Reply To: Outbursts of Anger


My wife and I have been together since highschool, over ten years now. I have been diagnosed with ADHD as of about 18 months ago, and I have found a good dose of biphentin which seems to negate my ‘busyness’, memory problems, organizational issues, etc., but I am still having issues with my emotions. I heavily identify with the symptoms of RSD; In the moment, it is impossible to see that I am not being attacked or treated unfairly; it’s like my brain has no middle ground between ‘safe’ and ‘dying’, and when my ‘fight’ is engaged, there is no turning it off. A lot of the time, I will accuse her of being impossible to communicate with, stifling my emotions and frustrations, being manipulative. I know she is not these things. She is only these things when I am angry, and I feel crazy because, at the same time, I know she is not perfect either and has said and done some pretty mean things in the past as well. It is hard to disentangle what objective reality is.

I am almost done my degree in social work, which has taught me why I am like this; but knowing why almost makes it harder to combat. What makes it worse for my wife is that I never show this level of anger and rage to anyone else; she and our home are my safe space, and when I am not on guard being professional for work or well-behaved in public, anything can set me off. I get incredibly offended when she tries to tell me things I already know (it makes me feel like an idiot), or tries to help me with things I am frustrated with like finding things around the house (it makes me feel like a child). It’s not like it’s consistent, either, which makes it more difficult for her; some days I can accept help with a smile, others it feels like she’s shaming me. The comparison above to a sneeze is so accurate it hurts. I am not an angry person. I am kind and thoughtful and generous 90% of the time. Neither my wife or I recognize me when I am in the middle of an outburst.

What hurts me is that I will try for weeks, sometimes, to progress, and I will feel internal change and my perspective changing, good habits solidifying, and we will have a slip up where I will escalate the argument to one of us having to leave the house to get space because “how dare she treat me like this when I am trying so hard to be a better person”. In her eyes, when this happens, all progress is erased. We are back to square one. It is hard to convince her that things are getting better when these slip-ups happen and resemble how we used to be. I can see the cycle wearing on her, and I am terrified that she will give up on me (though objectively I do not see us leaving each other).

Other than Biphentin, things that have helped me so far are short walks, taking a moment and escaping elsewhere with headphones or a book if I can concentrate enough, opening up to friends about my anger (as keeping things like that secret only make it worse), small Yoga routines (clinically proven to reconnect your mind with your body; a big factor in losing control of yourself), mindful breathing, eliminating regular alcohol consumption (I’ll still get silly a few times a year), reducing sugar, higher quality food, etc. Unsurprisingly, I was at my worst when I was in the thick of the academic year, during winter, not eating until about 4pm each day, drowning in a sea of financial stress, and surviving off of $2 burgers from McDonalds.

The biggest thing to remember, I think, is that it is not “mind and body”. Mind IS body. The emotional outbursts, while in our minds, are physical as well. Taking control of one’s mind and emotions also requires taking control of one’s body as well and nurturing them in tandem. When I feel anger coming, and I am able to do so, I take a few minutes to check in with every part of my body from head to toe. Take a few seconds and really feel how each part is doing. Sometimes, you may find that the source of your irritation is physical. However, I am not so naive as to suggest that this is realistic for people in the moment of their anger. If you can, do it as you start to come out of your outburst; you will still be feeling the physical side of it.

In a calm moment, maybe also try/suggest some guided imagery; I am a fan of the ‘container’ script, which helps you put your feelings away until you can look at them with a clear mind. Make a happy place. Your mind is powerful, powerful enough to control you, but powerful enough to help you build internal structures to support yourself.

There is hope, friends.

And thank you for sharing your experiences.
Sorry if some of this seems disjointed, I kept hopping around and editing it.