Simple tools to get you back on track.
You are in the midst of a Bipolar rage episode. There might have been an external trigger or your brain might have just flipped over to anger mode for no reason.
Once the anger has taken hold of you, is there anything you can do? Here are five steps you can take to help protect yourself and others during your angry episode.
You can learn more about what Bipolar Anger is the post, What Is Bipolar Anger?
1. Count to 10 (or 100)
Everyone is encouraged to count to 10 before reacting to negative things. This is especially important if you have a mental illness.
Quite honestly, counting to 10 is typically not enough. You may find you need a higher number, like 20, 100, 1000, etc.
The purpose of counting is to take a moment to think about your reaction before doing anything. That little break will help you to make a wiser choice and use better words.
The important thing isn’t the counting but rather taking a moment. The Bipolar mind acts quickly, but the first thoughts and actions are often the wrong ones when in an angry state.
In my last post, I talked about the desire to break things when in a Bipolar rage. Counting has helped me to break pencils or sticks rather than things of value, bones, or relationships. On the really bad days, I have a couple of old stumps in the yard. I’ll attack them with a pickaxe until the anger subsides.
If you intensely feel that you must have a physical outlet for your anger, find a healthy or useful way to get that rage out of your system. Some people use a punching bag or go for a run. Your peace should never come at someone else’s expense.
2. Focus on Breathing
People who are manic often breathe in quick, shallow breaths. I’m not sure of the reason for this habit, but I have to think it’s something to do with the brain working faster than the body can keep up.
Again, going with my theory that the rage comes in the manic state, breathing is already an issue.
To help calm yourself, take a moment to focus on your breathing. The 5-5-5 method can help.
- Breathe in slowly to the count of five
- Hold your breath for a count of five
- Slowly exhale to a count of five
Make sure as you breathe that you are counting slowly, maybe adding a long word or two before or after each number, such as one-one thousand or one-Mississippi.
As you breathe in, imagine clean and calming air entering your lungs. Then, as you exhale, picture the anger and stress leaving your body expelled by the passing air.
Practicing mindfulness will also help to reduce anger sessions. It helps your mind to slow down again.
3. Walk Away
If your Bipolar rage has been triggered by a person or conversation, often the best option is to remove yourself from the setting. Better to walk away than say or do something you will later regret.
Yes, it may be rude, but sometimes hanging up the phone on someone is better than shouting the words that inevitably will enter your head. A hang-up can be easily forgiven in time. Painful or biting words tend to hurt much longer.
The other benefit of walking away is that you’re much less likely for your anger to turn physical. Hitting someone is always a bad idea and can often lead to terrible consequences like a serious injury or even jail time.
Take your leave before things escalate to protect both you and the other person. Your calm self will thank you later.
4. Think of the Future
There’s a poem by John Bennett entitled In a Rose Garden that’s one of my favorites. In the poem, the Bennett talks about how in 100 years things that seem like a big deal now will likely be forgotten or won’t matter anymore.
The next time you feel yourself in the grips of an anger episode, think about what you are angry about. Will that thing matter in a month? Year? Five years? 100 years? If it won’t, then is it really that big of a deal now?
By thinking about the situation from a future standpoint, it gives you a new perspective to consider. Often, that new vantage point will give you a better idea of just how serious that matter might be.
When you are not in an angry state, think back to some events that have really upset you over the years. Do those matters mean anything today? Sometimes they do, but more often than not, in time, we forget or stop thinking about those bad things.
Remind yourself of that truth the next time rage overtakes you. If this moment will be forgotten in 10 years than it’s probably not as serious as it feels right now.
5. Keep Trying
It’s easy for me to write these words and tell you how you should react the next time Bipolar anger attacks you. It’s quite another matter to actually put these things into action, especially in those times that you feel completely out of control.
That’s okay. If you failed to control your Bipolar rage this time, then what can you do differently next time? How can you achieve a different result?
It’s taken me years to get my Bipolar rage under control, and even now I’m not always successful. I’ve learned that when I feel that anger boiling up inside of me that I need to stay away from people.
For me, that may mean avoiding social activities, not answering the phone, and sometimes even staying home from work.
Your situation is probably different. Take some time to think of things you can do to lessen the possibility of casualties from your next angry episode. If the first thing you try doesn’t work, then try something else.
Sometimes people think that having a mental illness is an excuse to behave poorly, but the truth is that there are some things that are right and some that are wrong.
Bipolar Disorder may make it harder to stick to the right course, but it doesn’t give you license to do just anything. Wrong is wrong, no matter who you are or what you are dealing with right now.
Remembering that, never give up trying to do better. I put my family through a lot as I learned to deal with my Bipolar and the angry words that came into my head. It’s probably something I will be working on for the rest of my life, but the important thing is that I’m still trying to improve.
You Have What It Takes To Beat Bipolar Rage
Bipolar rage and anger can feel like someone else is taking over your mind and body, but you can take steps to improve things. Just to repeat the five steps:
- Count to 10
- Focus on breathing
- Walk away
- Think of the future
- Keep trying
With some time and effort, you can better manage and control future angry moods.
As a sixth and final step, you should be willing to ask for forgiveness. If you have hurt someone emotionally or done damage to physical property while in your angry state, own up to your mistake. Take responsibility and ask for forgiveness. Be sincere about working to do better the next time.
Your friends and family love you and want to see you succeed. Taking the time to apologize after you’ve lost control shows them that you are serious about managing your mental health and that you care about them enough to keep trying.
There will be bad days, and sometimes you will fail, but one failure (or several) doesn’t mean you’ve lost the war. You’ve got it in you to keep improving. I believe in you.