Adam Smith, 26-year member of Congress and Chair of the House Armed Services Committee for the last four years, offers a candid memoir about his years-long struggle with anxiety and chronic pain, and the winding path to find the right diagnosis and treatment.
“Early one morning in April of 2016 I woke up and seriously contemplated the possibility that I would never be able to generate the strength, focus, and courage to get out of bed. The combination of crippling anxiety, chronic pain, muscle atrophy, and the fascinating mix of pharmaceuticals coursing through my body had, I feared, finally broken me. My life terrified me. I had been fighting some combination of these battles for just over three years at this point, and I didn’t think I could do it for one more day.”
Representative Adam Smith was successful by all measures, with a long, distinguished career in Congress and a loving marriage with children. Yet seemingly out of nowhere, his body and mind broke down to the point where every day was a relentless struggle to just keep moving. It’s a struggle millions of Americans know all too well. Would he be able to meet his responsibilities as a husband and father? Could he still maintain his breakneck professional schedule and continue to do his job well? He soon realized he couldn’t will himself well—he needed help. Thus began a desperate search for the right diagnosis and treatment for his mental and physical pain that lasted over six years and involved more than a hundred different health care providers. With unflinching honesty, Smith reveals how he got to this lowest point in life, and how he slowly, painfully, and unevenly found his way back to having a calmer mind and being free of chronic pain and medication.
Smith discovered the severe limitations of our nation’s health care system, and brought him face to face with the cost of the stigma our country has against admitting to and dealing with mental health issues. He learned that life isn’t about finding that quick fix or clear-cut mental and physical program to stop worrying and struggling. It’s about learning who you are, understanding your body and mind well enough to face those struggles that we will all inevitably face, and then being able to enjoy your life even when those struggles come.
About the Author
Adam Smith is the member of Congress who represents the 9th District of the State of Washington. He was reelected to his 14th term in 2022 with 71 percent of the vote and has been the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee since 2011. He served as chair of the committee from 2018–2022 when the Democrats controlled the majority in the U.S. House.
He grew up in SeaTac, Washington, in the center of the district he now represents. His father was a baggage handler at SeaTac airport and his mother was a homemaker. He worked his way through college loading trucks for UPS, earning a BA in political science from Fordham University in 1987. He spent his summers back home in the Seattle area working on political campaigns and doing various jobs to pay the bills. He got his law degree at the University of Washington in 1990, and that same year won election to the Washington State Senate becoming, at 25, the youngest state senator in the country at that time. Smith has been married since 1993 to his wife, Sara, and they have two children, Kendall, age 22, and Jack, age 19.
“For a decade, I have been honored to work with Congressman Smith on development issues in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He brings the same honesty, focus, and thoughtfulness to his day job as he does to addressing the complexities of chronic pain and mental illness. His personal battle with both, told in a brave and easy-to-understand chronicle of his journey, is a valuable tool and useful guide for the millions in our country facing these same issues. Lost and Broken helps advance a long overdue effort to talk more openly about, and find better solutions for, both chronic pain and mental illness.”
—Ben Affleck, director, actor, and co-founder Eastern Congo Initiative
“With this book, Adam tackles the stigma around mental health in the most effective way possible, by being honest and revealing about his own battles with anxiety and chronic pain, showing that even the most accomplished among us can struggle. Our family knows all too well what it is to get knocked down and have a hard time getting up again, and we were lucky enough to have a friend like Adam then. This book is the caring resource that anyone in that position can draw wisdom and support from.”
—Senator Mark Kelly and former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords
“When I started reading Lost and Broken, I could not stop. This book tells the vulnerable and unfortunately typical story of Representative Adam Smith’s struggles with anxiety and chronic pain. Smith reveals the lengths he went to both treat and hide these struggles, and the consistent hurdles of poor treatment and lousy information he encountered. In doing so, his compelling book provokes the right questions: how do people in emotional and physical pain figure out what works, and how do those with less access to resources and support even stand a chance?”
—Lynn Lyons, LICSW, author of The Anxiety Audit, coauthor of Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents
“Lost and Broken is a courageous book chronicling Congressman Adam Smith’s personal journey through debilitating anxiety and chronic pain. Adam offers an honest and accessible window into the transformative powers of non-judgmental curiosity about our own suffering; a willingness to experiment with new tools and habits; perseverance; and ultimately, self-love. In the process, he highlights how misaligned today’s healthcare system is both for healing the chronic health challenges that afflict hundreds of millions of Americans and for building our collective resilience.”
—Elizabeth A. Stanley, PhD, Georgetown University professor and author of Widen the Window: Training Your Brain and Body to Thrive During Stress and Recover from Trauma