The Incredible Hulk!
My wife is the sweetest person I have ever met in my life. She's always making sure that I am well fed, offers me shoulder massages whenever I'm tired and is supportive no matter what I am going through.
...until something triggers an "episode". Rage builds up inside her quickly, clouding her perception so that everyone and everything (myself, friends, luck etc.) is conspiring against her. One wrong word or one tiny setback is "proof" that the world is against her, creating more rage, more perception clouding, more things perceived as "proof". A nasty vicious cycle.
The rage can be so extreme that she screams at the top of her lungs in public places - in a restaurant and at an opera theater were two of the worst. One time, the rage didn't end until she exhausted herself from uncontrollable thrashing. Another time, I had to physically restrain her fearing that she was about to attempt murder.
I've identified some of the triggers and minimise her exposure to them, but I can't keep her in a bubble all the time. Usually, it's something minor during the day (disagreement with a colleague, delayed bus etc) that sets her off.
I've been with her for seven years and I'm committed to helping her with these issues for as long as I am able to. Indeed, I've been teaching her the anger management skills that I use, and her episodes have become less frequent and less severe which gives me hope that the condition can be managed.
Despite this, she does not believe on psychology and believes that counseling is a rort. She is also in denial that her anger issues are any worse than an average person's. Typically, as soon as I bring up the topic, her perception changes and she'll say that it's all my fault for being uncaring and calculative and that I'm fabricating her anger issues as a way of manipulating her.
I've had to walk on eggshells for five of the last seven days... and I was already feeling overwhelmed by day 2. Right now, frazzled is probably the best word to describe how I feel. I think that my brain has suppressed some very nasty emotions that may bubble to the surface unexpectedly. Something inside me is telling me that our marriage has reached a make or break point.
I guess I'm here today probably because I want to vent - and perhaps see if somebody has an understanding of what's going on. I suspect borderline personality disorder, but of course I'm not qualified to make a proper diagnosis. Just writing it all down has already made me feel better though.
Hi Sheogorath! Glad the venting has helped a little.
You sound like a wonderful caring partner and your wife is lucky to have your support and concern. I would imagine the best way for you to go involves consulting a trusted proactive GP who could give you some guidance. You sound emotionally exhausted; it's time you got some support regarding advice and the best course of action for you and your wife.
Whilst it is easy for some to deny they need help, it is difficult for those around them when it comes to enduring their decision. I believe it is time she takes responsibility, instead of you taking responsibility for the fall-out generated by her outbursts. Of course, walking on eggshells is no way to go. Perhaps a harmless outburst from you wouldn't be such a bad thing as it could possibly act as a wake-up call regarding the impact her behaviour is having on you and the relationship. I'm not suggesting you set out to do this, just reassuring you not too feel too bad if it happens. At the moment, it sounds like she doesn't face any obvious repercussions in relation to her 'Hulk' episodes.
The brain is a tricky quirky thing; whilst many of us have the ability to manage the chemistry in our brain and slow those neurons down from firing at such a rapid rate (leading to extreme anger or anxiety), others don't have that same ability. As you've touched on, skill and consciousness are 2 key elements in mastering our emotions, with consciousness being the first step on the path to change. As they say, 'We can't change what we don't acknowledge.'
Again, seek some professional advice from a trusted doctor. They may be able to help you think outside the square in regard to instigating a process of positive change.
Take care of yourself
All the words you’ve written, give me the sense you are a very loving and understanding person. Though, things are finally coming to a head and your good nature is being tested to its limits. From what you’ve described it is very challenging behaviour. Seven years is a long time. Has her behaviour always been like it is? Or has something sparked it to become even more volatile?
I too am not a health professional so I’m unable to give you any thoughts about what is going on. However, you are very important and you need to take care of yourself too. Have you seen your gp to talk through what’s happening?
I might be wrong, but it does sound like you have been ‘capping’ your own emotions, as you indicate it may come bubbling to the surface unexpectedly. Guess this is not good for anyone.
Time for some real talking and communication. Though, when the other person does not want to communicate openly it is hard.
Do you mind if I recall a time in my relationship - it was about 20 years ago. My hubby and I were going through a very trying time. I too, had episodic outbursts. Though I started trying to manage that because it wasn’t very nice for anyone. Anyway, around this time, my partner was continually down (me up and outbursting, him down and depressed). Not a great combination, however, I felt the love and companionship we usually had was worth doing something about it.
So I took a gamble. I flatly refused to continue in the relationship the way it was. He had to do something, see someone, make improvements or that was it the relationship was ended. I was serious and ready to pack my bags and walk. He did go to see someone and it was the best thing for him and for me.
I’m not suggesting this is the way forward for you. Though sometimes I think we are caught up in not wanting to hurt our partner because they are already hurting. In the long run, it doesn’t help them or ourselves.
Not sure if this is of any use to you Sheogorath. I saw the lovely post you did for another person with anxiety. Very lovely.
It's somewhat ironic that I joined the forum with nearly an identical problem. My wife has very limited resilience to any problem, which manifests in sudden, scary outbursts than can last for up to a week. It definitely got worse, much worse, after the birth of our daughter, so my opinion is hormones are at play somewhere there. My wife has very limited self reflection and typically transposes all fault for all of life's big and small problems to me, while fastidiously maintaining a laundry list of all my previous mistakes and faults and refusing to acknowledge any issue with her behaviour or seek any counselling. It's like storm clouds clear and nothing ever happened. I am not a teary person, but several times have broken down in tears and at worst kind of start feeling self destructive. My folks are super supportive while maintaining their distance so as not to trigger a "Your whole family is against me" episode. Without them I might have snapped already.
I think you also need to think about yourself and how this might be changing you as a person. I am quite concerned about that. Because while you're sitting at home in fight or flight mode, it is changing your brain. I feel like a less happy person because of the stress that I endure at home. But equally, love my wife.
Anyway, just relaying the experience, I think it's probably a good thing that you don't have kids in the mix (or at least don't appear to from your post). I'm personally very close to booking into a GP and/or therapist because I need some better strategies, That seems to be good advice. And if you have any reasonable good sorts people that you can lean on, they are life savers. I think it's like being a magician with the house of cards - at some point you do need to hold her to account for her behaviours, without pulling the whole house down on yourself.
Good luck mate, hope you're able to make some progress.
I wanted to reply to you although others with more solid advice already have because what you wrote hit home.
Today I visited my parents in law. My father in law who is normally closed off was visibly emotional. So me being me I asked and kept asking as he changed subjects.
Eventually I realised like you he is exhausted living on eggshells. It is crystal clear love is there between them. But the symptoms of unmanaged mental illness and specifically rage are taking a massive toll.
I want to ask who does your wife talk to within your family or friends? Is there anyone who she will listen to? My mum in law has been my support at my worst. And she knows I understand.
So I spent most of the day as mediator. Trying to get them to talk. Asking hard questions. Diverting arguments. I expected them to tell me to p... off but they didn't.
My mum in law has agreed to come with me next week to see some of the local services and considering her reluctance that is a huge step. In time I will take her to meet my psychiatrist. Gentle steps. But more importantly ones she wouldn't make alone.
So if your wife is lashing out at you perhaps see if someone she trusts has experience with mental health issues. Maybe they will have more luck.
@therising I've been angry in front of her before (not rage, but a calm anger with a somewhat raised voice); the result isn't pretty. But your suggestion has made me think about how one-sided this all is - she can rage for several days and expect me to be alright afterwards. I can have a small burst of anger and it results in divorce threats. Perhaps I'm in denial about the severity of the problem and I've been modifying my behaviour all along to avoid the outbursts?
@PamelaR I believe that her condition was worse before we met. She had once told me that she used to cry herself to sleep all the time and even her family members warned me about her temper before we got married. Since we got together, she has been improving, but episodes like in the past week have been very trying for me.
More than once, she has threatened divorce and has booked hotels to move out immediately. An ultimatum could well provoke the same reaction so I'm treating it as a last resort.
@HGC I'm sorry to hear that you're having similar problems - I fully get the "Your whole family is against me" thing. We don't have kids - I imagine I'd be freakinjg out at a whole different level if we did! But you're right - I think the need to look after myself is what prompted me to come here. I guess I just want to make sure I fully understand the situation and that I've exhausted all other options.
@Quercus - Good questions... like me, my wife grew up in a dysfunctional family and she has nobody that she can talk to there. I'm the only person that she can really talk to, but only when her perception isn't being clouded by rage. Other than me, she does vent to certain friends but my guess is that they're being careful not to say anything that may wake up the Hulk...
My next steps is to see what the counsellor thinks - we were in couples therapy before, but I think it descended to "me and the counsellor gainging up on her" type of situation, at least in my wife's mind. Our regular counsellor may have to step aside in the interests of neutrality.
Anyway, I welcome any questions or suggestions that may get me thinking, and don't mind even a few jokes that will lighten the mood. Thanks once again!
Hey sheogorath, first of all, love the god of madness reference.
second, sorry to hear you’re dealing with this. Existing on eggshells is a bad way to live, particularly when you care about the person.
Reading your responses and your initial post I feel like you’re of the right mindset and strength to get through this, one way or another. Everyone else’s advice has been great so I think I’ll abstain on the “what to do” advice and just give you props for your strength and love.
you deserve to get your feeling outs to her. She isn’t owed a cushioned (I believe you said bubble).
I hope she sees reason and gets help. Best wishes to you.
From the reference in your name, I am guessing you like to dabble in a game of The Elder Scrolls or two, great game by the way.
Anyway, onto your issue, I cant say much more than whats already been said, I was once in a relationship where I had to walk on egg shells every day, and my childhood wasnt much different, so I do understand how you feel. With the relationship, I guess I was lucky in the fact that the relationship had only just begun so going our separate ways wasnt that hard to do.
What I am curious about is if there is some reason why your partner is "on edge"? some other problem causing her stress and the only way for her to let it out is on you? I discovered that is why my father was harsh on me, he would have a problem, but then, to keep face with the rest, would take it out on me in other ways. I discovered this one day when staying at my parents home a few years back. Mum and Dad were going to visit my children (if you read up on my posts you should see the full story there), but my Ex text them making an excuse to not see them, My parents live 4 hours drive out of the city, and to just meet the children, they will need to spend over 6 hours on the road. As it turned out, it was just an excuse to avoid having to go out that day, but my mum talked her into keeping the schedule. Anyway, back to the point, my dad was upset as well, but he is of this mentality that showing emotions is a weakness, so that morning, I was making myself breakfast, he comes up to me and starts telling me how "that will make you fat" pointing at my breakfast (crumpets with vegemite), I told him I am actually losing weight, so he changes tactic and starts talking about how I am not saving money and such, which I proved him wrong, but instead of admitting to it, he then states "you should have saved twice as much as that", $2000 in 2 months of savings (had just returned from overseas before then)... that started a big argument..
Long after I moved away from there, I looked back at his actions, he was trying to pick a fight with me because he was upset with the whole grandchildren visit, he needed to release his anger, and I was an easy target for him.
I just wonder if this is the same thing that is happening to you?
Just a thought
To keep the story short, we had two "couple talks" a week apart. During this time, we both considered separation as a real possibility. Eventually though, she agreed to see a psychologist and get a proper diagnosis for her anger issues, and return, I'd write her a thank-you letter at least once a month to remind her that I do appreciate everything that she does for me.
So it looks like the marriage will survive for now. Here's hoping things will get better!
P.S. I thought that the nickname Sheogorath might have been too whimsical, but I'm happy to hear that some of you appreciated the Elder Scrolls reference. 🙂
Amazing turnaround for you and your partner. Congratulations on your courage.
I love the strategy of writing a thank you letter to show her that you are acknowledging her strength and commitment to improving herself and attending her appointments.
I do hope that you will remember to take time out for yourself as well. Your health matters too.
Take care of each other.