Have you ever just woken up and wanted to blow up your microwave? Nope. Neither have I.
As I’ve talked with doctors over the past few years, one of things I always bring up is that I don’t know how other people feel. They ask me if I’m feeling sad or angry or happy or anxious. Yes? Do I feel more anxious than what someone else feels? Yes? Maybe? How the hell am I supposed to know that. This is who I am, and I don’t know how you feel. This is my normal.
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in my 40s. I can’t say that it was a complete surprise. It made sense to me, especially after speaking with doctors and therapists and other people. What I do know is that I wake up angry. I’m not angry with anyone. I wake up angry. I can’t make myself un-angry. I can try, but it just isn’t going to change. I hope for the best the next day. But for that day, I spend 90% of my energy trying to control the urge to explode. Give me a reason. Any reason. I’ll take it. The truth is that I don’t want to be angry. I’ve tried many things to try to overcome it. It’s just not easy. There is absolutely no intent behind the anger.
As I grew up, I really had a difficult time understanding my anger, and I would like to think that I had far fewer of these angry days as a child than does Ethan. Even through college and early adulthood, I struggled to make sense of it. When it crystalized for me was when I began to see the same thing in Ethan. This was prior to his bipolar diagnosis. It was something I could see in him. I used to tell Melanie that I could tell if he was going to have a good day at school in the first 10 or 15 minutes of the day. It was never a surprise to get a phone call from a school on one of those days where I urged him to try harder in whispers as I dropped him off at school.
Ethan and I are both diagnosed bipolar. By doctors. Real doctors. I was diagnosed later in my life. Ethan was diagnosed younger. Ever so often someone will ask if Ethan was diagnosed too early. “These doctors”, they say. “Trying to make a buck,” they say. “Kids go through rough patches.” Over the years Ethan has more than once desperately cried out that he doesn’t know why he is so mad. He may have just done a completely inexcusable act, and he’s crying and screaming and trying to explain. He has no answer. He has no reason. There isn’t one. And I understand.
So, the next time your child wakes you up with an exploding microwave, give me a call, and we can talk about whether or not a doctor should be involved. When your child hangs out of a second story window by one arm, jot me a note. The third time your child is shackled in a psychiatric unit of a hospital, send me an email.
Today, I woke up angry. It’s the first time in a very long time. I take medication. The medication works. Last night, I didn’t take my medication. I suffered an allergy attack during the day and had to take Benadryl. Benadryl knocks me cold. I went out at 1:30 yesterday afternoon, had two brief awake sessions, and awoke at 9:30 this morning. It may have been a night of missed meds, but that seems unlikely. Perhaps its simply a Benadryl hangover. I still don’t feel right even as I type this. The anger is surprisingly familiar and while not a friend, not a foe either. It’s an old part of my normal. I really don’t miss it all that much.
One day a doctor is going to ask me what my anger is on a scale of 1 to 10. If that happens, I’ll need a new microwave.
If you are happy for no reason, everyone loves you.
If you are sad for no reason, you must be depressed.
If you are angry for no reason, you are just a bad person.