When was the last time you snapped?
I don’t mean your fingers.
We, who have experienced a TBI, have all been there: the situation where it’s too noisy, or too busy, or too bright or, with our lowered threshold, too almost anything. I’m sure you know the situation. It’s the thing others don’t understand because it is normal for them, but for us, unable as we are, to regulate
ourselves, we snap. When we snap, it can be ugly or awkward or painful, but it’s never pretty.
You see, each of us is built with an invisible rubber band in our brain that does an incredible job of helping us adjust to the pressures of daily life. Everyone’s rubber band has a slightly different degree of elasticity. This important connector holds us together and acts as a mental shock absorber. We rely on this rubber band as we go about our day. It regulates us as we shuck and jive, flowing with the ups and downs of life.
A TBI dries out this invisible rubber band, leaving it more brittle than it should be. When it dries out on us, this rubber band we have always relied on to steady us doesn’t work as well, and is prone to snapping when it’s placed under duress.
Since my TBI, my own rubber band has snapped countless times over the years, and has led to screaming, throwing things, punching walls, slamming doors, stomping away or generally making a spectacle of myself. Over time I have learned enough about myself to help keep from snapping, and I now have increased self-awareness that enables me to smooth out what happens as I’m snapping or after I snap.
I remember early on, my first step into a pinball and video arcade, when the flashing lights and the booping and beeping coming from the machines made me think I was going crazy. I made it about 5 seconds before I snapped and walked out the door. However, I made a point out of going back; each time, trying to stay longer as a way to acclimate myself to the environment.
It worked only somewhat, and only for a limited time, and I realized that being subjected to this type of stimulation was something that was never going to be fully resolved.
Snapping and I were, to some degree, together forever.
What was most interesting about my snapping, was the way it would happen; the evolution of the whole episode. Sometimes I would walk into a situation and I would immediately know I had to leave, but many times it would seem okay at first, and then, like the green ooze creeping into my pores, the noises or the stimulation or the light would creep into my being and I would standup like I was shot out of a gun and say, “I’ve got to leave!” or “We’ve got to go!”.
Now, snapping is not a simple thing. There is the mental component, where your ears start to feel overloaded and your brain, bombarded by stimulation, starts racing. I can suffer with that up to a certain point, but somewhere along the line the physical component comes in, and my body has a reaction. That is the moment when I snap.
If my body was a fist, I would probably headbutt something; I momentarily lose my ability to think or reason and become incredibly focused on removing myself from that situation.
When possible, I’ll try not to put myself in those situations. I’ve learned, over time, what most of my triggers are and what my capabilities are, so that I can head these things off at the pass. When I’m with someone else, and I see the situation, I find it’s much easier to beg out of something beforehand than to have to apologize for, or smooth out, something which is awkward and can be hurtful.
The really hard thing is when you are forced, for some reason to be in a situation that you know will be a problem. Squirming and breathing deep will help, but only or a while. I find the best thing is limiting my exposure by getting up and leaving for a few minutes, then trying to rejoin whatever is going on. Even going to the restroom is enough of a break sometimes.
When I’m waiting in line at a store and everyone else is being waited on, I can ‘t leave, and I can feel the green ooze as I stand there, trying to stay calm. As irrational as I know I am being, it’s hard to keep a lid on it.
Snapping has become a fact of life for me post-TBI. That’s just the way it is. I do a really good job of keeping it hidden from most people because I don’t socialize that much, and I know my triggers. I try to make allies out of those closest to me so that they can help me, either by the way they react when I snap, or by helping me to avoid bad situations. I think pretty much everyone I spend time with understands that I get up and leave a lot.
There is no cure; I’m like a submarine taking evasive action. In the end, it is up to me to deal with it the best I can, so that I don’t take on water and sink the boat.