Dear Polly,

I tried to stop being so angry, and now I don’t know who I am.

I’ve been angry for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, my dad bullied and abused me, and my depressed mother didn’t have what it took to protect me. So I became a master of revenge tactics and self-protection. I was like a tiny girl Machiavelli with a big attitude. Then I went to school and found myself in argument after argument, always on the lookout for my next big feud. When I joined the world of work, my anger thrived like a weed. It’s not an anger that punches down (more often than not, it’s directed high up at the people who hold all the power), but it’s anger nonetheless, and it’s exhausting.

Recently, I decided I didn’t want to be this red-hot ball of rage any more. So I quit my job, parted ways with an old friend, and cut ties with some toxic people, all in an attempt to take away the anger from my life. I stopped checking the Twitter accounts of people I hate. I started taking long, deep breaths before I entered a high-stress interaction.

But I feel so empty now that I don’t have that anger. It’s like without something (or someone) to push against, I just can’t get moving. For months now, I’ve felt completely hollow. I don’t even get any real joy from food anymore (and I used to love eating almost as much as I loved fighting). I thought that taking the anger out of my life would show me my true form, but all I see is this listless, depressed shell of a person. I hate to admit it, but conflict gave life.

Can I be alive without being angry?

Yours sincerely,

Red-Hot Ball of Rage