Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sunday Stroke Survivor ~ Inappropriate or Overkill Emotions

I've talked about my inappropriate responses on this blog for over a year. It has a name that I haven't discussed yet. It's called Psuedobulbar Affect (PBA). You may have seen recent television commercials about it recently. Now you are meeting someone afflicted with it. It's not depression.

It's a side effects of my stroke. No, I'm not crazy for laughing for no apparent reason, or bursting into torrential sobs at someone saying "boo," or going ballistic with rage when you drop a pin. I just can't help myself and I have no control over it either. No I'm not exaggerating or taking an author's license.

Some of you may remember the blog about the one and only wedding I officiated since my stroke. For those who didn't get a chance to read it, it's here. Since my stroke, you won't find me without a box of tissues and my incontinence pads for this very reason.

Everyone has something that tickles their funny bone. That's normal within the confines of the situation. People tear up at commercials or movies. That's normal too. Everyone has an instance where anger explodes for a just cause. That's normal too. What I'm talking about is no control and no outward event which triggers this response.

I can start crying for no apparent reason or laugh outrageously over something sad. Even if it is as image that I saw on television months ago of one of those starving children. All it takes is the picture to flutter through in my mind. The same thing goes with laughter and anger, or any emotional response. It is beyond appropriate to the extreme. I can laugh until I can't breathe and pee my pants. We used to joke about one of our daughters who would get so tickled that she always ran from the room saying, "I gotta pee!" Well I can't run nor have significant control of my bladder so I'll pee my panties.

My family and friends look at me with concern and ask if I'm okay. My usual response is an attempted nod of my head and a wave of my hand until I finally get control back. It can last several seconds or several minutes. That's why most of the events I go to revolve around family. I rarely go places surrounded by strangers because they will not understand what is going on. But I'm lucky, I have a huge family.

If it happens in public, I always have family or friends who will talk me down off the ledge. They will laughingly tell the truth to strangers, "She's okay. She's brain damaged." It gets some strange looks and people will sidle away with questionable looks and hope it's not catching. By the same token, I burst into tears at The Olive Garden one night because they ran out of what I wanted. It was like someone had told me my favorite dog had died. The poor waitress. Luckily that particular episode didn't last too long.

  • Embarrassing? Oh yes! 
  • Will it scar me for life? Nope because I realize it is part of my stroke affects me and not really me. It's no stranger than my AFO, cane, the way my arm won't move, or the way I speak. Although I will admit it is disconcerting to others. 
  • Stand out in a crowd? Yep, I sure do more than my physical impairments. But then, I've always considered myself as a unique being in a crowd of dull people anyhow.
  • Isn't there anything that can be done to fix this? Nope there isn't a cure. All they can do is prescribe drugs to ease the response. It doesn't stop it from happening. It's how my brain functions since the stroke.
Say hello to the new, and glorious me after a stroke. I was on Cymbalta before my stroke because of Fibromyalgia. Not depression. Now it seems that this same drug is used for PBA sufferers. It helps me keep control of my emotional outburst but not stop them entirely. There are many new drug therapies also. Welcome to my post stroke roller coaster- it's either a riot of laughter, crying in bucket loads, or exploding in indignant rage, but it's still me!

I refuse to hide under a rock.
I refuse to die.
I refuse to give up trying to be better.
I refuse to be ashamed of myself because of my circumstances.
Won't you join me?

Nothing is impossible with determination.


  1. Good for you. Good for you for having the guts to write about it, good for you for not hiding away in your house, good for you for being a survivor. I'm in awe of your determination and courage.

  2. Interesting. I'll have to look into this--I'm tying to figure out what I suffer from that sounds similar, but to a much lesser degree.
    Something like this you have to have a sense of humor with. I'm glad you have family there to talk you off the ledge. :D

  3. I have altered emotional responses to stimuli... mostly laughing at very inappropriate times!! I am embarrassed on one hand since I can't control it and also fascinated since I have no idea what part of my brain is damaged that would allow the barrier between appropriate and inappropriate behavior dissolve. I keep wondering if I can rewire emotional responses....
    do you know? Ditto on the above comment, good you have a large family and they are such a help!

  4. PK- it mainly affects people with some sort of brain insult like stroke, MS, Alzheimer and the like from what I understand, but then I've been known to be wrong.

    Blue- Rewiring emotional responses is harder than motor in my opinion. I know which part of the brain I damaged, but yours may be different. Yes, I am blessed with a large family and extended family.


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