The thing about having bipolar disorder is that, for me, it rarely shows up in a straightforward manner that is easy to comprehend and keep under control. I’ve been contemplating that it is something more akin to tripolar… with mania and depression being joined by a third branch: rage.
This has always been a problem for me. Always that kid throwing raging fits, breaking everything around me one minute and regretting it the next. When I got older the rage showed itself through self harm and then exploded in a volatile relationship where we screamed at each other most of the time. Impulsive suicide attempts. Wanting to hurt others. Wanting to hurt myself to hurt others.
Over the years I’ve found some ways to curb some of this intensity. After throwing and breaking a phone one time I now only throw phones at… pillows. After entering into a relationship where we talk like civilized people, I work hard not to scream and make threats.
It isn’t always there, the rage. It comes on often very suddenly, much like depression and mania does for me, and it doesn’t always come alone. It often accompanies symptoms of depression or mania as well. There are other times where I can feel it building over the course of a few days or weeks, and this is how things went down yesterday.
Yesterday was horrible. By noon I was out of control, crying and gasping for air when it took all the strength I had not to punch holes in the drywall.
I’ve been feeling an extraordinary amount of rage since the SSDI hearing. Of course, this is a situation where I can understand it though. I’m upset. I’m very upset, and if my therapist hadn’t been on vacation for the last two weeks things might have turned out differently. Instead, I’ve vented to a couple people since then, but only barely touched the tip of the ice berg.
My depression yesterday morning was littered with hatred. Hatred of people. Hatred of my therapist for not calling me. Hatred of the breakfast I made, everything. By noon the remaining elements of depression had been replaced by rage, and the lethargy and fatigue I’ve felt for the last two weeks was replaced by a wild manic humming and shaking with rabid jolts of energy.
I punched pillows. I screamed into them (necessary when you live in an apartment building). I broke a pen. A switch in my brain turned on. Everything I walked past, my mind pushed me, smash! Smash! Smash!
Being poor makes it easier not to break everything I own. After all, I can’t just run out and buy replacement mugs or television antennas or… drywall.
I took Luna outside, and holding in the rage made me begin to choke. I couldn’t breathe, and as we walked I cried and shook to the point where the guy across the street with the leaf blower was staring. I hated him too.
By the time we got back to the apartment I was in the early stages of hyperventilation. My therapist wasn’t calling, and the only logical next step seemed to be to go to the emergency room.
The trouble is that I can’t drive, which means taking the bus. If I had only been depressed and suicidal, taking the bus isn’t a big deal. But… being stuck around a bunch of strangers when I could barely breathe and was clearly agitated and wanting to lash out at anything that was around me?
It isn’t the strangers that terrify me. It is the Seattle Police Department. They have a rather extensive history of “accidentally” shooting or tazing people with mental health issues and killing them. Not just people that are threatening, either. People eating fruit. People who are frolicking naked. People who are carving little tiny animals out of wood.
Seeing as how my actions between my apartment and the hospital were in kind of a “wild card” zone I was afraid to risk it. Chances are I would have made it alright, but that would be thirty minutes of torture beyond what I was already experiencing.
So I called Corey.
This was apparently the right thing to do. He talked me down, he got me to start breathing regularly again.
Honestly there were things I could have done that would have helped too (like take an antipsychotic) but the episode was as such that I could barely reason for myself, beyond not doing the things that were terrifying to me.
After that I went for a three mile walk (to get the manic energy out) and then felt better (though still not great).
I’ve written about this third arm of emotion before, and was surprised to find it isn’t particularly common. I know there are people out there, though, that experience episodes like this, and I can’t help but wonder what exactly it is that we have in common that creates this.
And, if this isn’t exactly associated with the classic diagnosis of bipolar disorder, is there something else, or some other origin point, that better explains it?