Under Depression is Rage

I’ve heard it said that depression is anger turned inward. After 30+ years of depression episodes, which are part of the bipolar cycle, but, for me, are also associated with childhood sexual abuse, emotional neglect, and continual instability, I know this to be true.

Now that I have gained a limited distance from an 18 year toxic relationship with the father of my six year old, gotten the correct diagnoses of Bipolar II Disorder & PTSD, and have spent the last year being in therapy for these things, as well as starting medication, I’m realizing that there is a profound and deep core of anger inside of me. When I get triggered and the anxiety rises, this deep anger rushes into my brain, overwhelms my emotions, and feels like a herd of stampeding mustangs.

This is what happened a couple of days ago.

Much of the time I take deep breaths and swallow it down. I rationalize and justify why the people and the circumstances are they way they are, try to figure out what, if anything, I can do to change myself: my feelings, reactions, and attitude about it all. This is getting more and more difficult to do.

After 18 years in relationship with a rageaholic and living in an environment where the emotional and psychic energy was continually filled with the tension of daily, intermittent, and intense explosions of frustrated rage at the least little thing that didn’t meet unrealistic, unvoiced, and impossible to fulfill expectations, despite the fact that there was infrequent actions which caused actual physical harm, and the fact that it was often expressed in indirect ways, there was a continual sense of threat of harm. Since that has diminished considerably, I’m noticing a few things about myself.

The first one is that I’m scared of my own feelings of anger. I’m terrified I’m going to loose my grip, lose control, and do some real harm, both physical and psychological, to the ones that I love. After all, I did it in the past, before this toxic relationship and even a few times during the relationship. Spanking out of intense frustration and anger when my, now adult, children were in early and middle childhood, which progressed into physical intimidation or actual, physical power struggles when they were in their adolescent years. These are significant factors in the brokenness of my relationships with them now. I absolutely do not want to injure, bend, or break my six year old’s spirit in the same ways. Yet, every day, I fight, inside of myself, against the powerful impulses to yell, scream, threaten, and spank. Most days, I barely win those internal battles, but, I DO win them.

Secondly, I’ve realized that, for the majority of the past 19 years, I have externalized my anger and projected it onto the visibly angry and volatile person in my life – my ex. It was so very easy and simple to blame his anger for all that was wrong in our relationships with each other and my kids. Every feeling or outburst of anger that I or my kids had was blamed on his generalized anger and his resulting behavior and attitudes. As hard as it was to live in that way, it was so much easier than facing, accepting, and taking responsibility for the anger and rage inside of me. He and his anger became my scapegoat. Now that he is not a daily, physical presence in my life, there isn’t anyone else to be the face and focus of my anger. So, when people around me do things and circumstances arise which would justify a sense of anger in just about anyone, my internal anger response is actually rage.

What I’m also realizing is how closely related the anxiety is to the rage. I suppose that’s part of the lizard brain fear response of freeze, flight, or fight. I was frozen for many, many years. That cold neutrality is no longer an option, not that it ever was a viable one to begin with. All the emotions which were frozen deep inside of me, have had the icy, immobilizing layers melted and there’s no refreezing them. I’ve gone from frozen, expansive, empty tundra to roiling, boiling, billowing smoke and ash which precedes the volcanic eruption of fiery, destructive lava and the raining down of boulders. I feel as if the Tasmanian Devil is a whirling dervish of insatiable rage taking over my nervous system. Perhaps, if I had a safe space in the world or inside of myself to flee to when these things are triggered, it wouldn’t feel as unmanageable as it seems. However, flight isn’t an option, which leaves fight.

The things I’m fighting against are amorphous, diffuse, intangible. They live inside of my brain, my body, and my emotions. They are rooted in the historical events of my past, my children’s past, and the pasts of those who came before me. They are represented in the words, attitudes, and actions of the people I encounter in my everyday life. They materialize in circumstances beyond my control. I’m shadow boxing without being able to even see where the shadows are. The shadows are all around me and inside of me, merging and flowing into each other.

In Evangelical Christian terms, I feel possessed by the evil spirits of rage, hate, fear, conflict, and chaos. I’m in a lifelong war, engaged in daily battle: emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. It feels like I’m constantly losing ground. The strongholds often appear too tall, too wide, too deep, and overwhelmingly imposing. I’m continually being struck by “friendly” fire and striking back with the same. However, feelings aren’t facts. I know this.

1 Samuel 17:47 New Century Version (NCV)

47 Everyone gathered here will know the Lord does not need swords or spears to save people. The battle belongs to him, and he will hand you over to us.”

Ephesians 6:12 New Century Version (NCV)

12 Our fight is not against people on earth but against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness, against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly world.

Now that I’m living in awareness of the beast of rage inside of me, it’s time to figure out how to do this:

Ephesians 4:26 New Century Version (NCV)

26 When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to stop being angry before the end of the day.

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3 comments

  1. My mother was recently diagnosed with bipolar II and I experienced the same kind of rage growing up. I have often thought my mother’s anger was tied to her diagnosis and that has helped me to stop blaming myself for her behavior. Thank you for your honesty. Also I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar I but I get very angry too, so I need to get honest with my doctor. I sometimes talk about dealing with mental illness and I almost always talk about the Bible in my blog, so please check it out. 🙂

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    1. Ariel,
      Thank you so much for sharing your story. The truth is that feeling angry about the painful things our parents and caregivers do to us as children, regardless of the reasons for doing them, is something that happens. It’s natural. It’s what we do with those feelings that determines whether and how much we cause pain to others from that anger.

      I spent too much of my life rationalizing and justifying why the things my mom and family did that hurt me happened. I basically pushed my feelings down and tried to act as if they didn’t matter and that there was nothing I could do to change what had happened, so, my anger and hurt couldn’t be dealt with because of it.

      I still do that too much of the time.

      Understanding why people do what they do and accepting that they are the way they are, doesn’t heal our woundedness. Accepting Christ’s Salvation gave me assurance for the future of my soul, but, I haven’t been healed of those wounds, yet, because I never accepted that those wounds existed or even could/needed to be healed. I couldn’t open those parts of myself up to Him. Instead, I have strived to say, do, and be the kind of Jesus follower described in the NT. That only went so far, because it means I’ve been trying to do it out of my will, strength, and understanding.

      Now, I’m finally understanding that I need to face those things inside of myself and open them up for His cleansing and healing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, Jesus IS the healer. There are so many places in the Bible where God reveals Himself this way. When it comes to emotional healing, my two favorites come from the Psalms. Ps. 23:3, “He renews my soul” (GW) and Ps. 34:18, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (KJ) and of course Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (KJ). These scriptures, especially the last, assure me that God deeply cares for those who have been wounded and that He is willing AND able to heal us of even the deepest of wounds.

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