I had a good talk with my neuropsych today about the issues I’ve had (for many, many years) with impulse control around things I say. For many years, I’ve gotten myself into trouble by saying things that were either hurtful towards others, or were so out there in left field that people genuinely thought I was losing it. After discussing several examples today, we identified three distinct ways I get into trouble:
- Blurting things out that don’t go over well, and then scrambling — in vain — to patch up the rift in the social fabric, and digging myself deeper into a hole by not being able to shut the hell up.
- Getting carried away on an emotional jag, being unable to manage my state of mind and behavior, and flipping out at people when I’m extremely overwrought.
- Getting caught up in talking a blue streak, pissing people off, alienating them, boring them, driving them nuts, and being utterly unable to stop myself, even when they tell me I need to be quiet.
These three phenomena are like the Three Stooges of my post-TBI experience. And at last I’m getting some help for them. It took me a while to be able to discuss them openly with someone — and with plenty of hesitation, too. So much in my experience has been dismissed, and my neuropsych has been pretty quick to label things that happen to me as “interpretations” I have of events, that I was really concerned that they would just brush me off and tell me I was making things harder for myself than need be.
But ahead of time, I thought things through, and I came up with some examples of the kinds of impulse control issues I’ve been having for many, many years. I was already starting to see patterns and differences between some of them. And when we started talking about it all, I was able to organize my thoughts pretty well, and I was able to press ahead on points that they wanted to dismiss as “interpretations”. Ahem — when something happens as a direct result of something else, it’s not just my interpretation. There’s an actual correlation between them. So please don’t just brush me off like I’m crazy or looking for reasons to get worked up about something.
In the end, they did actually see that one of the three problems is something I need to work on. It’s something I need some tools and techniques to deal with. And I was able to see that the other two were things that just about everybody does, or are things that happen naturally when such-and-such takes place, and that in some ways I was already dealing with them.
Let me break it down.
#1 above – Blurting things out that don’t go over well – is something that everyone does, now and then. Scrambling — in vain — to patch up the rift in the social fabric, and digging myself deeper into a hole by not being able to shut the hell up is very likely little more than my classic inexperience at interacting with people. Remember, I never really interacted with people in a social way, prior to working with my neuropsych. I said things to them, pretended to listen, then spent countless minutes and hours afterwards trying to figure out what just happened.
#2 above – Getting carried away on an emotional jag, being unable to manage my state of mind and behavior, and flipping out at people when I’m extremely overwrought – is something that will happen when I’m overrun with emotion, I’m tired, and I’m stressed. It’s also something that happens intermittently and isn’t a constant factor with me.
#3 above – Getting caught up in talking a blue streak, pissing people off, alienating them, boring them, driving them nuts, and being utterly unable to stop myself, even when they tell me I need to be quiet – is the thing that I need some tools for. I need to find ways to stop the momentum, to not go into that downward slide into incoherence and social marginalization. I’ve done this so many times — knowing I needed to stop talking or doing something, knowing I needed to quit running my mouth, knowing I needed to just HALT and back away from the situation… only to watch myself keeping on doing and saying the things that got me in trouble. This is the biggie — the one that has the greatest potential to wreck me in life. It’s the sleeping giant — or perhaps the sleepless giant — that lurks ever behind the scenes and threatens to pull me down-down-down into a spiral of uncontrolled verbal incontinence, possibly ending up (as has often been the case) with me tearing away at the social fabric that holds me up and contains my life.
Bit by bit, piece by piece, undermining me.
Thankfully, my neuropsych can see this. And they can see that I really don’t like to talk about it, but that I have to, because my life is going to stay stuck if I can’t figure out how to handle the almost overwhelming conviction that I’m going to screw something up. And that I’ll pay.
The higher you climb, the farther you fall.
And I’m really sick and tired of being convinced I’m going to fall, and having no way to prevent it.
But now that can change. Now I have a chance.