I’ve been angry, irritated, p-o’d, unhappy, and depressed for the past few weeks. Everyone is getting on my nerves and I want to tell my friends to just chill out and stop being so hard on me. I feel like people are out to get me. I have too much work to do. I feel a lot of pressure to make money. I’ve gained weight…I…I…I could go on like this forever.
Eventually, I had to say, “Okay, Julie. Just stop. Stop and see what’s really happening.” It’s so easy to get caught up in these feelings. And if I do, I know I could make big mistakes in my life. I might miss deadlines, ignore my health, say the wrong things, and possibly hurt myself or someone else physically.
For more than 15 years, I actually thought my personality caused these feelings. I used to punch walls, kick tires, yell at drivers, pickfights with people I cared about, and roll my eyes if something bothered me. I was labeled negative and aggressive.
When these feelings stopped, I’d be so surprised at my own behavior. This wasn’t the person I knew I was—the person I wanted to be. I felt like a puppet controlled by an unseen master.
Anger and aggression are part of bipolar
I’m not the only person with bipolar who experiences such feelings. A friend of mine was standing on a train platform when he had the irrational urge to beat up the stranger next to him. He did it and although the stranger was not seriously hurt, my friend ended up in jail. When the episode passed, my friend was mortified and saddened by his own behavior. It scared me to death, too.
For my own part, I once had to physically restrain myself from jumping out of my car to beat up a woman wearing a white leather fringe jacket who had flipped me off for something she did! It’s very hard to explain these aggressive urges unless you have experienced them. I felt like a wild dog when this happened. Time slowed down—I could see every hair on her head and I wanted to beat her up—it was a pleasurable feeling. I actually opened my door and started to lunge at her but managed to make myself get back in the car. I am not a violent person by nature, so this was truly frightening.
I’m lucky I didn’t act on that desire, because I, too, would have ended up in jail. Yes, the person who writes books could have been imprisoned. This illness does not care who you are, or what you have done in the past—it just wants you to act aggressively in the present.
In fact, there are many people in jail because of their bipolar behavior. Children who threaten their parents, women who punch a co-worker, or men who pick fights with strangers are common among people who have this illness. We don’t discuss it much, because so many people are embarrassed by what they have done. All my life I’ve lived with the embarrassment of mood swings. Indeed, bipolar affects my moods in so many ways that it’s hard to keep track of what is real and what is caused by faulty wiring in my brain. These past few weeks have been such a challenge. Luckily, though, I have enough experience managing my bipolar that I know what I must do.
First, I must look at my situation honestly. Is it really possible that all my friends are doing things to make me mad? Or is this just their normal behavior and I’m being excessively impatient? Or is bipolar distorting my thoughts and making me see something that isn’t there?
I must take the time to answer these questions with an open mind, even when I’m feeling used and abused. I’ve always said that if one person has a problem with me, it could be about the other person. But if I think all people have a problem with me, then it’s definitely about me.
It takes a lot of insight and practice to go through this exercise when you have bipolar, especially for younger people who don’t have a lot of experience managing the illness. But you can’t ever give in to the anger and aggression. I have to repeat over and over to myself, “Julie. You can’t act on these feelings—you have to let these feelings pass.”
Secondly, I must look at my medications, because some drugs are notorious for causing anger. I’ve known people who experience complete personality changes because of certain medications. I haven’t changed my bipolar meds; however, I had a corticosteroid shot in my injured hand a few months ago. While this drug is often used for inflammation it can cause serious mood swings. My doctors said, “Julie, it’s such a small shot, it won’t even get to your brain.” They were wrong. I’ve had major depression and manic episodes since getting the shot. I now believe the corticosteroid took away my tolerance and made me feel more actively aggressive.
To be truthful, because of mood swings, I can’t have the life I want right now. This is making me angry. When I see some of my happy friends, I’m jealous of them—period. A good friend recently told me things were going well for her. I thought, “Well, aren’t you lucky! Why don’t you try having bipolar for one day and we’ll see how happy you are then!” I didn’t say this, of course, but it was hard for me to be generous. I’m frustrated because I have hand injuries; I’m eating too much sugar and have gained weight; I’m single, I’m this, I’m that. I want to yell at my friends and make them a unhappy as I am. Depression over where you are in life can lead to some very angry feelings. However, I have no desire to hurt my friends at all and so I must resolve these feelings.
I can make changes
Here’s what I’m going to do: Remind myself that the corticosteroid will be out of my system soon and I don’t ever have to take it again. And I will definitely remind myself that most people with bipolar experience such feelings. Then I’m going to stay away from certain individuals for awhile. They are not the problem—I am. In the meantime, I don’t want to ruin my friendships in a fit of irrational anger. I’ve done that far too often in the past.
In fact, I’m not going to act at all on what I’m feeling. Rather, I will keep going and make changes that will make me feel better. I’ll exercise more. I’ll lie and act as though I am fine when someone asks. And I’ll tell the truth to the people who can help. Eventually, that anger and aggression will pass. And if a woman wearing a white leather fringe jacket cuts me off and then flips me off, I’m going to drive away. This is my promise.