Your smile and laugh have changed, my brain biofeedback trainer told me today. They’re real, she said.
It’s true, I’m not faking emotions nearly as much or using my intellect to boost them to normal levels like I used to have to. She’s known me since 2005, and I’ve gradually been able to laugh more easily over the last 9 years, especially since I began gamma brainwave training. It isn’t so hard for me to sense humour; it takes less forceful stimulation to get me to laugh — I used to maybe smile when others would guffaw because that’s about as much emotion as I felt — not much, eh? But I hadn’t known that (some) people had picked up on the fact that I faked smiling a lot in order to maintain social cohesion. Well, people do find it hard to relate to an expressionless person!
People prefer it when you’re positive. But being positive is often about fakery not about being real. I want my positive to be real. And so today’s brain biofeedback post is on being real.
I have both a brain injury and PTSD — post-traumatic stress disorder. US Veterans Affairs probably has the most experience and knowledge of us lucky people who have both. Because of them as well as documentaries and news items that parade military vets or police officers as those who have PTSD or suicide from it and/or have co-occurring brain injury, most people would think only men who serve have it, but women get it too. And civilians.
I’ve blogged on brain injury since 2009; I have yet to blog much on PTSD and the emotional fallout from my brain injury. One astute reviewer of Concussion Is Brain Injury noted there must be a lot of pain not written about in the book. The most painful things are the hardest to write about.
You’d think a severe whiplash injury with its daily let-me-die-now migraines would be the worst pain.
Psychic pain is.
Mind you, I am very happy those migraines are much fewer and smaller these days.
People understand and sympathize with physical pain; hidden, emotional pain not so much. Hence, the god-damn continual never-ending irritating mantra to be positive. Excuse my language but fuck it.
I can smile. I can laugh. When my sense of humour began to return, I could get others to laugh even when I couldn’t. But when the best part of your day is that the sky is blue — and believe you me, I spent years — years not weeks or months — being grateful that I could at least look up and see blue in the midst of another shit day — being positive is not real.
When every atom of your energy is being consumed getting through every moment of the day — whether it’s pouring cereal into a bowl or getting the legs to move in a walking motion out the door — spending my scarce energy faking positivity so others can feel better was not high on my agenda. When surviving and processing the energy-sucking onslaught of emotions that come and go like some evil yo-yo with a mind of its own, like I am now, being positive is not high on my agenda.
The positive movement is maybe for people who can work, who have families who stick with them, who have friends who want to hang with them, yet see the glass as half empty. It’s not for people who have had a serious injury, identity loss, trauma, and need to process their emotions so that they can first understand what the hell happened and then live peacefully in their new mind. With brain injury — or worse brain injury and PTSD — that may take years.
Once you truly grasp what has happened to you and what it means for the rest of your life, not just go through the motions of understanding and accepting, not just follow your rehab person’s instructions and nod automatically as your doctor explains something that can’t possibly be true, then the grief slams into you. And on its heels come the suckerpunches of emotions from all the memories that emerge from your hidden, injured mind like some sort of neuronal Species 8472 on a rampage of annihilation of your sanity. It’s a tad tough being positive about roiling emotions and bombing memories.
You need to get real about them, process them, and then only once you’ve worked your way through the crap, be able to attain real positivity.
War In The Mind is the title of a TVO documentary on PTSD. It’s apt. Another metaphor is that it’s like Jaws: your mind is under shark attack. You don’t know where the shark is. You cannot hear it or sense it — until suddenly it’s there butting your back, savagely biting into your chest, ripping your soul out.
I am under full blown shark attack in my mind now. I’ve known this time was coming and tried and tried many months ago to get my health care professionals to see it too and help me avert it or prepare for it. But people see what they want to see. And the thing they saw most about me is that I am strong. I won’t fall. When I’ve said I can’t handle x, I always get back up. So I would again. Or so everyone thought.
Well, I’m not.
They see it now, and my neurodoc in particular is changing his approach, as each week dictates, and providing me with additional support. (Nothing is static in emotional work, and how I will be is highly unpredictable week to week or day to day.)
Then I thought well since I’m in this hellhole where my PTSD symptomatology is high according to the PTSD Coach Canada app, I might as well blog on the one thing I avoided all these years. I might as well share what I’m learning, like I have all the other aspects of brain injury, if only because writing does help me.
Mind you, this past month or so it hasn’t as much as it usually does. Instead of my heart rate dropping 10 beats/minutes, it drops 5. To me that’s reflective of the severity of the shark attack on my mind. Still, it’s a drop. And I might as well keep in practice.
In the end, I hope that all the emotional work I’m doing with my neurodoc, all the gamma brainwave training, and hopefully the new direction of my blogging will land me in a place where being positive is for real, not to suit someone else’s psychobabble.