Christmas is upon us and so is our friend Mr. Anxiety. . . . .

How to Cope with Traumatic Brain Injury Anxiety at Christmas (or any holiday)


Greetings to all the awesome people reading my blog!!! You are the best!!

Just when I think my old friend anxiety has moved on and broke up with me here he comes slithering back into my life like a bad penny.

Anxiety first came into my life unannounced on Thanksgiving 2013. This was five months after my car accident that left me with my Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I have always fixed Thanksgiving so why should this year be any different. I am pretty sure I told my Doctor this and I am pretty sure he gave me the look. I’ve always been stubborn but after my TBI – I am really stubborn, hard headed, pig-headed. I did it my way and had Thanksgiving at my house. My daughter Kayla and my son Riley were there to help out. Randy, my husband, drives a truck and he would be coming home from Utah early afternoon.

I had everything planned out, look at me I have this. Then people started to arrive and Randy wasn’t home yet. For the past ten years, he had deep fried our Thanksgiving Turkey. Stress washed over me. Then I started having negative thoughts about myself. I was a failure. Why was everyone early?

I went immediately into the bathroom when I started shaking and was sweating. Kayla came in and told me I was having an anxiety attack. A what? Me never. I was always in control. She got me to calm down. Randy arrived home and Kayla went to brief him. Not knowing how to handle this he came in and said what most people would say “knock it off”. He could have slapped me and it wouldn’t have hurt as much as those three words. In all fairness, this was a first for me and for him too. We both had a lot to learn.

That year my family decided that we were going to change up Christmas. I again always had everyone out to my house. They came up with the idea we would open our presents leisurely, then go to the movies afterward we would come home and have Prime Rib. I was actually excited about this. Not everyone understood the reason behind this. They felt it was my decision and not one that my family came up with to protect me. We’ve done it the past two years and I love it.

I think I have had people say all the mean things to me:  

  • Why can’t you control when this is going to happen. I wish!
  • What are you so anxious about?Get over it! I love this one
  • It’s all in your head.Why don’t you just stop worrying?  Hear that brain!
  • You are just seeking attention.
  • You don’t know how things are going to turn out so stop worrying.  
  • It could be worse or other people have it worse off than you.
  • Think happy thoughts.

traumatic brain injury anxiety holidaysHave you ever said any of the above statements to a person?  If you have,  I urge you to get on the phone right now and call them and to say: “I am so sorry I was an idiot to you”.

If you are at an event with these obnoxious people walk away from them. You do not need to hear this garbage. Then avoid these people like they’re the plague.

To all the people in my life that have said:

  • I just wanted to let you know you’re not alone in this.
  • How can I help?
  • I am thinking of you.
  • I love you anxiety and all.
  • I on my way bringing you dinner.

A BIG thank you for understanding my anxiety. Thank you for not thinking I am crazy or for not saying it out loud.

Remember how awesome you are. If Uncle Zeke is bragging about how successful he is, remember he is also flawed and could be faking it. No one goes to a party to complain about their issues (well there are a few), most go so they can brag about what good things have occurred in their life.

With a lot of help from my Doctor, some counseling and unfortunately medicine for Depression and anxiety (I currently take Venlafaxine ER).    I am doing much better.  I have also tried other things to help me cope:

  • I have several adult coloring books that help me refocus when anxiety hits. Take these with you to a Holiday functions.
  • I do breathing exercises. Take a long breathe in and hold it for a count of 3 then slowly release.
  • Say Positive affirmations like “I can do this,” “I’m doing great”, or “Everything is OK”.
  • Write in your journal.
  • Browse the positive pins on Pinterest. Having Pinterest on my phone is a great tool if I feel anxiety coming on I just browse Pinterest. You may want to avoid Facebook/Twitter as sometimes they make me more anxious.
  • Listen to music. I know they recommend soothing music. Leave it to me to be a little bit of the opposite. I like to drive alone and turn my music up loud. My listening genre varies I like ACDC, Metallic, Rob Zombie, Rage Against the Machine, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, KISS, ZZ Top. . . Do you get the idea? Whatever helps you is what you want to try.

 If you are feeling bad tell a loved one or significant other “I just need someone to hug me and tell me I’m not as worthless as I think I am”. Hugs are awesome.

Remember it is okay if you don’t make a big spread for 50 people this season. Someone else can host it. Just enjoy the season.

I have a sign on the wall that says “We put the fun in dysfunctional”.

If any of you have good ways to combat anxiety please comment back to me. I am always looking for tools to have in case anxiety strikes.

Christmas Eve, we are opening gifts with Kayla and her wife Makayla. I am thinking of making some easy appetizers. My daughter-in-law is the BEST cook, so I am sure she’ll help. Christmas Day will be laid back. Randy is cooking Prime Rib on the Traeger. Randy’s mom is coming over we will eat then meet Kayla and Makayla at the movies. If you know of a good movie my family would enjoy let me know (my kids are 19 and 27). What are you doing this Christmas?

Be Safe and Warmest wishes at Christmas and always,

Pam


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The Joys of Decorating My House For Christmas with a TBI

TBI and Christmas

Christmas – I have always loved Christmas: the music, the sights, and sounds. Three years with a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and Christmas is not the same to me.

 

Saturday night I decided it was time to decorate the house. My husband, Randy, and our son Riley were in charge of getting the decorations out. I left them to their task.

I went to check on them in the front room. My mind started spinning. They had pulled every box out from the storage space there was Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I immediately started shutting down, as I was having a panic attack. It ended with a heated discussion between Randy and me.

I got up early on Sunday to see if I could do anything with the decorating. I went in and I immediately spotted a big storage container that was clear and I could see the contents inside. It was my snowmen that I decorate my kitchen with. They look pretty cute the way I displayed them.tbi christmas

Back into the dreaded front room, I spotted a clear plastic container and I went to it as I could see everything that was in it and make a game plan. The other containers were red and green and there is no way to know what was inside.

When we moved to this house a year ago my Rehabilitation Doctor offered the suggestion I label each box with what specifically was in there. I did and that worked wonderfully and quickly got my kitchen unpacked.

I started opening the colored containers and it was like what is this stuff. It was like I had never seen this stuff before, We’ve had these decorations for 29 years.

The house got decorated but, I decided when it is time to put Christmas away, we are investing in more clear storage containers. They are easy for me to see at a glance what is in there and where it goes.

Tips that would make decorating easier for someone with a TBI or anxiety.

  • Make sure that you are well rested before you start the decorating. Do it in the morning if possible. Make sure your spouse hasn’t worked all day either.

  • Ask for help and be patient with your help.

  • If you start feeling frustrated you need to stop and take a mind break. It is okay if it takes you a couple of days to do your decorating.

  • CAREGIVERS: Be patient with us! Understand it is a change and we do not adapt to changes as well as we did prior to the TBI.

  • Be sure to tell us things to boost our self-esteem. Self-esteem can be a big thing we loose after a TBI.

My house looks beautiful and I am happy. I just have to remember to plan for these things.

QUESTION: Do you like White lights or colored lights? Leave me a  comment why.

Hope you have an utterly awesome week!

See you next time!!

Pam

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