Brain aneurysms are devastating and can strike at a moment’s notice. There are limited warning signs of an impending brain aneurysm, and they can change your life in a myriad of difficult ways if you survive one.
If you know someone who has had a brain aneurysm, it’s paramount to treat them with openness and patience, as they can look fine on the outside, but inside they may be suffering from a host of physical and mental symptoms. Moments of frustration or irrationality can be common, but it’s important to remember the regular pain and adjustments they experience on a regular basis.
Survivors face the potential for physical, emotional, and cognitive changes that can be minor or significant, short-term or long-lasting. There are many symptoms that can impact the quality of life and life expectancy for survivors of brain aneurysms. Survivors can often feel a loss of control over their emotions, meaning they may be prone to acting out in anger or frustration at a moment’s notice. There doesn’t need to be any rational reason for these outbursts or warning signs of a coming burst of emotion. Changes in self-esteem and self-confidence as a result of new physical and mental limitations is also common. It is important to talk to your family, doctor, and therapist about how you feel and how to adjust to the “new” you.
Experiencing depression and anxiety after treating a brain aneurysm could happen to 1 in 5 patients. Unfortunately, it’s often under diagnosed, and survivors don’t know they should be seeking treatment for depression because they are dealing with so many other adjustments at the same time. But there is no need to suffer in silence.
The brain is a highly complex and intricate organ with many centers and sub-parts controlling emotions. Brain aneurysms often disrupt these centers and can lead to the damaging of the basal ganglia, which goes a long way in controlling emotion. Survivors of brain aneurysms and other brain injuries can still lead a completely normal and healthy life, though they oftentimes need to adjust in large and dramatic ways to their new way of living.
Oftentimes, survivors of a brain aneurysm will feel different and set apart from the rest of the world. There is no greater stress than the sudden, unexpected health emergency. In the aftermath, survivors are shocked, confused, and left searching for a way to understand what has happened. Sadly, 40-45% of those struck by a ruptured brain aneurysm will not survive. The statistics alone can be scary, isolating, and cause anxiety. Individuals may choose to isolate themselves because of their condition and recede from life in general. Finding a group that understands your emotions and the road through recovery is essential when needing an outlet and support. It’s also important to welcome survivors with open arms and make sure they feel supported and accepted within their community.
There are many online support communities dedicated to making survivors feel accepted and part of a larger group. The Brain Aneurysm Foundation is a great resource for both online and physical support that can help survivors cope with their newfound sense of isolation and anxiety. Mood swings and instability are common after a brain aneurysm and shouldn’t be shunned or feared but accepted and treated to the best of your abilities.
You will feel changed, or isolated, as a result of the aneurysm treatment. But you are not alone. Attend Brain Aneurysm Support Group meetings or connect with others on the Brain Aneurysm Foundation’s online support community.
One of the most insidious elements of brain aneurysms is the inner turmoil survivors experience. Our brains are designed to help us make sense of what has happened and it assigns meanings to events. During periods of grief and distress, our minds often conjure up irrational thoughts that may cause guilt, anger, or self-criticism, emotions that aggravate and prolong grief. Some are often confused and undergo radical changes to their self esteem and appetite, as well as altered sleep patterns and guilt. All of these symptoms can alter relationships and cause a negative impact on their quality of life.
At the same time, there probably won’t be any outside signs of a struggle. The grief and pain some feel is often suppressed to the inside of their psyche and psychological profile. In short, it’s important to understand the pain and empathize with the grief survivors experience on a regular basis.
It is important to recognize that the thoughts that occur to you when you are stressed are not always accurate representations of reality. Monitor your thoughts and test them for whether or not they make sense by discussing them with others and question them yourself. Talk to others openly about your thoughts and feelings that you are having during the grieving process.
The first and most important thing to remember as a caregiver, is that mood swings and changed behavior are completely normal. If the survivor experienced bleeding and swelling before or after surgery, then their symptoms may be more profound and intense. Knowing their mental and medical state is of the utmost importance when caring for them and staying on top of where they are in their journey.
The first few months of recovery are often most challenging, but the recovery journey is ongoing for many in the years ahead. Survivors should keep up a healthy lifestyle, which means an absence of smoking, keeping high blood pressure under control, and avoiding alcohol on a regular basis. As a caregiver it can seem like it’s your full responsibility to monitor their lifestyle, when supporting them and having a healthy communication line on what the priorities are essential. Relying on outside support and resources and leaning on your community can be extremely beneficial as well. Maintaining your own mental health is equally as important as providing for a survivor. There will be a better chance for recovery if the survivor and the family maintain hope, even when facing a long recovery process.