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  1. #1

    Gave myself a good scare

    Hello,

    I am new to this site and glad to have found it as a resource.
    I am in my early thirties, moderately successful, happily married and pretty well adjusted. I am fairly healthy, have never been on medication for any kind of mood disorder but I had a very disturbing experience last night that has lead me to question my mental health.

    The short version of this story is that I totally flipped out and smashed a plate (I slammed it on the corner of the table) breaking it into dangerous shards and thereby cutting my thumb badly enough to land me in the emergency room. I had to get three stitches.

    The longer version of the story is that lately I have been losing my temper in a totally uncharacteristic and frightening way. My husband and I will celebrate our first wedding anniversary next month. We generally get along very well. We rarely argue, but when we do we always resovle it by communicating (even if it takes all night). However, in the last few weeks I have noticed that my temper is very short fused over the most ridiculous things. For example: (and this actually happened) I could not find the peanut butter and after asking my husband three times where he put it and receiving no response (he later said he did not hear me) I started slamming cupboards around and throwing a mini-tantrum.

    This last episode was pretty much the same thing. I grew frustrated about my husband's seeming lack of interest in what I was saying and all of a sudden, it was as if something snapped. I lost control of myself (or that is how it seemed) and I violently threw down the plate I was holding, screamed at him about ignoring me and stormed off crying. I did not even realize that I had cut myself and was badly bleeding.

    My husband helped me to bandage the wound and took me to the emergency room. I was beside myself. Frightened, angry, sad, guilty. I am, quite consistently, mild-mannered, kind, non-confrontational and definitely non-violent so this violent explosion was very shocking to both my husband and I. He was much more understanding about it than I was. I kept apologizing. I could find no reason, no excuse to justify what I had done.

    I recall throwing temper tantrums very rarely as an adolescent. Though these did not cause bodily harm to myself or anyone else they were just as explosive and irrational as what happened last night. My mother, who, like me, could be described as mild-mannered, sweet and loving, is also prone to outbursts of seemingly irrational anger. She often threw what, for lack of a better phrase, seemed like temper tantrums. When they were over she was apologetic, remorseful and of course, very calm. Being newly married I could see clear parallels between my mother's behavior and mine.

    I am still, the day after, terrified by what I did and with a throbbing cut on my hand to remind me. My husband has been very good about it, though, admittedly it scared him as well. I am having a hard time figuring out why I lost it the way I did. What I experienced felt like a Jekyl and Hyde switch. I went from being annoyed, though rational, to full-blown rage. I would be interested to know if this is indicative of passive-aggression. My sisters and I often thought our mother exhibited some passive aggressive characteristics. After last night's events coupled with little outbursts in the last few weeks I am worried I might be following in her footsteps.

    I would appreciate any advice or insight into this kind of behavior.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2

    gave myself a good scare

    Hi, Holly:

    To start with, I'm assuming you have no other symptoms (e.g., depression, anxiety, etc.)... Have a look at the Resources category in this forum -- there's quite a bit there on cognitive restructuring (CBT) and in particular I'd suggest you buy the Feeling Good Handbook (David Burns) discussed there and start working on tracking your moods and self-talk.

  3. #3

    gave myself a good scare

    Thanks.
    No. No other syptoms like depression, anxiety etc. That is why it was so alarming. I will have a look at the resources category. I'd like to prevent this from becoming a pattern.

  4. #4

    Re: gave myself a good scare

    Holly,

    First, I want to reassure you that this incident doesn't sound excessively bad. I know you're alarmed and frightened but I think it's going to be okay.

    I could really relate to what you wrote. I used to go from zero to 60 in seconds, having tantrums and hyserical fits. I had meltdowns. It could happen instantly if I felt provoked by my husband for what *seemed* trivial reasons. I never ended up in the ER but I could have.

    My experience and it may be yours -- feel free to comment or correct me -- is that your husband may be the passive-aggressive one (or you feel his behavior as such). It's you who become overtly angry. Possibly you are expressing the anger for both of you (in an unconscious agreement with your husband) and that's why you're uncharacteristically angrier than is the norm.

    What we did: marriage counseling, I took meds (very helpful!), husband tried to take meds but they didn't agree with him, individual therapy. Things have calmed down considerably and it's much better. It turned out that we had unworkable, unspoken "agreements" that needed to be revised and it had to be with a therapist's help.

    Let me know if this rings any bells with you.

    nutmeg

  5. #5

    gave myself a good scare

    Hi Nutmeg,

    Thanks for the post. My husband is many things, but passive-aggressive is not one of them. He is, if anything, simply aggressive. He always says exactly what's on his mind, which is one of the first things I liked about him. No games. However, that does not mean we do not have communication problems. We do sometimes. We have misunderstandings that spiral out of control frustrating both of us. Pretty normal couple stuff.
    I mentioned the passive agrressive thing because I am the one who has a tendency to "let things go" to swallow stuff rather than argue or simply deal with them. I am very non-confrontational. My mom is exactly the same way, perhaps even more passive and then she has these furious outbursts that come on like a hurricane and then just disappear back into normal sweetness. It always annoyed me and my sisters and now, I kind of see myself doing the same stuff. Of course my mom has never been diagnosed with passive aggressive disorder (only by my sisters and I) and I do not know all that much about it so, I could be totally off.

    I know it was not all that bad. People get upset and angry and explode and it's okay. I was just freaked out by the sudden rush of anger and emotions. When it was over and I was in the bathroom holding my hand over the sink, I swear I felt dazed and utterly confused. That is the scary part. I knew this was not so much about any problem I had with my husband. It was not like event A lead to event B. There was no rational sequence to anything.

    Later, in the E.R., we had plenty of time to talk about it. Yes, I was frustrated that he was not responding to me in the way I wanted him to and we did have a good conversation about this, but throwing and breaking a plate was way over the top.

    I guess, the point is that I do not want it to get this bad again. I am sure their will be other times when I feel frustrated and I just want to have better ways to deal with it.
    Thanks again for your insight.

  6. #6

    gave myself a good scare

    Holly,

    We all have pockets of craziness that can be evoked by certain triggers.

    I bet your mom's sudden flare-ups were frightening and anxiety-provoking while you were growing up. It's not unusual to "take on" the same behaviors we internalized, even if we didn't like them. The difference is, you don't want to act like your mom and you're willing to look at how to avoid it. Good for you!

    nutmeg

  7. #7

    gave myself a good scare

    Quote Originally Posted by holly
    I mentioned the passive agrressive thing because I am the one who has a tendency to "let things go" to swallow stuff rather than argue or simply deal with them. I am very non-confrontational. My mom is exactly the same way, perhaps even more passive and then she has these furious outbursts that come on like a hurricane and then just disappear back into normal sweetness. It always annoyed me and my sisters and now, I kind of see myself doing the same stuff. Of course my mom has never been diagnosed with passive aggressive disorder (only by my sisters and I) and I do not know all that much about it so, I could be totally off.
    It's not passive-aggressive disorder. It has more to do with your attempts to avoid confrontation which, like your mom, inevitably backfire.

    There are two kinds of anger problem:

    Type 1 is basically undercontrolled rage -- the individual simply goes from mild frustration to full-blown rage seemingly in an instant. From what you describe, this isn't you.

    Type 2 is really a problem of avoidance of anger, perhaps stemming from a fear of anger or confrontation -- that may be a fear of one's own anger or a fear of the anger of other people, usually because of seemingly uncontrolled outbursts that the person has witnessed or experienced in the past. In this case, the individual attempts to "bottle up" or suppress anger. The problem is that after 2 or 3 or 6 or 10 incidents where that strategy is successful, some "last straw" incident, often seemingly trivial, happens and all the pent up anger from all the incidents leading up to that moment is released all at once. I think this describes what happened to you.

  8. #8

    gave myself a good scare

    Dr. Baxter,

    Thanks for the info. Yes, I agree Type 2 sounds like me. Bottling up anger is definitely something I do and I have been aware of this. When I "flipped out" I also experienced a sort of release right after, even though I was pretty horrified by how I went about it. Yes, there have certainly been incidents that I have avoided getting into with my husband so as not to argue (even if they would have been minor arguments) and yes, I would even say the plate smashing thing was because I had reached my "last straw".
    I am going to work on this issue of bottling up anger. I will keep you posted.
    Thanks again.

  9. #9

    gave myself a good scare

    Holly, there are two good books I think it might be helpful for you to track down and read:

    [list=1][*]Susan Heitler, The Power Of Two: Secrets to a Strong and Loving Marriage (New Harbinger, 1997), which is about communication and conflict resolution.[*]Harriet G. Lerner,
    The Dance of Anger: A Woman's Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships
    (HarperCollins, 1989)[/list:o] You might also have a look at Harriet G. Lerner, The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You're Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed, or Desperate (HarperCollins, 2001).

  10. #10

    gave myself a good scare

    Thanks. I will check them out.

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