*trigger warning – a long post, lots of words – ADD/ADHD sufferers may be excused. Peppered with ‘vulgar’ language*
Rage. It’s a core bipolar symptom that greatly impacts my life. It’s rarely spoken about, much like hypersexuality, because it is a symptom shrouded in shame, humiliation, remorse and regret. This post has been difficult to write, difficult to face and all the more difficult to post. I’m airing my dirty laundry for all the internet to see. I hope this post can educate the uniformed friend/parent/spouse/partner/work colleague/manager or innocent bystander, and can provide validation for anyone else who also struggles with rage.
A strategy sidelined
Managing this illness involves having strategies to avoid triggers. I knew my old landlord would find some way to not pay back my deposit. I knew this because he had revealed himself to be a lying, cheating, bullshit speaking conman. In anticipation of moving day I knew his behaviour would trigger my own. I had a perfectly good strategy – since my father kept insisting on helping me move, I gave him the job of outgoing inspection and key handover. I briefed him on the lack of maintenance and the risk that I would fly into a rage should I have to deal with that man. But when the day came, my father, in all his controlling glory, insisted I be present. I was raised by him to be codependent, a people-pleaser and compliant, so I did what I was told. Old habits die hard.
The landlord began talking. About 3 words in, I lost my shit COMPLETELY. When that rage breaks the surface, I’m not expecting it. I don’t anticipate it. There is no thought behind what I say or how I behave. It just projectile vomits out my mouth with a will of its own. And once the fury has been unleashed, I don’t really remember much of what I say. But it has been said and the damage is done. I know it frightens people, I can see that. I know it’s abusive because I’ve seen the damage. I am most certainly not proud of myself.
Shame and blame
My father witnessed this rage episode in all its filthy, dirty glory and things will never be the same again. By the time we got back to the car I was still ranting about what an asshole the landlord was. My father turned on me and screamed “For fucksake Pieces, shut the fuck up!”. My father doesn’t swear. I apologised several times over the course of the following week. I tried to explain that what he saw was a symptom. I was desperate, I was grovelling. For his forgiveness, for his love, for his acceptance. All I got was The Silent Treatment. Then exactly a week later he sent me this text:
Hi Pieces. I don’t think you can comprehend just how traumatised I was when I witnessed your totally unacceptable behaviour towards M(landlord) on the day you moved. It actually was a shock hearing MY daughter use such abusive language. I acknowledge that I “lost it” (due to the fact that you continued with the vulgar language [sorry to butt in here, but I never once used the word CUNT so I don’t understand where he gets ‘vulgar’ from] and in turn I swore at you, which I regret and apologise for. All this has not been easy for me to put behind me, but time is a great healer, so let’s move on now.
Let’s move on? LET’S FUCKING MOVE ON? Maybe he’s the one with bipolar because that sure as shit sounds fucking delusional! And speaking of traumatised? WHAT ABOUT ME? YOUR OWN DAUGHTER? YOUR ONLY CHILD? You’ve abused and traumatised me my entire fucking life!!!!!!!!!!! Oops I did it again – was that vulgar? Anyway, detach, detach, detach. I carefully considered my response and went with:
Thank you for letting me know how you feel. Hope you have a lovely weekend. Sleep tight x
No apologies for my biology
In the wake of rage I feel deeply ashamed, remorseful, embarrassed, guilty, confused. So if you love me, don’t blame and shame me. I do enough of that to myself already. On my About page I say “I offer no apology for my own biology”. While there’s no excuse for my behaviour, because strategies can easily avoid the trigger – which I happen to do successfully at work. The one thing I will not do, is apologise for behaviour that is a concrete symptom of an illness that is beyond my control. Who tells a tuburculosis patient to stop coughing! Or someone with a broken leg to stop using crutches? Or a cancer patient undergoing chemo to stop losing their hair? Bipolar is not a choice, it’s a genetic illness. Symtoms are not a choice. They are part of a complex neurobiological disease. Apologising for exhibiting this symptom, in my opinion, is expecting me to apologise for having blue eyes, a different accent, being righthanded, having brown hair or being knocked-kneed.
I had warned him. But he insisted on doing things his way – it’s always his way or the highway. This disaster could have been avoided. I had a strategy. I thought I had a voice. But as is with my father that voice is never heard. I complied and chaos ensued. And he lays the blame squarely at my feet because he is ignorant and uneducated about my illness. Well he chose his way for the last time, and I’m hittin’ the highway. My pleasing days are over. I don’t want his ‘love’ or approval. The cost is too high. I have plenty of people who like me just the way I am. Well, maybe not plenty, but enough.
But god’s honest truth be told, I AM ashamed. I’m deeply ashamed of the person I become when rage overtakes. Which is why this piece of me was so difficult to reveal.
I am a human being
capable of doing terrible things