I have a lot to learn about dealing with anger. I have a lot to learn about dealing with hypomania. When it comes to the combination of the two, it’s as if I won the Lottery of Batshit Craziness.
Why I’m angry and frustrated today is unimportant/not my story. What’s important is that I am. That something’s running around inside me, jumping, scratching, burning the insides of my blood vessels. That my stomach is clenched up in a knot of frustration, mixed with the fear that always accompanies anger for me. That whenever I begin to calm myself and find a little serenity, a stray thought or cue will bring me back to rehashing a conversation, composing speeches in my head and fighting the urge to go back to a thoroughly unconstructive interaction.
The energy of healthful anger is so powerful if it’s used properly, but that’s a big if. Most of us either learned to shun all anger as dangerous or to take on an angry persona for self-protection. I was the first kind–for me, the overwhelming fear and anxiety trigged by anger bring the desire to push my feelings down, turn them off, bury them under a rock, anything to keep from having to tolerate what’s going on inside my skin. For decades, that’s exactly what I did. A simple sequence, repeated so many times it no longer involved any decisions:
–Feel anger or another strong emotion
–Imagine expressing it/confronting the source
–Get terrified and anxious
–Try to live with the anxiety I now have
–Crack and do something self-destructive
–Beat myself up/suffer other consequences
–Voila! Anger has been replaced with shame and self-loathing.
–Most psychic energy is gone; what’s left is deflected into repairing the damage.
Anyone else identify? Anyone else have it so ingrained that the first couple of steps get skipped and they aren’t aware of anger on a conscious level at all? I used to be like that, and in recent years (thanks a bunch, therapy!) that’s changed. I’m more in touch with an inner fire, and it burns–especially in a situation, like this one, where I’ve already done all I can and need to move on. Where it really wouldn’t be constructive to dig deeper, and the only conflict I have a chance of winning is the one in my own head.
Anyway, I’ve been in a state of high frustration for a couple of days, and I haven’t been acting out. This means my anxiety is through the roof, and it’s one of very few times I’ve felt this way while already hypomanic. I really do want to climb out of my skin–and the addict in me is all for that. It wants an off switch for these feelings, and it wants one NOW. It wants the lethargy overeating creates, or the everything’s-okay feeling of drugs. It wants the normal sequence, the one that leads to the return of the status quo.
It tries to tell me that this feeling is unbearable, and that it will last forever. I try to tell it that it’s full of shit. I AM bearing it, and it won’t last forever. Do I like it? No. Am I unhappy? Yes. These are very different things from being unable to bear something. That’s the tough love I am trying to give myself today.
I’ve stalked around the house muttering to myself. I’ve sat with a pile of National Geographics, ripping out pages for later cutting of pictures. I’ve twitched my way through TV programs, card games and various other attempts at distraction. I’ve hyperventilated from time to time, or babbled to someone on the phone. And the world hasn’t come to an end. I breathe in, breathe out, repeat. It’s a lot like the kind of coping I describe in A Trip to Town. I’m getting better at sharing with my family, although it’s hard. I’m getting better at letting myself be twitchy in front of witnesses if that’s what I have to do to keep from being self-destructive.
The amount of energy that flows through my brain scares me, and I don’t know–have never known–how to use it properly. Becoming more actively creative is a help, but I must not be doing enough–the energy crackles around me, like an electrified aura; I can almost see it and feel it. Anger heightens it all, until I half expect my hair to be standing on end. I use various grounding techniques, but they are all temporary in their effect.
Here’s the part where I come up with a metaphor or a sweet thing to say to my readers; well, I don’t have much today. When I’m not crackling, I am drained. This is just a check-in/slice of life, and maybe a little scrap of hope: I’ve made it through two days (one eternity) of this, and poured out some of it into a poem, and done other things to try cleansing my personal universe of what’s sticking to it. I never would have been able to do that a few years ago. Things change. Things can change.