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Traumatic Brain Injury

Shame and rage?

#1

My brain injury shames me and if I get into a social situation where I feel self-conscious I will break my contact with those people. If I cannot break the confusion and emotional vulnerability I will not allow myself to return to these people. In fact, I will withdraw to lick my wounds and take everything personally. Another part about my shame is being a bed-wetter for 39 years. (This stopped on my honeymoon when I wet the bed and my wife accepted me in it). I have let go, for the most part, of this crushing negative self-consciousness and feeling utterly hopeless, yet this shame around my brain is something I have not let go of.

For some reason my brain shames me to feeling worthless and my shame makes me cynical about relationships. My shame within my brain, on a social level, makes it so I cannot identify with anyone or anything. When I cannot identify with anyone or anything I become irrational, I make extremely poor judgment, and I make poor choices about which actions to take. If I feel I cannot make contact with the environment and fearing I have reached some dead end in my life the shame of nothingness will make me seethe. I will sink into this physical shame from bed-wetting, which communicates insecurity and powerlessness, then the rage just explodes.

There is something about my shame that is perverse and dark. At times I can feel a terrifying attraction to the darkness, as the shame becomes this obsession. This shame/rage is communicating that I have to relentlessly repulse the world and other human beings. In many ways, shame is built into my fleeting human contact and it fills my mind with hatred. Also I have learned to defy guilt feelings for shame and rage, so I do not have to modify my behavior. My dilemma is I become more self-conscious and more paranoid about being stupid.

I will admit I am proud of my combativeness and yet it seems this pride I have used as denial can no longer work. I even actually feel ashamed writing this, because being a failure makes me not want to get involved with anything. Instead it feels like my shame, within my rage, is just an addiction. I am addicted to my internal violence because my pride is crushed and rage is my power overcome my being nothing. I then feel this shame is blocking any possibility of identification with anyone else. Getting involved with others always goes into these dead end streets, I then become self-conscious and naturally social life becomes a burden.

I realize there is something very human about shame and I just feel now there is nowhere to hide. I am also tired of being “told” who I am not by others and by life. I want to ask a couple questions because my shame will not allow me to be present as an individual and I need to acquire a new depth. How can we filter this raw material of shame/rage and paradoxically create a shameless being within a brain injury? Is there a consciousness of self-respect and enormous dignity that allows one to be aware of our true worth without the faintest whiff of pride or self-congratulation?

Thank you for allowing this to be a place to begin.

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#2

Syd,

You speak to the issue of shame with insight and eloquence. I believe that we can choose self-respect and dignity without self-congratulation or pride, and that it is absolutely necessary to do so. IDK if that answers the question that you posed, but I feel that the ignorance and stigmatization about TBI from society can become a toxic type of internalized self-hatred unless we identify the many toxic stereotypes and messages of inferiority that are so pervasive out in the world. Shame and rage are too familiar to me now that I suffer from TBI, but for me, it’s often in response to the insufferable ignorance and biases that I encounter when having to deal with people who have only a tenuous understanding of TBI.

This week in traffic court a highly biased judge/commissioner made some incredibly inappropriate remarks and it was a sorry debacle… it felt like more of a three-ring circus than a professionally-run court of law. My civil rights were violated, my request for Accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act was ignored, and I was treated like a child or someone’s naughty puppy for having missed a court date. I felt like bursting a blood vessel having to endure the insufferable idiocy displayed by the judge.

I’ve been in tears since then and still cannot wrap my brain around the failure by court staff to just provide simple ADA Accommodations. This time I’m choosing to direct my anger and rage outward, and am complaining to the Commission on Judicial Performance, the Presiding Judge, and to Human Resources. It was the misconduct of the Disability Services Coordinator that galls me to no end: she had no business trying to act like a PTA mom, rather than just doing her job and handing me a simple form. Something about the road to hades being paved with good intentions comes to mind. I do not feel obliged to have to endure quietly the insufferable ignorance and arrogance and prejudices of some imbecile that happens to be a traffic commissioner, and indeed I cannot.

Still, just comprising the written complaint left me exhausted and embarrassed, because it was full of typos and other errors that my brain was just unable to edit out when I finally just printed it and put it in the mail. But who cares, I’m trying to maintain my own sanity and process legitimate feelings of outrage for intolerable indignities, and a big part of that was just getting my feelings out of me and letting them know that “this is NOT okay.” A human being can only take so much oppression and abuse.

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#3

Anna1,

I like how you express, “I believe that we can choose self-respect and dignity without self-congratulation or pride, and that it is absolutely necessary to do so.” This word “choice” and wanting respect/integrity speaks volumes from you. Your choice to not be walked on and to experience this directly in your writing feels different than just a shell around your innermost self. I also feel you are not trying to find ways by which to stay in flight from your TBI. This speaks volumes and your “choice” appears considerate of your own needs and asking this to be given to you in return.

Your tears appear to express feeling overwhelmed and violated. When I feel overwhelmed my nervous system tunes to a higher pitch and I lack the ability to repress unconscious impulses. This fuels intense involvement in my perceptions and then my emotional involvement arouses strong feelings, which at times can find difficult to control. I become suspicious of those who have power over me and then I start cussing. It gets so complex and exhausting I will walk away and stop trying to make contact with others. You appear to have better courage and want to accept what respect is telling you by choosing to direct your anger and rage outward in doing only what is truly good for you.

Your “choice” of your written complaint is like a message in a bottle, washing up on the shore of your consciousness, wanting respect while maintaining your own. It feels like honoring this respect, as you are describing, breaks down this being told who we are not. Maybe this respect is a shift in this very state of consciousness into more of a stage of consciousness. This stage, from you, feels like a reorganization of our sense of self, and everything holds it place from within. This respect possibly can hold me into embracing life without my emotional reactions. I just want to say, there is something about your respect that offers this creative flow and it cannot be otherwise. Thank you.

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