Mental health: the concealed truth of brain injury

The issue that is mental health

For far too long, mental illness has not had the attention and support it needs. We have been brought up in a world where it’s been looked down upon. People feel the need to bottle their feelings up for fear of being labelled as weak. But with around 25% of the world’s population suffering from some form of mental illness, this just doesn’t make sense. Those with a brain injury are at much higher risk of developing a mental health issue. Making them feel under greater pressure from society.

Living with those dark days

When you can’t be comfortable in your own skin, everything can be a form of torture. From many things frightening you, and worrying your peers think you’re a drama queen, to berating yourself, each day is a challenge. When you have had a brain injury though, it can feel like this isn’t  a “mental health issue”, just that you’re being a realist. 

I realised I couldn’t do many things as well as I could before, and for me that decreased my worth. After my career ended I felt I had nothing to offer society in anyway and I’d lost my identity. That felt like a rational response. Although I understood I was depressed, I thought that my reasoning was reasonable, so how could that be mental illness? So in a way that stopped me from seeking help when I should have. I believed that there was nothing that could be done to help and this was my reality now.

In 1990, 416 million people suffered from depression or anxiety worldwide – these numbers rose to 615 million in 2013 (World Health Organisation, 2016).

 

Being frightened even when something was telling me to stop being silly

Anxiety for me, is like those cartoons with the devil and angel being your conscience. One will be hitting the panic button like their life depends on it, while the other is telling me that I’m in an everyday situation, don’t worry. I find this little argument going on inside my head is exhausting. Eventually I’m too tired to fight and give in to the panic button, whilst the other little character is calling me a spineless idiot. I know I’m over reacting and I hate myself for it. But of course I would, I mean, who likes a melodrama?

But I didn’t appreciate that as I’d been through a trauma my brain was just trying to protect me. It didn’t want to be complacent and let something bad happen again. The day my car accident happened was just a normal day, and I would never have known what was coming up. So you can for give my brain for obeying the saying “once bitten, twice shy.”

My logic became my enemy

I had always been a pretty logical person. Not Star Treks'”Spock” logical, but I was still unlikely to make a snap judgement without analysing things first.

But as I seemed to be able to find a “logical” reason for the majority of my reactions, I couldn’t accept that makes it a mental health problem. I was sure that most people in my situation would feel the same. And I was probably right, but that’s not the point. But as long as I could tell myself my feelings could be expected, I didn’t see that there could be anything to help me.

monsters don't live under your head they live inside your head

 

Hitting rock bottom became my saviour

Once I’d allowed myself to crumble completely under the stress I was putting myself under, I gave in. I stopped caring if it might be reasonable to be thinking this way, because I couldn’t go on like this.  Finally, I understood why some people turn to illegal drugs to escape their lives. I wasn’t as dramatic as that, but I did accept I should try antidepressants. Initially I had been put off be the idea that it would be just a chemical response, and my feelings would not be real. But as my world imploded that didn’t seem to matter any more, as I could barely function. 

So I started taking what I affectionately refer to is my “Happy pills”. I mean that in a very tongue in cheek way, as I know this name was traditionally used in a condescending way. They turn down (not off) the panic button, so I could start to rebuild my resilience. And in time I began to feel more “normal”.

I dug myself a huge hole by not seeking and accepting help earlier. Whilst I accept my responsibility in making that decision, it was based on some of the out date views I had been brought up on. I’m  not blaming my parents, but society as a whole. We need to change this mind set so more people don’t continue to suffer in silence.

You can read in Hangry vs brain injury. Let’s avoid the grumpy outcome,   on how you can help ease your anger through eating at sensible times. And in Master the act of ditching the hurtful but inconsequential things. Battle of brain injury survivor, I talk about letting go of the small stuff.

Other articles you might like:

What would you like people to understand about mental health? Please let’s make a stand and help others realise that it’s OK to need support when they are down.

There is a lot of focus on brain injury survivors physical recovery. But we have to mentally survive first......
Following my brain injury my mental health took a nose dive. But I had to learn to ask for help before it was too late.

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6 Replies to “Mental health: the concealed truth of brain injury”

  1. Thank you very much for this article. I have/am feeling the same way as you in my “recovery” it is very easy to feel alone, or that none of this is “real” thank you for your words and good luck.

  2. I have chiari malformation of the brain, no cure, I’ve had to failed brain surgeries, and need a third to stabilize my symptoms. I suffer from horrible depression, and anxiety, thank you for this article

    1. Sheila I’m sorry you are going through so much. But if in any way my little story helps you know you’re not alone, that makes me happy.

  3. Gosh this article is me, feels like you have been in my head and read my thoughts. I have got to the stage where ‘I give in’ I can no longer keep up the fight in my head, arguing with myself which is right thinking and wrong thinking. Telling myself to change my perspective, look for a positive in this. Some days you just can’t. I can no longer pretend for every one else that it’s ok. It’s not! So I’ve asked for help, I will have some pills please if it’s going to help me stop those over welheming emotions that take hold, if it can stop me going down the wrong road of comparing myself to how I was before brain surgery and the broken brain that I am now. This is how I am going to be able to go forward, why do we feel we fail because we take medication? When this is putting our recovery back in our own control? So here goes, I am on medication to help this poorly brain, to get a grip of this new way of how I have to live. We have to do something. If it was a broken leg we wouldn’t think twice about asking for treatment to aid recovery. Let’s make our mental health, healthy. Thanks for blog, always well written and spot on. Jo

    1. Hi Jo, yes it’s weird that we feel differently about mental health than we do physical health. I hope the new medication helps you. Give it plenty of time. Mine initially made my anxiety loads worse, but once I’d give my body a chance to adjust it improved both my depression and anxiety.

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