Anger Mania

My wife and I were recently talking about my anger outbursts. Yes, I was over it but my wife was not. Sometimes, it leaves a scar.

I’m not an angry person. I’m normally a nice guy, a caring guy. My wife often says, "You’re a wonderful husband," then after a short pause adds, "most of the time."

I grew up in a loud family. My father discussed things at 125 decibels. I was always fearful of his occasional outbursts, as they made me feel small and afraid. I learned at an early age that the power of control and speaking over someone were ways to attain my point in a discussion or argument. I used that loud voice for effect and advantage until one day when I tried to end an argument with my sister by shouting. She suddenly burst into tears, "Please don’t yell at me, Don. It upsets me." That message was received clearly. I made a conscious decision to no longer use my voice for control.

But it didn’t stop there. It dwells in my marriage of 25 years. It resonates when I discipline my grandsons. "Stop yelling at me," my wife says. I am quick to reply. "I’m not yelling at you. I’m just raising my voice." The best defense is a good offense, or so I believe.

I love my grandsons. I am a proud grandfather. There are, however, times I have to discipline them; sometimes out of frustration from their misbehavior. At those times I yell at them to stop. They are immediately fearful. The six year old may break into tears and will say to me. "Poppy, it makes me feel sad when you yell at me.” Initially, I regarded his statement as a manipulation to avoid being reprimanded, but I have come to understand he is expressing a genuine feeling of hurt and fear. I now try to keep my voice calm when I need to teach him a correct behavior. I want him to love me and enjoy our time together, not be fearful and on guard.

Being bipolar doesn’t make any of this easier. Rather, it only complicates matters when I raise my voice. I am left in a quandary the likes of which brings up a question disturbing in nature. Is my yelling anger? Is it an episode? Is it a symptom of bipolar disorder? Or is it simply normal? In fact, where does normal leave off, and manic excess begin? I hope to answer that question in future posts, or at least shed some light on the matter.