Anger, anger, and more anger

temper strikeOne of the things that can make TBI particularly difficult, in the ensuing weeks, months, even years, is anger issues. Rage issues. Flying off the handle and attacking others for no good reason that they can see.

There are a lot of reasons this happens. Some of them are:

  • Fatigue – your system is compromised by too little sleep and/or too much activity (with me, the two go hand-in-hand), and you don’t have the energy/wherewithall to stop yourself from going off
  • Fear – there’s nothing like a sharp spike of adrenaline, combined with anxiety and fear to set you off. Fear has a way of clouding your judgment, so you not only under-think situations (from fatigue) but you also overreact to the circumstances (which may or may not be true).
  • Frustration – when you’re trying to get something done/said/understood, and it’s just not happening, no matter how hard you try, patience wears thin — especially with yourself. My frustration tends to be directed inwards, though it also gets directed outwards. But the inward-turning kind is actually a lot worse for me. It makes me mean and aggressive. The worse I feel about myself, the angrier I get with life in general, and the more I tend to blow up.

It certainly doesn’t help that my brain gets into an uproar and starts getting into a biochemical soup drama, so that even if I wanted to think straight, I can’t.  The constant restlessness of my brain, coupled with the toll that agitation and fatigue take, can combine for a pretty potent mix of explosives.

So, what can I do about it?

  • At a very minimum, be aware that I’m angry. It often feels like something completely different — it feels like I’m just revved, and I don’t recognize the emotional piece of it. It may sound simple, but realizing that I am actually angry is a big challenge for me.
  • Realize that my anger does not necessarily make sense to others. What I’m thinking and feeling may be entirely unique to me.
  • Realize that my brain may be sending me wrong signals, and the surge of emotion that’s coming up may be simply a biochemical response by a physical system that is WAY overloaded and highly sensitive.
  • Remember that the long-term effects of a blow-up are probably not worth the satisfaction I get from venting. No matter how justified I feel about my anger, it can do much more harm than good. I have to think about whether I want to spend the next days/weeks/months patching up the damage I do to myself and my relationships with others, thanks to uncontrolled anger.
  • Keep myself in check. No matter how justified I feel, the more revved I get, the more I need to step away. I need to do whatever I can to remove myself from that situation, before it escalates and turns really nasty.

It’s not a perfect process, but it’s something. It’s an ongoing thing, and I’m far from perfect. But ultimately, life has a way of teaching me the lessons I need to learn, so if I just keep at it, eventually I do make some progress.

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4 thoughts on “Anger, anger, and more anger

  1. Those are good points when dealing with anger for an individual or in a given situation – my anger these days is with fate and the world at large – there isn’t any blowup likely because there is no one to confront. And in truth I believe my feelings are justified even though it would not be productive to express them the way I would like. I think that anger is worth looking at becasue it tells us something about ourselves – do we feel guilty, helpless, judged? Are we doing this to ourselves? If we are being treated wrongly or unjustly can we do anything?

    Most of the time my anger comes from being powerless, because I need – money, food, shelter, work, protection, etc. I get frustrated because I cannot always walk away from those who are abusive or take advantage. I can only sit and wait and hope I can get my strength to the point where one day I can walk.

  2. I think anger is about different things with different people. I sometimes think of it as inner power that hasn’t found its way out into the world in a totally effective way. It can be power seeking direction… and getting deeply frustrated when it can’t find it.

    The anger that comes up in me is definitely powerful, and when it’s at its worst, it’s usually because I’m not clear, I’m not directing it, and I’m backed up.

    Hang in there. Strength will come.

  3. Yes, anger issues are a huge thing for us TBI survivors. Mine began to show up in the months following the TBI. Then three years later, they began to get worse…and…worse. I totally lost it in a car dealership trying to get my wife’s truck serviced. I was in another vehicle. Drove home, 40 miles, and went to my shop. Started to write an “end of life” letter as I knew my wife would be leaving. Called 911 and reached out for help. Yup, lots of response. My wife took me to the emergency room…and without really knowing it…I began a 72 hour “mental health” hold.

    BEST thing that has ever happened to me!!! Lots of time to be introspective. I spent the first night alone, but then got involved in all the groups. Second day I met with the staff psychiatrist. My wife had come to visit and brought a list of all my medications. Staff psychiatrist commented…that anti-depressant dosage isn’t enough to do anything. I’m going to start you on this anti-depressant at double the dosage and see how you do. Next was the seizure-preventive (yup two seizures the day of the TBI and one 14 months later. EEG says there are 5 areas of my brain active for seizures) “you’re taking Koeppra (sic), that medication slows the brain and thus when you start to get angry, its keeping you from being able to draw back”. I’m going to move you to Oxcarbapazine. Its an epilepsy medication, but is a convulsion preventive, but also a “mood stabilizer”

    Went I was able to go home, I made an appointment with my Neurologist. We reviewed the medication changes and he agreed with all of them. Since that change in mid-October 2013 I have not gotten “angry” once. I get a bit frustrated at times, but working hard to learn to put things down and walk away for a few minutes.

    I also keep in my pocked a laminated card with the steps of the “Cycle of Response” from the Brain Injury Survivor’s Guide.

    Seems it will be a lifetime project to continue to learn, continue to watch my “cycle of response”, and know when to quit. Yes, I hate that!!!

    Stuart

  4. This is a really great story – thanks for sharing. Not great that you had to go through all that, but great how it turned out.

    It’s also excellent that the folks who treated you had the wisdom to see what was working and what wasn’t – and to adjust your meds in the right direction. So often, they do the opposite, and it just makes things worse.

    Having the cycle of response info with you must be a help. I know it helps me to get out of my head and look at something objective that will help me see through what I’m experiencing. I usually use my to-do lists for that, and I also like to keep a notebook with me, but sometimes a simple piece of paper with some info on it will work.

    I used to have post-it notes with “SAT” and “TOLL” written on them at my desk and in my car. They reminded me to Stop And Think and to Take One Last Look. They were my supports in public, where it was not a friendly environment, and it could have really hurt my work prospects, if people had known about my brain injury issues.

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