Friday, April 26, 2013

Cognitive Misfire

   I was going to make this most recent post about the inherit fallacy of dieting, but I'll hold off on that for awhile and instead address a little thing I call the cognitive misfire. We are familiar I think with this occurrence: you are looking for your keys and realize they are in your hand etc.  When you have a former or current brain injury these little misfires can come not only more often, but can be a little more troubling, especially when they pertain to emotions.
  Now to be fair, I'm not a nueroscientist, or have any degree in psychology or psychiatry, so all that I am about to tell you may be bullshit. But I am just doing a lot of research on all three of these topics for a book I am currently working on. I am going to share a little bit about those moments where your brain not work so good.
  One of the more troubling things that happens when you have a major head injury is that your emotions can be thrown all out of whack. You have rage that bubbles up for no reason, you get really sad and tear up sometimes without explanation, you laugh uncontrollably at inappropriate times. In the past, my friends and I used to make a joke about these occurrence and call them "male PMS." More recently I have begun to suspect this is one of the long term affects of an brain injury I sustained in 2003.
   Most of the time, I work pretty diligently to maintain and control these outbursts of emotion through meditation, herbal tea, yoga, exercise etc. Occasionally though, I don't keep up with these things as much as I should and occasionally, people have to deal with one of these seemingly out of character emotional outbursts. A lot of things can exacerbate the situation like alcohol, lack of sleep, stress at work or at home etc. Every once and awhile - and a lot more before I learned how to manage these issues - people around can be hurt by these outbursts. Especially when it comes to anger. One of lovely things your brain does when it gets conflicting information is it tries to make order out of chaos. Unfortunately when you have a damaged brain, you brain will try to "order" things that don't really belong together. For example: you are angry and don't know why, and at that moment you randomly think of your grandma. All of the sudden, your grandma becomes the object of your anger, even if you are really angry about something else, or as can be the case with brain injuries, you are angry with no actual concrete cause. Bingo! Cognitive misfire.
   Usually when I have these, I have the good sense to sit on the thought for at least a day. Nine times out of ten, I realize it's irrational and let it go. Even if it is reasonable, I still sit on it for while to make sure its actually worth dealing with. Again, nine times out of ten its nothing and I just let it go. But every once and while, one sneaks past my better judgement and wrecks havoc.
   This is one of the reasons I try really hard to AVOID THE INTERNET during times when this is happening. Amongst your friends, if you send a bizarre out of nowhere angry text to someone, you can explain the next day and hopefully eventually forget about the whole thing. On the internet however, that shit can become everyone's business, and suddenly you've involved fifteen or more people in you cognitive misfire. It also stays there, in the cloud, forever, like a giant dead rat no one can locate in your radiator.
   One of the other frustrating things about these occurrences is it is in my nature to try and explain them when they happen while not necessarily acknowledging it may be because of my brain issues. This is also usually a bad idea. I have the amazing ability to compound the problem when I do this. This is where the situation leaps its way from cognitive misfire to neurotic stupidity. Up until this point, I kind of still have an excuse for what is happening, although granted, had I been better at keeping up with the maintenance exercises, this might not have happened. Afterward however, I am past the point of an accident, and have now buried myself in a blackhole of stupid. This, as many of you know, is what happened to me a couple of weeks ago.
   One of the other more unfortunate things when these cognitive misfires happen is that you are not aware they are happening until sometimes days later. When this happens, the best thing you can do is a) immediately apologize for whatever it is you have done/said b) explain the about your issues, honesty is the best policy at this point, c) be more aware of the things that may trigger you (i.e. lack of sleep and alcohol in this case), and d) avoid the goddamn internet for a least one night

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