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Getting Out of Too-Familiar Grooves After Traumatic Brain Injury

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Drive down a gravel road and there are grooves where the wheels of vehicles have worn the roadbed down. Driving in the grooves is easy. Leaving the grooves is hard work.  The car swerves and fights to return to the beaten path. The road seems more dangerous and less controlled.

It can be the same with anxiety or brain injury. The grooves are our predictable, routine and “normal lives.” They’re comfortable and easier to handle. Many people with anxiety or brain injury function better when things are predictable.

I function better within the groove of my comfort zone. I handle routine well. My brain knows what to do, what to expect. I am competent and confident. When something I don’t expect happens, my anxiety spikes and I may become overwhelmed while I try to make sense of the new situation and take action. I can almost smell the smoke of my brain overheating as it works to process the different input and situation.

The problem is that grooves limit where we go and how we get there. Our thoughts remain the same; our activities are limited. We seek safety at the cost of spontaneity and creativity. It inhibits a sense of joy and discovery.

The road can be repaired; the grooves filled in and smoothed over. It is work — hard, backbreaking, and frightening work. The grooves are continuity. They feel so safe. The new roadbed is change. Cars move faster on smooth roads.  Decisions must be made more quickly. We may make lane changes easier. We can go new places and do different things. The roads open up. But, it’s change. Who likes change when safety is in continuity? Who likes the boredom of the mind-numbing sameness? But breaking from the groove is hard.

Damn I hate grooves.

Getty image by Wakr10.

Originally published: April 23, 2018
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