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 By noon the remaining elements of depression had been replaced by rage, and the lethargy and fatigue I’ve felt for the last two weeks was replaced by a wild manic humming and shaking with rabid jolts of energy.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?

12 responses to “Tripolar

  1. It’s amazing how very similar our experiences are. I had that kind of a day yesterday & some of the feelings of rage have subsided. I just took my antipsychotic, which my psychiatrist said was fine to take during the day. What else can you do sometimes? And I like the “tricolor” idea.

  2. Hey, awesome you got things back under control! That’s something in my view not many can do if any. I’m very similar to you in terms of rage and when it hits and how it can just trigger all sorts of wonderful things…till all you feel is hate, I’m still learning to get mine sorted though

  3. Oh my goodness. I am the same way! I call these episodes “raging blackouts.” I get so angry and full of rage that I lose my memory. I say things and do things that I’m not aware of, and only know about them after the episode because someone tells me. I have had serious anger issues my entire life (it runs in my fam). My therapist has me scream into pillows, too.

  4. I get these rages at times too. It used to be a lot worse before I went thru Dialectic Behavioral Therapy for my Borderline Personality Disorder. I have bipolar too, but some of the symptoms are similar. Borderline symptoms are much more volatile and explosive, like in blackout rages, and the mood swings are super fast and almost always triggered by outside events and fears. Emotional sensitivity is also a hallmark symptom. My bipolar symptoms don’t involve a lot of rage. They are just the typical depression hypomanic stuff unless I am in a mixed episode and then there is agitation. Sometimes it’s hard to know which symptom belongs to which diagnosis though. 🙂

  5. I figured the rage was a subset of anxiety, which while not a ‘true’ arm of bipolar, certainly seems to be ridiculously comorbid. All I know is that I threw a clipboard across the room today and cried under a desk — like a boss! ><

  6. I’ve had this anger too Sarah. In fact the last episode was a month or so back; it was awful. I took it out on my wife (not physically, never physically) due to something silly that I blew up beyond all reasonable proportion. The anger was so intense I could almost feel my blood boiling!

    I’ve always had issues with anger and have a very short fuse and little patience for anything and anybody (especially if people don’t reach my ridiculous standards). Thankfully these days, my wife has a way of calming me down and putting things in perspective for me.

    After this episode, I was manic for a week. I don’t even know why. All I know is that my brain and my insides were just twisting themselves into knots; I felt so much pain. I was crying on and off all day, every day and had extreme anxiety. Eventually, I went to the doctors and had some Diazepam to sort me out.

    It was a truly awful experience which I have suffered with many times over the years, but one I hope not to repeat.


  7. I believe many of us struggling with bipolar disorder experience intense rage. Often rage for which there is no cause. Sometimes rage that is an overreaction to a perceived slight. Scary for those around us, those who love us.

  8. Hey! I’m kinda new to wordpress and I’m not sure how to send you a personal message, so I’ll just post here. I don’t have bipolar disorder, but I can relate to a lot of your posts! Especially the aspect of emotional intensity like extreme rage and HATRED. 😛 Also things like burning bridges and states of dissociation which I mentioned in my other comment.

    I have borderline personality disorder (BPD) – sometimes know as emotional intensity disorder or emotionally unstable disorder… (Btw, I’ve read a lot of people with BPD often have trouble with impulsivity and self-harm). A lot of people are actually diagnosed with both BPD and bipolar disorder. I believe people (including professionals) often have trouble distinguishing between the two. It’s interesting how much I can relate to some of your posts!

    Here’s a video I once made about BPD. It may be triggering. I was wondering if you could relate to it cause I can relate to you!

    • Hello, nothing personal but I try to avoid potentially triggering videos/films/tv (I don’t want to give my mind any reason to start wandering into dark places when it is currently frolicking naked in a meadow!). Thanks for the comment, I often wonder about borderline personality disorder (I have a sneaking suspicion my ex had it) and I’ve certainly approached my therapist several times with questions about my own behavior. Thanks for reading!

  9. My 18 yr old daughter has bipolar and yesterday my next door nieghbor said something to me ( she hates me cause they reported her to CPS and she thinks it’s me I just moved to this house so I don’t know anyone ) and my daughter exploited to the point that she went up the door and told them to come out that she would kill them all and she is not like that ( i’m like that always been even as a little kid I would get angry and I had to hit something mostly a brick wall that was what my parents house was made of and that was close and NO I never broke my hand yes weird. ) But yesterday seen my daughter with so much rage scared me. Her DR put her on LATUDA can anybody tell me if the meds made her at this way because she does have rage issues but I mange to calm her and I need HELP from you all..

    • Hello Melissa, I think this is something you should definitely bring up to your daughter’s doctor (especially if her behavior was somewhat abnormal for her). Latuda and other psych drugs can help bipolar symptoms but they can also worsen them for some people. Voicing this concern to her doctor is very important because if she is reacting negatively to the medication it is better to catch it early so she can try something else. Good luck!

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