Christopher: When Anger Runs Amok
It had been three long days since Christopher’s date with Jill. He couldn’t wait to see her again and had sent her lots of text messages telling her that. Christopher (not his real name) envisioned his next date and smiled as he loaded up the dishwasher after his family’s evening meal.
Suddenly, the cell phone in his pocket vibrated. His heart fluttered as he scrambled to answer. “Hi Christopher,” Jill’s friend Ashley said quickly. “Jill doesn’t want to see you again, so please stop calling and texting. Okay?” Before he could utter a word, Ashley hung up.
Adrenaline rushed through Christopher’s body reddening his face. His heart pounded as it sank. Christopher was devastated and tears welled up in his eyes. No one ever seemed to like him. People thought Christopher was odd. He didn’t fit anywhere, but no one ever gave him a chance.
Indeed, Christopher had issues. He had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) when he was seven. Next, he developed persistent tics and twitches. Then at age ten, he had a psychiatric evaluation and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Christopher had trouble developing friendships because of his awkward approach. He had difficulty coping with disappointment. Christopher’s desire for companionship combined with a history of failed social encounters made him frustrated and angry. He had a tendency to lash out. In fact, one explosive episode had landed Christopher in juvenile detention for several days.
Jill’s rejection was overwhelming. Hurt and upset, Christopher refused to finish cleaning up the dinner dishes and became increasingly belligerent when his mother suggested that he adjust his attitude. Then, when she threatened to take away his cell phone if his chores were not completed, Christopher’s anger turned to rage. He went wild, pushing his mother and kicking his father. His brother ran and hid while his mother called a crisis hotline. The crisis team suggested she call the police. It was then that Christopher snatched two knives from the kitchen. Wielding a knife in each hand, Christopher howled, “I don’t have any reason to live. Jill doesn’t love me.” He then broke down and began sobbing uncontrollably. Just when it seemed like he might be calming, the doorbell rang, the dogs when crazy, and chaos ensued. Christopher stepped into view of the door. The police drew their guns and ordered him to drop the knives. When he refused, the police tasered Christopher and transported him to the hospital.
The hospital referred Christopher and his parents to Volunteers of America-Minnesota’s Mental Health Case Management program which offers coordination of various services that enable children with severe emotional disturbances to remain living at home. The family was assigned a case manager who identified and managed services for the family. Additionally, our Mental Health Clinics psychiatrist evaluated Christopher and diagnosed him with Asperger’s syndrome, ADHD, and Tourette syndrome, while ruling out a mood disorder. Our therapists worked with him on a regular basis to help him develop coping skills, control his anger and impulses, and cultivate healthy relationships with others. And over the next 18 months, Christopher made incredible progress. He completed therapy and has had no incidents of anger run amok. He has continued to gain better control over his emotions, behavior, and his life.
Today, Christopher is 17 and a high school senior. He earns good grades and has already passed all of the Minnesota Basic Standards tests. Additionally, he is taking culinary arts classes at a local technical school and is working toward a Microsoft computer certification. Over the summer, he volunteered to help with a vacation bible study class and attended several youth camps. Best of all, he is happy with himself. If you ask him, he’ll tell you,
“I learned that I need to talk about my problems when I get upset. Now, I have the confidence and skills to overcome my worries and deal with anger. Finally, I am able to manage my own behavior and people like me.”