Over Thanksgiving, I was telling someone for the first time about my mTBIs, and they asked how I figured out it was a neurological thing, and not just me having a bad day.
I rattled off “cognitive problems” and “memory issues” and “tinnitus” and “constant headaches” as examples. One of the folks who was traveling with me, who has known me for nearly 20 years said, once and for all, “Rage — it was the rage.”
I was abashed to admit it then, and I still am, but it’s true. The sudden violent rages – the yelling, smashing things, going off on people, becoming infuriated over very minor things, rolling along at a full boil, completely unable to stop my downward plunge into the blackest and most aggressive of moods… It’s always been rough for everyone — myself and everyone around me — to weather my tirades. But dealing with the aftermath — mending the broken ties, or having to say goodbye to people I hurt beyond repair, or having to look people in the face after I’d roasted them over the blazing fire of my temper — the aftermath has been at times even harder and more trying to deal with, than the events, themselves.
I can identify a number of sources of my temper flares:
- Fatigue – not getting enough sleep makes me think slower, and when I’m not processing quickly enough, my frustration level goes up, while my ability to monitor and manage myself goes down.
- Not eating properly – being hungry makes me mad quicker, and eating junk food stresses my body and makes me even more volatile than usual.
- Being/feeling alone – I feel assailed and overwhelmed and put-upon, when I’m alone (either for real, or perceived)… I often feel like I can’t keep up, and I’m going to pay for it.
- Not preparing adequately for stresses that I know are coming down the pike – not only does this open me up to the increased stress of the unfamiliar, but I also tend to beat myself up for not being better prepared, which just throws gas on the fire of my temper.
- Self-recrimination/blame – being hard on myself makes me even more aggressive and short-tempered with others, while cutting myself some slack eases my attitude towards others.
Ironically (or perhaps not), what is best for others, is when I take care of myself. When I’m in a good place and I’m happy with who I am and my place in the world, I tend to go easy on others, have patience, do well. But when I’m hard on myself, everyone around me pays – big time.
- Make a point of getting enough sleep. Sometimes I work from home, so I can nap mid-day.
- Plan my meals and eat well-rounded meals and avoid junk food like the plague it is. I also stay away from sugar, which whacks me out.
- Reach out for help, either by contacting a friend/relative, or going online and either researching or participating in forums to help others and get help.
- Plan my days and weeks and months ahead of time. I can’t tell the future, but I do know that if I’ve got a lot of appointments in one week, I’m likely to be more tired along the way, so I try to schedule in some down-time. If I’m traveling or visiting family, I try to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for the trips. And if I have a busy week coming up, I try to “choreograph” my time as best I can, so I can dance my way through, instead of bumbling about, bumping into everything that gets in my way.
- Go easy on myself, make lists of things I do right, make lists of things I’m grateful for, remember how far I’ve come and how much I’ve accomplished in my life. Even if some of the things don’t seem like big deals to others, they may be to me, so I try to claim every small victory I can.
TBI and temper often go hand-in-hand, but if I know my stressors and I am aware of how my life is shaping up, I can often head off problems at the pass.
Most of all, I try to keep an open heart and a clear head and seek to help others whenever I can. Seeing that others have troubles, too, and seeing that I can help them, not only makes me feel grateful for all I have and makes me grateful for what I can do, but it also gets me out of my head… which can be a very dangerous place to be trapped.