Podcast: Anger, Rage, and Mental Illness
Have you ever been so pissed off, in a state of absolute rage, and said or done something you completely regret later? Many people living with bipolar disorder understand this feeling all too well: At the time, you feel so righteous, so fueled with this powerful Hercules-like energy, so ready to take on your enemy (or the world), only to think later… What in the world was that all about? Yep, in these moments, the angry response tends to far outweigh the initial trigger.
In this episode, Gabe and Jackie discuss the blind rage that many people have experienced. They talk about how to deal with it and how it’s OK for you to move on from one of these episodes and not identify with your past. Gabe even shares his own blind rage moment and how he managed to put it behind him (after a mega-apology, of course).
Have you ever had a blind rage moment? Or know someone who has? Tune in to peek into the mind of a person with an uncontrollable temper.
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About The Not Crazy Podcast Hosts
Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations, available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from Gabe Howard. To learn more, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.
Jackie Zimmerman has been in the patient advocacy game for over a decade and has established herself as an authority on chronic illness, patient-centric healthcare, and patient community building. She lives with multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, and depression.
Computer Generated Transcript for “Sex Addiction” Episode
Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer-generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Announcer: You’re listening to Not Crazy, a Psych Central podcast. And here are your hosts, Jackie Zimmerman and Gabe Howard.
Gabe: Welcome to Not Crazy. I’d like to introduce my co-host, Jackie, who lives with major depression.
Jackie: And I would like to introduce my co-host, Gabe, who lives with bipolar disorder.
Gabe: I feel that I was more excited that you have major depression than you were excited that I have bipolar disorder.
Jackie: I feel like there’s a really good joke about bipolar in there. I just don’t know what it is.
Gabe: Oh, there are so many, there are so many. I’m so happy to be bipolar. No, I’m not.
Gabe: That’s it? You’re not even going to laugh? Because that makes me angry, Jackie.
Gabe: It makes me angry.
Jackie: It makes you angry?
Gabe: That you won’t laugh at my joke.
Jackie: Well, it just so happens that we’re talking about anger today.
Gabe: I think that anger is one of those misunderstood emotions, right? Everybody in America, wants anger to go away, like we don’t listen to the angry masses and we’re uncomfortable when somebody gets angry with us and we want them to calm down. Like has anybody ever said that to you when you’re angry?
Jackie: There’s no faster way to make somebody not calm down than to tell them to calm down.
Gabe: And this is just regular, everyday anger that everybody gets that Webster defines as a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure or hostility.
Jackie: According to them, it doesn’t sound that bad. It doesn’t sound that bad to be, you know, angry.
Gabe: The reality is, is that anger does serve a purpose. If you get angry about a social situation, that can really be the spark that makes you change that social situation, that makes you fight for a better life for you and your family or for people who have been put upon in an unfair way. I think every social movement ever has started with anger. That anger is justified and can lead to real positive outcomes. The kind of anger that I want to talk about is the anger that isn’t rooted in reason. I want to talk about anger with bipolar disorder because I was angry with things that didn’t even exist, that I literally made them up in my head and was furious about it. So what do I do with that? I can’t change it. It never happened to begin with.
Jackie: One of the things that I think is really interesting about this topic and something that I’d like to dive into is somebody who does not live with bipolar disorder is a little bit of the difference between bipolar anger and regular. We’ll call it regular anger, not mental illness, associated anger, but specifically like what you just said was I made it up, it wasn’t real. But I feel like even people who are not bipolar make up things that make them furious. So can you give me a rundown really quick, Gabe? What is the difference? What makes bipolar anger bipolar anger, and what differentiates it?
Gabe: As longtime listeners of the show know, I love to say that everything exists on a spectrum, right? There’s the typical spectrum where you’re experiencing anger that’s normal. There’s also the typical spectrum of, say, sadness, right. You know, sadness can lead to depression, but depression isn’t sadness and sadness isn’t depression. So I really wish that we had like a better name. Maybe instead of calling it bipolar anger, it should be bipolar rage because that’s really what we’re talking about. It’s this point where you have just lost all sense of reality and context. And when I say a loss of reality, I don’t mean you’re hallucinating. I just mean the thing that you’re mad at doesn’t exist. But here’s where it gets tough. It exists to you. Your perception becomes your reality. And you’re fighting against something that isn’t real. It’s frankly scary.
Jackie: Ok. Now that I feel like I totally understand what you’re saying. Not really. That is an over exaggeration. But can you give me an example? Can you tell me a real live tale of Gabe having uncontrollable anger about a thing that was either, A, not real or B, maybe not a thing that was big enough to warrant the response you gave it?
Gabe: I was very fortunate to start my career fairly young. I had a high paying job right out of high school when I was 19 years old and I got a higher paying job when I was 20 and I got a really high paying job at 21. It was, it was great to be in the computer world back before the bubble burst. And my employer did some stuff I didn’t like. I do not have the ability to look backwards and decide if my base level of anger was reasonable. Let’s say that what my employer did was wrong. My response to that was not reasonable.
Jackie: What happened? What was the catalyst?
Gabe: I was contracted to run their network and they added something in, they wanted me to provide a higher level of phone support to the customer than I was originally hired to provide. I didn’t want to work with a customer. You think that people don’t understand computers today in 2020? Yeah. People really didn’t understand computers back in 1997. And I pushed back and they said tough were paying, you have to do it. So yeah, I started off small by bitching a lot and then I tried to get everybody to do a walk out and quit if we didn’t get our way, you know, kind of a strike kind of thing. And that didn’t work. And then I sent an email to the entire company, all 35000 employees.
Jackie: Whoa, what did it say?
Gabe: It contained a lot of, you know, fuck use and kiss my asses and I quit. And this is bullshit and you can’t treat me this way. And I am a person and I have rights. And I do know that my response was absolutely ridiculous. They have every right to order me to do something, just like I have every right to quit if I don’t want to do it. I didn’t need to involve an entire company across multiple states.
Jackie: So then what happened?
Gabe: Well, I got fired, I got fired hard, like, so hard
Gabe: Like I mean, I did quit. So I was quitting anyway. But I sent that email in the morning and a couple hours later I got a talking to and I was like, hey, I quit already. I put in my two weeks just like in the email. And they’re like, yeah, we don’t we don’t need the two weeks. We’re, we’re good now.
Jackie: Wow, OK. So Gabe today, looking back on fuck-you-email-sending Gabe of yesteryear, was there anything someone could have said to you in that moment to de-escalate, to prevent the email sending?
Gabe: Not a thing. My supervisors tried to work with me when I told all of my employees, hey, we should strike. We should threaten to quit. They were all pissed off, too. There was a decent level of anger at having to do this extra work. None of us got into back end network support so that we could work with customers who would say things like what’s a node? Why won’t this work? You know, we just spent a lot of time explaining terms to people before we actually got to the solution to whatever their problem was. It was it was a nightmare. None of us wanted to do this job. They were all angry. I just took it as like a personal attack. It just escalated. And my wife tried to calm me down. My dad tried to calm me down and my co-workers tried to calm me down. My supervisors tried to calm me down. I actually equated myself to like the civil rights movement where I had to stand tall and defend my people. This is just a level of nonsense and ridiculousness that I am frankly ashamed of. And I don’t know how we got here.
Jackie: If you’re somebody in this situation, how do you identify the moment where you’re gonna send the email? Nobody else can de-escalate you and you’re ready to do this like potentially career sabotaging moments or relationship sabotage or something terrible. How do you identify it and then not do it?
Gabe: I’m going to put that question up and make it easy on you, Jackie. You’re a self-employed business woman. You have customers. Let’s say that one of your customers asked you to do something unreasonable for an amount that you were unwilling to do it for. What would you do?
Jackie: Say no.
Gabe: Ok. And then the customer said, well, if you don’t do it, I don’t want to work with you, and you would say.
Gabe: Yeah. Would that be the end of it for you?
Gabe: Would you send anybody emails and try to close down that person’s business?
Gabe: Would you just consider it a business disagreement and move on? Or would you be plotting a social media campaign to, I don’t know, take out their bakery?
Jackie: No. Done. End of story.
Gabe: Yeah, because that’s how a reasonable person reacts. Would you go out with your friends and bitch?
Jackie: Yes, probably.
Gabe: Yeah. Would you complain to your husband that, you know, this customer is a dumb ass and they’re going to come crawling back?
Jackie: Yes, if I’m feeling extra sassy.
Gabe: Yeah, and maybe for the first couple of nights you’d think, how did I get in this situation? Like, what made them think that I would do this thing for this little money or, you know, but on one hand, you’re venting your mushing it around in your brain. But it’s also sort of productive, right? How can I avoid this situation in the future? It kind of follows this pattern. You know, first you’re pissed. Then you’re complaining. Then you’re trying to think of what you could have done to avoid it. And then you try to think of what you can do to avoid that with other people. Which is very productive, very proactive.
Jackie: Yes. That makes total sense, that’s follows a very productive way to handle anger and a stupid situation.
Gabe: People like me get stuck on number one. We never leave number one. The insults, the impact, the how did this happen? The I am going to get revenge against you for having the audacity to make me angry. It never ends. And in fact, it starts to take on a life of its own. See, first they ask you to do something you didn’t want to do and they didn’t pay you enough and you separated. Like those are the facts, right? But then the reason they ask you to do it is because you have red hair and they’re blonde. Oh, my God. That’s why they did it. You know what? That company is filled with women. And I’m a man. They hate me because I’m a man. There’s no proof of any of this. You start to then seek it out. So, you know, I’m a man, so I Google the Internet. Powerful women being mean to men. And all of a sudden, I find a community because the Internet has everything. I just start to play in that sandbox. And what originally happened is that a business person asked a business person to do something. They didn’t come to terms and they separated. And now here we are where I’ve decided that I have been like discriminated against. There’s no fact to back that up. But I’m ripe for the picking. I am just ripe for somebody to convince me of this.
Jackie: We’ll be back after these messages.
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Gabe: And we’re back talking about being pissed off.
Jackie: Ok, I can see the escalation. I can see how most of it is probably rooted in some form of truth, like you said. Right? It’s not like you completely made it up. It had a catalyst. However, as you’ve already stated, the last time this happened was like 15 years ago. I can see how the rage can build. What do you do now to prevent that? How is it different now? Somebody in the audience is living with bipolar right now. They are experiencing these kinds of like moments of bipolar rage. How do they handle them?
Gabe: Step one is treat the underlying condition. Bipolar rage is a symptom of bipolar disorder. It’s no different from mania or hypersexuality or depression or suicidal thoughts or grandiosity or psychosis. This is all part and parcel of the same issue. The reason your carpet is wet is because your house is flooding. Stop the flooding recede the waters, dry the carpet. And that’s where this show has arguably boring answers. Get help. Seek therapy. Find out what works for you. And be brutally honest with the people around you. I had to tell this story to many people, and it’s easy now because I’ve told it so many times and because I’m living well. But when I was unemployed, had no money, and I had to say to somebody, hey, the reason that I’m struggling to pay my bills is because I sent an email to 35,000 people telling them to go fuck themselves. Yeah, it feels really stupid. Like nobody’s on my side. Everybody’s like, wow, I’m surprised you didn’t get prosecuted, you idiot. That’s not an unreasonable response.
Jackie: I still can’t get over the email. I like really would love to see a copy of it, which is neither here nor there, it’s just a fact of that. I would really love to see this e-mail.
Gabe: I would like to see it, too, honestly.
Jackie: And frame, it is like your Jerry Maguire who’s coming with me moment.
Gabe: It really was like a show me the money kind of thing. I felt that kind of power in what I was doing. That’s how it felt. That is delusional. That’s not what was happening. That’s just how I felt, what was happening. And that’s the difference between anger and bipolar anger. Even people with anger issues, they they’re still rooted in some sort of reality. And you ask what somebody with bipolar disorder with anger should do. Yeah. They should get treated for their bipolar disorder. They should go to therapy. They should take anger management classes. If you are a person who has a lot of problems with anger and you don’t have bipolar disorder, you don’t have an underlying severe and persistent mental illness. The first thing that you need to do is acknowledge that this level of anger and hostility and rage is hurting you. It is hurting you. It is also hurting the people around you. But maybe you don’t care. It’s hurting you. Walking around with this level of anger is tearing you apart from the inside for no good reason.
Jackie: Well, and it also sounds a little bit like when you’ve talked in the past about being manic, how you’re like living in it. It’s great. But then there’s aftermath that you have to deal with where maybe when you’re feeling bipolar rage, you are rooted in truth. You feel like this is the only path forward. And then I would assume a day later, two days later, when you don’t get your first paycheck, maybe you’re like, maybe not the smartest decision I have ever made.
Gabe: Yeah, and we’ve tabled this with a job. You know, I didn’t have to apologize to 35,000 employees. They got their revenge rather swiftly by no longer having to pay me or deal with me or work with me anymore. But then I think about like all the friends I told off; I think about all the romantic relationships that I ruined. I think about my second wife, who I got so angry at her. And I don’t even remember why. It was so insignificant that I do not remember what I was angry about. But I screamed, I hate you. I told my wife I hated her because she did something and I don’t even remember what it is. And that’s really the key message, right? I remember screaming, I hate you, but I don’t remember what I was angry about. And that’s going to live with me forever. I’m that guy. I am the guy who screamed, I hate you at my wife. That is who I am. You should defend me and say that is who you were because you got help, et cetera. Like, I wouldn’t leave that hanging there.
Jackie: I want to do that. I will just say that, like sometimes you say things, Gabe, and it is just sort of like the reality that falls over. Yeah, it does leave me speechless because I’m just trying to like live in that moment of the interaction between you and your wife at the time. And it is overwhelming to think of what that must’ve felt like truthfully, how far you have come. Of like things that you have done and things that you have said. Right. We’ve already established this level of bipolar rage is not really something you see anymore or have not seen in a while. You are in treatment. You are doing well. Hopefully that’s something that kind of stays in the past.
Gabe: And I do believe that it will. And I’ve been married eight years now and I don’t have this issue with Kendall. Kendall got the best version of Gabe that ever existed. Kendall has the best version of Gabe that has ever existed. But there’s still somebody walking around that got the worst version of Gabe. But you’re right. Our worst moments, no more define us than our best moments define us. We’re sort of a hodgepodge of all of it, right? The good, the bad and the ugly make us who we are. And it’s one of the reasons that I do this show. It’s one of the reasons that I talk so openly about it, because after I did these things, there was a next day and there was a next week and there was a next month and there was a next year. And I’m glad that I did all of the right things to get through it. And I want other people to know that they can do the right things to get through it. And then they just owe people like a lot of apologies. My apology tour was just so incredibly humbling. It really was. I am fortunate that my family is who they are. You know, they suck. Don’t get me wrong. They’re awful people. We don’t agree on politics. We fight about music. You know, my dad loses his shit over A-1 Sauce at a restaurant on a $70 filet, which just makes me want to take my head and pound it on a table. But they’re not one iota ashamed of their children. That’s a good trade for me. And it’s not something that every person has. I didn’t have to ask for forgiveness because they already forgave me. I’m lucky.
Jackie: To a certain extent, though, what you do at a certain point in your life, if you are able to grow from it, learn from it, seek treatment after it, get better or whatever it is, we shouldn’t be persecuted for things we did 30 years ago. If we have made efforts to correct the behavior, you know, I was probably a mean girl to someone at some point in my life. There is a high likelihood if that’s the only interaction they’ve had with me, that’s who they think I still am. But I’m not. I would like to think that we can look at each other and see that growth is possible in other people. Maybe a complete change is not possible, but growth and evolution is possible.
Gabe: If it can’t change, there’s no point listening to the show. If we can’t change, there’s no point in going to therapy. If we can’t change, there’s no purpose for any of this. I believe that we can all change and we can all be better people. You have to want to do it. And an apology isn’t based on your feelings. It’s based on the other person’s feelings. The apology is not supposed to make you feel better. In fact, the majority of apologies made me feel worse. But they made the other people feel better. And after a couple of days, that made me feel better. It’s not about you. It’s about them. If you’re going around apologizing so that you can feel better, you’re doing it wrong. You’re just doing it straight up wrong.
Jackie: Ok, so if I were to summarize this episode, I would say one, bipolar anger happens. Two, it is preventable and avoidable with treatment. And C, if you do have a moment where you go back and do these things, don’t forget that you can totally move forward. You can move past it. But you also have to be willing to acknowledge what happened. And a lot of times that means apologizing.
Gabe: Just because it’s in the past doesn’t mean that the future can’t be better. But you’ve got to take proactive action to make it better. Radical honesty is a thing.
Jackie: Radical honesty, radical candor. All the radicals. I am in support of. Because I think that is where we become vulnerable. And I believe and I have learned in therapy, when we’re vulnerable, that’s when we grow the most.
Gabe: And speaking of radical, let’s talk about you, our radical fans. We need a few favors from you that Jackie and I would appreciate completely and entirely. One, share us on social media, and in the description, tell people why you like the show and why they should listen to it. Two, wherever you download this podcast, please subscribe. Use your words and tell people why you like it when you rank and rate us. Finally, stay tuned after the credits because you know what’s there? Awesome stuff. It turns out Gabe and Jackie make a lot of hilarious mistakes. Sometimes we also drop wisdom there. We will see everybody next week.
Jackie: Have a great time. What? Have a great week. See you later. I don’t know. Bye.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to Not Crazy from Psych Central. For free mental health resources and online support groups, visit PsychCentral.com. Not Crazy’s official website is PsychCentral.com/NotCrazy. To work with Gabe, go to gabehoward.com. To work with Jackie, go to JackieZimmerman.co. Not Crazy travels well. Have Gabe and Jackie record an episode live at your next event. E-mail [email protected] for details.
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Podcast, N. (2020). Podcast: Anger, Rage, and Mental Illness. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 2, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/anger-rage-and-mental-illness/