The author explains the theories behind a "broken brain". Addicts, depression and OCD sufferers, PTSD victims as well as eating disorder sufferers have what the author refers to as a "broken brain". As far as I'm concerned, the theories sited in this article make some sense. I am a firm believer that people who are prone to addiction have brain deficiencies very much like people who have depression and other neurological disorders and imbalances. I also believe that once a person becomes aware of what is wrong with them they do have the power to TRY to fix it and stay on a healthy path, but I know that's also way easier said than done, especially if you live a life of high stress.
I read some of the comments and replies to the article, and what I found there did not surprise me. A refreshing mixture of "addicts make bad choices" "this broken brain bullshit is-bullshit!" "depression is made up" "drug addicts are just lazy" Negative and ignorant comments all tossed in with clearly personal, very heart wrenching stories from addicts and sufferers of depression, as well as family members of such sufferers, who agree 100% with what this woman is saying, that some people's brains ARE BROKEN, and that these brain disorders (addiction included) are just that - a DISORDER.
This doesn't mean I believe that there aren't people out there who are just using to use.. People like to party, and here in the states, we like to party A LOT. And yes, once someone's been through rehab, the next time they go to use, they PROBABLY do have a voice inside their head saying "you probably shouldn't do this". But how strong does someone have to be to overcome an extreme CHEMICAL/NEUROLOGICAL problem in the brain? I have never been addicted to a drug, but I've had depression and I've had an eating disorder - which could essentially be called an addiction. I became addicted to the feeling of control I gained when I felt myself starving. I became addicted how amazing it felt to stuff myself with food, and the relief that came with puking it all out.
I have a few people very close to me are smokers. I find it insane and disgusting. It smells, and it makes no sense; they are essentially making an active choice everyday to kill themselves. Knowingly ingesting something into their otherwise healthy bodies MULTIPLE times a day - even though they know it's wrong, and even though they know that the consequences for such an action could be DEADLY.
So what does that mean for these smokers? What does it say about them? I am extremely close to these people and I know they don't have an attitude of "f*** it, I'm gonna do what I want.." so what's their deal? Their deal is that they are addicted. They are broken. Their bodies and brains are SO accustomed to having these toxins that when they go without it, they withdraw and everything feels wrong and the easiest way to get it to feel right is to deliver what the brain and body want - which is nicotine.
"..the last person to know that his brain is broken is the person with the broken brain."
I have a broken brain. I know that now, but for a very long time I didn't. I started suffering from what I now know is depression, at the pretty young age of 13. I knew that there was something wrong with me. I knew things weren't right. I was tired, I had bad dreams, terrible thoughts. I acted out towards girls at school, I hurt myself. By the time I was 14 and headed to high school I was suicidal. I was worn out. I felt numb and hopeless. Nothing interested me and I found myself putting on a happy face for the sake of the people who loved me, and who I loved, mostly for my parents. I carried with me all the unhappiness and hurt of past transgressions and sadness sat on my shoulders with the weight of a 150lb anvil. Why was I so miserable? Couldn't pinpoint it. I didn't like a lot about life, or myself but didn't know what exactly or why. Then I started to hone in on my body. Yes, my pudgy body - that was definitely the problem. So In high school I started to starve myself and binge and purge. It became an addiction. It was incredibly hard to control. I couldn't stop. I had to keep going. The people closest to me never even knew. I was great at hiding it. When I finally came out with it all, years later, I had a flurry of questions thrown my way. "Why did you do that? You were beautiful!" "You've had such a great life, great family, a loving boyfriend, you're talented.." The list goes on and on, and had anyone asked the 14, 16, 18 year old me at the time, she would have said, "I don't know why."
Did I know in some part of my brain that it was bad for me? Yes. Did I care, Yes. I cared, but the anxiety and reactions my body would have when I didn't exert these behaviors was too much to handle. It ached for me to binge, it ached even harder for me to purge. So I did, again and again. I felt weak for not being able to just STOP myself, which only devastated me more. I imagine it is the same way for most addicts; whether they be addicted to drugs, alcohol, or even food.
It took me a long time to get help. To sit in a room with a professional and have her tell me "you are broken. You are chemically and neurologically and emotionally challenged. Your brain is wired wrong, and we have to rewire it."
I know now that in times of high stress and anxiety that I am going to feel a certain way. I'm going to think unhealthy thoughts, I'm going to ache to cope with it in a way that's detrimental to my healthy, whether it be by binging and purging, drinking too much, or overeating. I know now that I have a broken brain, and it's a struggle on most days to remind myself of the ways I need to work to rewire it.
I don't take anti depressants because I don't trust them. Would one probably help me chemically? Yes. Maybe after trying 10 or 20 different types I may find the right one, but I don't want to. I took them once and they scared me. So now I do my research. I eat foods that help elevate certain chemicals in the body that fight depression. I try to keep things balanced. I exercise and that helps a ton. I write in journals. I pep talk myself. Sometimes after a meal I feel is really heavy I feel an incredible discomfort and my automatic reaction is to throw up, to get it out. I think of the relief, it's like my body prepares for it. Craves it. Had I never gotten help, I'd be in the bathroom in .4 seconds, but I've gotten help, I know something isn't right, that I have to keep working to rewire myself, so I reach out to someone close to me when I feel like I am falling back into a behavior that's going to feed my "broken brain." I know it's always going to be a battle, but at least I've gotten myself into a position where I CAN battle it. Most people aren't so lucky.
I have a friend who suffers from PTSD. He has incredibly dark thoughts, he has a hard time focusing. He's an extremely gifted and smart fella, and he's incredibly kind and caring. Some days he finds it hard to get out of bed, but 'lazy' is the last word I would ever use to describe him. He's had his share of extremely hard times, and he carries the pain from those instances with him. For over 35 years he's carried the burden of painful experiences, abuse, betrayal, and injuries - both physical and psychological. He has only just recently begun to get help. He never once assumed the physiology of his brain was to blame. He just knew he'd had a pretty shitty life, and that things were hard, which in turn gave him nightmares, horrible thoughts, he was even what you could call a real douchebag at one point in time. He chocked it all up to his "rough life" and just let it ride. Eventually, he grew out of it. He learned to control his anger, despite his bad days. He just worked hard everyday to be a better person. In times of high stress, his dark thoughts and nightmares increase dramatically. He is fatigued, he is worn down and nearly incapacitated. His brain is broken, but not in a way that every allowed him to become an addict, and not in a way that kept him from making any choices altogether. Lucky for him, he has support, he has therapy. After 35 years of hiding it all, he's gone to a professional, undergone tests and been diagnosed. He has people who love him, people he can talk to about it all and not feel judged or ashamed.
The mental health care in this country, especially for those people who don't have health insurance, is sub - par or non existent. in school we are educated about sex, but not really so much about mental health. Maybe in a class or two we touched on depression and anxiety in health class. We watched films about eating disorders and bullying.. for how long? One class for one semester of high school? It's no wonder so many people who are suffering are afraid and ashamed to say something is wrong - because they know most of us won't get it. They know how intolerant people can be about mental illness, how hard it is to get people to understand them when they say, "something is wrong with me, but I don't know what." or "I can't stop shooting up and I don't know why."
Almost everything I know about depression and any of the disorders I suffer or those around me suffer from, comes from research I do on my own, and what I talked to my therapist about. I have taken knowledge from books and articles, talks with my mother (who suffers from depression) and others like my friend with PTSD.
But when I was a young girl, I didn't know what was wrong. I had no idea. I knew what sadness was, and I had a lot of it. I didn't know something could be wrong with my brain, that it could be sick or broken. We have kids shooting other kids, bullying each other and killing themselves at extremely young ages. We don't hesitate to think that when a 10 year old boy buys a gun and shoots up his school that he must be "sick" in the head.. so why is it so hard to believe that so many adults can be sick in the head as well?
I don't think the author of the above article is arguing that no one ever has a choice. I think she's saying we have a choice to a certain point. She states very clearly from the get go that most people, when we are young, experiment and unbeknownst to most of us - there is a section of people who have broken brains that are just going to eat that shit up - whether it be heroin, crack, marijuana, cigarettes, booze, throwing up our food, etc. And once we pop, we can't stop. The other sector of folks can. They can shoot up and walk away from it, they can binge drink for a weekend and never want to touch the stuff again. Some people are lucky and they have brains that don't have chemical imbalances and damaged neurological wiring. That is great for them. But what about those of us who do have those bad wires.
What about those of us who are broken?