Unless you’ve experienced it, you won’t really know what I’m talking about. I can try to describe it for you.
Something happens to trigger anger. Your initial reaction might be ever so slightly elevated, or it might even be normal, but very quickly it escalates into something that is over the top for the situation.
Example: Last night, my dogs kept waking me up, wanting to get out of their kennel. Their incessant whining and crying was more than I could stand. By the time I had thrown off the covers, unlocked their kennel, walked into the living room, turned on the light, and opened the dog door, I was ready to throw down with some dogs. I was yelling (and probably some not-so-nice words, too). I was huffing and puffing, and stomping around – because this was the best tantrum I could throw at one in the morning without waking everyone else up. Suffice it to say, I was really angry.
Fast forward three hours and the whole process starts over again. More crying from the dogs and I have to get up out of bed again. Again. Sidenote: I do not get out of bed to take care of animals. It’s a hard rule. My rule has now been trampled on twice in the same night and I am livid. My heart is pounding and I am ready to throw things at these dogs. My disdain for them is growing by the millisecond. The yelling continues and only gets louder. I’m surprised no one else woke up.
More crying as soon as I put them back in the kennel. This time, I remove myself from the room and sleep the rest of the night on the couch. Problem solved. Sort of.
You would think that would have been the end of it, right? No. I have been harboring hateful, vengeful feelings toward these dogs all day. I loathe the sight of them. Thinking of having to take care of them makes my blood boil. Feelings of wanting to throw and hit things have not gone away.
What is wrong with me? Why can’t I calm down? It wasn’t a huge catastrophe, after all. It was just an annoyance. Why so angry? Then it hit me. I was experiencing bipolar rage. It comes in, quickly escalates, and then refuses to dissipate. It clings on for dear life, not allowing you to move on from the anger you feel.
It’s kind of scary, actually. As with many of mood states of bipolar disorder, you sometimes don’t care about the consequences of your actions when you’re in the middle of an episode. Same was true here. Thankfully I didn’t act on it, but I truly didn’t care about the dogs when I was raging. No one could have talked me down by trying to be sensible. My anger was too strong.
Today, the only way out of it was anti-anxiety medication. I rarely take those because they throw me for a loop, but I felt like today was a day when it was truly needed. Sometimes grounding and breathing exercises work. Sometimes distracting myself works. Sometimes prayer helps. But today, it was pharmacy that helped.
If you know someone who has bipolar disorder, remember that bipolar rage is a real thing. It sneaks up on us at the more random, and usually inopportune, times. As much as we try to handle it, many times it gets the better of us, and we may need an extra helping of grace in these moments.