When Anger Takes Control

In one of my posts, “Expectations”, I mentioned that I take medication for impulse control. This medication helps with regulating the anger that has formed as a result of a combination of both my bipolar and impulse control. A bonus of this medication is that it also helps with the OCD. My psychiatrist says that both my OCD and the bipolar anger (how I refer to it) come from the frontal part of the brain. I’m not going to even pretend to understand the physiology of it all, so I’ll just explain it as I have learned.

All people get angry, bipolar or not. It’s a normal human emotion, that my doctors also say is extremely healthy to feel. We must feel it to continue functioning properly as human beings. When the average person gets angry, their anger comes from the part of the brain that fires off those emotions. However, the anger that I get, and that she said many people with bipolar (and some without) also get, comes from the frontal lobe area of the brain. She said that when that part of the brain becomes over-stimulated, it prevents you from being able to control your impulses, so the anger comes so fast that I can do a complete 180-degree turn. However, the medication that I take now is great, and it has helped immensely! It’s called Tenex, and I take the generic version of it, called Guanfacine. As long as I continue with that or a similar medication, then I’ll be able to manage it. I’ll probably need tweaks as with all of my medication, but it’s working for me and that’s what’s important.

When I Knew It Was Bad

I didn’t start this medication until after an episode, back in 2009. With the exception of my mom, one of my cousins, and my doctors, I’ve never told anyone the truth about this experience. But, I think that it’s time that I finally write about it. I had been diagnosed with bipolar for only a few weeks at this point. I was still struggling to adjust to that news, and at the same time deal with all that I was feeling even prior to the diagnosis. I had been on my mood stabilizer for only a week, and it hadn’t done anything for my moods yet. But, little did I, or my doctors, know that it was the anger that was going to become more dangerous than the bipolar itself on one particular day.

It all began because I wanted to make a grilled cheese… one stupid, grilled cheese. My mom was in the kitchen and I had just gotten out of the shower. I grabbed a frying pan and placed it on the flame and left it heating up. I got the bread and buttered it, and went to the fridge to get the cheese. However, there wasn’t any in there. I asked my mom, “We don’t have any cheese?” And, she said that it had finished. It was then that some sort of switch was flipped. I yelled at her for not telling me ahead of time. She had seen me preparing to make one and did not tell me.
I was so upset and quickly turned off the flame that had been on now for almost five minutes. It was then that I just snapped without any warning. I suddenly picked up the buttered slices of bread and threw them across the kitchen where they hit the wall by the back door. It was at this point where my recollection becomes blurry, so I will give you a combination of both what I do remember and the information that my mom has given me. She said that she looked at my face, but that she did not see her daughter. She said my eyes were somewhere else and I had a look of so much fury in me. I then grabbed the frying pan by the base, not the handle. I do remember standing there with it in my hand. I remember clearly wanting to throw it with immense force across the ways into the sink, but for whatever reason I restrained myself.

After that, it once again gets blurry. My mom said that my face was still one of someone else. My anger was clear. She said that instead of throwing it, that I then grabbed it by the base again with my other hand. However, it was at that point when the searing pain snapped me out of my rage. The frying pan had just been sitting on a flame for almost five minutes, yet due to me being so gone, I had not felt the extreme heat of the metal until it had been in my hand for almost ten seconds.

It was then that I screamed and dropped the pan on the floor (which began to melt from the heat). I began crying and I was in so much pain. My rage turned to a different kind of anger. I was now angry and upset that I was in pain. But that eventually subsided though, and was replaced by fear as the pain increased. My hands were bright red, swelling, and slowly forming white blisters. I just remember my hands and body shaking uncontrollably. It was so painful. My hands felt like they were on fire. I had second-degree burns on both of my palms, and was at a loss as to what to do. I just remember looking to my mom for help. I was so lost.

I Didn’t Want Anyone to Know

My mom called one of my cousins who’s a nurse. She gave my mom some instructions of what to do, until she came to take me to the emergency. I just held my hands under cold running water. I couldn’t remove them because each time I would try, the pain would immediately take over. My mom called my dad who was at work, and as usual he began yelling and was furious. My mom didn’t tell him what happened, just that I burnt my hands on a frying pan. But, when my dad gets worried about someone he loves, he yells and expresses it in that way. It’s just how he is. He was far away working, so was not going to be able to get home until another half-an-hour, so he sent one of my older brothers to the house (they work together) since he was closer. When my cousin arrived not long after, she and my brother helped me into the car, and off my cousin and I went.

I remember feeling so helpless at the emergency. My cousin had to fill out my chart for obvious reasons. And as I sat there waiting, I just kept staring at my hands, looking at what I did to them. When they first called me to do the initial questions (blood pressure, find out what happened, etc.), the nurse asked how I burnt my hands. I told her by accidentally grabbing a frying pan by the base. She looked at me with a strange look and then asked me, “We’re you trying to kill yourself?” I remember looking at her and feeling frightened inside. I thought she was going to find out it wasn’t just a clumsy accident. My fear was (and still is) that I’d be hospitalized. I was so frightened that the truth would be found out. Prior to even entering the hospital, I remember almost begging my cousin not to tell them what had really happened. I trust her so much and that is why she and my mom have been the only two people (aside from my therapist and psychiatrist) who know what really happened that day. I didn’t want anyone to know the truth. I was afraid they’d put and keep me in the hospital and I couldn’t let that happen. I was extremely relieved when I asked my cousin to please not say anything, and very caringly and earnestly she replied, “I won’t.”

I know she is one of the people who may be reading this blog, so I just want to say, thank you again, Cuz! I appreciate you giving me the opportunity of revealing what really happened in my own time.

So, as I sat there, looking at the nurse, I didn’t know what to say. I just shook my head and put forth a fake little smile, while whispering, “No” to her question of whether or not I was trying to kill myself. She said that she needs to ask that question when such injuries occur. Thankfully, she believed me and did not press it anymore.

Once I had the Silvadene crème put all over the burns and my hands were bandaged up, the pain began to subside quite a bit. By the time I returned home, my anger that was present earlier was a mere remnant on the wall… literally. The butter from the bread when it hit was still up there, reminding me of my excellent portrayal of Baby Jane’s cruel sister.

I was calm now, though. And, after a while, I became almost giddy. I’m not sure why. It was just a switch in moods I guess. Thankfully, not all of my fingers were bandaged, so I still had a few open to use. This allowed me to at least be able to peck at the computer. I think that it helped for me to get back to some kind of normalcy after such an experience. I couldn’t do a whole lot, but I pecked away, and did a lot of researching and reading on what I had gone through. I wanted to read about others who could understand, because at that point I did not even understand what it was that truly had happened. I had reached highs in my anger prior to that experience, but that was the first time of reaching such a point. It was pure rage that went through me that day, and it terrified me.

The Reflection

It was also then, that I could truly reflect upon what had transpired. The memories that I did have of that experience were strong and clear, while the rest were muddled and hazy. I felt so much emotion that resonated on various levels.

I was hurt that I had put my mom through that. The guilt for that was the worst of all. She did not deserve to be yelled at in any way, let alone for such a menial thing in the first place. She also definitely did not deserve to have to witness her daughter flip out on her. I disrespected her that day, and to make it worse, I also

frightened her in the process. I am sorely sorry for that. And, to top it off even more, I also put my cousin out on her day off. She works nights as a nurse. And here on one of her days off, I go and take time away from her busy day so I can go to the emergency… for an unnecessary injury no less. It wasn’t right.

I also felt so disappointed in myself for throwing the bread across the room. I still tear up when I think about that entire experience, but the bread part gets me on a unique level. My mom and dad have always worked so hard to provide for their family. My dad sweats and gets tired as he works hard every single day to put food on our table. And, what do I do? I throw it across the kitchen. I am so disappointed and disgusted with myself for disrespecting my parents and their home like that. It hurts me that what my parents work hard for was just wasted and ruined because of me. I wish that was a regret that I did not have.

Ultimately, though, I began to feel like I deserved what had happened to me. I deserved to have second-degree burns after how I acted. I deserved to struggle with basic daily tasks due to my two hands being bandaged and in pain when touched. It was my rightful punishment for acting like I did. And I admit, that I even wondered if it was God dishing out the punishment.

They Helped Me… They Listened!

I was extremely nervous about telling my therapist and my psychiatrist what had happened. When I saw my therapist a few days after the burns occurred she immediately had a worried look on her face when I walked into her office with bandaged hands. I knew I could not hide it from her, but I didn’t want to either. As scared as I was to tell her, I also wanted to hear her support. I wanted to hear her non-judgmental voice, and I had hoped she would tell me that I wasn’t a bad person.

She listened to everything that I said, and she indeed gave me that very support that I needed. She also told me that I needed to tell my psychiatrist. I did not want to. I worried she would put me in the hospital, but my therapist insisted that at that point she would not because I was not in the rage-state at that time. She insisted that I tell her. I can now say that I’m quite glad that I followed my therapist’s advice.

My psychiatrist explained that what I was experiencing was not a normal kind of anger. It wasn’t produced in the area of the brain where “normal” anger is, but rather in the frontal lobe, as I mentioned earlier. And, most importantly, she stressed to me that what was happening to me was not a fault of mine. It was not a character flaw. It was a biological malfunction that was causing it and when combined with my bipolar it just became too much. She said it’s common with bipolar. It was also explained to me that my OCD and mild Tourette’s (which I’ve had since childhood) come from the same area in the brain, due to that section regulating impulse control.

In addition, my therapist helped me to take that medical information, and better understand what happened to me that day. After discussing the experience at length, I realized that although the bipolar and impulse control were the cause, the experience itself was a reaction to a particular trigger. When this all happened, I was in the midst of a deep and dark depression. I felt so hopeless and alone. And, I also felt like nothing was going right in my life. Everything seemed so pointless and upside down. Then, the day came where all I wanted to do was make a simple grilled cheese. So, when I discovered that there was no cheese in the refrigerator, that was the trigger. However, the trigger wasn’t the actual grilled cheese (or lack thereof), but rather what the grilled cheese symbolized. It was the idea of once again something not going right. It was a moment where all the built up feelings of disappointment – feelings of hatred for myself, the feelings of failure, frustration, loneliness, emptiness, and being misunderstood – just all came rushing out and I exploded. It was the gunshot that triggered the avalanche.

The Anger Today

I still experience the anger today, but nowhere near the intensity as back then. My hands are completely healed, and thankfully I did not cause more serious damage to them. However, my memories of that day are still clear, and cause me to flash back to that day each time that I place a frying pan on an open flame. I know my mom thinks of it often too, as she always warns me to be careful whenever there is something hot on the stove. She’s always done that, but since that day, she has become much more persistent about it, repeating it multiple times.

And then, there’s the impulse control medication. One unpleasant effect of the medication is a result of it actually doing its job. When I begin to feel one of those outbursts coming, the medication seems to show its true effect as it keeps the anger restrained. It’s in that moment that I can feel the anger, but cannot release it. It’s like a lid has been sealed over the release valve, but the contents of the valve have not been removed. I can physically feel it inside. It’s an uncomfortable sensation that goes through me, and there is not a single thing that I can do about it. It’s just how it is, so I just have to deal with it.

I guess it’s better than the alternative, though.


15 thoughts on “When Anger Takes Control

    • I take Tenex (well, the generic of it called Guanfacine). It’s a great medication. I take it each night around bedtime ’cause it can sometimes cause dizziness and drowsiness. In the beginning I had those side effects, but not anymore. My body adjusted to it after about a month or so. But, I still take it at that time, just in case. Personally, I highly recommend it, ’cause it’s done a lot of good for me.

  1. I appreciate reading this.. Several members in my family, all female, are bi-polar but while I have some bouts with depression, I don’t “swing” between moods, and the bi-polar gene slipped by me. That being said, I get the anger. I had a thyroid storm once that made me do something similar to this…It was so scary blanking out of my own body and being such a different kind of person. I’m sorry you have such a hard disorder, but I think you sharing this was brave and helpful to those people that this kind of thing has happened to…makes us feel less alone!

    • Thank you, Bird! I greatly appreciate that. Anger is such a powerful thing. It’s bad enough when we’re aware of it happening, but so much worse and frightening when we are unaware during those explosions. I’m sorry that you’ve had to deal with both depression and the anger too. As you said though, it does indeed make it less lonely when those of us who deal with this can understand one another. Thanks again! 🙂

  2. I think the Bipolar Rage is horrendous. I’ve been fired from a job because of it, and been in trouble with the police. I am a nice girl, who went to church every Sunday, an A grade student and I wouldn’t normally hurt a fly. I class myself as someone with good morals and I found the rage episodes extremely difficult to recover from- this was NOT me. Suddenly I could understand how someone could hurt another human being. I was bloody terrified! I still can’t forgive myself for the two episodes that have happened, I am really, really trying to though.

    I can really relate. Thanks for sharing that, these things are not easy to talk about face to face.

    • That’s the truth! I find myself way too embarrassed to talk about these things to someone’s face. I agree with you… the rage really is terrifying. Like you, after that burning my hands incident, I too realized how someone can hurt someone, even when they don’t mean to. With my mom in the kitchen that day, it frightened me to think that what if I would have thrown that pan across into the sink and accidentally hit her instead. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I caused her harm. I’m the complete opposite of my rages too, and so it boggles my mind how my brain can do such a 180 flip on me like that and me not have control over it. It’s so frightening. I’m sorry you lost your job and got into trouble with the law due to it. I can totally understand how that would happen and I feel bad for you that it happened. I try to just remind myself of what my Psychiatrist and therapist have both said to me, and that it is not a character flaw, but rather my brain basically malfunctioning. It doesn’t make me feel good, but it at least gives me a peace of mind that I’m not really a bad person.

  3. Luckily the police-thing didn’t amount to anything as I hadn’t had any other trouble with them before. They said it’s really common for them to have to deal with people who are Bipolar getting into rages with others! The police officer was lovely and could see I wasn’t well! He was really friendly with me, so I was very very grateful!! But the actual event traumatised me for life!

    Thanks for your understanding 😀

    • I’m so glad that you had such an understanding police officer. I think it’s great when law enforcement are educated like that with such illnesses. I can definitely see how that would cause so much trauma for you, though. It’s a frightening experience for sure. I’m glad that it didn’t turn into anything more serious for you though. 🙂

  4. Pingback: Calming Down « My Bipolar Bubble

  5. I’m going through the same once I get so mad I can’t control my anger I scream and yell and it will be over the stupidest thing…usually I walk away to calm my self down if I notice the signs before hand but sometimes the rage comes to fast I’m not on mood stablizers but I take sleepers and anti depressants being bipolar is a tough subject to explain to people. Especially the ones who think u just use this condition for attention….they. don’t understand I can’t control what I say or my moods..

    • Yes, that is so very true, Kara. It’s such a hard thing to explain to people. When already in a not good place, it makes it even more frustrating when people not only don’t understand but then say things like you mentioned about attention. It hurts to begin with, and that just piles on the hurt even more. I’m sorry you have to deal with this same thing, but I’m so glad you’re here in the blogosphere with the rest of us who can understand!

      Thank you so much for your comment and reading. I greatly appreciate it! 🙂

  6. I see myself exactly like you. I suffer from OCD, undiagnosed bipolar II and mild tourette syndrome( I know I have that 2 because 9 out of 10 symptoms, I am positive). My anger makes wanna scream the hell out of me like I could lose my hand and punch someone. I can’t able to make a decent conversation with anyone in the family, I get agitated and easily irritated. I just hate and blame myself for being mean and harsh from the people around me. I just couldn’t help it: I am pessimistic, depressed and I feel like no one could really understand what I am experiencing(even if I try to tell them). Telling them makes me more depressed once I knew they didn’t understand and think it was nothing to worry about. It is just sad. 😦

    • Hi there, Bipolarbear. Thank you for your comment. I’ve been struggling to get back into the blogging side of things, so I’m slow to responding lately. I’m sorry that you have such similar struggles. It’s a painful thing to have to deal with, and to have those around us not understanding makes it so much worse. It adds to the anger too that exists inside. The anger that I have is under control (for the most part) with impulse control medication, but I still struggle even with that medication. I call it my “bipolar anger” because it is both caused and exasperated by the illness. My psychiatrist reminds me it’s not a flaw, but biological in nature, and tries to always help me remember that. My therapist does the same and quite often.

      You mention that you are undiagnosed. If you feel you are suffering from this same illness, then it would be such a great thing to see someone for it. I started with my general practitioner. It’s such a difficult step, but it will help lead you to feeling better. It takes time, and it takes adjusting to doses and finding a therapy that works, if you choose to go down that route too. But in the end, it will be a positive change for you. I could not see that in my future when I first went to my doctor. I didn’t even want to go to the doctor in the first place. I was giving up. I felt like it was all hopeless. But, I see now what a great thing it was that I moved down that path.

      I have loving people in my life, and as much as most of them try to help me, they just can’t understand. This is an illness that only those who suffer from it can truly understand the pain. Finding a community like this online helped me to not feel so alone. It helped me to not feel like a horrible and ugly friend, daughter, sister, auntie, and person as a whole. I realized I’m not alone and it has been wonderful to have such a place to come to. I have been struggling lately, but trying hard too. But, it’s made it hard for me to blog. But, I came to my blog to check up on it tonight, as I haven’t been here for quite a while now. And, I find your comment, as well as some others. I’m so glad that I was able to respond to you, albeit a bit late. I hope you get this. Just remember, Bipolarbear. You are not alone. And no matter how long it takes for you to take any step that you need to in your life, there are people here who understand you. You’ve made a brave step commenting on my blog. I appreciate you sharing your story with me here.

      Hugs to you and welcome to a community who cares and understands!

      • Hi there! It’s such a relief knowing threes others that truly understand. I too lost it in the middle of working a 12 hr day at a coffee shop. I worked as a baker behind the scene. The other baker was supposed to have baked my 8 cakes before she left the previous day. It was bad enough I was in the middle of a depressive episode, but I got stuck with having to bake not only my cakes but had to bake hers by the end of my shift plus not to mention all the cake decorating I had to do in between! That got the ball rolling. My cakes turned out terribly that day & I exploded. I began screaming, yelling cursing, throwing the cakes & stabbing what poor ones were left behind! The customers in the front were terrified to say the least & mostly the staff ;(. Needless to say, I got canned & felt terrible about it afterwards. Some of it was a complete blur. I totally didn’t see it coming & was scared to death! Thankfully I have a good support system & feeling better today. I’m on a good mood stabilizer but struggling to get off effexor since it was beginning to bring me back to those rages again. I hope all is well for everyone here as I understand how horrible it is!

        • Hi There, Nk. I’m sorry that you had to experience what you did. If I would have been there that day behind the counter, then I would have been standing there recognizing myself. It’s such a scary thing, like you said. When it was all over for me that day I burnt my hands, it was just terrifying to me. I’m so glad you have found a good mood stabilizer for yourself. And, even more importantly, I’m so happy you have a support system that is there for you and gives you the love you need and deserve. I feel so blessed to have found a good mix of meds that work for me right now, as well as a support system who is there for me. I wish you luck with the effexor and getting off of it too. That is great that you recognize the connection it has with the rages. My therapist always says to me how learning those connections and triggers are key to learning to live with it all.

          Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Nk. I appreciate it. It helps me too to know others can understand, and I know it also helps others. Take care, Nk!

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