There have been more than a few instances over the last thirty eight years when I wanted to scream, “Stop talking to me! I feel like my head is going to explode!”
Of course, my head is still in one piece, but I’ve lost count of those times when I felt like I had a hand grenade built into my head and the pin was just about to be pulled. I swear, I could actually hear the countdown echoing in my ears, and I could feel the sweat running down my back, knowing that my head was about to blow into a million pieces. All it would take would be for someone to innocently ask me one more question, or for them to keep chattering non-stop at me, or to push one more button.
A friend might be trying to give me driving directions and, although they think I should be able to remember what they’re saying, I don’t; I am just confused and they’re talking too fast. Or perhaps I’m trying to listen to too many people all talking at once, and, while they all expect me to respond coherently, I stew in my own juices, completely overloaded.
Those times when it feels as though my head is going to explode have gotten fewer over time, and I’ve been able to handle them better, but they do come up. I still leave people exasperated when I throw up my hands and say, “I can’t listen anymore!,” and walk away.
And it’s not only from people talking at me; sometimes I’m my own worst enemy. Performing tasks which were once simple, now, sometimes make me feel like I want to put a gun to my head. Yes, it’s that bad, that frustrating and annoying, and can happen in a variety of situations, and for a variety of reasons.
I distinctly remember one night when I went to the copy center to make copies of some documents.
I sat in my car in the parking lot, putting the papers in order, making sure my four or five piles of documents were ready, knowing that I could easily get confused and lose track of what I was doing. I walked into the store. There I was, standing at the hi-tech, automated, super duper, electronic copy machine in the glistening, new copy center, with my stacks of papers neatly arranged at my side, and a stapler in my hip pocket. I did really well for a while, but then one thing got put in the wrong pile and everything went to hell. I didn’t know where I was coming from, where I was going, or who I was. All I could think about was that I was messing up this easy task because I was getting completely confused about what I had done, what needed to be done, and what belonged with what. It probably took me a half hour to do a 10 minute job, and I left that copy center drenched in sweat and completely wiped out, not sure if I had done the job right.
I have learned that I must deal with feeling this way, and preferably not in a way where I just have an outburst and scare everyone off. I’ve learned that this is just one of the situations where I need to prepare myself properly in order to avoid calamity. Preparation and planning is the key, and I spend lots of hours preparing myself so that I avoid situations like this. Sometimes, however, as I saw at the copy center, there is nothing I can do and I have to deal with the situation…with that blaring alarm and big flashing sign in my head that says, “Code Red!!”.
How do I do that? For me, one of the most important things is to not tense up and explode. I try to keep my cool. Then I just stop what I’m doing. Sometimes, if I feel myself going over the edge I might tell the person I’m with that, “I’m getting really frustrated.” The danger here is that this can sometimes be misinterpreted, because they might take it personally, but it’s better than exploding. Verbalizing what is going on for me also allows me to take a step back from the situation.
Feeling as though my head is going to explode is not fun, but this is part of my life now. When this happens, I look at it as not a result of my TBI, but the way I am. Frankly, it doesn’t matter that I wasn’t always like this, because I am like this now, and the sooner I accept it, the better I can either deal with it or work around it. At some point I need to take ownership of my actions and stop blaming something else, even if there is good reason to do so.
Ownership is a great thing. Taking ownership frees me to focus on what is most important, which is how I deal with the situation when it happens. It also forces me to be accountable at a time when I would like to pass the buck and blame someone or something else. Taking ownership is part of a process I need to build up my confidence and self esteem. We need to own, not just the good stuff, but also the bad, because together they make us a complete human being.