ANXIETY AND BRAIN INJURY

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Photo courtesy of EVERYDAY HEALTH

I’ll start by saying two things;

  1. My Brain Injury experiences influenced this article and
  2. Anxiety isn’t solely experienced through Brain Injury, but I felt the unique qualities coming during Brain Injury.

Uneasiness sometimes comes as a result of perceived personal flaws or incompetence. This causes anxiety, as we anticipate that we cannot perform well enough from an outsider’s perception. With friends we’re often less anxious because they understand our characteristic nuances to ignore our shortcomings. Although observed Brain Injury changes signify difference to many friends without understanding at times.

Some of us suffer continuous anxiety from a self-perception that we’re not good enough or disliked. Anxiety can turn into fear or anger; this depends on the situation and the personality experiencing it. This relates partly to the anger and frustration issues experienced with Brain Injury I wrote about previously. The emotional factors are somewhat linked.

I’ve unfortunately seen my anxiety pointed out and publicly frowned upon at the worst injury stages, to achieve less anxiety. Of course it did, but only for the person targeting me – they increased my anxiety while limiting their own.

This isn’t good and if people are suffering anxiety, acting calm is needed. External anger, frustration and anxiety won’t support an anxious person; it makes the situation more uncomfortable.

I now try to combat anxiety externally by calming environments where possible. Engaging others works because a blank staring face isn’t advised – this staring once people knew I suffered a brain injury was horrific to me before. They didn’t realise that I wasn’t a work of art in a museum. I was a person.

Often when people discovered I had a brain injury and it affected me, shock came from fear and people would sometimes stare saying nothing. They didn’t think of what they were doing or manners to assist as I witnessed the fear in their eyes while I spoke to them. It increased my anxiety and exclusion. They used it as a safety mechanism, a just in case, but it made me feel isolated, alone and pathetic to fuel my growing anxiety.

I previously had to ignore other’s anxiety about me being in front of them too and as Brain Injury healed I’ve tried to overcome it with them. I now have more emotional control, where I’m less affected by outside emotions. This means the staring is limited and conversations without anxiety seem possible, like before the accident.

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Photo courtesy of EVERYDAY HEALTH

Brain Injury anxiety rose once returning to work. I was continuously fired for little more than careless managers, workplace abusers or small brain injury flaws – many of which are everyday flaws millions in society deal. I detailed these experiences in the book I’m completing now.

I believe these flaws could’ve been overcome if only I encountered good offices (one example was reports written too quickly without enough time to review, time for anything was never offered and as I detailed my predicament I was consistently ignored and treated poorly). I was learning my flaws as they occurred and many assumed these were normal occurrences they should judge. I didn’t know or understand these new mental challenges until they took place.

This increased my anxiety. Emotionally targeting people experiencing anxiety DOESN’T HELP! Please read those words. Aggressive behaviour isn’t advisable when you’re confronted with your own or someone else’s anxiety.

It’s important to note that the anxiety I felt was sometimes the result of outsider’s anxiety; external emotions affected me, where I should’ve responded as I’ve detailed one should without fear or anger, fear and anxiety was sometimes thrown out to the world by me in these situations.

Calmness came with healing, where I felt anxiety internally but wouldn’t expose it externally, coming from more emotional control. This is similar to good public speakers when confidence replaces anxiety.

For a time I couldn’t ignore the anxiety of others and people rarely have control over their anxiety in a situation. I had a constant feeling of brain injury incompetence. I say attempt because I know what I was like before the accident as I was a slightly anxious person. I had random anxious moments and I’m certain many with anxiety sometimes feel this regardless of injury or not. Strangely the accident made me less naturally anxious as I had to grow confident to overcome my flaws. I grew through anxiety’s influence that the injury brought. It was like I felt a separate and new anxiety as a result of new flaws felt during brain injury that dissipated as I healed.

It may be uncontrollable and with my Brain Injury I noticed people experiencing anxiety by looking at my face, by seeing me, it was I who caused their anxiety for my illness or just me Paul – this exclusion with Brain Injury should be acknowledged. Anxiety toward someone suffering anxiety is very unpleasant.

I felt isolated and to break away from this feeling I found pleasure in following my interests to overcome anxiety with success showing my anxiety was brought on by emotional changes during brain injury. I wasn’t a worthless piece of nothing like injury issues with memory or attention to detail made me feel.

Blame can sometimes be targeted at those overcoming anxiety, as they act confident to counteract their internal emotions. I’ve seen this before and blame is something I want to delve into deeper in a later post. All people who smile with confidence aren’t confident ONLY, they may use confidence to overcome anxiety, and they may be dealing with anxious experiences like those from Brain Injury I lived.

Two good examples with my experience are;

  1. Old friends deciding ‘you’ve changed, you’re different!’ to then yell or act anxious around me if I saw them. They’d speak amongst themselves about my change, forgetting that a ‘how are you?’ might’ve been better. My Brain Injury made me more in tune with emotions and I’d feel more lonely and anxious because I caused external negative reactions. My imperfection was blamed and raised my anxiety. When I say I was more in tune with emotions, it was a deeper reading of external presentation, we know most don’t pay attention to every emotion playing in a moment – hence why people’s anxiety worked swiftly to rise mine. I was the instigator of outsider’s anxiety.
  2. Workplace anxiety arrives in irate moments where colleagues yell and belittle because this achieves their calm, limiting their anxiety. This is unacceptable, but a normal circumstance I found and many deal with this but a Brain Injury makes this issue 100 x stronger within your feelings.
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Photo courtesy of GREENCAMP

The workplace was my biggest challenge. This is because anxiety can build collegial anxiety into various emotions from anger to targeted laughter. This is sad, but it makes them assume they’re doing the right thing in a separated inclusive group, mocking one individual and decreasing their anxiety.

One colleague had anxiety around me because I initially felt anxious after the rapid effects of alcohol at work drinks earlier that week, alcohol after brain injury can be cumbersome. I left that night drunk without saying goodbye and therefore initially showed anxiety with her at work. Rather than seeing this as a need to remain calm, she took on board the anxiety and produced it herself. I attempted to create less anxious peace, like going with her on a coffee run. Her facial reaction to me saying I would come produced pure horror.

Once we were outside the coffee stand, in front of me she spoke about me to others and these work ‘friends’ laughed  to overcome her anxiety. I was to be laughed at, that was her way of overcoming anxiety I caused – I tried to ignore my co-workers’ anxiety building approach through laughing discussion about me.

Anxiety can be COMPLICATED. This article isn’t a one size fits all approach to anxiety and Brain Injury BUT here are some pointers, when thinking specifically about anxiety and brain injury,

  1. Try your best to AVOID anxiety toward someone suffering Brain Injury, especially if you’ve just discovered information about their accident. They aren’t stupid and your shocked anxious face is horrific for them.
  2. Those with Brain Injury must understand anxiety coming from others and it’s OK, it isn’t you specifically but the situation, so please ignore it
  3. Someone’s anxiety isn’t your fault
  4. Try to act calm if people act anxious when you arrive, calmness helps the situation for you
  5. NEVER use anger as a product of your anxiety, EVER!
  6. Don’t limit your anxiety by grouping against a person. This is sad and psychologically damaging.

Published by Paul - Brain Injured and Traveller in one.

The World is an amazing place filled with adventure, awe and excitement. As a child I dreamt that I would see every country, every crevice of the globe. And now? Now I continue to fulfil that dream...I would like to share that journey with you in some small part...

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