The Secret of a Broken Brain | Teen Ink

The Secret of a Broken Brain

January 3, 2022
By addie-nevins BRONZE, Maplewood, Missouri
addie-nevins BRONZE, Maplewood, Missouri
4 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Our bodies have funny ways of protecting us and our minds, especially as children. Sometimes, when we experience something that is too much, our brains break. The nerves that send signals between the memory storing parts of our brain, the danger sensing parts of our brain, and our ‘system control’ become damaged. They continue to grow damaged as we age, and they don't fix themselves. They endure the brutal force of the trauma so that we don't have to. It is a defense mechanism; a built-in security system. 

When my mom became sick when I was three years old, my brain broke. The wires that structured my adolescent brain took the brutality of surgery after surgery because my mind wasn't yet mature enough to comprehend the pain. I couldn't understand why ‘mommy was throwing up’ or why ‘daddy was crying again’. I only knew that things weren't normal. When my mom fell out of remission and got sick again, my hope was shattered. My brain broke again. Then a third time, she was better, and as quick as she was, she wasn't. Growing up, I didn't know my brain was physically breaking and becoming more and more fractured, no one did. This was something that only affects veterans, as far as most people knew. 

After her third time falling out of remission, her being sick became my normal. I grew up in and out of the hospital, and as I got older, taking care of my mom. I knew that cancer was not curable in some cases, but I was still able to cling to some hope from the shell of the child I grew out of. I watched my mom go through round after round of chemotherapy, which seemed to only make her worse. I watched her suffer a kind of suffering I wouldn't wish on anybody. There was a civil war going on in her body, slowly killing the vessel it was protecting in the process. 

That morning she let go, my brain broke again, probably more than it ever had before. As I missed her last breath, my brain was hit with a bomb, shattering the remains. As I watched her try and hold on with everything she had for an entire month, my brain fell victim to my trauma. I endured more than my mind was created to handle, and in response, it broke. I couldn't feel this, not nearly as vividly as I could feel my own heart being smushed into a mush of cells and blood after watching it be ripped from it's home behind my ribcage, but looking back I can pinpoint the exact moment I endured this injury. My brain now couldn't process someone being sick, without believing they were dying. Not even I knew the extent to this until it came creeping up on me 4 years later.

The echoing sound of coughing interrupted my thought process as I was editing an essay. My classmates looked up, confused, and some even giggled. The coughing was intense, sounding wet, followed by a parade of splatters. The stairwell outside of the classroom quickly became a hazard zone, like one you would find in an elementary school, not a highschool. At first, I laughed it off. I mentioned something to my neighbor about leaving the random puking in the hallways in kindergarten. The coughing slowly started to echo differently, instead of throughout the hallways, it filled up my mind. My thought process flooded with emergent signals telling everything in my body that something was severely wrong. I looked up and noticed everyone else had gone back to their work, no other panicked faces to match mine. 

My head started pounding, my mind screaming at me not to cry, although I didn't know why I even felt like I was going to. Nothing had happened, just a middle schooler unable to make it to the bathroom in time. My heart was beating ferociously, almost as if I had just finished a marathon, but I hadn't. I had been sitting at a desk for over an hour. My vision became blurry all too quickly. I hoped that my mask would hide the tears that I couldn't prevent from falling. I just needed to wait until the bell rang, and then I could figure this out. 

When the bell did ring, I felt a barrier between me and the door. I couldn't leave. Every cell in my body was preventing me from walking remotely near the exit, let alone through it. I walked up to my teacher to ask if I could just stay in her classroom for a bit until this intense feeling passed, but instead everything came crashing down. I tried to ask to stay but instead I broke down. How could this little incident that I didn't even see impact me this much? I couldn't breathe and I couldn't stop crying. I hid my face from the crowd of students who came flooding through the door. I didn't want anyone to see me. All I wanted to do was leave, to get out, but something was keeping me from it. Flashbacks ran through my mind of every time my mom got sick. My head spun, memories overlapping, the sound of the hallway replaying in my mind over and over again. I couldn't get up.

 The next time I opened my eyes, there were counselors there to try and remove me from the classroom. I couldn't speak. I couldn't tell them that I couldn't move, or what the problem even was. I couldn't escape the intense state of panic I found myself trapped in. It was humiliating to be that stuck in front of so many people. The only thing I could do was sit there and relieve the worst pain I had ever felt in my life over and over again.

It wasn't a coming of age movie scene where the girl is romantically broken and everyone wishes to be her, but a state of suffering while everyone watched, humiliated by one's own broken brain. A brain that is broken in a literal, physical sense. A brain that sees reality connect to a glimpse of a memory and goes into a full out panic mode. A brain that foresees every loved one dying just by the slightest trigger. A brain that no one can fully comprehend, not even itself. To live in a broken brain is to live in a house where the electricity is wired completely wrong. One wrong lightswitch flipped, causes the power to completely short out.

The author's comments:

This piece expresses the authors experience with PTSD.

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.