Stigma Fighters: Todd B.

My brain is trying to kill me

The Early Years

My mom was a paranoid schizophrenic.  When I was a kid I never understood why my mom felt compelled to collect odd things for her scrapbooks, why she had conversations with people that didn’t exist, or why she would hide in the closet for hours at a time.  My mom was a very talented therapist.  When she took her meds she had amazing clinical insight, when she didn’t take her meds the police were always there and she was often transported to the hospital.  As a kid I was very conscious that I was powerless to do anything about her condition.

Growing up

I was raised by my grandparents – when I say “grandparents’ I am not referring to my natal grandparents, rather two people who were related to some dude my mom married. While my mom was married nine times, those marriages were informed by her mental illness.  My grandparents were a significant part of my life and to this day my grandmother remains my moral compass.  My mom had close to 500 scrapbooks filled with random images and pieces of trash.  I remember paging through her scrapbooks trying to get a glimpse of what was going on in my mom’s head.  My grandmother told me to not to try and figure out what I saw as it was very likely that my mom didn’t understand what she looking at.

Came to understand

I have worked as a clinician for nearly 30 years.  The focus of my clinical work largely revolves around working with people who have addiction and other co-occurring disorders. This job has been helpful to me as I have suffered from clinical depression for the last 45 years.  For a large part of my life I didn’t have a model to deal with my distress and suffered in silence.  I tried all kinds of medications with virtually no success. The medications I did try worked for a short period of time and then any benefit was short-lived.  I came to learn that I suffer from treatment-resistant depression. Like most things that are genetic, I inherited my mom’s history of depression.  Her Schizoaffective traits remained largely untreated throughout her life.  My depression has manifested in poor-self-esteem, extreme self-hatred, and periods of time where I’ve engaged in various forms of self-injury.

The last 10 years has allowed me to understand that while I was angry at my mother for behaving poorly, my mom did the best she could with what she had. She had severe and persistent mental illness that went untreated. The various jobs I have had in my career have given me a language and a way to think about my mom’s illness and the distress I’ve experienced in my own life.

Moving forward

I see myself as extremely resourceful and have found various kinds of mentors and therapists to be helpful in alleviating my distress. I continue to try different approaches as being depressed tends to shade most areas of my life.  While medication has never been helpful, I have found success in a regular practice of the martial arts in tandem with therapy.

Good luck on your path.

I am a long-time clinician that has spent the last 28 years exploring research-based and peer-reviewed methods to treat addiction.

I am passionate about supporting people to find alternative ways to exit addiction that are beyond the use of the 12-steps. I am energized by the use of various cognitive behavioral therapies, and emboldened that patients have access to medications which diminish cravings. My sense is that addiction is largely biochemical and that relapse is largely the result of craving.

I am engaged by politics and suggest that to further the conversation about addiction recovery we need to explore ideas around oppression, stigma, and the various myths of chemical dependency.