I’ve just been responding to a comment about TBI rage, and I got to thinking… for many of us, the rage aspect of TBI is the hardest to handle. In my case, when it takes over, it TAKES OVER, and nothing can stop it — without some sort of superhuman effort, or a very effective distraction.
It’s the most distressing thing — after the fact. When it’s happening, it doesn’t feel like… anything. A coldness, a chill, a blanket of nothingness descends over me and whatever I say or do – no matter how terrible – means nothing to me in that moment. Everything I say and do “feels” 100% right and perfect. In fact, I feel it so profoundly, that part of me thinks “I feel this so profoundly, it can’t be wrong – it must be right” and I go right ahead with it.
But nothing could be farther from the truth. The strength of my feelings is NOT a measure of how true they are. Just the opposite, in fact. The stronger I feel things, when I am in one of my “states”, the greater the chances that I’m completely wrong and going off on a tangent that is far, far from where I should be going.
Not that I’m 100% conscious and in control of my thoughts and feelings, when I fly into a rage… Anything but. Something seems to take over — a chemical rush that floods out any sort of logic or reason or common sense. It’s like someone has cut the power to my self-control, and I just flip.
I don’t care about anything but relieving the pressure at that moment, going with what is churning around inside me, to vent it. I throw things. I break things. I yell and flip out and curse and become physically threatening, advancing on my loved ones as though I’m going to assault them. I’ve never actually hit anyone or physically attacked anyone, but I have been mighty close at times. And it’s taken me years to build back the trust of people close to me.
After the fact, when the dust has settled, and it’s time to clean up the mess, it can be so distressing, to remember what happened before. Unfortunately, that part of my memory is still very much intact, so I’m left with all sorts of recollections of how I completely lost it and went off on the people who mean the most to me. (Of course, I only take it out on the people close to me — they’re the ones who are nearest me when I’m at my worst, which is pretty terrible.) I have to live with the memory of what I’ve done, the mess I’ve made, the fear in the eyes of the ones who mean something to me. I have to live with the aftermath for many years — my siblings are still a little afraid of me, to this day. I have to look everyone in the eyes, after I flip. And I have to figure out a way to live with people who lose a little more confidence in me, each time I fly off the handle for no reason they can tell.
In fairness to myself, however, I have to say that my flying off the handle is never without some sort of cause. That cause is usually fatigue… feeling overwhelmed… feeling like I can’t cope with all the constant, incessant demands. Making money. Paying bills. Taking care of the cars. Taking care of the house. Keeping my job. Playing the political games at work. Trying to be productive in the midst of it all… Even as I really doubt my own faculties, and so much seems to fall by the wayside with me.
As more and more keeps getting heaped on me, I feel less and less capable, I make choices that are different from those I make when I am rested. And I get farther and farther into a hole, until it’s all I can do (it feels like) to keep my head above water. The more pressure I feel, the harder I work at keeping it together. And as far as anyone is concerned, I’m doing okay.
Then someone says something to me that pushes me over the edge. Or something happens that hits me wrong. I drop something. I slip up. I screw up. And I lose it.
So, what to do? Well, I just have to be honest about what’s going on with me — to myself, more than others around me. Others around me can’t seem to deal with me being anything less than 100% all the time. Even my neuropsych seems to have an unconscious need to have me do okay. So, I can’t dwell on my difficulties around anyone, really. This blog is the one place where I can talk about my internal difficulties. Heaven forbid, anyone else find out about them.
The world is simply not safe for someone like me to discuss my shortcomings and struggles. People who depend on me would be freaked out, if they knew that lately I’ve been extremely foggy, my reaction times are down, my thinking is fuzzy and not thorough, and it’s all I can do, just to keep going. I have to keep that under wraps. And no, there is no help on the outside for me. Even my neuropsych seems intent on convincing me that I am just fine. On a certain level, yes, I am totally fine. But they don’t seem to factor in the difficulties that come along with being where I’m at. And I’ve since learned that they will just try to get my mind off my challenges, rather than acknowledging that they exist, I don’t go into it anymore.
I have dependents to support, and a house and car repairs to pay for, and I have to keep my job — I can’t do all that and give airtime to my challenges. No way, Jose!
So, I need to keep this internal dialog going with myself and realize that just because I am presenting in a certain way out in the world, doesn’t mean that my internal life is identical to that. I have a role I need to play in life, and that requires certain sorts of behavior — none of which include being forthright about my challenges. However, I can’t ignore them internally. That adds up a tremendous amount of pressure, which can bubble up and turn in on me, turning me against myself and everyone around me.
It’s just not pretty. And I have to live with myself afterwards.
So, to keep myself steady and manage my issues, I need to be pretty diligent about checking in with myself, not bullshit myself about what’s going on…. and be extra careful about taking care of myself when I can tell I’m getting worse for wear.
Speaking of which, I actually have been getting worse for wear. It’s time to get back to more actively managing my issues and taking steps to address them. For all the progress I’ve made, it’s come at a price, and that price is clarity and mental sharpness. Time to get myself back on track and really pull myself into line. I feel a little like I’ve plateaued and now I need to get myself back on an upward track. I’ve been feeling blah and marginal and not quite with it… which can lead to stress and insecurity and feeling not quite up to what’s in front of me, which is no way to live.
This TBI stuff is no walk in the park. But then, there’s also no danger of me ever becoming bored!