Bitterness – another unhelpful trait I nurture

I’m going to talk in a bit of detail about this subject, but I need to explain how I ended up writing this post in the first place. Unfortunately it wasn’t a pleasant experience and it’s left me very broken and sad. But that doesn’t mean I should pretend it didn’t happen.

Having recently spent some time up and down bitterness mountain, I found myself wondering how useful it is to hold on to grudges, letting them fritter away hours, or even days, of your time?

I was deliberately targeted recently – hurt and humiliated for my choice to be open and honest. That hatred forced me to spend some time considering where I want to go with all this. I’ve revisited the goals I had in mind and whether or not I’m prepared to hear people calling me ‘crazy’ while I try to do nothing more than effect change. I’m not sure why that qualifies me to be bullied, excluded, removed or name-called – I guess these people have their reasons – but I knew from the start that being honest online left me open to being scrutinised. I have always accepted I’m far from perfect, never claiming to be anything more than a patient with unusual physical and mental difficulties who wants other people to know they are NOT alone.

So when I talk about my own experiences and my PERSONAL journey, I do so NOT to be self-centered or to show myself as a ‘nutcase’. I do it to prove to myself AND others three simple things…

  1. It’s ok not to be ok
  2. You’re not the only one
  3. It can happen to anyone

With all that in mind, if you don’t want to read about things that fall within this remit (personal stories, lived experience, researched information, distractions, questions, answers and support websites) then rather than troll me and others like me, just leave the page, unfollow us, and walk away.

No one living with a mental or physical health condition, myself included, deserves to be bullied.

NO ONE DESERVES TO BE BULLIED. PERIOD.

My decision, if you’re interested and still here (thank you), is to continue. With the help and support of the incredible people I am now working with I have the potential to be part of the change that will help other people OUT of crisis and IN to comfort and safety.

I’d consider it a huge bonus if I can help myself along the way.

And so, in the end, after the tears and sadness the bully created, I was left asking myself a question I know many others ponder – Why does it make me so bitter?

No one on this planet holds a grudge as heavy or for as long as me. My partner would agree, and relish the opportunity to do so. I’m a 40-year-old resentful, socially anxious, bitch. However my bitterness normally comes from something deserving. Therefore, am I within my rights to feel that way? Do you feel the same? Is anger and resentment over past events antagonising you in those quiet moments? Do the careless / thoughtless / nasty actions of other people piss you off more than you think they should? Do other people brush things off that seem to effect you to your core?

Do you look back on your anger and wonder why it was so extreme?

Let’s talk about being bitter 😊…

What makes us bitter?

Do you have something right now that you can’t let go of? Did someone say something hurtful or careless? Do you feel as though people you love take you for granted? Are your relationships one-sided? Has someone let you down?

Why does something that, had it happened in the past would have been ignored or brushed-off, make us want to cry, scream, retreat and/or hide away today? Why do people hurt us? What have we done wrong? Why can’t we let it go? Why does it keep happening?

Why the fuck are we so bitter?

In my late teens and early 20’s the answer to this question was ‘I’m not’. Sure, when my boyfriend moved on to another girl we knew, a girl he’d told me he had no interest in whatsoever (hypothetical scenario, of course 😉 ) I’d have got pretty pissed off. Drunken calls from nightclubs hollering my disgust at him may have followed.

On reflection I have some bitterness over events where I found myself accused of things I hadn’t done, which ultimately caused me to lose relationships unnecessarily.

Oh, and a girl broke my gorgeous, expensive, treasured, Ravel strappy shoes and pretended she had nothing to do with it…when they were on her bloody feet!!! But I think that’s it. And that’s not much for a whole decade of living.

Saying that, it’s not difficult to look back and discover events that, if they happened today, would get right on my tits. At the time I didn’t even notice them, so there was nothing to ‘let go’ of.

In my 30’s that shifted. Looking back it was largely because my mum died pretty suddenly and that event caused me to take stock of where I was in life. A heavy level of bitterness was immediately born and started to spread via infinite questions. Why did she die? Why was it so harrowing? Why did so many people react so badly to it? Where was my support? Who will guide me now? Did she know I was there? Did I do enough to be a good daughter? Why have I let myself get so overweight? Am I going to die soon? Why am I unlovable? Why am I in this marriage? Why do I do this job, a job that makes me FUCKING MISERABLE, to the point that I throw up most mornings in the staff toilet?

Why am I going out of my way to help others when I ended up watching my mum die on my own?

The last one still makes my blood boil. I know even now that there should have been someone, ANYONE, to talk to.

But the desperate situation forced me to see my desperate existence. Mum dying actually offered me a chance to live (although it took a while to see it that way).

At the time the internal narrative was seething with anger, which helped the bitterness to survive and like bacteria in a yoghurt, it multiplied.

As you can tell, I was frustrated about many things. And I still believe I was right to be. It was a perfect storm of shit thrown at me all at once and I dealt with it alone.

Despite living in resentment, subconsciously I knew that if I wanted my life to be different, if I was heading for the same fate as my mum and death before 60 was chugging towards me, then I had to ‘let it go’, all of it, and make extreme and drastic changes.

And I did.

Despite the resentment and desire to hurt people who hurt me, I chose to live with it inside me and walk away.

My anger and rage were so big, so MASSIVE, that I chose to make a new life entirely.

I walked away from my marriage. I left financial security behind. I left behind local ‘friends’, with whom I thought there was mutual love and respect. I left behind fatty, delicious food, something I adored and that offered me great comfort. I left behind a well paid and well respected job. And finally, in the words of Oasis, I left behind Cigarettes and Alcohol.

Even after taking such drastic steps the irrtation remained.

I’m still very bitter.

The decisions I managed to make in my 30’s are decisions I wouldn’t be able to make today. Instead, I’d be wallowing in the bitterness and paralysed by the idea of change. That’s how I’m dealing with events now, in my 40s. They bubble inside me forever. I get angry and incredibly upset about them. I think about them at the worst possible moments. I use them as reasons to believe I’m useless and everyone is right to hate me.

That last permanently attached feeling makes me angry all on its own.

I’ve tasted bitterness in most of it’s forms and, if I’m honest, every single example still bobs around in my head. I have a wild imagination that congures up ideas concerning the appropriate reaction to those people and / or situations. But I haven’t responded to bitterness often.

Instead I let it eat me alive.

So, bearing all of that in mind, I think I’m experienced enough to say that, in my opinion, bitterness is fucking pointless.

Acting on bitterness

This is an area that causes controversy.

When someone or something has hurt you to the point that you regard yourself as bitter (how YOU feel, not that someone else says you are) then should you act on it?

I have some ‘new’ anger sitting in me today…someone decided to bully me online to the point that I because unbearably upset. My safety was clearly being threatened by someone I’ve never even crossed paths with, virtually or IRL.

When my bully appeared last month and started their unprovoked attack, I didn’t get a single moment of sleep for several days. I was physically and mentally exhausted, but the fuel keeping my eyes open wasn’t caffeine or chocolate, not deadlines or bills, not relationships or responsibilities. No. It was frustration and fear. Frustrated that someone hurt me so deeply and afraid that they were coming for me again.

The tears shed and sadness caused was in every particle of air around me. The fact that I was trapped and feeling this way is what created the ongoing bitterness. I’m fucking angry as I type this now. It won’t go away – I’m already preparing to have to live with it and the negative changes it (they) caused.

Despite all that, I can honestly say that in the last 7 or 8 years, besides official complaints to companies or organisations who’ve made business mistakes, and the police for criminal matters, I avoid confrontations, even when I’m angry.

I have irrational thoughts in my brain and they swim and swirl, combine and coaggulate, multiply and mix, until all I can see is a resentment wall. A wall made of a lot of questions and their benign answers.

Should you be quick to react to bitterness? No.

Should you consider acting if you’ve been upset, hurt or wronged in some way? Depending on the situation and appropriateness of the response, possibly, yes. Maybe even to the authorities (again, depending on the situation).

Should you dwell on what to do? No, especially if it seems it is eating you alive. You need to live, rather than live in resentment.

Remember this if nothing else – if it’s eating you up, it’s time to get help.

Do I need help with my bitterness?

Depending on how much it’s effecting you, possibly, yes.

And just to be clear, that’s nothing to be ashamed or afraid of. Paranoia and anxiety are monsters living in our souls. For some people the daily management of those ‘monsters’ is a walk in the park – they don’t even know they’re there. For the rest of us those ‘monsters’ are active and feeding us with irrational, paranoid, sometimes dangerous thoughts that have no real benefit over the situation.

Yes, someone or something has hurt you. That’s wrong and I’d never dispute that. You being hurt is what makes this an upsetting situation, not necessarily what was said.

Ask yourself this question – does the person who hurt you care? Are they bothered by what they did or what happened? Are they sad to hear how much it hurt you?

Fuck no.

You and I both know that the likelihood is they couldn’t give less of a shit. In fact, they’ve probably just moved on to their next victim and not given their nasty rampage a second thought.

That’s what bullies do.

So, if you’re considering whether or not it’s right to react, take some time and get some advice. Snap decisions are rarely the right ones, but that doesn’t mean you should ‘let it go’. Dwelling on reacting for prolongued periods is probably just feeding the monster within.

If you’re struggling to avoid dwelling on it, then it might be more useful to consider how to stop something like this happeneing again. What preventative measures can you take to ensure your existing mental scar doesn’t spawn a twin?

It becomes a much bigger problem when you notice you are having trouble with the act of ‘letting it go’ to the point it’s effecting your daily life. Only you know when it’s going too far, but people around you will have an incling if something is off.

Talk to someone appropriate. Get advice from your GP or one of the many mental health organisations on the Our Brains page of this website and at the bottom of this post.

It’s ok to need help. Resentment is one of the many, many things that effects our cognitive function. In fact…

PTED – Bitterness disease

A German Psychologist named Dr. Michael Linden coined the term ‘post-traumatic embitterment disorder’ (PTED) to describe when resentment is so deep-rooted it has ‘long lasting physical consequences‘.

Yes, it’s similar to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), but rather than revolving around threatening, frightening circumstances, PTED is the umbrella term for people who are convinced their whole belief system is under attack.

To be clear, this is bitterness in the EXTREME, but it proves the problem has the power to spin out of control. I found an excellent webpage on the subject in the National Bullying Helpline website – take a look at their dedicated PTED Page.

It’s possible your resentment doesn’t bubble this deep, but hopefully with my explanation of the more recent findings studying the effects of this emotion, it will help you accept it’s a normal event that, like so many other mental health challenges, can happen to anyone at any time.

Bitterness advice

Besides my own ramblings, there is actually some quality, balanced advice out there for those running away hand-in-hand with resentment and anger.

The NHS – I always start with the NHS as I’ve found that once you get the right help from them, it can be really positive and game-changing. Their Anger Page is where they direct patients with resentment issues. On that page you’ll almost be overloaded with advice and places to go, including what you should do in a mental health crisis or emergency. I recognise it can take time to get the right help, but persevere and engage with as many people as possible. If you need additional support outside of the NHS there are many other options…

Confidention Emotional Supportline – This website is new to me but I have no idea why. They offer advice, support, online checklists, information and signposting for all sorts of mental health challenges and illnesses. One of them is also anger, with a dedicated Anger Management page on their website. This has more information on the who, what, when, where and why of resentment and most importantly, how to manage it safely and appropriately.

Mind – Another website I recommend regularly because of the breadth of information available, plus the support offered is just as varied and thorough. This website also has a dedicated Anger Page where you’ll find more practical informaton on Anger Management, which may be beneficial for someone with varying levels of resentment, and provides places you can go for help and support.

Personally, my only practical advice as someone who loves to be angry and wallow in that frustration, is to get a third-party opinion. Preferably several opinions. And utilise people who understand the situation, have a balanced way of acting in general, who you trust, and who you know have your best interests at heart.

Be prepared to disagree with the advice, but also be prepared to consider it well. This is the reason multiple opinions can be critical. Does everyone agree? Does everyone disagree? Was there a majority verdict? Were there common responses? Did they show you what’s happened from a different angle? Did someone give you some relief with an alternative perspective?

Think about what’s been said and ask for the support of those around you while you travel through the bitter stage of your life.

In the end we are all just trying to find that elusive way of ‘letting it go’.

Abusive anger

On a serious note, there is no doubt that rage, resentment, bitterness and anger in general can lead a person down a dangerous and destructive path. That anger can be aimed at themselves, objects around them or the people around them. Whether you are the abuser or being abused, you need to access help as a matter of urgency. Again, I’d reccommend a conversation with your GP or other NHS professional, alternatively there are many pages online where you can find help including the Respect Helpline Anger Management page and the Mind website Anger Treatment and Support page.

Please do not suffer in silence. Get the help you need so you and the people around you are safe.

Conclusions of being bitter

Personally I’m unsure if I’ll ever reach the Princess Elsa level required to ‘Let it Go’. When something has happened that is unwelcome, dangerous, bullying or hurtful, eventually (after the dust has settled and been dusted away again) I’ll be able see things in a balanced way. However, I also know I need REAL time to find that balance. I’ll never be able to make the right decision in the middle of a shit-storm. Taking time, focussing again on breathing, removing myself from the situation and waiting until I can reflect without rage, are the steps I’ll always need to take.

Bitterness is enough of a problem that it’s long term effects have been researched and studied and an umbrella term for those that are effected by it for a prolongued period has been created – PTED.

For some people, resentment, anger, and acidity can become overwhelming and places them and those around them in a dangerous position.

Wherever you are on the resentment spectrum, I think it’s clear it’s normal to feel this way. In some cases it might be appropriate to reflect, reconsider and respond…in a BALANCED way. In alternative cases things are better left unsaid. Whatever the situation, there’s lots of help (see the links above) if you feel you need it.

I think we’ve covered a lot here, but the denouement to the post is, bitterness is normal, feeling resentful is normal, needing help with it is normal.

Unfortunately people who want to deliberately hurt us will always exist, often hiding behind the barrier of a computer screen, social media or a telephone. It’s how we manage the resulting tsunami of emotions that matters.

The picture

What’s bitter? Marmite.

You can love me or hate me. That’s cool.

But please don’t troll me when I’ve done absolutely nothing to deserve it.

Get yourself some toast and spread that marmite thick instead. Taste some bitterness yourself, okay?

Published by stephc2021

Hi! I'm Steph, an amateur writer and illustrator specialising in Mental Health and being a self-confessed Spoonie. My website is home to any successful fiction I create, with stories that have won so far covering difficult subjects such as baby loss and mental health in grief as well as some funny and heart-warming tales when I get the inspiration. Every drawing and picture on my website was created by me. I spend a lot of time coming up with illustrations to accompany all of my posts and pages. I try to create original content across all of my channels, whether I'm writing about my own fiction or just generally musing on mental health or my own issues. I want to be part of the change because I believe the understanding of MH in the UK is getting better, but has a very long way to go. By being honest about my own struggles and symptoms I think others will relate and hopefully it will encourage them to talk to someone and get the help and support they need. Long term my goal is to help children too, help them understand their own mental health and how to help with the mental health of those around them. I live in the UK with my partner, daughter and dog, I swear frequently and I adore a well made, traditional, gooey, chocolatey, delicious brownie.

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