VR Collage depicting anbd avatar behind bars

People Like Me

I recently met a man who worked as a nurse at a psych hospital at which I was a frequent patient.

This man and I briefly reminisced about our roles as patient and care provider and he said, “I didn’t like the way you were treated.”

I knew what he meant.

As funding for public health vanished my experience as a patient changed.

Chronic doesn’t means that you don’t get better.

Chronic means that the timeline for recovery is longer
and fraught with setbacks.

A serious mental illness can take years to learn to manage.

After privatization people with Chronic Mental Illnesses
were accused of malingering and squeezed out of services.

It didn’t matter that I wasn’t malingering.

It didn’t matter that I was misdiagnosed.

I recall that a nurse looked at me during a treatment group
at the hospital and said,  People like you are the reason, then
she caught herself and stopped.

She was going to say that people like me forced the system to sell itself out.

The worst symptom of the chronic illness is the one that induces counter-transference hate.

The man who had worked at the hospital where I was a patient said the staff hated me because I’m smart.

He said that they didn’t understand how someone so smart can have a chronic mental illness.

I sighed.

Professionals should know better.

Their hate replicated the animosity of my first day of school.

I already knew how to read when I entered the first grade.

Everyone, especially the teacher, hated me for it.

I was that little Jew Boy which meant that I had no right to be
smarter than the real white kids who were Christian.

That was the first day of the daily beatings.

I still don’t understand why being smart is bad.

And I will never understand how people who work in behavioral health
don’t know that intelligence does not prevent mental illness.

(c) Rob Goldstein 2016


59 thoughts on “People Like Me

  1. Interesting comments from the BH professional. Some of the greatest and most creative minds battled mental illness. May want to guide them to the movie “A Beautiful Mind” about the Nobel prize winning economist John Nash.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. My pleasure. Also, on a PBS Newshour report, there is a higher prevalence than in general society of creative people with bipolar. Not that it is a majority, but there is a higher rate. As for Nash, my guess is care would be better for him today, but at least per the movie, his wife was a devoted caregiver. I think her doggedness to help get him back to the university was huge.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A Fantastic image and composition my friend ! Many times i had some bad experiences too with the Health System in my Country.
    We had a great scientific revolution but forgot the part of human formation … and that’s the problem !! : )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment Daniel. I agree with you about the revolution in science. We no longer value the cultivation of the mind which is also an excellent way to treat the existential issues that attend the problem of learning to cope with a mental illness.


  3. Exactly! “People like YOU.” She may have “caught herself” but she was saying exactly what she was thinking,. I think I would have told her she would be of more service if she was flipping hamburgers at McDonalds.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “smarter than the real white kids”. Heartbreaking start to your education. A good friend once told me that intelligence is a tragic complication of mental illness.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The anti-intellectualism in this society is simply beyond me. And of course being intelligent doesn’t and can’t prevent it. I would argue it makes one more susceptible because the intelligent people actually think about the horrors they have witnessed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The anti-intellectualism confuses me.

      I don’t understand why anyone would voluntarily choose to turn off the ability to use reason and fact based judgement.

      To use a confusing analogy it’s like yo have two pairs of socks. One pair is funky and the other pair is brand new clean and you decide to wear the funky
      socks because Fox News says they’re clean and you’ve lost your sense of smell.

      Racism and homophobia are the funky socks in the clean sock drawer.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Intelligence … talent …. they don’t mean you don’t need the same acceptance and affection either … or that somehow your talent means you’re above needing to be understood …
    There has to be a way to get the message out – to change the world so that generations after us don’t suffer the same abuse.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t accept it either.

        But there are days when it feels as if I live in a world that has lost its bearings…There are days when it feels as if the abusers are in charge, as they have always been.

        Please don’t let this dark mood of mine rub off on you…


      2. Don’t worry – I have my own dark mood to deal with 😉
        And yes, there are days (especially with the ‘political circus’) where I would agree the world has lost its bearings.
        We’ll make it, good friend. We have people who support us – we are not alone, even when we feel most alone or lonely.
        As always, thanks for being.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. As a nurse and someone who suffers from mental illness, I’m sorry for the treatment you’ve received from your health care providers and their rude inappropriate commentary. But I’m not surprised. My coworkers, knowing of my mental illness will talk about mental illness while I’m around using words like nut job and crazy. And these are the people who are my friends! I can’t even imagine what those who aren’t think of me. Great post and so happy to have found your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you found my blog as well. the stigma among mental health workers is lethal. Once they decide to blame the patient they can do nothing to help. Please feel free to share a post if you think it might help others.


  8. My un-censored self wants to type “People suck” and just leave it there. But it’s not that simple, is it? Many do, but many don’t. And some people do in certain situations and not others. Some people suck all of the time but don’t want to and can’t kind a way to stop themselves from being that way. What you went through with the suckage sounds horrifying, the kind of thing that — over time — could grind away at your core and leave you nearly non-existent. Your presence is a triumph. I’m in awe of it. Thank you posting this. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment. I often think that there was a special conflation of time, people and region to produce the breadth of suckiness that I experienced as a child…but that’s not true…there are children today who live in agony because they are somehow smarter or unique in a community that has no tolerance for differences in people. It’s sad that we treat children as if they are property.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. So well expressed. Your illness is unacceptable because it is unpredictable. Your intelligence is unacceptable because it does not fit in the box that makes it easier for the teacher and you messed up the learning curve for the other kids. It is sad and hard to digest, when you realize those that were supposed to love you didn’t because they couldn’t. Great post and nice art!


  10. I’m so sorry you had that awful experience. I can’t help thinking that people like that woman should spend a few months as a patient and see how it feels.

    The first time I was an inpatient I flipped out and started screaming. I couldn’t help it. I’m really not the screaming type, and I remember thinking, God, I hope they put me in a locked room. But this pissy nurse comes in and says, “Stop it! You’re disturbing the other patients!” I managed to scream, “Isn’t this a goddam mental hospital??? YOU deal with it!” So finally she called me doctor, who ordered a tranquilizer. So I never did get anyone who actually wanted to help me find out why I was screaming. Just a pill, which was better than nothing.

    So actually I didn’t set out to tell that story. What I wanted to say was, that stupid nurse of yours clearly knew nothing about the long, long, long, long list of brilliant people who suffered from mental illness. Those people who spattered you with their hatred, they are actually jealous. That is all it is.


      1. I really think so, for a large proportion. Then there are the people who rape babies and children, force them into porn and sell their bodies. I think those are the earthly manifestation of pure evil. What do you think?

        Liked by 1 person

  11. This makes me so sad to read, Robert, all parts of it. That children are so horribly abused, physically and emotionally, by adults is the epitome of cruelty. Then when the mental health system not only fails in its mission but perpetuates the abuse, it’s outrageous and infuriating. Thank you for speaking out, that’s the only way it will change.


    1. Thank you for your comment. I hope and I pray that somewhere someone sees something I’ve written and as a result does one small thing to change the vicious system that we now have in place. Thank you for reading the post.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Maybe your intelligence intimidated them in some way. I have worked in the health field for many years, and I can honestly say there are mostly two types of individuals that are highly drawn to this career choice. Those who are desperate to learn because of their own personal experiences, and those who need to feel a sense of control over the things they fear. G-uno


    1. Well said. If my intellect did intimidate them to the point of behaving counter-therapeutically then they don’t really understand what it means to have a mind and we are all worse for it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I went through what I went through and I talk about it because I know that right now the United States is teeming with children who live their lives in fear. Every racist remark, every reference to executing gays, every attempt to dehumanize trans-gendered people has an affect on a child who silently struggles
        with questions of identity, race, immigration status, sexual identity, and gender roles. I grew up in fear as a kid who sensed fairly early that there was
        something ‘queer’ about me. My goal is to use my blog to make the abuse stop. I know I can’t make it stop by myself. This blog is my way of expressing gratitude my survival.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Using your blog to educate others is a great way to reach out. I learn so much from reading other people’s posts. You may be surprised some day to find out that the very children you seek to help, will be helped by your extraordinary courage to share your experiences. At least today young people know how to google to find out if there is anyone out there who may have dealt with the issues they face. Your goal is a wonderful kindness to many! I tell the children I work with that their differences are their “Superpowers,” lol that’s how I became a “Super Hero Activity Assistant.” G-uno

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Your post touches me in so many ways. I often compare the struggle for the rights of people with mental illnesses to gay liberation. Gays came out, told their stories, wrote their own literature and demanded justice even in the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic. Those of us who can speak out must speak out.

        When I reach the end of my life I want to say that I did more than shopped.

        Thank you for a wonderful comment…

        And yes…I often feel like a mutant…LOL

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Reblogged this on survivor road and commented:

    “Chronic doesn’t means that you don’t get better.
    Chronic means that the timeline for recovery is longer and often fraught with setbacks.”


  14. “It was the South East and I was a ‘little Jew Boy” which meant that I had no ‘right’ to be smarter than the ‘real’ white kids.”

    😦 I’m sorry Rob, that is just horrible. Very racist and evil. 😦


    1. Thank you my friend. It sucks for all of the African-American and gay kids who live in this region of the country today. Children should not be subjected to the psychological abuse of being made afraid to go to school.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Understand that the majority of the population is under 100 IQ . They hated you because they know you understand things they can’t. They don’t even know why they hate you except they feel that you aren’t like them. I have a higher IQ than the average. In school it averaged between 128 and 132. (That was before my brain cells started dying !) Nowhere near genius but it was enough that people didn’t want to be around me and I had very few friends. I just couldn’t be silly or act dumb and didn’t see the purpose of hanging out in places doing nothing, just so I could be seen. Going through my 20’s and 30’s I just got used to the fact that no one ever wanted to be my friend. I’m 60 now and I’m learning how to reach out and be a friend to people, and they are mostly people that no one else likes, someone who is gossiped about and rumors are spread about. I seek them out and learn to be their friend. So, I guess, in a nutshell, I make friends with the friendless, because I know what that feels like.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. I remember my early success in school resulted in constant accusation of cheating and isolation. I tried to be ignorant and clownish in hopes of acceptance and that simply added ridicule to my educational experience. Public mental health treatment practices remind me of my early educational experience. It appears to be a self licking ice cream cone where patients are props in a public foyer gathering dust.

    Liked by 3 people

Comments are closed.