it turned out I was right, but I apologized? That set me off even more.
    I saw a Meme recently (regarding mention of AT&T customer service) that said “Why do I have to press #1 for English when you are just going to send me to someone who doesn’t speak it?”
    Hope you’re taking deep breaths, if for no other reason than to blow out the fires within.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      Oh sweetheart, try to not beat yourself up too much. It’s stressful, being a caretaker is stressful. I don’t know if this will help or not, but my dad had a heart episode over 20 years ago that left him slightly brain damaged and he needs care. Not a lot, but he is very much like someone in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. My mom, who is the sweetest person in my world lost her temper with him many many times. Now, prior to his brain damage, he was a narcissistic bag of dicks, so there was a lot of water under the bridge. But now he is vulnerable and not the same. My mom felt guilty about that as well, but she made her piece. We’re all doing the best we can. Much love to you. xo

      Reply
  20. Jane says:

    The whole time you knew you needed to call IKEA but you put it off ratcheted up the tension, so you walked into the situation already tightly wound. It is sooooo familiar to me, because I do it often. I know what happens, but I can’t make myself do the thing until I’m wound so much I can’t stand it anymore.
    THEN the “don’t talk to a person option” got WAAY stupid with the requirement for the page number. You MADE yourself go into the rat maze because you had to, and somebody put up a brick wall just for fun. THEN you had to make yourself call Customer Support, and somebody not only threw a brick wall in front of you (the hang-up on voice mail) but they gave you a big slap in the butt as you ran into it.
    I don’t think a meltdown is surprising at all.
    THEN you persisted and got it done anyway. CONGRATULATIONS!!!! YOU DID GOOD!!!
    I am so glad you have people in your life who do the right thing, which is let you get them all snotty while you cycle down. And you’re right, it takes several days.
    Please don’t think ill of yourself – you did perfectly fine.

    Reply
  21. Babbalou says:

    Okay, so I relate to this so much that I couldn’t read the other comments – LaLaLaLa, I can’t HEAR YOU!

    Other than every single time I ever talked to Comcast, the other melt-downs are too embarrassing to talk about here. But my husband gets that look that cats get when their ears stick straight out horizontally from their heads and their eyes are wide and I know I have seriously overstepped. But I cannot stop yelling….

    Reply
  22. Peggy L says:

    I was brought up with a mother who would become unhinged over random things and seemed to offload all her anxiety when she had a meltdown-when it was over, she was calm and happy as can be. So most of my meltdowns are internal-I just shut down completely. But I do go off once in a while…
    There is all sorts of developement work going on around us, and the company that is in charge is huge, arrogant, and devoid of any business manners. The project manager was kind and witty and charming when this started, mainly because they needed an agreement signed off to get started. Once that was done, she has been the worst. Spelling out the details would enrage me again. Some weeks ago, there was a major problem. Big. I had the paper trail, records of phone calls, texts and emails ignored, and when I finally got her on the phone, I let her have it. Every excuse, I had the receipts. Finally, “I’m really sorry, we lost my Mom Tuesday.” Damn. Stopped me in my tracks. She’s my age, and I knew she’d moved here to help with her Mom. I started bawling, she was bawling, and the issue was suddenly not that important any more.

    I am totally with you-if I can handle something without personal contact, my life is on an even keel. I hate, HATE cold calling anyone. It sends the anxiety through the roof. I was feeling your pain just reading your story.

    Klonopin is what keeps me from the ledge.

    Reply
  23. Spiked Lee says:

    I love this so hard because we are all so human and you are so human and who *hasn’t* done this? and if you have had bad things happen especially when you were young, sometimes it just bubbles up.
    Customer service especially is so frustrating. I tried to help my father unlock the web access to his bank account, but the customer so-and-so on the phone had a horrible accent and refused to talk loudly enough for my father to hear him over the phone, even when I asked him to. When I repeated the questions loudly, the “agent” told me I was committing fraud and said he wouldn’t help any more! It is actually easier to have my father walker to the car, get in the car, get out of the car, walker in to the bank, and have them resolve the problem there than to try to get help over the phone. If my father hadn’t been sitting next to me, the 4 letter words would have been hurled for sure! I didn’t not give a good review to the survey that came by email!
    Being told to calm down is a sure way to get me ready to throw things, and anyone who says that to someone mid-melt down deserves to have things thrown at their head.
    Also, I hate that thing in my head where I am being verbally abused, and I think I am the bad guy and I deserve it! that old thinking pattern that I had when I was little and didn’t know any better comes roaring back and takes over my whole brain. it seems like every time I think I am better, it happens. And I am so grateful and for people around me who have my back and tell me that yeah, that just happened, and it was not my fault. I am sorry we have to overcome our rotten childhoods. you, me, and everyone on this page deserves better.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      OMG we did! We did deserve so much better. All of this is helping me feel so much relief. I felt like I had just lost any progress I made or that the progress is a lie.

      Reply
  24. Lisa K says:

    OK… my first reaction was, “Randy said what?”
    God Bless his heart 😉
    Tim has never said ‘Calm down’ to me and that is why he is still alive 🙂 He HAS backed slowly into another room, with the children behind him.
    Now, reading through the comments, I love the feeling of humanity and raw emotion and capability in the ‘pulled it off’ scenario.
    So. my 3 page diatribe and too many to count telephone ‘on hold’ calls to Sears during a 3 week ‘fix my brand new $1200 warrantied washing machine’ that has all my families underwear locked in it the week before school starts, sounds like a stepping stone in life’s frustrations…
    But.
    Last week.
    Doctor appointment in the ‘CITY.’
    I Googled the directions and wrote them down. I left my house with 1 hour and 15 minutes to find the place on what Google said should take me 37 minutes (I never trust the time estimate 😉 and, long story short, at 2:29 I pulled into a McDonald’s so I could borrow a phone and call in late. 🙁
    (No, no I do not have a cell phone. That is just another frustration I do not think I need… maybe.)
    Tim just bought me a tablet last week and I had taken it with me to listen to audiobooks on the bluetooth – (didn’t get that working until after I got back LOL, but still wasn’t to crying levels, I just held it by my ear, then when I got back, Darin came out to my car and helped me work through that defining moment… he didn’t tell me to calm down, either, cuz he enjoys breathing, too 😉 ) so I knew if I could find a hot spot I could redo my directions… I wasn’t too frustrated and over lost, yet.
    3 hotspots and 45 minutes later, I have approached my destination from 3 directions and 2 major roadways. I’m ready to park my car sideways in the middle of the freeway til someone comes to save me, I’m screaming in the car and pretty much slack jawing the road signs and I now need to tell the doctor’s office that I’m trying, please let me in…
    So I pull into McDonald’s for their hot spot and to borrow a phone. I go in and there’s an employee sitting by himself at a table on break, so I ask him, tearfully, if I can just sit for a second and get my shit together.
    What a sweet kid… appropriately asks if he needs to hold that gun for me (kidding!! I wasn’t on the evening news… 😉 ) he spent the next five minutes helping me find the doctor’s name and clinic name (I had only written down the address, and by that time I couldn’t remember to breathe ) and let me use his phone to call and let them know I was 5 fucking minutes away according to Google.
    By the time I got to the office, I was at the wrong doctor. I no longer needed to talk about acne scar and mole removal. Now I need a shot, an extended release pill and why doesn’t he have my required long sleeve coat with the pretty hasps?
    My head is ‘smoky foggy sparkly.’ (That feeling like you’re hyperventilating, but you can still hear.)
    I am ragged breathing, but I’m not crying (Thank you McDonald’s guy!)
    and I am questioning, aloud, why anyone would want to live around so many roads that don’t go anywhere???
    10 minute appointment and I am out the door.
    37 minutes later I am home, after holding the golden tablet to my ear the whole way so I can hear my book and charging in the house hollering, “Darin!! I need you to help me RIGHT NOW!” and he ‘programmed’ (synched?) my car speakers to find my tablet.
    …and then I slept for 11 hours.
    And everybody lived.
    The End

    Reply
    • Lisa K says:

      I love how your writing perfectly captures every nuance of rising and falling emotion and the inner battles that go with it.
      I’m sorry you’re so ‘experienced.’
      I’m glad I found you and your wonderful tribe.
      <3

      Reply
    • Michelle says:

      WHEW…holy hell, sister…what a day!

      Reply
      • Lisa K says:

        Oh…. I forgot the almost best part… I got in my car after my appointment, half scared I won’t be able to get back home, I certainly didn’t bring enough breadcrumbs, and I look in the mirror and there is a lovely, white, stress zit on my upper lip.
        I just talked and smiled and tried not to cry in front of PEOPLE and BORROWED SOMEBODY’S phone with a fucking ready to burst pimple….

        Reply
  25. Pam says:

    I just found this quote for a project I’m working on:

    The weak never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
    Mahatma Gandhi

    Think of how fucking strong we have to be to forgive ourselves. Herculean. Wonder Woman strong. Harriet Tubman strong. Rosa Parks strong.

    And think about the pile of shit you took before you hit nuclear meltdown. Not just 9/11 and the complete bullshit that is our current governing force, but 1964 days of crap that piled up until IKEA released it.

    I melted down on Sunday. My stepson and his girlfriend had been living with us (at their insistence, not by invitation like Joey) for FOURTEEN months and finally moved out a few weeks ago. I spent Sunday cleaning out our guest bedroom and bathroom.

    I washed her hair off the shower walls and found toenail clippings on the side table and dirty dishes under the bed and was truly so fucking mad that if I’d seen either of them I’m quite certain I would have been physically abusive. I told Frank that I was fucking furious and that it was my right to be that mad. Wise man did not disagree, just focused hard on wiping something nasty off a wall.

    Then he tried to get me to move the new mattress into the guest room and I melted down, unable to lift my side at all.

    I stomped off and poured a bath.

    My kids came on Wednesday to move the mattress, my son’s skinny little girlfriend did the heavy lifting I could not do three days earlier. My anger had apparently robbed me of my strength.

    What I was proud of was that I allowed myself to be fucking pissed off. I’m not proud that it immoblized me. But I’m gonna work on being strong enough to forgive myself.

    Forgiving turdface and his inconsiderate girlfriend will likely take longer.

    Reply
  26. Kate says:

    “I felt like I had electric eels made of bile and vitriol climbing up my spine and spitting into my brain.”

    Yup.

    Try not to let your very human over reaction send you into a tailspin about the progress you’ve made. Why we are ALL not standing on our decks howling at the moon or setting shit on fire at this point boggles my mind.

    My anger still shocks me, too. Because I THINK I am calm. I THINK I am rational. Then I erupt and want to drive my car into my greedy, corrupt, and rude as fuck dentist’s office front window yelling, FUCK YOU MOTHER FUCKERS, and realize, “yea, not so much.”

    Here’s another perspective though: Instead of the times you LOSE It, think of all the times you could have justifiably lost it and you DID NOT. Cause this world is heavy, Michelle. It’s some heavy, hard shit. The fact that we find joy in it every day is the real miracle of us.

    Reply
  27. Sarah says:

    I completely lose it some times, like yours. It’s never just one thing that triggers: it’s 1 then 1 then 1 until you hit the magic number and something snaps. Its some sort of accumulated stress load and I have no idea why mostly I deal but sometimes I explode. I’m only a single pet mom, not a mom, but I have to be sure I don’t rage at them. It’s like coming unhinged to the point that it’s hard to fathom later where all that rage came from. I wish I could tell you the magic answer of how to not ever do it again, but if there’s a way, I sure haven’t found it. And I feel like shit afterwards. Once that stress and anger blows out, then the regret for not being a better person comes out with sadness and regret. Honestly I have been that way all my life. It’s better than it used to be. I think in the end that’s all we can do, just keep trying. Hugs and peace to you.

    Reply
  28. Spiked Lee says:

    I just re-read this whole column and all the comments. I am anticipating a stressful day and reading through again made me feel stronger, like you all have my back even though everyone is halfway around the country.
    thanks, every one!

    Reply
  29. It’s comforting to know that we’re not alone in melting down in the face of shitty technology. There have been times when I’ve demonstrated infinite patience with people but have broken things because they didn’t do what they were supposed to do. Breaking them didn’t help, but nothing’s perfect.
    In my defense and yours I’ve talked to program developers who admit that it’s a big problem in their field that too many developers don’t understand good design—or are under too much pressure to make something as good as they’d like. Sometimes I think computers have become too important to all of us to be left in the hands of programmers.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      That’s the truth. As I have been a programmer for 30 years, I can tell you this…programmers are batshit. I mean completely batshit. You might get a few normal people, I mean, I don’t think I am that out there..but I have never in my life met so many crazy ass people. I could write a fucking book. I was a consultant for a number of years, so I had the opportunity to meet a lot of coders. So much arrogance. Holy shit.

      Reply
  30. Liv says:

    I haven’t had one of those since I left my ex. I’ve had moments where I felt like it was coming, but haven’t been pushed over the edge. But I know how that feels. I’m sorry. I would have taken a shirtful of snot for you too.

    Reply
  31. Onlyme says:

    This is such a good post, and all the comments – wow! Where do I start saying thank you? I’ve been right where you were, so, so many times. I don’t want to say it’s because we’re female,because in a way that just trivializes it, but I do truly believe that sometimes our damned hormones do play a role. Sometimes I think it’s hormones that bring rage and tears and frustration and helplessness to lie just below the surface, waiting to explode out of us at what later often seems like a minor provocation. I’m just happy to learn it’s not just me. I feel so, well, wronged when I have one of these “tantrums” and then get told by my partner that I shouldn’t. Well hell yes, I shouldn’t! But shoulds and shouldn’ts don’t work after the fact, or even during. Once the rage begins, once the shouting, hair pulling, red-faced, sweaty, teary-eyed rage begins, don’t – Please Don’t – tell me what I should or shouldn’t be doing. Don’t tell me to chill. Or calm down. Or take a deep breath. Just try, please just try, to understand that I don’t understand it either, but I gotta get through it, and a little kindness just might help. Yes. So thank you, MacDonald’s kid who helped Lisa K – the world needs more of them. And thank you Michelle, and all your followers. Suddenly I feel almost normal.

    Reply
  32. Andrea says:

    Children of narcissists grow up feeling like they have no voice. Our opinions never mattered. I have been working on myself since my early 20’s (I’m 49 now) and one thing that STILL triggers me is when I feel like I’m not being heard or feeling like I’m being dismissed.

    Having the website completely “ignore” you trying to tell them what was wrong by clearing the form 5 times is just like not being heard.

    I quit my gym back in February and they have still been charging me every month but I haven’t done anything about it because I don’t want to deal with it. Sigh. It’s also because I totally overthink how the conversation will go and feel like I’m not fully prepared for all of the possibilities. I wish I was normal sometimes.

    None of us are alone and you are definitely not a bad mother! I read that article (from your next post) as well and I could relate to it all. I’ve always wondered why I’m so good at knowing how people are feeling when others don’t seem to notice. I always assumed it was empathy but that article makes total sense.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      I am so freaking glad you commented because YES. Not being heard is one of my worst things ever. The silent treatment is just not acceptable. Fortunately, Randy understands this and even though he is inclined to withdraw when there is conflict, he will respond to me if I speak to him. Nothing will set me off more than being ignored. Seriously, thanks for this..another epiphany. 🙂

      And I think you can attribute a lot of your hyper awareness to an excess of empathy. I mean, the article makes all the sense, but I’d be willing to bet you have an abundance of empathy. That’s what happens to children of narcissists who don’t become narcissists themselves.

      Reply