Sleep or chaos – it’s my choice

I have been spending a lot of time contemplating TBI and anger, lately. Anger is one of my big challenges/sticking points in life, and it’s caused me more grief than I care to think about. Actually, let me rephrase that — more grief than is comfortable for me to think about.

Caring and having a comfort level are not necessarily the same thing in my book. In fact, I often care deeply about things that make me terribly uncomfortable. But enough of the aside…

Last night I did something quite smart – I didn’t eat or drink something that would wake me up, so I could keep going till midnight. I’m “flying solo” this weekend, while my spouse is away on a business trip, and there’s a part of me that would love to stay up late — reading, writing, surfing the web, watching videos, and generally frittering away my time at things that get me away from the direct stresses of everyday life. To be fair, some of those things help me re-engage later with better perspective (like reading and writing and surfing the web looking for research on topics that interest me). But some of those things are genuine time-wasters, and I do them for the sake of not doing anything else.

This weekend is a prime opportunity for me to do this. I’ve got the house to myself, I don’t have anyone I need to interact with, or whose schedule I need to take into consideration. There’s no advanced level of interpersonal relating that I need to do, and I can clunk around the house and make as much (or as little) noise as I please. I can turn off all the lights and the fans in the house and have it dark and quiet on a level that I can never get when I’m not alone here. And aside from household chores which need to get done, I can move at my own pace — which includes staying up as long as I like or sleeping as much as I like during the day.

Now, I’m not knocking married life. It’s a good thing, and it’s saved my life several times in a number of ways. Now and then, though (like, every several years or so), it’s nice to be on my own for a few days.

Which is what I have this weekend.

Score.

And the temptation to overdo it is tremendous. Overdo — as in, stay up too late, eat the wrong foods, not keep to a schedule or routine, and let myself just “veg” for a few days. Sit around watching YouTube or reading blogs…

– oh, wait — my alarm just went off… time to get ready for breakfast with a friend… more later –

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6 thoughts on “Sleep or chaos – it’s my choice

  1. BB – Hey, we all value our better halfs . . . .but being on your own, not having the stresses of having to deal with another person . . .can be a damn fine thing. Enjoy.

    T.

  2. BB –

    A couple of things –

    When I mentioned impulse control I was not recommending a course of action – what I was thinking was a way to understand your anger episodes better – that is what initiates them. There is a flaring anger that is a direct result of brain injury – that anger is random and I believe related to healing. But our brains are also habitual creatures – if during your healing you did not have the circumstances to help you manage your anger you may have developed that as a response. Many people without TBI also experience rages – and similarly for them they have been habituated into using anger to manage a situation. Anger also sometimes occurs post–TBI when we are overwhelmed with inputs – noise, tasks, pressure etc. We cannot easily multi-task and the frustration builds and we get angry – we simply can’t think straight and anger gives us the pause to reset everything, discharge the frustration We can also get angry – just like the whole world – over purely personal issues that have no relationship to TBI. In a way this is similar to anger as a habit – we have our hot buttons with someone and they press them and we respond with our habituated anger. However anger can also represent unspoken feelings – we want something we are not getting, we are resentful, we feel something etc. And that doesn’t always have to be from our spouse – if we feel we screwed up at work we may come home and be angry with our wives/husbands.

    So part of the process of trying to change this is to understand what the basis is. What the triggers are. Now you have mentioned that fatigue is a key element for you. You have also mentioned however that you like the adrenalized feeling of trying to push through when you are tired. When I first read that I thought ‘that sounds like something a shrink would say is manic’ – even though I DO NOT believe that you are in ANY way manic. But then it struck another chord in me – and I had a thought. I think that people with TBI, if they have attentional issues like to have that edge of fatigue where they push through because the fatigue acts as a kind of mechanism to help them focus. They are too tired to pay attention to all stimuli so they are forced to pay attention to the critical issue. Fatigue is a kind of self-medicating. The problem with it is that when the other stimuli get demanding enough you get overwhelm – and anger is the response; because anger resets everything and gets it back to paying attention to the critical thing.

    Being rested makes you an easier person to be with – but makes it harder to engage because your energy allows your mind to scatter. Being fatigued means you are in overdrive which forces your attention to key items and makes everything work towards the task – but it exposes you to anger and overload.

    Think about this – it’s something I noticed in myself and have only recently begun to explore

  3. Hey m -

    Actually, I’ve been thinking a lot about anger independently — but also inclusive of this blog and what folks have said here.

    It’s one of those biggies that I find time and time again in the search terms that people enter to find their way here.

    Interesting about the manic comment… remind me never to mention this to a shrink ;) Actually, given the biochemical mechanisms of stress — how it focuses the attention and cuts down on extraneous sensory input — I think of it as being less of a case of fatigue making it harder to take in everything (it actually makes my hearing painfully acute, which is not what I would like), and more of a case of stress hormones and the sympathetic nervous system blocking out the full breadth of stimuli that I pick up on when I’m rested.

    I totally agree about how having energy allows the mind to scatter. I have to be really careful — especially during my free time when I’m rested — that I don’t take on too much when I’m feeling good, and end up wiping myself out. It’s a fine line between having energy to do lots of great things, and doing too much of a good thing.

  4. Absolutely concur about being careful when you say stuff – this is why so many TBI folks are thought to be bipolar or something – because I absolutely get the idea that we use fatigue as a tool.

    Because of my many injuries I have had to cut back on my physical stuff a lot (I was a pretty serious athlete) and the accident also upped my tendency towards attentional scatter – I have been working on new ways to BOTH focus better AND to reduce excess energy better so that I don’t have that restlessness.

    Now if only I could work on a few 1000 other things….

  5. Amen to the 1000 other things. I can think of a ton of stuff I’d really like to do this afternoon. But I have all of 5 hours before I need to head to bed(!)

    Time flies when you’re attentionally challenged.

    <8}

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