It’s been about a week since I was last able to write. I’ve been traveling out of the country, as I did about six weeks ago. This trip was not nearly as successful as the last one. Well, in some respects it was — in that I was able to make some good connections with people pretty high up in the company. But in terms of working with my immediate team… not so much.
The new team I’m supposed to be a part of was pretty cold towards me and the other coworker I traveled with. So, the warm welcome from before was pretty much rescinded, and it just left a bad taste in my mouth.
Not to worry, though. I have other ways I can make the most of this situation. If I let other people’s bad behavior put a crimp in my style, then it’s my bad. It just can’t mean that much to me. At least, that’s what my objective mind tells me. My subjective mind that wants to prove that “I can do it” and wants to be on top of everything and have everything go my way, is really struggling with this shift in dynamics. It feels like I’ve failed. It feels like I’ve done something wrong and I need to fix it. All my fault. My doing. My bad. Yada-yada-yada.
Yeah, the “you’ve done something wrong” voice is loud and clear in my head, and I can’t seem to get it out. I’ve tried, but it’s a real bitch.
What I really need is a long hike in the woods. Something to get me out of my head and remind me that I am home again and spring is on the way. I need to get more exercise, period, since I didn’t get a lot while I was overseas, and I ate a lot of local desserts which tasted great but haven’t done my body much good. I need to get the circulation pumping and move some of this on through. Clear my head. Get my house in order.
One thing I did manage to do while I was away was watch some videos of TBI rehab pioneers who seem to have a pretty good idea about how TBI works and can affect your life. I found some videos of George Prigatano and some of his other colleagues at the 1st International Brain Injury Conference . He has some great things to say about the role of psychotherapy in dealing with brain injury. One of his colleagues, Harriet Katz Zeiner, talks about CRATER therapy , which – as I understand it – is a way to structure life after brain injury in ways that require less from an impaired memory, to work with survivors and their family members to support and monitor progress, and also to head catastrophic reactions off at the pass before they hijack the whole recovery process.
It’s interesting — in the past four years, I have had huge improvements in my anxiety level. I wasn’t fully aware of the intensity of my anxiety up until a couple of years ago. For years, I thought that my outbursts and freak-outs and melt-downs were totally justified because things just got so incredibly overwhelming for me, and I couldn’t — just couldn’t — deal with them.
Getting too much information to process all at one time… being put on the spot and not feeling up to the task of sorting through it all and dealing with what was going on… being challenged and taken to task and pressured… it set me off.
When I was with people in a work setting, I would just check out or walk away — on a small scale and also on a large scale. I think a lot of my job changes were reactions to things just getting too overwhelming for me, so I couldn’t deal — even if they were going right — and I “moved on to better opportunities.” On a smaller scale, I can think of countless times that I just bagged something — just quit a task that I was supposed to complete, be it a chore that my parents asked me to do, or a project that I was given at work. Either way, the result was that I just quit. Just bagged it. Fuggedaboudit. What-ever.
In my personal life, if I got too challenged and too put-upon, I would retreat into my “strong silent type” role, or I would blow up and go off on whoever was pressing me. And the people I would go off on, would get so freaked out by the intensity of my response that they became afraid of me, treated me like I was a threat. And that didn’t do much for my self-perception and self-esteem.
Then I realized that I was doing all this — you’d think I’d get a clue that this was happening with me, right? But it just didn’t register as something that wasn’t 100% justified, and that I might be over-reacting and going off for no reason. I have friends who have anxiety issues and after talking to them, I thought for sure that it was pretty much that this behavior was an anxiety issue with me — that it was psychological, being related to my thinking and how I was choosing to react to situations around me.
And that’s how I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of years, now. It’s been helpful to have that kind of mental construct. And when I look back, I can see so many instances where I got anxious and either ran from something or someone that overwhelmed me, or I lashed out and attacked.
The thing is, there was this little piece that seemed to be missing, and I found it during my trip. The missing piece, I think, is what they call the “catastrophic reaction” — an emotional outburst (sometimes accompanied by physical acting out) that is way out of proportion to the situation at hand. Sometimes, it’s an extreme reaction to an imagined problem that doesn’t even exist. Some examples from my own life — cursing a blue streak and throwing and/or breaking things when I drop something, verbally attacking someone who is just making me a little uncomfortable, or flipping out when things don’t go the way I expect them to.
That pretty much describes my behavior for years – being an unpredictable powder-keg who might say or do just about anything, if things don’t go my way.
And it comes with a ton of anxiety.
But why? What’s the big deal? Why am I so on-edge over things? Whence the anxiety? I’ve puzzled over that for quite some time, unable to see why I should be so anxious, and why it has really increased over the past years. I didn’t used to be so anxious, but “all of a sudden”… It didn’t make any sense to me. I know that TBI can seriously mess with you and your sense of self and make you incredibly anxious and self-doubting. But there was a whole concept that was missing… something that brought it all together — and I found it over my business trip:
The Catastrophic Response.
I want to write more about this right now, but I’m pretty jet-lagged, and I need to take a walk. I need to take care of some things around the house, now that I’m home, and I need to give my brain a rest, so I can function well today – and beyond.
Bottom line: This Catastrophic Response (now that I have a name for it) has been wreaking havoc with my head and my life for a while. It keeps me from approaching the things in life that I want to approach – including discussions I need to have with my neuropsych about my freak-outs and behavioral issues. It keeps me on tenderhooks of anxiety and avoidance, and it keeps me from living my life.
And I need to do something about it. Now that I’m aware of it, I need to do the work to address it.
So, I shall — by taking myself outside for a long walk in the woods. That should help a few things…