Brian Cuban is a an author whose best-selling book “Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder” chronicles his first-hand experiences living with, and recovering from childhood bullying, eating disorders and Body Dysmorphia Disorder (BDD) and drug addiction. Brian speaks regularly to about his recovery and breaking the male eating disorder stigma. You can purchase Shattered Image here If you would like Brian to speak to your university, group or organization please email email@example.com
July 22, 2005. A dark room. Table, desk, chairs. With me is a staff psychiatrist of the Green Oaks Psychiatric Facility. I have heard of Green Oaks—it isn’t far from my home in Dallas. Now, in the room with the psychiatrist, scenes of Jack Nicolson and One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest go through my muddled mind. I am in the middle of a crisis and I’m thinking about movies. Nearby are my brothers. As I sit and listen to the doctor’s questions, I have a vague recollection of my younger brother rousing me from my bed, an angry confrontation, my .45 automatic lying on my nightstand. Then shock and confusion on the drive to the treatment center.
The residuals of cocaine, Xanax, and Jack Daniels are still coursing through my veins, but the fog is lifting slightly. Raging anger is settling in its place. Battle lines are being drawn in my mind. They want to take me prisoner. It’s war. I’ll lead the inmate rebellion.
Questions from the shrink pierce my anger like tracer rounds. What drugs have you taken? How are you feeling? Are you nuts! I’m angry! Do I want to hurt myself? Yes! Maybe! Not sure. Not sure of anything. The anger is too powerful. I believe if I died it would teach everyone a lesson. My family. The kids who ripped my pants off. My mother. Myself, for being unable to fix the distorted reflection I see in the mirror each day. I can’t tell him that! What answer will get me out of here? In the back of my mind, what’s left of the lawyer takes over. I know that my family can’t commit me, but he can. Proceed with caution. “If I wanted to hurt myself there would have been bullets in the gun.” I don’t mention the fact that the person I had asked for bullets had ratted me out to my brothers. And I don’t mention that I had been “practicing” sticking the barrel of the gun in my mouth and dry-firing the gun. I drift away, thinking about that night with the gun, the barrel in my mouth, my confused beagle watching from the doorway.
Ripped back to reality. Voices in the room. The doctor is talking to me again. When was the last time I used cocaine? I am pretty sure it has been recently, since it was all over the room when my brother showed up. I had become the consummate liar in hiding the obvious cocaine habit from my family. It’s that damn persistent cold that used to appear mysteriously every weekend. Now it’s a daily occurrence. No one is buying it in this room.
Yelling. Accusations. All coming from me. I am angry at my brothers. I hate you! I want your attention! Now I have it! I am an eleven-year-old child, lashing out at my mother who is a thousand miles away. They have taken away my control. What control? I am out of control. Anyone in my line of sight is fair game. I’m blaming my brothers for everything that has gone wrong in my life. Why are they trying to hold me back? When I am on drugs, I am their equal. I can’t even look at them. If I would only look them in the eye, I would see nothing but love and concern. I look at the table. I look at my shoes. I find that fixed point on the floor that provides me comfort. I wish that shrink would stop asking me questions! The shrink is my enemy. My brothers, They have betrayed me. They are calm. Trying to make sure I am still above ground tomorrow.
I notice the room is not really dark. Sunlight pours through the windows, but I am in the darkest of places. I remember seeking a release of everything in me. Need those bullets! Too coked up and Xanaxed down to go out and buy some. Who do I know that can help?
More questions. Do I think I need help? Will I go to rehab? Sure, whatever will get me out of here. I lash out again. They have no right to do this. Blaming them for the darkness is so much easier than seeing the light. The doctor is asking calm focused questions, to ascertain whether I am a danger to myself. At times I am calm in my answers. At times I am crying, agitated at him, then my brothers. Quit asking the same questions! I know your game! Quit treating me like an idiot!
So alone. More and more I start to feel like the shy, introverted boy I once was. I’m no longer the sophisticated, in-shape, cover model I created in my imagination—the myth that drugs and alcohol and eating disorders and steroids and plastic surgery helped to make. The desperate delusions of a mind distorted.
Up until now, each day has been a battle to see someone different when I looked in the mirror. But in this room there is no reflection. I’m unshaven. Unkempt. I reek of booze and days of neglected hygiene. I’m as raw and vulnerable as I could possibly be. I’m exposed. And I can no longer escape the stark reality of how I was getting by day by day.
An hour has passed. The room is getting brighter. The love and calm of my brothers soothes me. Quiets me. Softens me. It’s always been there. I wasn’t there. I was thinking only of me. My next high. My next drink. Without the drugs, what am I going to see in the mirror each morning? My brothers calm me, and I begin to focus on my love for my family. Arms are around me. Holding me. I begin to feel the love through my shell. They are not the enemy. There is a pinhole of real light beginning to expand. Should I go to rehab? What about twelve-step? I’m still on the defensive, but I am now listening for a moment at least. Have to grab those moments. They don’t come often.
After the one-hour psych evaluation, I was taken home from Green Oaks, wondering how I had taken myself to the brink of eternity so quickly. In reality, it was not quick. It was a cumulative lifetime descent with just enough good moments to blind me to the reality of the slide. Even in addiction and body dysmorphia there were good moments in my life.
It was decided that a facility out of state and away from the mirrors, coke addicts, and obsolete environment of self-loathing I had created for myself would be the best course of action. But ultimately I would not go.