Irritability: There’s ‘I’m annoyed’ and then there’s ‘Crawling. Out. Of. My. Skin.’
November 17, 2019
Not everyone will be able to relate to every emotional descriptor in this post. Some of you, however, may be intimately familiar with every one of them. Either way, I think it’s important for everybody to read this for the sake of mental health awareness. The reason is that if you are struggling, perhaps this short entry will resonate with and somehow help you. Or, if you know someone in the struggle, maybe this will help you understand his or her behaviors and feelings in a way that you haven’t been able to before.
So, irritability. Everyone experiences it. There is no escaping it. You can be vacationing on a beautiful tropical island and it will occur just as normally and suddenly as if you were stuck in a traffic jam or dealing with a one-year-old’s nonstop tantrum. Personally, I think one of the worst experiences is when, for no apparent reason, I wake up irritable. The alarm goes off and that’s it, everything is annoying; every sound, every thought running amuck, all causing more irritability as patience seems to wash its hands of me. And, of course, Every. Single. Thing. Goes. Wrong! Not one thing works in my favor. It almost feels personal at times, you know what I mean? Like the universe clearly has an issue with me today.
In my experience, that’s pretty much where the similarities in how balanced individuals and people suffering from some form of mental illness ends. I’m certainly not minimizing the irritability or daily annoyances that people without mental illnesses feel. No matter who you are, it sucks. It’s a negative feeling. Plain and simple.
Yet, there are differences in how a chemically balanced individual and an imbalanced individual feel, deal, and react to irritability. In fact, the differences can be quite extreme. As I noted above, for me the worst is waking up irritable. It really is an awful feeling that seems to be overwhelming; overwhelming in the sense that it rules my every action and reaction. It’s as if there is a little monster pulling on my emotional strings, deciding for me how I will behave. And forget about talking it down. It just won’t listen. The more I fight it, the more agitated it becomes. And as I also noted above, it somehow feels personal. I begin thinking, “even my dog seems to have it out for me. Why else, of all days, would she take so much time to choose one spot to take a piss?” Or, “Are you kidding me with how loud you’re drinking water right now?” It honestly feels personal. It’s irrational, and not at all egocentric, right? Well, it doesn’t matter. That’s how it works, especially when one is dealing with depression, anxiety, even mild forms of the latter two, or many other types of mental illnesses, such as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD). Unfortunately (in my opinion), EUPD is more commonly known as Borderline Personality Disorder (an awful, unhelpful term if there ever was one). My own experience is with the latter three. In fairness, I cannot speak from personal experience about any other mental illness.
On a side note: you may want to begin reading up on EUPD. It is far more common than you may realize. In the U.S. alone, over 3,600,000 have EUPD, and most suffer in silence.
I could go on and on, but I’d end up doing nothing more than rambling. The point is this:
It’s a terrible feeling. It can even become frightening at times because it’s not a feeling of “can someone please turn down that damn music”. No, it feels as if we must use every ounce of energy that we have to keep ourselves from unleashing on anyone who’s unlucky enough to be in our way. It can feel like we’re losing control, even losing our minds (which we aren’t), and it’s all wrapped in this thing that causes us to experience that dreaded feeling that our skin simply will not be enough to hold it all in. We are going to burst. Though for most of us, we don’t burst; we actually keep our composure despite everything. People who have friends with mental health issues should be aware of this because it will help you deal with their moods. It’s not always environmental, it’s chemical and it’s very difficult to ‘just let it go’.
For people struggling with anxiety, depression or even EUPD, I hope you either already know or will truly understand and internalize the following (though these can also apply to those not suffering from mental health issues):
- Unpleasant as it is, feeling this way is common. It happens to all of us. You are not strange, it’s not about being an angry person, and you’re certainly not ‘crazy’. You are also not alone, far from it. Our brains are chemically wired differently. Think “too many neurons are firing at once”, which of course is way too much of an abstract explanation but it helps to remind us that it’s just chemical, and it will pass.
- Yes, it can be as easy as finding a moment in that torrent of agitation to remind yourself to breathe. Deep breaths, four or five or them usually does the trick for me. And I mean full, deep breaths, the kind that you’ll feel all the way down in your toes as you exhale.
- Speak with a mental health professional about other ways to help with irritability, especially when it rears its ugly face and transforms into hyper-irritability. You ought to – or I should say, you must – reach out to a professional (psychologist and/or psychiatrist) and talk about it and the myriad solutions that are available. This is, in my opinion and experience, the best course of action you can take for an overall, long-term remedy.
It’s hard for me to think of a more uncomfortable and negative feeling than irritability, especially the “I’m. Crawling. Out. Of. My. Skin.” type. As if you’re going to lash out at anyone or even at abstract objects. It’s awful. Here’s the good news: it’s common, you’re not alone, and there are solutions. I know that it’s easier said than done, but you just have to be willing. I tell you this because I know this from personal experience.