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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.

Painful honesty

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.”

Medication’s role

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. 

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Comments on: "Anger and Aggression are Part of Bipolar" (19)

  1. Firstly i would like to thank you for following my blog, Secondly, i would argue that anger and Aggression are simply a part of life, a secondary symptom to the primary we deal with. I In no way shape or form agree that the frustrations we feel are down to the disorder itself but more the life in which it leads onto.

    Lets look at a number of factors, Medication, We take this to function in a realm of “normality” to varying degrees. We face social stigma (some more than others) and we often find it difficult to express how we are feeling at any given time. This would lead to feelings of annoyance for any one.

    “if the shoe fits” comes to mind with this, And its almost as if we express ourselves in a less than articulate manner simply because we can some times. But i am thankful to say i have not acted aggressive towards anyone during my care, i have however felt annoyed and anger. to me those are simply feelings. And with a disorder which effects moods, it can be a fine line between what we expect and what we receive if you take my meaning.

    Aggression stems through lack of understanding, anger too, and not always on our side of things, i have heard people say that bipolar Makes people more prone to aggression and anger many times, yet there is very little evidence (because studies are usually really small) to suggest this is true. I will admit that there is some truth to what you say, Some times its so much easier to fly off the handle and release all you are feeling because people expect it, so why not eh?

    I would think its a fair assumption to say you are angry because of where you are in your life right now, Less the other way. And i wish you great luck in attaining the position and life you want for yourself.

    Again thanks for the follow :)

  2. As th wife of someone with bipolar I appreciate this honest assessment of your state of mind. Thank you for sharing

  3. Hi. I read this post and related to it so much. My M.O. isn’t aggressiveness, though. It is acting out sexually. What I relate to is the feeling that it takes over and I feel like a puppet. It feels normal at the time, and like I should be doing this, but when the feelings pass, I am ashamed of the chaos that I have caused. I get the part of being angry that I have bipolar, and being envious of friends that don’t have it. I call them My Happy Friends, as well.

    Please know you are not alone. That this is a work in progress, and that the feelings and anger and mood swings DO pass. They may come back, true, but sometimes it is just about taking it one lull at a time. One moment of peace at a time. Hang in there. I’m pulling for you. -Sharon

  4. You know, I KNOW that Bipolar causes aggression. Severe aggression to a dangerous fault. Some people, for some unknown reason, have managed to ‘not get too aggressive’ but mostly, the aggression is there. I got so angry once, when driving and a cab driver got too close to me, that I pulled him off the road and held a gun to his head. Right against his forehead and threatened to kill him. All I had to do was pull the trigger. I don’t know what stopped me, so I then shot the tail lights of his car out. To this day, I’ve never been so aggressive again, but what I’m saying, is that not only can bipolars be aggressive (oh and I was and and am VERY happily married, with no troubles with money or home life at all), so it had nothing to do with that, and all I can say, is that not only can bipolars be hugely aggressive, as they can be despressed and elated, many other mood related disorders happen to bipolars, and it’s my belief, that we are never diagnosed properly. There is more to ‘just being bipolar’…far more. People don’t just walk into schools and shoot children, unless they are really mentally ill ( as has been proven), and I believe, the state or country that they live in, has let them down, and not diagnosed, nor treated properly. It’s easier to just throw a prescription at one, and get you out the door, so the next ‘patient’ can come in…..and so your day goes …no one cares really, and when random killings happen, THEN, everyone is so suprised!! What a stuff up of a situation and how very tragic.

  5. I saw the negative side of bipolar I didn’t even know existed. It is still a helpful piece of information to know though.

  6. Wow. Intense experiences

  7. Thank you for sharing this. I think writing about having any kind of mental illness with honesty (and not feeling compelled to add a happy ever after ending) is courageous. You are not alone. Thank you for following my blog so that I could find yours.

  8. Thank you for following my blog, and thank you so very much for posting this! As one who has seen what Bipolar can do to someone who isn’t treated, I give you tremendous credit for being able to stop, look, and listen to yourself; to analyze your feelings and ask the important question, “Is this my issue, or are my friends really being inconsiderate and hurting me on purpose?” After reading this, I couldn’t help but wonder how things could have been different in my experience if the people I cared about that suffered with Bipolar were as self aware as you, and were treated. Keep reading Soul Posts. I think you’ll find that your experiences with friends and loved ones are very strong, and that you are the reason for that. Your diligence in analyzing your thoughts before reacting shows how much you care about the people in your life. I know from experience how painful it is when someone thinks you are out to get them due to their symptoms.

  9. Glad you followed my blog coz it brought me here. My interest is neurodiversity and my guess is that what’s being called “bipolar-ism” fits into that wider category. I self-identify as autistic but with a lot of reservations because I don’t BELIEVE that any of us can be reduced to a category – even “human being” is too narrow for what we are underneath all the conditioning and labels.

    So I feel a bit triggered when I read phrases like “what bipolar does to me” or “having bipolar” – as it were some foreign entity that has invaded an otherwise healthy system and screwed it up.

    (There may BE such a foreign entity, but if so then IMO “ego” would be a better, because wider, tag for it, and because it allows that EVERYONE “has” it.)

    I don’t see “autism” as separate from who/what I am, and if I was bipolar I would try and see it the same way. Maybe I am bipolar? Certainly depression is never far away though I have happy moments and days too, and it’s a day to day struggle for me to ACCEPT that depression, like happiness, is just part of who/what I am, and not some failing or some disease that I need to get rid/free of (tho God knows I want to).

    What counts for more than any amount of happiness is self-acceptance.

    As for violent urges, I get ‘em all the time. I’d say it has to do with unprocessed/suppressed rage, probably from infancy. And again, it’s real and valid, and it’s OK to express that rage in SOME form, tho obviously hurting other people/ending up in jail is not (so) OK.

    I think there is a danger, however, that the social pressure to repress/deny such rage only makes it stronger. So letting it out in some form is necessary to realize that it CAN be OK, to be anti-social, irrational, and so forth.

    (Most of my anger comes out online – I find it really hard not to send “fuck you” emails to people who ignore mine.)

  10. You are a great and strong person and you will manage whatever comes your way! You can and will become that ‘happy’ person. Sending love, patience and support your way!

  11. I can relate. Thanks so much for writing this. I have been sitting here hating all my friends because of this and that. I know it is me but I don’t know at the same time. And THANK YOU BIG for the warning on cortisone shots. I was supposed to have one but now, NO, thank you! Really appreciate this post and hope it reaches many Bipolars.

  12. very cool post. I have been irrational all my life and have avoided jail probably because I am also so anxious that I use my mouth as a weapon rather than my hands. Unfortunately, as you know, this can lead to problems. I have also tried to hold it in and found that using the energy for something else has worked best. I run, bike, I do theatre. I love blogging. Sometimes I just have to go for a walk. I live in a place where I don’t have to drive too much so I’m lucky, because road rage is so catchy! Thanks for your insight. I can’t force myself to be more rational but I can value the emotional messages I get to take care of me instead of destroying someone else ( and me in the process. Sometimes I have to make amends but like you said, with age comes more successes and trust of the proces.

  13. Hi, Onur, thanks for following my blog, and thanks for your candor and insight in sharing your experiences with bipolar illness.

  14. And even for those of us without the diagnosis, the world can be a mighty irritating place. Mindfulness is such a help– “I am not my feelings.” “I can have strong feelings and I do not have to act on them.” And the famously humorous remark about stress: “Stress is when the mind over-rides the body’s instinctive urge to choke the living s**t out of some a**hole who desperately needs it.”

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