Scream Queen: Why I Vent Out Loud When I'm Alone

I am a high-functioning scream queen. This involves shouting at the walls at full volume for most of the day and evening. It’s been my new normal since February 6, 2014, the day we delivered my terminally cancer-ridden mother into professional care, never to return home. She and I had blissfully cohabitated after my marriage ended and I moved the six blocks to her house. Eighteen months later, she died and I was alone for the first time ever. Now I was twice abandoned and singing a solo. Or, more accurately, yelling it. After moving to a senior apartment community, I asked my neighbors if they could hear my very loud television and radio. Nobody could, and I couldn’t hear anything from their apartments either. I felt a little less self-conscious about the shouting.

Pros and cons of venting out loud

There are many benefits of being a scream queen, which include but are not limited to:

  • Avoiding committing murder by boning knife, strangulation, and immolation;
  • Refraining from yelling at loved ones who are on my side;
  • Not making doctors cry after comparing them to the iceberg that sank the Titanic.

I have heard many protests against angry screaming, such as:

  • Anger can eat me up from the inside.
  • It’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
  • It doesn’t allow me to move on and make my peace with sad realities.
  • We should always listen to our better angels.

When it first started I scolded myself, thinking it was wrong of me and I should push it down, or see a therapist to discover why I was doing it, or walk it off when I felt a rant coming on, or some combination thereof. But I knew why I was doing it. I couldn’t push it down even if I wanted to--and I didn’t want to anymore. I’ve physically tried walking away from a rant only to delay it until I rested up afterwards. And my experience with therapists has convinced me that I’d be better off confiding in loved ones who know me best.

I rage at everyone who has ever done me an injustice, from the beginning of childhood memory to the present. I’m an introvert that’s always hidden my feelings, swallowing every scolding, judgment, physically harmful transgression, and gross insensitivity. And although my whole life’s worth of Kodak moments click across the screen of my inner eye during these rants, it isn’t really the first part of my life that initially set off the rant loop.

Everybody has pain

Everybody has pain from childhood and, whether or not we should, we tend to put it in a box and shove it in the back of the attic well away from kinder, gentler memories. Adolescence and young adulthood are impressionable years too. Women carry a heavier collection of violations and I am no exception. Sexual assault in early adulthood, sexual harassment in the workplace, scary and degrading onslaughts of obscenities yelled by construction workers, to name only a few. I am plagued by an excellent memory.

Despite the devastating effect of those early events, it was everything that happened after I developed symptoms of my very first MS flare in early middle age that bore down harder. Unlike memories of old wounds that have scarred over, these newer wounds are like high fiber produce: fresh and a lot less digestible.

For example, the diagnostic process was traumatic and drawn out, delayed partly by dismissive, chauvinistic, ill-informed professionals. I’ve had six lumbar punctures, three of which were nightmarish, painful, and with no apology from the offending doctors. And there are a hundred other violations of my body, dignity, spirit and mental health that have a place in the Kodak slide show of my scream fest. The list grows with each passing year.

What works for me might not work for you

Many humiliating events are ones we share in common as chronically ill people who need regular medical care. Mental and physical wear accelerate as we age and managing a chronic condition just hastens our fragility. We can be battered from all sides, from the medical profession, from a hostile workplace, a hostile home environment, from our own bodies’ assaults on our nerves, and from many more venues besides, sometimes all on the same day. As resilient as we are, people are a lot like plumbing. You can pour only so much crud down the pipes before the trap gets clogged and the rinse water backs up.

I can’t give anybody advice about how they should handle their rage. Pain has many balms, and what works for me might not work for you. Some will find comfort in psych counseling, confiding in loved ones, physical activity, meditation, cooking and baking. All I can say is that whatever you do with your rage, accept it and be gentle with yourself. A little kid is still living somewhere inside you that needs to be tucked in and read to before sleepy time.

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