Anger and anger management after brain injury
I always start my story with " I went sleep as LeaAnn and woke up a total stranger."
On September 2014 Labor day, I suffered a bleeding stroke and brain anyurism which led to brain surgery to relieve the pressure in my brain. This was due to a blood infection I caught in my mechanical heart valves after some routine dental surgery. The doctors told my family that if I survived, I would never be the same. After 3 months of learning everything all over again, how to walk, talk, chew, swallow, read and write, the doctors were right about one thing. I will never be the same.
Anger affects nearly 1/3 to over 1/2 of TBI and ABI and the rates continue to raise as the time goes on the more people come out with anger issues.
Damage to the brain can cause emotional and Behavior changes, so many survivors experience managing anger. This can lead to unpredictable, destructive and sometimes aggressive behavior that can put a strain on work life, relationships and every day life.
I woke up yesterday morning to beautiful, rare sunny morning in Seattle Washington, birds were singing, Sun was shining and I was feeling pretty good. As I unloaded my dishwasher I dropped a glass. I didn't break it, but the white hot rage that washed over me like hot lava and errupted, sending the glass flying accross the room and shattering into tiny pieces.. And then it was over. Just like that I was singing at the top of my lungs as I cleaned up my mess, the dark clouds that rolled in just seconds ago was gone and forgotten.
Anger often occurs when the frontal lobes Have been injured. Making it more difficult to apply the brakes. On emotion or to stop and think of the best ways to approach a problem before acting. Irritation and anger arises also because of the frustration felt by not being able to do things that were once so simple for us, After the 6th time of attempting to tie my shoes, or the 5th time of putting my shirt on backwards, trying to multi task, loud unexpected noises, or just trying to follow and keep up with conversations frustration, then that white hot anger takes over.
Often, because of new meds, loss of independence, pain, lack of sleep and so many other things going on, it's extremely difficult to dissect everything and figure out the problem as to Why the anger is there. Instead, caregivers and survivors should focus more on what can and should be done to help regain that emotional self control once again.
Another little (but very big) important thing involved with dealing with brain injuries is a natural, normal and essential reaction to threat, and it would be unhealthy to get rid of.
Remember instead to focus on managing it in healthier ways. That's my main goal coming from my own personal experiences and hours of searching for answers and solutions I have found some useful steps that actually have really helped me, to gain the most control over my emotional challenges.
Step 1: Recognize the situations and triggers that may cause your anger. As a PTSD sufferer this also helps me as well as my family members prevent or find ways around them, or giving an environment that is less threatening will reduce the chances of anger and irritability.
Step 2: Caregivers try not to snap back at the survivor, I know it's hard as a former caregiver, but it only leads to more anger and frustration. If needed, take a break, collect your thoughts, and return back to the situation when your ready.
None of us can completely avoid threats, anger and emotions, they are a part of everyone's daily life, but minimizing them and learning how to deal with them, has been very helpful.
Step 3: Write down how you feel when you are angry. I keep a journal which has been extremely helpful. I love to write and pouring my heart out on papers is probably much better, and much safer than punching the wall!
Step 4: Try to remember that it is often only interprutatin of the situation that makes you angry, once I realized that, although sometimes I am right, it was little easier to stop and think about other was to interpret the situation.
Step 5: This is my favorite way to calm down.. Practice relaxing by imaginning beautiful, sweet smelling roses surrounding you and a candle burning in the middle. Breathe in the roses.. Blow court the candle. Repeat until you are able to regain some self control.
Step 6: Notice how your body feels when it's tense and you are angry, then completely relax and feel the difference. You will be able to measure how angry you are, compared to how you feel when you are calm.
Step 7: Distracting myself with music, playing my guitar, coloring, something I enjoy like writing is a great to get yourself back in control of you emotions.
Step 8: Try to remember that everything is more difficult when you are angry. This usually stops my anger in its tracks when I think of how my reaction to a tough situation can affect others. Remind yourself that you deserve to keep yourself calm in or her to make good decisions, or get your point accross.
Now if your like me, my emotions swing all over the place. Smelling the roses, grounding excersizes, putting myself on a time out, or just playing my guitar helps me to regain some control. I invite you to try these steps, adapt them in a way that suit a you, as everyone is different and no two brain injuries are the same.
Thank you for reading.