I had one of my worst days ever over the weekend. Let me start by giving a little background.
All of my life one of my biggest challenges has been controlling rage. I don’t mean anger, I mean rage. It doesn’t happen often, and it usually takes a lot to push me to that level, but when I hit a certain point, something snaps and I lose control. I hate it, and it scares me to death. I recover quickly, usually after a few seconds I’ve regained enough control that I don’t have to worry about danger. But in those few seconds it’s like I go black, and anything can happen. And I mean anything. It’s absolutely terrifying for me and anyone around me. I haven’t physically hurt anyone when like this, but I’m terrified that it could happen.
I’ve been riding a hypomania for a week or two recently. Nothing I’m not used to, when I’m un-medicated hypomania is probably my dominant mood, and right now mania is my biggest danger. But it’s not always easy to tell when I’m moving into mania. My personal criteria for mania involves psychosis, without it I’m still just hypomanic. The worst thing about trying to read my level of mania is that when truly manic with psychosis, I am incapable of seeing the psychosis. So if I think I’m manic, I’m not. If I am manic, I won’t know it until I’ve slid out of the mania. Makes as much sense as bipolar disorder in general makes.
Saturday afternoon we had several people around the house – some of our kids, a son’s girlfriend, my wife, mother-in-law, and so forth. Crowds in my house always make me a little irritable, and I was halfway there all afternoon. What set me off wasn’t a major thing. I was looking for something my son Kyle took, and I headed to his room to ask him about it. Truth be known, I headed for his room to let him know how unhappy I was at his actions.
Kyle is so much like me it’s scary. He also has bipolar disorder, and mania is also his biggest danger. When I went into his room to confront him, he was as manic as I was. We clashed in a huge way. I don’t know how it escalated as quickly as it did, but it got dangerous quickly. He’s screaming in my face, I’m trying to hold back my instincts to take control of the conflict. Then things escalated another notch, and my wife is screaming, trying to keep us apart and avoid what looked like an inevitable physical clash. I’m yelling, Kyle is yelling louder, and my wife is screaming. My wife managed to pull me away, and the situation defused.
The gravity of the situation sunk in few seconds later, and I was reduced to tears. Angry, hurt, confused, and very scared. Why did this happen? I am so much better prepared today than I was in the past to handle things like this. My medication seems to keep me balanced. I am in touch with my moods so I can avoid putting myself in harmful situations. I have worked at techniques to keep me from exploding. I haven’t had a problem for a few years now. But yet, it still happened. One positive note, 15 minutes later I was sufficiently in control to be able to sit down with Kyle and talk it out. In the past I would never have been able to do this so quickly. So least my recovery time was much shorter.
This was a very disturbing lesson for me. No matter how much better I feel, no matter how much progress I make, no matter how well my recovery is going, I will never completely leave my disorder behind. I will always have to be vigilant of warning signs, and I will always have to avoid situations that can cause problems. No matter what the scenario – rage, substance abuse, risky behavior - if I let my guard down for an instant, that’s long enough for a mania to change or threaten my life, or the lives of those around me. It’s a sobering realization.