Was My Anger Really Grief?

Janet Coburn
4 min readAug 21, 2022

I had a right to be angry. I had been gaslighted. I had suffered emotional and verbal abuse.

He told me that when I couldn’t answer his accusations, he wanted to kick me. He made up an obscene song as a “tribute” to me and gleefully sang it to his friends. He said that when I wanted to use the bathroom with the door closed, it was a sign that I wasn’t “open enough.” Once he left me to sleep in the car on the streets of Buffalo while he went to a party. He asked me what I would have done if he were not “supporting” me. When I made a mistake with some guests, he said I had “besmirched his honor.” When I told him the singers I listened to were popular, he replied, “Eat shit. Twenty million flies can’t be wrong.” He started an affair with my best friend and invited her into our bed.

When I got him to go to couples counseling, he asked me if I was sure I wanted to, because he and the therapist could have me hospitalized. I retreated into self-harm and self-medication with alcohol.

I lived with this for a year with no way of escape except to a separate room in the house, which I began to pay him rent for. My parents came to town for my college graduation and refused to come into his house.

He never hit me. I always swore I would never stay with a man who hit me, no second chances. But he didn’t, so I stayed. When I finally left, while he was at work, he threatened to call the police on me in case I stole any of his belongings.

When I left, I swore I didn’t feel any anger. Denial and numbness were my reactions at that point. A little later, when my feelings started to return, I had minor, ineffectual revenge fantasies, none of which I ever carried out. I started reading about battered women, learned helplessness, and even brainwashing, trying to get a handle on what had happened and why I had stayed as long as I did.

I was clinically depressed, of course (not yet diagnosed as bipolar). And this was back in the days when the standard definition of depression was “anger turned inward.” So, in effect, the mental health community was blaming me for my own anger and depression. I didn’t know enough to be angry about that, either.

I’ve carried that anger with me ever since, for decades. I’ve gotten past most parts of it, but it still…

Janet Coburn

Author of Bipolar Me and Bipolar Us, Janet Coburn is a writer, editor, and blogger at butidigress.blog and bipolarme.blog.