Feb 242010

I got a call. Would you like to join an expert panel on creating a training manual for anger management of people with brain injury? Uhhhh…. Good question. Did I want to take this road, of becoming involved in the brain injury community?

So far, I’ve joined a social group as one of those hang-around members not a real involved member; twittered and blogged a bit on brain injury; but I haven’t considered becoming one of those active people on committees, involved in advocacy, before. But suddenly this kind of opportunity faced me. Did I want to take this road?

People talk all the time about missing opportunities; I’ve heard all my life about drive and ambition. But sometimes the opportunity facing you is not the right one. Sometimes you need to think just what are your talents, your skills, your interest, and in my case, energy – and do those sync up with the opportunity. Sometimes the answer is no even when what faces you is uber-exciting.

However, I said yes, have the guy in charge give me a call.

So he did. And I was quite surprised at what I learned. But first, for me, because I’m fighting my fatigue all the friggin’ time (and sometimes it wins and conks me out for 2-hour naps, much to my relief and annoyance), how many meetings, how many people on the expert panel would be meeting, and how long they would be, were critical to know. I’m not too sure I can handle an all-day meeting, as is planned, and eight people is a bit beyond my group attention ability, but it’s many, many months away as the grant has yet to be applied for and, hopefully, granted, and so who knows, maybe I’ll have improved enough by then to be just fine. Or not. In which case, I’ll have lots of naps afterwards.

But the thing that really surprised me is that up till now there is no training manual, no cohesive approach, no general knowledge amongst therapists on how to deal with the kind of anger that brain injury produces and how to teach people the best non-pharmacological ways to deal with it. Up till now, in 2010, in the 21st century, in Canada, most of us with brain injuries are not taught how to cope with or manage brain injury anger, despite the fact it destroys relationships, costs jobs. And no, regular anger management training doesn’t work. Brain injury anger is strange; it’s like this wild animal that suddenly leaps into your brain screaming and gnashing its teeth, startling you into a freakishly strong fight response that takes you by surprise as much as it does others. These last few months as I’ve met others with brain injuries, I’ve learnt how it manifests in them and have learnt that mine is pretty darn mild. (I also avoid most of my main triggers, but that’s another matter.) Physical throwing and hurling is part of many survivors’ anger, but not mine, for which I’m thankful. But I also wonder how much of that is because of the kind of non-drug therapies I’ve had, from acupuncture to neurofeedback to brain biofeedback to audiovisual entrainment, treatments I underwent for other reasons, like improving concentration, but which had this rather nice effect too of reducing irritability, calming anger. I recently learnt that I’m not the only one in whom acupuncture reduces or eliminates anger and irritability.

Anyway, the kinds of things they’re considering in this manual are not the kind of non-drug approaches I’ve found by happenstance have helped me, but more like behaviour modification or a psychological approach or something like that, not entirely clear. But the lead guy was interested in some of what I’ve discovered. So that made up my mind for me. I’ll take this opportunity, for I figure my role will be to bring fresh ideas to this expert panel.