Sunday, October 11, 2015

Mind Change Day 11: What Makes Me Mad

As I attempted to say yesterday (not sure how well), I think that while anger-fueled anxiety may be a more male reaction, a lot of women experience anxiety-fueled anger, which is the sense that things are not right in their world and that makes them flip out sometimes.  This isn't an exact match for the DOCC program component on anger, which has unprocessed anger at the core of MBS symptoms.

Why do I not believe that I have a lot of unprocessed anger?

Because my God do women talk. And talk. And talk. About their feelings. About what made them mad this morning before you went to work. What their child said that pushed their buttons. What their boss just did that drove them nuts. What they yelled to their child who didn't pick up the bathroom. How they feel about their vacation being cancelled for someone else's work schedule. Why that birthday gift shouldn't have broken as quickly as it did and whose fault it is the receipt is lost.

And then it's over and we hug it out and move on, or at least I do. My grudge-carrying limit is about the size of a backpack.

Here's the exception: something that makes me extremely anxious, like money. I grew up with a lot of financial insecurity and having eight kids guarantees that never goes away. When I do something that puts us in troubled money waters I am very angry with myself, as I at anyone else does the same. It's my auto-trigger that I don't think will ever go away.

But I've become better over time at realizing that there will never be enough money to keep us out of this jam, that no matter how much (or little) money comes into the house there will be problems that money always causes and can't solve, and that the most important thing I can do about money is spend 90%  (or 80%) of what I have available rather than 100% (or 110%), and that giving money away gives me a sense of security that nothing else matches.

This is a very long-term work in progress for me, and one of my biggest challenges.

In terms of my injury, I'm not angry at the patients who assaulted me. They're kids who were lashing out and I never felt more than annoyance with them, which ebbed over time. I don't remember all their names, nor their faces. My injuries really were just "shit happens" kind of events.

And I have not been angry with my employer for not taking me back. I understand that I have significant liabilities, lack the judgment at this point to make good decisions for other people, and can't multi-task and switch mental tracks as often as I'd have to in order to be useful within a psychiatric setting. Although I do feel some guilt over "bailing" on my co-workers, I know they'd be disoriented if they relied on me for some of the skills I had in abundance and I couldn't use those skills effectively. We're both better off without those expectations.

What am I going to do instead? I don't know. Which makes me anxious.

But the only time I was mad during this recovery was when my pay was cut by more than half (by about 75%, actually) because of a sneaky end run by an extremely arrogant State's Attorney General, who then sent me to a psychiatrist for an opinion about whether I could work as a meter reader, a lunch monitor in a school or receptionist. And the jobs themselves were largely irrelevant; what I was mad about was the fact that I was in a bind (not allowed to return to work, nor look for other work because I wasn't medically cleared) and financial crisis due to my head injuries at work.

This is when I got intimately in touch with my sense of victimhood and being wronged. How could the state and worker's comp commissioner be so cold-hearted and mean?

That anger got me to ask for legal help, which I had been resisting for a long time. I also spent some time feeling incredibly frustrated with myself for not recovering faster, for putting my family into financial jeopardy, and for not anticipating that what lots of other people complain about (WC troubles) would happen to me eventually. I went through a few days of self-pity, on and off, and regressed in terms of sleep. Though I knew it wasn't a "personal" decision by the AG and WC commissioner, it felt pretty damn personal in terms of its effects.

Then I made a list of what the various options were in terms of work, in terms of cutting expenses, whether we could sell our house and get something smaller, whether we could get by without the car I share with my daughter and son-in-law, what we could take out of our 501k to pay for college expenses, what my husband could do if necessary in terms of another job, etc.

We ended up fixing the problem by getting our therapeutic foster care license and caring for a teenager we'd been approached about caring for anyway. And I love this kid, so I'm glad for the circumstances that led us to us choosing to raise him.

And once the financial problem abated, so did the anger and victimhood. I could laugh about being a meter maid (because--seriously--are you supposed to remember what block you're on? Which cars you've seen in the 2 hour slots? This is a very silly idea) and think more seriously about other choices (like writing, which I haven't made any money off of but I can do in a silent room, which is my nirvana space, and I can improve to be more marketable over time).

I felt in reasonable control of my life despite the lack of control I had directly on my cognitive recovery. And I returned to my emotional baseline, which is a balance of anxiety about the daily assault of responsibilities that are an endless challenge, and appreciation for the time I get to spend with my kids, my husband and my writing.

Most days I feel lucky, and when people judge me for not being more angry, it's only because they don't know me. I've never been that way, and the brain injuries have changed a lot of my personality--made me less assured, less directive, more quiet and contemplative--but these are necessarily bad changes. My husband says it's like he had one wife who's morphed into another but they're both cool and lovable.

What's there to complain about? I get to keep a husband like that.

Love, Lisa

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