I received this comment on the post Five Steps to Overcoming Anger by W. Robert Nay, PhD. I was quoting the doctor’s 5 steps. Then, I added my own twist with a few of my past cartoons.
You make overcoming anger seem easy. When my spouse gets angry he gets loud and in my face, grabs me. I always keep a calm voice but it doesn’t seem to calm him down. I tell him to walk away and he won’t. He keeps repeating and belittleing me , our conversation gets nowhere. HELP – Comment on “Five Steps to Overcoming Anger” post.
W. Robert Nay, PhD wrote the five steps. I quoted him and added my cartoons.
I deal with rage and anger issues. When I snap, I get to a point where it is dangerous. I’ve never put a hand on my wife, but when I would yell, it would get scary… and that is putting it mildly.
I feel so bad for my wife for putting up with me for almost 20 years. It was only 8 years ago that I started to get help. Overcoming anger is HARD! But what worries me is that you said he “grabs you.” I’m not a doctor or therapist but I can tell you that when a person steps over the line of yelling to physical contact then there is a need for action on your part.
In June of 2004, I almost crossed that line… I was psychotic when I made threats… My wife called the police and fled out of state with the kids. This was a part of a safety plan. I was in the hospital by the end of the week. We had a plan in case it got real bad.. and it worked. I was never allowed to know her plans, that was part of the safety plan.
I will post something I wrote a while back about me and my wife. I tried to write it as an honest and true look at an argument we had. It might shed some light on this subject or it might not… I’ll let you be the judge.
But, I would make sure you talk to a professional as soon as you can that can help you make a safety plan and get you local services for your need.
Below is the article I mentioned above. We welcome others to comment and share some insight on this anger matter. I’ve added a few cartoons I’ve drawn about my wife and I over the years; to take the edge off the story.
Warning: This story may be a trigger for couples dealing with anger issues… though, it is intended to be helpful with a positive outcome!
Stories of Survival and Recovery
My Wife, My Love, My Trigger
by Chato B. Stewart
The tension is thick in the air as midnight approaches. Days of mind games and small arguments have been leading up to this war of words. In my mind, I’m right and my belief is just, yet they are leading to my own demise, since my belief is distorted and the pain I’m causing my wife is about to explode. It’s the “Same Old Bipolar Story.”
She stands at the threshold, arms crossed in anger and frustration, and her weary eyes fill with tears. She looks at me typing on the computer and says in an undertone, “Even when there is nothing to be upset about, you find something to be upset about!” Her voice gets more audible: “It makes me feel like a failure and worthless as a wife and a mother.”
I stare at her with the cold, emotionless glare that is common to this mood I’ve been in for the last week. This is the same mood that has built the foundation for this war of words. Deep down, I know she is right, yet every fiber of my soul is holding back the good and letting the evil take over, holding onto this stubborn stance to the end. So I keep silent and I type, partly to piss her off and partly to record the facts about me seen through her eyes.
She breaks the silence, “You’d think you would be happy to have a wife that cares and works hard all the time. You don’t value anything I value, ya know… It’s so funny—when we dated, I thought, ‘Oh, he will never be mad.’ Ya, right.”
As I type her words, I do deep down agree with her—something is wrong with me. I find no happiness and I look for the fight. She is now referring to when we dated, some sixteen years ago, when I was always happy and the fun guy at the party. Yet as I got older the bipolar took its course, and I got bitter. She doesn’t know I’m typing our conversation yet, so all she hears are keys clicking away as I write, and the rest is quiet.
My wife continues, mumbling, “All I had to do was to look at the father,” and that’s all I can make out. She is now talking about my father, who was mentally and physically abusive to us growing up. He too was bipolar, but it was never diagnosed until a few years before his heart attack and death at sixty-two. When I was growing up, my father was cruel and kind, hateful and loving. And he treated my mother like crap! Am I completing the circle?
Oops, the cat is out of the bag! My wife leans over the desk and sees what I’m writing. She flippantly says, “Don’t sit there quoting me and writing what I said!”
I keep writing, and her voice becomes agitated: “Sorry I don’t satisfy you and my best is never good enough.” Then she pauses, but still I say nothing and just type. There is quite a long silence and she waits to strike her blow. She knows I’m writing it all down, and she is reading over my shoulder now. “Blah, blah, blah…” is all I hear as she goes over everything I have done and all my moods, and the way I’ve been treating her. But to provoke the argument more, since she is still reading, all I write is, “blah, blah, blah” to show that I really don’t respect her and what she is saying.
It’s always the Same Old Bipolar Story! About me not feeling good and then not getting what I need. Yeah, my needs are so outrageous—asking to be treated with dignity and respect is all I ask. But now she is pushing it onto my illness. How convenient for her! “Blah blah blah.” She is still talking, and I’m tuning her out while I type.
If only if I could stop right now—stop perpetuating this mood and break the cycle, realizing that she really is right and all she is doing is trying to help me and love me. But I can’t. I’m blind to it, and “My Wife, My Love,” becomes “My Trigger.” At this point, nothing she says will be right. My clouded judgment will cover her love and twist it to hate; my paranoia will take root like a mighty oak and suffocate its surroundings.
In my distorted view, I believe it is her process to blame me with the bipolar and to never look at her own issues. Where is her “compromise”? She always says to meet in the middle, yet she is so far from the middle ground she might as well be out of the circle altogether.
I sit here typing, and she waits to make her next strike. In the end it will always be my fault, and I will look like the bad guy—that is a proven fact in my mind. Then she cries “foul,” and I am the one that is out. Still I remain silent, which is not my usual way. Normally I’m screaming and yelling and belittling her and all her efforts, each word crafted to cut deeper then the next.
Now the paranoia kicks in and I don’t want anyone to see what I’m writing, since I think it will unveil my evil person that I hide away under this fake shell of a man. I’m about to delete it.
She breaks the long silence and states, “Don’t erase it,” she yells out, “it’s my conversation.” She is putting ownership and pushing her opinion on me and on what I’m writing. Oh, and here we go again: “Are you going to make an appointment?” In other words, “You’re not balanced and you’re wrong for feeling like crap. You need to see a doctor.”
“Why?” I blurt out, breaking my silence for the first time.
“Because you’re sick, and you need help!” she says in a compassionate voice, cracking because of the stress I’m putting on her.
As she stands there crying softly, I know somewhere in me that she’s right! I feel deep love for my wife, and now I want to just hold her and say I’m sorry. But something is holding me back! I’ve been off my medications for almost two years, and the family has paid the price.
But wait! I’m not falling for that! My mood takes over again, and the cold, callous person in me speaks, “It’s just bullshit, I’m not sick! You’re sitting here twisting my feelings around and still putting me down. No, I’m done with you!” and back to my silence I go. At this point, if I really was balanced and not sick, I could have, or at least I hope I might have realized, that she only wanted to help me. Yet I just kept silent and kept writing, making sure to toss out the old “I’m done with you” line.
It’s been over an hour. She has not said a word since my outburst. She knows I’m sitting here writing everything she says, so now I think she does not want it recorded. Could it be she is afraid that I might be right? Just maybe I’m not to blame for all the heartache this family goes through! I mean, damn, I know I’m sick and shit crazy most of the time, but some of that comes from her as my trigger. And why is she my trigger, I ask myself? Namely because she is RIGHT! But in the mind of the insane there is only one rule: I am NEVER Wrong! So I speak with belligerence and hate, each word more vile then the next, with my voice rising. I will make her see that I’m the one who’s right. I’m right, I AM RIGHT!
She pipes in, “Are you finished talking?” Then she says nothing. She now has switched moods and is going into the “I-the-care-giver” mode. Next she will no doubt try to “have a conversation” about it all. This confuses me. She is not crying, she is not mad—she is caring and loving and not trying to make her point! I mean, come on, I just said some really nasty stuff, and was all crazy and whatnot… Or is that the point? Am I so far gone that I don’t even see it? There is a hush in the room. The tension has subsided, and a feeling in the pit of my stomach is growing. I look at the time, and it’s now 1:19 a.m., and I can hear the baby crying in the other room.
She walks over to me and kisses my neck and says, “I love you,” and then whispers, “even if you don’t think I do.” Then she goes to the baby.
Now the guilt kicks in. What a jerk I am! There is no excuse for treating her like this. I don’t want to be like my father. I can’t put it off anymore…I NEED HELP! This woman, my wife, is the strongest person I know! Sixteen years of my moods, and still she loves me. She has given me four beautiful children, and she has compassion with no end! She has walked through my valley of death and emerged unscathed. It is now that I start to take over the controls, pushing that vile person deep back into my soul. It’s like a moment of balance or clarity for me. At this point I know that if I don’t get some help I will not only lose my family but without a doubt I will lose my life.
She comes back into the room with a cup of coffee and starts rubbing my back. It’s now 1:29 a.m. I say to her, “My Wife, My Love,” and add with a bit of a smile, “My Trigger, I do love you too, and I’m so sorry. I want to be that man you married so long ago. I don’t want our life to end in that ‘Same Old Bipolar Story.’” Finally, I pledge, “I’m going to do everything I can to get back on track for you and our family.”
That was a few months ago. I’m still “on track!”