Friday, 6 November 2015

Emotions aren't scary

I thought I'd write a blog post on the emotional changes after stroke. They can be hidden and very hard to understand. If you're maybe over emotional (like me) people will just assume you're depressed. Which is not the case. At all.
People don't see the emotional side so when you are emotional or anxious, people don't understand and unfortunately, they judge.
It is 100% normal to have emotional changes after stroke or brain injury, it is very common but we still don't like to talk about it that much.

Ok, I'll be open with you, I suffer with emotional lability and anxiety. I see them as the worst combination of emotional problems sometimes.
Emotional Lability (or Pseudobulbar effect- PBA), as defined by good old wikipedia, is 'a neurological disorder characterised by involuntary crying or uncontrollable episodes of crying/laughter.'
Now people looking at this will think 'omg' or they might even think that I'm a complete weirdo who's emotionally unstable but I can tell you now that it's not like how it is characterised. I never experience uncontrollable outbursts of crying or laughter. My emotional lability is characterised by, kinda, 'over-the-top happiness' so basically I'm a very smiley, happy person. If you ask anyone, the first thing they'll say is that I smile a lot. Even when I'm angry or upset I will smile, I try not to make it seem deadly serious sometimes, that helps a lot.
When I get angry I may giggle uncontrollably sometimes or I may cry; I always say that my brain makes it come out wrong. People then think that I'm upset but I'm really not. Trust me.
So it's not awful, right?

Then my anxiety, just like it affects others, I can become sweaty, my breathing will accelerate and my vision can go a bit 'funny', if I come across something that particularly scares or makes me anxious. So with walking (on my own only), I have a fear of falling, so my anxiety can increase then too. It doesn't become severe but it will niggle at me and my breathing might change a little.

And then we have talking. Due to my speech clarity I have an automatic fear response whenever I talk to someone new. I don't panic but just like when your nervous, I will get 'butterflies' in my stomach and may have sweaty, clammy palms. My mouth might dry as well.
Once I get talking, I will not shut up. I come out my shell and talking becomes natural to me again.

Emotions are hard. Sometimes it will be completely different to how I've described. Not worse or anything, just different. It's unpredictable. Everyone's emotions are. Even if you haven't had a brain injury.

My tips for ANYONE experiencing emotional lability or anxiety, similar to mine, would be:
1) Listen to music
This automatically calms me down, no doubt about it. You don't have to listen to a soothing, relaxing tune (well, only if it helps you). I listen to house music or some music thats upbeat and happy a lot of the time so I just put that on. It's what I'm used to, it's what I like.
2) Laugh!
If you're experiencing something that is making you angry, laugh about it. I've found that my mum will always make a joke or say something funny when I'm really angry at something. This will help stop me crying and just help with anxiety about the situation.
3) Breathe!
I know it's said a lot but seriously, breathing does help, surprisingly! From my emotional counsellor at college, I learnt to draw a figure 8 over and over again with your finger while you breathe in and out deeply.
4) Distract yourself
If you can feel anxiety or stress bubbling up inside you, instead of it becoming 'too much', just do something else. Look at your phone. Make a joke.
One time at college I felt my emotional lability beginning to surface, so I just distracted myself by putting my notebook and pencil case back in my bag. My mind instantly calmed.

So if you're reading this, don't be hard on yourself. We all have emotions, we all display them differently.

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