One 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.