The Fracked Brain
The bedrock of our psyche is normally a solid rock, deeply rooted beneath the complex layers of our brain and personality. But what happens when the pressure of these multiple layers overwhelms the bedrock? Answer: our psyche gets “fracked”. That’s what depression is – our brain being fracked and the subsequent leakage of our oil. This oil is our life which seeps through all the layers – eventually popping out the top where it’s visible to the naked eye – where it creates a spill that damages both us and our surrounding environment.
What is Depression
The Webster clinical definition for depression is: a mood disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies. Well there’s another aspect of the definition regarding a physical description: a place or part that is lower than the surrounding area : a depressed place or part : HOLLOW. The first definition is a symptom – the second definition is a cause.
Depression is derived from the word press – which also is the root of the word pressure. Granted there are both chemical and situational aspects of depression but if we look to the root word and cause – it’s overwhelming pressure which creates a hollow. The emptiness that occurs when we break.
In geologic terms, these layers of rock are called strata. Our strata can be made up of many things. If we look at our brain and experiences in the same fashion as geology, we can picture these layers as an age-based strata. Starting with our earliest memories moving upward to our current present layer in a linear sequential fashion. The oldest on the bottom with the newest on top – our surface layer.
But let’s shift thought a bit and relate this to psychological strata. This is our personality – which is indeed shaped by our experiences. But rather than looking at this as chronological, think of this as layered density. The deeper our psychologic layer, the denser and stronger it is. Which – importantly – is in direct relation to the amount of our life it holds up and supports. This base layer is what we are discussing in relation to depression.
The lowest of these psychologic layers is the bedrock of our selves. This is the core of our personality and the root of our self-worth. This layer holds the preponderance of our psychological structure. If it is strong then we survive. If we fracture – then we are at risk for leakage – or a worst-case collapse.
In the case of situational depression – or situational pressure – if our bedrock is strong then the odds are that we will come through relatively unscathed. But if our bedrock is already compromised – then we are at high risk of collapse. Chemical depression – where our biological brains have an underlying imbalance – creates a high risk of collapse under a much lighter pressure (if pressure is even needed at all). Think of this as rock layer strata that has micro flaws throughout.
In fracking, a fluid is pumped down through the strata under high pressure until the “fracture gradient” is greater than that of the surrounding material. At that point, the material cracks and the cascading penetration of the pressurized fluid starts to spread. If constant pressure is maintained the fluid will continue to penetrate the rock until the pressure peters out at the distal end of a channel.
These cracks fracture the surrounding strata to a point that the desired fluid can be extracted. In fracking that fluid is typically a petroleum product. If we relate that to our psyche – that “fluid” is our sanity and our life balance. Continued pressure breaks our psychological strata and causes leakage into the surrounding psychological layers internally – and eventually bubbles to the surface causing secondary damage externally.
This loss of fluid causes what? Answer: it causes a depression in the surrounding area. The pressure of life has cracked us enough to cause what is clinically called depression.
If you’re like me then you know that having an underlying chemical imbalance and being subjected to high pressure is a great recipe for an environmental disaster. The first thing that cracked for me was a few of my internal strata – things like empathy and art and self-motivation. I pumped a coping fluid into myself in greater and greater quantities to try to shore up the cracks. Completely self-defeating as all I was doing is making the cracks bigger. It wasn’t until I stopped pumping that fluid into myself that I could start to analyze where the cracks were coming from and start to put fixes in place to repair and shore up the damage.
Psychology and brain chemistry are some of the greatest mysteries that humankind is continuing to pursue and we’re getting better the more we learn. There are psychologists and psychiatrists, and if we can relate them to fracking, they become the onsite foreman and the on-call geologist. The psychologist (therapy) is constantly monitoring the conditions on the ground and making operational changes to where and how the pressure is applied and working on methods to remove the pressure or safely divert its flow. The psychiatrist (pharmacology) looks at the underlying strata to determine where those biological flaws occur and what type of medium may be needed to shore them up so the onsite foreman can continue their work.
Just like when a rock breaks from fracking – when our brain fracks we can’t go back in time and make that strata whole again. But it can be shored up and repaired. By working with professionals, we can get our base strata glued back together to a point we can add stronger, more resilient strata over the top of it for protection and learn new methods to divert pressure to channels that let stressors flow over our strata instead of through it.
We can be repaired enough to where we are stronger than we were when we started. We can learn ways to deal with pressure where it doesn’t frack us. We just have to ask for help.