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Let's Talk About Bipolar Rage

by Chris Hearn 4 months ago in bipolar

One scary aspect of having Bipolar Disorder is the Bipolar Rage that can come with it.

Photo by Yogendra Singh/Unsplash

Last night, I experienced a bout of Bipolar Rage (or Bipolar Anger, or, according to the Mayo Clinic, Intermittent explosive disorder). I found myself in the street in front of my apartment screaming at some guy that I didn't know. Although it seemed that I was out of control in many ways, I wouldn't have actually hit him. At least I don't think so. I screamed profanities at him for quite a while at the top of my lungs, and I'm sure I could be heard from a long way off. There is a bar across the street and I know that I got the attention of every patron there.

The event was triggered by a young man and a young woman getting into a fight on the sidewalk under my apartment window. They were screaming at each other, and next thing I knew, I began to scream at they guy from my window. Next thing I knew, I was out the door, into the street and in the guy's face. It was bad, and I feel horrible about it.

What is bipolar rage?

Bipolar Rage is a disproportionately angry response to certain situations that people like me, with Bipolar Disorder (in my case Bipolar II), can experience. This quote, from the Bipolar UK website, sums up what is is better than I can.

“Bipolar anger is impulsive, intense, erratic, and explosive. It is being asked a simple question and responding with irrational anger and/or irritation. It is lashing out, for no logical reason, on those that love and care for you. It’s driving down the road and whetting the blade of your pocket knife on the side mirror because someone is driving too close to you. It is the inability to listen to rational behaviour and even answering the question ‘why?’”

My response was definitely disproportionate. I was triggered by someone else's fight. I shouldn't have gotten involved. Their fight involved yelling and didn't seem to involve any physical element. I don't know who exactly these people were. And I'm sure they were shocked when all of a sudden some guy is out in the street yelling and swearing over their fight. I was shocked myself how quickly my rage came and escalated. And today, I have what I call Bipolar Rage hangover. I am embarrassed. I am drained. I am sort of in shock. All in all, not great. I feel like I failed to keep my emotions in check, which I did. I haven't had these Bipolar Rage episodes as much as I used to. So, when it happens, it's disappointing. It's not something that I want to happen.

For me, when we talk about fight or flight, I seem to go with the first...fight. Seldom is it flight. I don't get into actual fist fights. But I do go nuts on people, and it really is not good. It's an ugly scene. The fact that I am 6 feet tall and on the large size has probably saved myself from being beaten up several times. Or, this wall of rage that I experience is so overwhelming and so unexpected that it leaves people confused, shocked and scared. When suddenly a big guy is coming at you, screaming in your face, and you don't even really know why, I'm sure it is a hard thing to comprehend.

How to deal with Bipolar Rage

The last week prior to this happening was a stressful one. I guess I just didn't realize how bad I felt until suddenly it came out in one horrible burst of extreme anger. But, that is the thing with Bipolar Rage. It can sneak up on you.

Bipolar Rage CAN be stopped before it flares up. In order to prevent it, you have to really watch your triggers. You have to know what will set you off and try to avoid it. I failed this time around. I allowed myself to get stressed, I allowed myself to get tired, and I allowed myself to get sucked into someone else's negative situation. I didn't take the appropriate measures in time. I didn't heed the warning signs, or spend the time to become aware of how I was feeling.

I have done a lot of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Mindfulness in the past and found it to be helpful. It has given me some tools that I can apply to situations like this. Well, I should say tools that I can apply BEFORE these situations happen. Sometimes the situation gets out of control quicker than you expect and all of those tools seem to get thrown out the window.

But, knowing that these outbursts happen to me, I have to pay attention all the time. I have to work at getting into a mindset where I don't allow things to trigger me. I have to analyze situations and tell myself not to allow the thoughts and feelings that can lead to these outbursts to take control.

The big one is to take care of myself. Stay well rested. Eat properly. These two I have a lot of trouble with. When I am hungry or tired, I am at my most vulnerable. These are the times when something bad have a higher chance of happening. So, I must remember that. I can't let myself be hungry and I have to work to make sure I'm not wiped out.

It is important to properly manage stress, and do my best to stay away from stressful or triggering situations. That's often easier said than done. Deep breathing exercises are good for calming the body and mind down. Remembering to do them frequently is important, and I'm not always good at that.

RELATED: I Am My Bipolar Diagnosis

One of the hardest parts of this problem is how little others understand. People will think that I am drunk or just a total a-hole. There is no doubt that I am acting like an a-hole and that I am responsible for what I am doing. But, I wish I could just go back to the people I have lost it on and explain that this is an unfortunate reality of having Bipolar Disorder. It's not an issue of toxic masculinity, it's not an issue of being a jerk intentionally, it's an issue of having a genuine problem with this kind of behaviour. I don't mean to be horrible to these people. It isn't my goal.

The thing is, I know that the behaviour is bad. I know it, and that's what makes it that much worse. And, everything that I do, I am responsible for. I can't just say, "Oh, it's just the Bipolar" and try to absolve myself of responsibility. It's still me doing these things. If I hurt someone, it's on me. If the police are worried enough about my behaviour that they need to act, that's on me. Any damage I do to relationships is on me. I'm responsible for it. Which is why being able to do everything I can to prevent it from happening is in my best interest.

And I suppose even by writing this essay, I am trying to remind myself of that fact. That episode of rage really took me my surprise. My guard was down and the very thing I don't want ever to happen did happen. Now I have to move on, try and put it in the past and learn so that I can do my best to avoid getting into that mess again any time soon.


Chris Hearn

I'm a 47 year old writer, amateur photographer and amateur dad living in Winnipeg, MB, Canada.

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