Introduction: Losing control
As a brain injured ‘end-user’ I have had some crazy emotions. I have yelled, screamed, or even cried when I tried to get people to hear or see me. When I would find out that someone died, I would laugh. I would then think to myself, ‘it is weird that I am laughing. It’s not funny’. I wasn’t happy…But I was laughing.
“I cannot control what is going on. UGH!!!”
In the first 5 years of my brain injury my mood swings were the worst. I am sure some of my friends may say that I was moody before TBI. However, once I got TBI it affected my mood swings more than ever.
It’s like a ceiling fan spinning in one direction until you hit the reverse switch. The fan slows down to a complete stop, and then accelerates in the opposite direction until it reaches its set speed.
I once asked my wife if I have ever displayed an inappropriate emotion on any occasion. She told me it had only been once. She was lucky to meet me after my most unstable emotional times in my life. I used to feel so sad about my situation that it would bring me to tears.
Do you currently blame your responses, pain, sadness, etc. on your brain injury?
How many times do you think you can get away using the ‘brain injury’ excuse without people questioning you?
Is there a diagnosis?
Have you heard of PBA (Psuedobulbar Affect)? I am curious if there are brain injury survivors who have been or are affected by PBA?
Does knowing there is a clinical explanation that explains the craziness of your emotions help you navigate it better?
Am I dealing with Depression?
I looked at some of the symptoms of depression:
- Feeling down, sad, blue or hopeless
- Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
- Feeling worthless, guilty, or that you are a failure
- Changes in sleep or appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Withdrawing from others
- Tiredness or lack of energy
- Moving or speaking more slowly, or feeling restless or fidgety
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
I may have hit every one of these things on my list during my first 5 years post-TBI, but I never had thoughts of suicide.
Sometimes I feel worthless, guilty, and a failure for making the decisions I made in the past. I had a dream about being able to wake up and do everything I used to do without a problem or assistance.
Was I ‘clinically depressed’? I never thought about it like that.
How to get “BETTER”?
“Better” was the adjective that I needed to define. What was better for me? To be honest, ‘better’ was evolving for me…
I try to make a better effort at saying things to myself before I speak out loud. This allows me to anticipate someone’s possible response to what I wanted to say. I try to use more welcoming body languages and facial expressions. Sometimes I may not say anything at all. It hurts to keep it inside, but I think doing it is better than upsetting the people I love. When I am sad I will go into an empty room and give myself a few minutes to meditate until I feel better.
These were my post-TBI “BETTER” goals:
1) I wanted to walk again.
2) I wanted to move my left arm again.
3) After rehab, I wanted to go back to work
4) Then after I was presented challenges to get back to work, I wanted to learn what I needed to get back to work somewhere else (My ego was going to be damaged).
5) I wanted to get back on a plane again to travel.
6) When I started working again, I was trying to focus on doing some outpatient therapy to increase my movements.
7) I wanted to walk better and get stronger in my legs and arms
8) I wanted to start bowling again.
9) Two months after TBI, I wanted to bowl like I had bowled, pre-TBI.
10) I wanted to run comfortably again.
To my fellow brain injury end-users, I hope you all are able to handle your emotions with more control than I have. Please do not let your uncontrolled emotions make others prejudge you or doubt your capabilities. Believe me, I have been there. Although my struggle with emotions have improved, I still have new opportunities to continue to practice what I preach!
“What Causes Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA)?” WebMD, https://www.facebook.com/WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/brain/qa/what-causes-pseudobulbar-affect-pba. Accessed 18 Nov. 2020.
Another great article! I love the ceiling fan analogy with the emotion change. I can totally picture that build up rising inside. Thanks for your vulnerability in sharing your struggles. Those practicals are relatable even for me not having TBI. Your a great example!
Thanks for your reply Dara! I hope I do a better job of controlling my emotions, now…
Rod….as someone who considers himself a very emotional and passionate person….in many ways I can relate to some of the impulse issues you mentioned. I’ve been told more than 1 time to stop and count to ten, but that’s more than one micro-second for me at times. It would be fair to say that at some times in my early life I probably had my fair share of emotional immaturity. Many of my own emotional outbursts have come out of frustration and feeling like not being heard.
Please know that you truly are NOT alone. There are plenty of us so called “normal” people who also have the same struggles. Another great article…..Love Ya Buddy
Thanks for your reply!! I understand but I thought I used to have some control but I no longer do. Unfortunately I attribute a lot to my brain injury. But the excuse can get old (and frustrating). I have had some issues when I have expressed the wrong emotion at the wrong time too. Like laughing when I shouldn’t be laughing. It can be embarrassing at times but more bewildering. It is just another issue I face that I don’t understand. Makes me question myself especially when I want to appear normal when I can.