If I Only Had a Brain
In my body. You know, like if my brain were a part of my body, my PHYSICAL body, and not some nebulous free-floating cloudy thing that exists only in my own… oh, wait. Silly me. I DO have a brain, and it is an actual solid organ in my (alas) all too solid body. When other physical organs in our physical bodies have a problem, those are treated as medical problems. We can’t see diabetes, or emphysema, or congestive heart failure when we look at a person.
We can’t see depression either. We can’t see bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, drug addiction, borderline personality disorder, paranoid delusional disorder or alcoholism. Yet we as a society treat them as if they are blameworthy, rather than recognizing them as what they are: Diseases of the body.
Allow me to illustrate, with a series of scans showing a healthy brain side-by-side with the brains of some people who have the illnesses listed above, starting with depression:
Is it any wonder people talk about having the blues? To me, this difference is remarkable, and wait until you see what’s next.
After having talked to numerous professionals about this, it seems that there’s a fairly high probability that Tony, in addition to having depression, may also have had bipolar disorder, and possibly schizophrenia as well, something that runs in his family:
There are literal holes in the schizophrenic brain, on the left. And then there are these, for PTSD:
The brains of people with various addictions:
Here’s the side-by-side of a brain with and without OCD:
With and without ADHD:
And finally, a variety of disorders:
What I find simultaneously fascinating and infuriating is that Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain injury and carbon monoxide poisoning are all treated as medical problems, meaning there are fewer limitations on coverage, higher levels of coverage, and certainly less stigmatization and shame of the patients.
So the next time someone makes a comment about illnesses of the brain being anything other than physical, I hope you’ll remember these pictures and think about asking them if they’ve ever seen side-by-side scans. I hope you’ll ask them what the difference is between a kidney disease, like diabetes, and a brain disease like schizophrenia. I’ve frequently heard some people opine that a disease is “mental” because we can’t see it. Well, we can. I can. I SEE IT.
These are real, treatable illnesses. No person, anywhere, deserves to be shamed, outcast or sidelined because they have a disease. Period.
This is National Suicide Prevention Week. The ribbon I used as today’s photograph is merely a symbol of what this week means to me. What it needs to mean, to all of us. It’s a starting off point for a conversation. It’s a means to an end of all the needless waste of suicide. In the time that it took me to research this blog entry, thousands of people took their own lives.