Dear Mrs. Bluth,
Thank you for your time in reading this letter as I can’t speak about my issue with anyone else. I know you must get tons of letters from people who are miserable about the current state of affairs due to the Covid-19 virus and all the changes we have undergone to try and stay well and beat it. But I don’t think I’m going to make it! I did something yesterday that was completely reflexive and out of character for me and I have been seething at myself trying to rationalize why I let it happen.
I have always been a laid back type of personality, usually speak in a moderate tone of voice and am calmer, as a rule, than my wife is. I have never had any anger issues and usually am called upon to settle arguments and discord among my children, family members and friends. In fact, I have been credited for saving a few of my friends’ marriages by listening to them and giving them advice to that end. But it seems my patience level has fallen off the Richter scale since I started working from home and having to listen to fighting, yelling and frustrated kids all day as they are cooped up and forced to sit in virtual classes for hours without benefit of being with their friends.
Yesterday, my eleven-year-old daughter stormed into my office screaming that she lost her Zoom class for the umpteenth time, while I was working with a client. Due to her screaming interruption, I lost the client that I had been working with because he couldn’t tolerate her shrieking. I lost all sense of control and grabbed her by her hair and smacked her hard across the face and screamed at her to ‘shut up’. Mrs. Bluth, it was as if I completely lost my sanity and even though I wanted to stop myself, I couldn’t! She ran out of my office screaming for her mother and I sat at my desk with my head in my hands, weeping at what I had done. I have never raised my voice to any of my children or to anyone for that matter, much less raised my hand in rage.
My wife was so horrified at the hand mark my slap had made on our daughters face, she insisted I was having a nervous breakdown and that talking to a therapist was absolutely in order. I know she is right to a great degree, but I also know what caused this personality change in me and that when thing go back to normal, so will I. But my wife insists that I speak to a counselor/therapist or else she will have to leave me. I can’t afford therapy right now as our finances are dangerously in peril. I haven’t been paid in three months and my firm is very close to closing. Please help me and tell me what to do so I can say I am working with a therapist, even though it’s not exactly 100% what she had in mind.
I truly hope she doesn’t read this column or your little plan is doomed! But I truly understand your plight and will do my best here to get you where you need to be.
Yes, dear friend, you are in dire need of counseling, and immediately if not sooner!
You are quite right on one point, that being the adverse reactions everyone is having to the restriction we are forced to observe in regard to the virus and its dangerous and often lethal affects on our lives. But, there is no excuse to abandon logic and control over ones emotions! Yes, people are angry, yes, people have little to no tolerance for the tense and anxious way our children behave being cooped up in small quarters and denied the life they had been used to. However, they are children who do not or cannot understand why they are going through all this upheaval. We, on the other hand, being the adults, have to bite the lip, sit on the hand and hold back the scream, so that we can help them, and ourselves through this pandemic.
I know it doesn’t help you to hear that I have about fourteen letters from parents who feel guilty about how they are dealing with their children because of short-tempers, irritable conditions, and not being used to the 24/7 togetherness many of us are forced to endure. It can be devastating to the strongest of us to endure. But we cannot fall into the pit of anger that will rob us of will, reason, and control. Once you allow the anger to turn into rage, you fall off the pedestal of parenthood and clear-thinking and you become someone you don’t recognize and will feel guilty and ashamed of once you’ve calmed down and reviewed your behavior.
My worry for you is that you not only lost self-control to rage of words, you went a step further in that you raised your hand with such power, as to leave a mark on the child’s face. I dread to think of all the things that could have happened at this point and, baruch Hashem, didn’t. You could have grabbed a letter opener, or a paperweight, or grabbed her by the throat and not the hair! So, you see, I am in total agreement with your wife, because I don’t want there to be a next time.
I have left you some names to call and I think you can conduct your sessions over the phone, but don’t waste time. You have some work to do to learn how to cope with your anger that cannot wait until life goes back to the way it was. You also have to fix your relationship with your daughter in order to regain her trust, and with your other children who surely have heard what happened and seen the slap mark left on your daughter’s cheek. I truly believe you love your children and would never mean to harm them, but what happened dictates that some repair is needed and quickly.
Don’t worry about your wife, I have a feeling she is in shock to see a side of you that neither of you ever thought existed before. So long as you are in therapy, be it by phone or in person, and she sees you are seriously remorseful and determined to deal with your anger issue, I think she will stand by you and support you towards that end. But please, get on the phone and call one of the therapists today!