Being Bipolar and Being Angry

Anger is a normal human emotion. Everyone feels it at one time or another. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, educated or not, healthy or not. It’s a common experience. Events occur in our lives that evoke emotion. At times, that emotion is anger. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being angry. I believe it’s what we do with that emotion that might cause one to label it right or wrong.

I recently had occasion to be angry at another adult during a community event. The adult did something I found outrageously offensive to another person close to me. I voiced my opinion, and it escalated. There was never a threat of things turning physically abusive, but verbal taunts were used. The situation continued for some time, and they finally settled down enough for all to disperse.

The result was that the other adult was relieved of her responsibilities in the community event. However, in an effort to remain open to healing, the organizers asked that we be willing to meet for mediation after the event concluded.

The day following the verbal assault, I was shaken.

And then the poor sleep patterns started. I would go to bed at a reasonable hour but wake up only 3 or 4 hours later to memories of vivid dreams. I wrote those dreams in a journal I keep next to the bed given to me by my therapist. The poor sleep continued for a couple of weeks.

There were many images, but it wasn’t until I was discussing them in a session that I made the connection. The common trait was anger. I had repressed my experience, and it was looking for a way out. This can’t be unique to people with bipolar disorder. Repressing emotions is an unhealthy way of dealing with unpleasant feelings, and quite probably all people experience it at one time or another.

As I’ve written in other places on this site, I grew up in a household where only one emotion was tolerated: joy. If I wasn’t overtly happy, my feelings weren’t to be voiced. Everything but elation was squashed. I learned early to suppress unpleasant emotions. When I began therapy at age 23, I actually had to read a book and follow instructions to learn to express emotions.

Readers of this site will also know I’m a recovered alcoholic. I drowned my negative emotions for many years in gallons of gin.

My erratic sleep pattern set off alarms in my head. Something was amiss. It was in therapy that I had to face the ugly demon of repressed emotions yet again. The difference this time was my acceptance of my part in repressing the emotions.

I will be meeting for mediation on the matter that began all this sometime this month. I’m willing to own my part in the affair. I want to work past it.

Do people with bipolar disorder have a different experience with anger than others? I don’t believe so. Do we express it properly? Do others? Who knows? All humans get angry. It’s up to us individually to grow past it and move on.

4 thoughts on “Being Bipolar and Being Angry

  1. I agree with you that anger is a difficult emotion for us to deal with – there must be a cultural/societal prohibition that is so generalized we can’t see it. It sounds like you have some great support for working through your own experience.

    Without knowing too much about the situation in question, I’m hesitant to cheer on the mediation scenario. Given that the other party was relieved of duty, it would seem to me that this ends the interaction until and unless the other party demonstrates appropriate remorse and makes any possible/needed restitution. But this would, then, in fact, be a different path from the path of mediation. Mediation, as you know better than I, presumes that both parties are on equal footing and that both parties bear equal responsibility for the situation under mediation. This case, as you’ve described it, does not seem to warrant mediation between you and the other party. As you’ve described it, the situation seems instead to warrant the other party being given specific guidelines and even tasks in order to regain any possible trust or position within the group. At the end of the day, the other party was removed from the entire group, not just from you. Guidelines for restitution would certainly need to include (and likely begin with) apology to you; but those guidelines would need to include a rather strict framework in which the other party could regain any sort of footing within the larger group.

    I hesitate to say this much, knowing only what you’ve written here. But I’m not convinced that mediation will truly address the needs of the group, your need for safety within the group, and the other party’s need to clearly understand under what circumstances a return to the group might even be possible. Along with this, some pretty firm boundaries would need to be put into place so the other party would understand what is acceptable and so the group members (you included but not limited to you) can feel safe.

    If none of this reflects the reality of your actual situation, feel free to toss it out, of course. In any case, I think you are absolutely right that we are all scared of our anger, and that fear may be the most difficult thing about feeling our anger. All the best and many hugs.

  2. When I’m manic or going that way I barely seem to dream at all. When I’ve stopped taking the antipsychotics (because I’m on monotherapy and don’t have bipolar disorder; it’s schizoaffective disorder) I easily get into a state where I’m furious all day long from waking to sleeping for no reason ~ and I cannot blame it on drug-discontinuation unless that comes on 3 weeks after the last dose taken. Unfortunately, it seems, that’s just me.
    I’m SO GLAD I’m not seeing any type of counsellor/therapist, who would make an annoying and most probably irrelevant big deal about my being pissed off. When it’s probably (a) my personality and (b) chemical. Well that’s what I think…

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