It took some time (read: four and a half years) to finally realize that in certain cases my reactions were off. I’ve mentioned before that I get more easily irritated when I’m tired. Therefore, every time that I reacted far too strongly out of anger or irritation, I blamed my energy level. However, I also had these overblown responses in the morning after a good night sleep, so something else seemed at play as well.
Whether our brain is injured or not, we all can get irritated over seemingly small and insignificant things. The supermarket running of of your favourite brand, someone cutting you off in traffic or a persistent salesperson. Luckily we learn early on how to deal with these feelings. To try and stay calm and not react out of our initial emotions.
Angry & irritated
The thing is that I not only get more easily irritated, I also have a hard time controlling my reactions.
This week had multiple of these instances. On my day off, someone asked me an unsuspecting questions via the app. I immediate got irritated. Hadn’t I explained that in the week prior? Why were they bothering me again?
My thoughts went around in circles and it took some time to lose some of my anger and frustration. Luckily I had the presence of mind (this time) to wait before I responded. Which made me reflect on why I was having such a heated reaction. Why was my reaction so overblown? I would ask stupid questions all the time, so why couldn’t I handle these questions of others?
Suddenly I had a brainwave. My irritation and anger weren’t just about my energy level. My brain injury had somehow damaged my control mechanism for these emotions. An online search taught me that this is quite a common problem for people with a brain injury. As a result of the injury our brain can have more difficulty inhibiting angry emotions or actions, making us more easily angry.
I recognized a lot of the signs and warning signals. And remembered other occurrences where I had to apologize afterwards, as I couldn’t control my feelings of irritation.
I now realize that my threshold has been lowered, resulting in me getting irritated or angry far more easily. It takes a lot longer for me to move on and in the meantime I’m quite vocal with my irritation. Which in turn can result in me inadvertently hurting or disturbing the people around me.
One of my major triggers, is getting asked obvious questions. Obvious, since I’ve already explained or told that particular information. The moment I get such a question, my rational thinking retreats to the background and my irritation takes over. Which is of course slightly ironic, as I ask obvious questions all the time, probably even more so, since my injury. This apparently doesn’t change my reaction in the moment itself.
Realizing this all however, didn’t change a thing. It would have been nice if I recognized feelings of anger and irritation and then distract myself or retreat in order, for thing to cool down.
But no. Two days later, I had gotten stuck in my irritation and needed help. I had to switch phones, but I couldn’t manage to turn of the vibrating with keystrokes option.
Who cares, right? Well, I couldn’t let it go. Instead of regaining my calm, I simultaneously had to try and activate my new sim card.
The instructions though turned out to be far too complicated. As I already was quite irritated, my ability to think logical thoughts had been reduced as well. Since I couldn’t get it to work I got more angry and more irritated. Finally out of anger I just had to cry and ask for help.
Naturally, it turned out to be really simple. In that moment however, the instructions were too complicated. I needed clear step-by-step, fool proof instructions. It gave me a tiny bit of insight in how difficult our world must be for people struggling with language or reading.
Afterwards I could laugh about the whole incident, but it did made me realize that I have to be more aware of myself. Naturally, I hope that my control mechanisms will slowly get better.
Until then, I’ll try and explain to the people around me that whenever I get angry or irritated, I lose my rational thinking and inhibitions. My brain injury will cause me to say or do thing, for which I have to apologize afterwards.
I will also try to practise with letting go, backing off and regaining my calm. Every irritation is another chance.
Do you also have difficulty with controlling your anger or irritation? Did you make the connection to your injury quicker? Do you have any tips?