I remember screaming at the top of my lungs until my throat hurt. I remember having argument after argument with my parents. I remember being told I should be a lawyer because I loved to argue. I even remember throwing chairs once! But, I also remember going to my room, sobbing, not knowing why I was yelling in the first place. I didn’t like to scream and argue, but the anger flowed through my veins with such force and it had to come out. I never knew, until years later, that anger and agitation can actually be signs of hypomania. Looking back, I wonder whether the depression and anger outbursts were actually the early stages of my bipolar disorder.
It started in high school, so my parents saw this behavior as me being a “typical teenager.” I was just being dramatic. However, the anger followed me into my 20s and crept into relationships. I kept my anger bottled up and saved it for the ones closest to me because I felt safest with those people. I remember living in my first New York City apartment with my then-boyfriend and listening to the neighbors across the hall yelling at each other all the time. I always wondered what was wrong with them. Why were they so angry? It wasn’t too long after that I realized they were probably hearing me do the same thing. I just didn’t see it in myself because I knew that deep down, I really wasn’t the angry monster that came out.
In the year before I was diagnosed, the rage peaked. Every little thing set me off and I physically felt the blood pumping and my heart pounding out of my chest as I tried to contain the outburst. As much as I didn’t want to hurt those I loved, I had to release that energy and at that point in time, my soon-to-be husband was the recipient of my venom.
During these moments of rage, I felt disassociated, like I was watching myself in a movie. I swore like a sailor; the words that flew out of my mouth were not things I would ever say to my family or fiancé under normal circumstances. I remember walking down 59th street in New York City, near Central Park. I was talking to my mom on the phone about wedding plans. What started out as an innocent conversation turned into me screaming into the phone because she disagreed with my point of view about something. People were passing by and looking at me like I was “crazy.” It was one of the first times I did this in public.
I realized this behavior was detrimental to all of my relationships, but I didn’t know what to do; I felt out of control. Everyone walked on eggshells around me because they were afraid of “setting me off.” This wasn’t how I wanted to be; this wasn’t me. Even though it felt somewhat good to set that anger free, I was consumed by guilt and a fear everyone would walk out on me. Who could blame them? I didn’t want to live with myself the way I was and I don’t know how anyone else did either.
When I got diagnosed and put on a mood stabilizer, the rage faded. My temper still gets sparked every once in a while, but not more than the average person. I feel like I have much more control over my responses these days. I am able to walk away and revisit issues when I’m calm. When I do feel like I am getting much more agitated than “normal” and little things begin to make me angry, it’s usually a sign of a mood shift and a signal that I have to pay extra attention to self-care. I am so grateful that the anger is under control and so is everyone around me.
This blog was posted on The Mighty under a different title.