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Memories of a childhood in mental hospital

Even today children are locked up in mental hospitals where they are deprived of loving care and normal social interaction and subjected to cruel pseudo-treatments like psychiatric drugs and electro-convulsive therapy. The author, currently a prisoner, recalls the two years that he spent in such an institution as a young child.   

I was born in 1954 in an all-white rural community in redneck, conservative, hidebound Indiana. My mother was just 18 when she gave birth to me, having married at 15. My father was 28. They were tenants in the front upstairs apartment above my father’s mother and her husband. Not long after I was born my mother began to leave me downstairs with her mother-in-law. My parents worked all day long until past dark almost every day while I stayed downstairs most of the time with ‘Grandma’ and ‘Grampa’. 

My parents were unable to arrange their lives together in such a way as to leave room for me. When I was four they split for California. I never saw them again. I was legally adopted by my father’s mother and her husband. So my grandmother became my adoptive mother, my uncle became my brother, and a man unrelated to me – a locomotive driver in the yards of a steel mill – became my adoptive father. 

On the surface nothing much had changed in my life because I had lived with ‘Grandma’ and ‘Grampa’ for as long as I could remember. However, I must have been affected. I started gorging on candy that my new parents never seemed to refuse me. I became severely introverted, morose, and prone to temper tantrums. I lost any desire to talk to ‘Grandma’ or ‘Grampa’. They were the only two people I had much contact with at all, for there were no children in the vicinity: the neighborhood was a well-established community of older married couples and middle-aged parents with teenage children.

When I was four and a half my new mother enrolled me at a nursery school in the town center. However, rather than making friends and settling down I continued to go downhill. My behavior and mood deteriorated further. Although I was already potty trained, I began soiling the seat of my pants. I also began stealing things from the nursery school. I was expelled.

The problem was not that I had lost control over my bowel movements. I was not incontinent. The problem was that I just didn't want to poop. I tried to hold it all in, but so much pressure built up that even tightening my gut muscles and crossing my legs could not prevent some poop from escaping my body. 

Mother took me to various doctors. I remember going to a hospital once where a group of people in white coats put me on a surgical table and gave me an enema. As it began to work I thrashed about wildly, trying to cross my legs while the attendants struggled to hold them apart. I was screaming in rage and shame. It was beyond my ability to sit on a commode and defecate in a normal way.

My adoptive parents were no longer young. Mother was about 51. She had put up with the situation for several months, but she had had enough. I was told that if I didn't ‘straighten myself out’ I would be sent to the XXX Memorial Hospital in Indianapolis, over 100 miles away.  

I did not believe it. I thought it was a bluff. In my childish mind I believed that my parents loved me. Would they really take me to a faraway place and leave me there? I had all the confidence in the world in these two people. They were all I had. I thought that they were trying to scare me into using the toilet. But I knew that I couldn't, so they must know it too! They kept warning me to get myself ‘straightened out’ or else I would be leaving.

Entering the hospital

In March 1959, a couple of months after my fifth birthday, they packed some clothes for me and we all got in the car, a 1954 Ford Metropolitan, and drove south. I was thinking: ‘They are really putting on a good show!’ 

The drive down Route 41 seemed to last forever. We traveled so far south that I noticed a distinct change in the early spring weather from the frost-encrusted earth of my home area to the budding flowers in the front yards of some of the homes we passed. 

When we arrived at the XXX Memorial Hospital everything had been arranged in advance. My parents took me up in an elevator to the third (top) floor and led me to the left down a long corridor as the elevator door closed behind us. Finally we stood before a huge thick door of dark varnished wood. On the wall above the door was the inscription A-1

Beyond that door ran a hallway with doors along both sides. At the end of the hallway was a large dayroom with several round topped tables and many small chairs. At one end of the dayroom was a wall whose top half was a partition of shatterproof glass -- the kind with close-mesh chicken wire embedded in it. A Dutch door in that wall was the entrance to the nurses’ station where desks facing the dayroom were staffed by white-clad black women keeping an eye on the many children playing and moping about. On the far side of the dayroom were metal double doors opening onto an open-air patio. The doors were open and I could see kids out there playing.

As we approached the glass partition, a black man wearing a lab coat came through the door of the nurses’ station, greeted my parents, and introduced himself as Doctor B. He told us that I had been assigned to a room and a bed that my parents could view before leaving.  

At that I freaked out. I ran to the door along the hallway that was nearest to the dayroom because there was a picture of a toilet on it. I went into the first stall and crapped out a turd that was probably a foot long and hard as a rock. It had hurt terribly. Then I ran back to my parents and Dr. B, grabbed my mom's hand, and tugged her along to show her what I had done. The four of us all looked into the toilet and saw the monster turd I'd made. But it made no difference. Despite my achievement my parents left me there crying. My parents, the people whom I trusted completely, had betrayed me. I decided then and there never to love or trust anyone ever again. Later the idea came to me that I was myself unlovable.

I was in a fog. I spent the next three or four days walking along the walls of Wing 1-A, sliding my finger along the wall as I went. I was the only new kid on the wing. None of the other kids tried to talk to me. Nor did I speak to any of them.

Reaching out

A couple of weeks later another child arrived in the wing – a little girl. I watched here walk around the wing with her finger on the wall for several days, just as I had done when I first got there. For the next two years that I lived in the XXX Memorial Hospital  I watched every new kid do the same thing. No one told them to: it was just what the new kids did.

After I had ‘settled in’ – how long that took I don't remember – I started to take more notice of my surroundings and the other kids and I made some personal connections with a few of them. One of them was Tony, a pleasant-looking boy who usually sat at one of the round tables in the dayroom looking around and smiling. He had a shock of blond hair hanging forward over his forehead like Woody the Woodpecker in the Walter Lantz cartoon series. Once I noticed him I took an immediate liking to him.

Whenever a staff member, or just another kid, came up to him where he was sitting – Tony never approached anyone on his own initiative – he would quickly clap his hands over his large green eyes and repeat the phrase Tony hidingin a voice that was excited and joyful and giggly but at the same time frenzied, bordering on the maniacal. If it was a staff member who needed Tony for whatever reason, then he or she would take him by the elbow or shoulder and lead him away. He would fall silent and drop his hands from his eyes.

A couple of times I tried to talk with Tony, but he never said anything except Tony hiding. At my last attempt at conversation with Tony I tried to pry his hands away from his eyes and yelled I found Tony!He freaked out and ran round the corner and down the hallway. I guess Tony didn't want to be found.

There was a taller, skinny girl on Wing A-1 named Cindy. She was probably eight or nine years old and had a head full of dark curls. Cindy never spoke a word. Never. She was not absolutely silent though: she would grit or grind her teeth. Being only five and a half years old, I never tried to draw a connection between anything 'going on' and her grinding. Perhaps something in her head set it off, but I didn't think of it that way. 

I liked Cindy. She and I would play the card game War for hours on end at one of the tables or on the floor. Often there wasn't enough time in a day to finish a game because we were playing with 200 or more cards from five or six partial decks.

Cindy's eyes would gleam when she was winning and lose a bit of their luster when she wasn't. I cannot remember her ever smiling. I asked one of the staff nurses what was Cindy's problem – we kids had learned from the staff that each of us had a ‘problem’ that explained why we were at the hospital. The nurse replied that there was nothing physically wrong with Cindy that kept her from talking: it was, she said, a ‘mental problem.’

The next day I went up to Cindy with a sharpened pencil and asked her: ‘If there was a shot that could make you talk would you take it?’ (we kids were all afraid of shots). Cindy nodded. I told her that I had a shot like that and pushed the pencil point into her bicep. I did not jab, but I wound up pushing really hard. Cindy's eyes grew distressed and her mouth flattened into a grim line, but she still made no sound apart from the grinding of her teeth. Although the pencil point did not pierce her skin, it left an ugly dent with a lead-colored center. The next day I snatched Cindy's arm and bit her as hard as I could. She made no sound, neither did she struggle or even try to pull away. I released my teeth's grip and she walked away.

I did not do these things out of any desire to hurt Cindy. I was trying to make her holler. If she was keeping silent deliberately then a sudden shock might catch her unawares and make her cry out involuntarily. And then she would be allowed to go home. Surely she wanted to go home. Iwanted to go home. 

Some time later a therapist's assistant came up to me and asked whether I had been ‘tormenting’ Cindy. I said ‘no’ and he bit me hard on the arm. I started screaming and struggling. The man continued to clench his teeth – even harder, it seemed to me – and then suddenly quit. 

'Just because Cindy can't talk,’ he told me, ‘it doesn't mean that she can't make herself understood.’ 

He must have thought that I did it because I thought I could get away with it. Cindy never played War with me again.

Then there was Chris. He was a big kid, probably 12 or 13 years old. He had a 'buddy' whose name I do not remember. The first time Chris spoke to me he asked whether I had ever 'jacked off'. 

'What's that mean?’ I asked. 

'Does your dick get hard?’ 

Then I realized that Chris was talking about my ‘private’ (that was what my adoptive parents had called it). 

'Yeah,’ I said, though I really had no idea what he was talking about.

‘What does it look like?’


‘And what do you do with it?’

‘Throw it over the patio fence.’

Chris laughed and he and his buddy walked away.


I was placed in a third grade class of five or six kids, all about my size. The teacher was a black woman. She used the Montessori method: we were encouraged to learn but allowed to proceed at our own pace.

There weren't any black kids on Wing A-1. There weren't any white adults either, except for a therapist I had who was white. Her name was Ann. She wore turquoise bracelets and a matching neck chain. I saw her once a week. I liked her as much as possible. She hypnotized me once. Years later I regained some memory of that session. One question that she had asked me was:  

‘What do you want more than anything else in the world?’ 

‘Big tits.' 


' ‘Cause boxers got 'em.'

I had watched boxing matches on TV with my adoptive father and admired boxers because of their big muscles. I had heard my real father talk about tits with his mother, referring to a pastel chalk drawing he had made of a naked woman – my real mother. When I looked at the picture I didn't recognize it as my mother. ‘Aw,’ I said, ‘she's naked.' ‘No,’ my father replied, ‘she's nude.’

I was assigned to sessions of Recreational Therapy (RT) and Occupational Therapy (OT). In RT I tried to play a trumpet but wound up banging on a small xylophone, making drawings, and playing with clay, often with other kids from different wings of the hospital.

In OT I made a copper ashtray for my adoptive parents by pounding a circular piece of sheet copper into a wooden mold. I also wove a small multicolored rug on a loom for my dog Scamp to sleep on.

Not all the treatments I received were so benign. I have some vivid memories of being taken for electro-convulsive therapy (ECT). I was taken to a chair down in the underground part of the hospital building. I was administered a shot while standing up and then I was seated in the chair. In anticipation of the shot I tightened up my glutes – the muscles in my buttocks – and the black guy administering the shot told me to relax or else it would hurt. But I couldn’t or wouldn’t relax and it hurt like hell. When I was seated silver-colored dumbbells were placed on my temples and wires were attached to different points all over my head. It hurt and I said so. The guy hooking me up said: ‘We’re just pulling your hair to wrap the wire around.’ But when I told Vicky about it she told me that they were sticking needles in my head.

I also remember being given a gelatinous red capsule-looking 'pill' on more than one occasion (a couple or several times -- not many) and then put to bed in the middle of the day. I remember some bad headaches that followed whatever they did to me at those times. Then I slept and when I awoke it was already dark.

Then there was the ice tub. Excited kids and kids having fits were given a bath in ice to calm them down. The bath tub had a canvas covering with grommets along the edges attached to hooks along the rim of the tub. The ice tub was also used as a punishment. Once I peeked through the huge keyhole in the shower room door when the girls were in there showering. I got caught and was put in the tub naked while all the girls watched. I felt so ashamed. I still remember it as though it happened this morning.

I was often woken up at night and given what I was told was a sleeping pill. Strange. 

The baby bunny rabbit

Occasionally the inmates of Wing A-1 were taken on organized trips to Holiday Park in Indianapolis. Holiday Park was a large natural-looking preserve with a stream running through it, woodland and bushes, and a crumbling building that we were not allowed to go near. Black kids were not allowed in the park and the hospital supervisors who took us on this outing were people we never saw at other times. They were all white. They were bossy assholes, constantly looking at their wrist watches to get the trip over with as soon as possible. We went there in the winter too.

On one of our outings to Holiday Park I was scrambling across a field with a bunch of other kids in a sort of race when I stumbled and skidded forward on my chest. There, in the grass, not a foot from my face was a little furry brown and cream-colored baby bunny rabbit. I was in raptures! Its startled little eyes were looking into my own eyes. The seconds passed. I wondered where the mama bunny was. The baby bunny was frozen stiff with fear and trembling. I wanted to share this experience. I'd never been so close to a wild rabbit in my life and this one, being a baby rabbit, was so cute and beautiful. A few kids were standing around. Apparently the informal race had come to a finish right about where I had fallen down.

'Hay, look, a rabbit!' I yelled.

‘Where?’ asked Chris, who was right behind me. I was still looking at the bunny.

'Right here!’ 

Chris spotted the rabbit and barely missed my chin as he tried to kick it. The rabbit bolted. 

‘Don't hurt it! Don't hurt it!' I yelled.

But Chris took no notice. He ran the baby bunny down and kicked it into the air. It had only run a few feet. It had probably never had to run for its life before and its young legs were immature and inexperienced. It had made a swerve and a dodge or two but ended up flying and spinning through the air over a distance of at least ten feet. I ran over to where the bunny lay dead. Its little eye, kicked halfway out of its head, still looked startled. 

‘You killed it! You killed it!' I screamed.

I was sobbing, wracked by the realization that it was I who had gotten the baby bunny killed. It was because I had been so stupid that it had died. I was filled with guilt, anger, hate, and fury. A murderous rage came over me and momentarily overwhelmed all the other feelings. I wanted to kill Chris. I wanted to hurt him. I wanted him to die. I wanted him to suffer... But I was also scared of him. I had yelled but that had not helped. The bunny was dead and I was to blame.

The bowling alley

One time a black orderly named Alan who worked at the hospital and a buddy of his took me and another kid off grounds and drove us to a small bowling alley. It was late at night for us – maybe 7 or 7.30 pm. The alleys were not automated and we kids reset the pins and returned the balls to the players. 

On the way to the bowling alley I told Alan that I was scared of werewolves. We were passing by some huge red and white-checkered oil or gasoline storage tanks with flashing lights around their tops. ‘That is where Wolf Man lives,' Alan told me, pointing at one of the tanks. ‘Naw,’ I replied, 'he’d drown.' But Alan explained to me that the tank was filled with gas that was like slush – that was what Wolf Man ate when he wasn't eating people or blood. Hearing that really freaked me out.

Another time Alan took me and another kid to a gym where he held me up so I could punch the speed bag – the small teardrop-shaped punching bag you see in Rocky movies starring Sylvester Stallone. The punches must be perfectly timed to hit the thing and keep it going at a fast tempo. 

In the swimming pool   

Next to the XXX Memorial Hospital, connected by an underground tunnel, was a building in which there was an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Once in a while the kids from Wing A-1 would get to go swim in the pool. Most of us wore orange lifejackets. Some of us could swim really well. Others could hardly swim at all. 

I belonged to the second group. Sometimes I would jump off the one-meter and three-meter diving boards with my lifejacket on, but most of the time I spent at the shallow end of the pool, where the water was only 6 feet deep. I would lunge across the hypotenuse of a triangle with a right angle at a corner of the pool and gradually increase the length of the sides so that I dog paddled a little further each time.

One day there was a girl named Betty in the pool whom I liked. She couldn't really swim either. She was thrashing about in the water only a couple of feet from the side of the pool and screaming 'Help!’ whenever her head was above the water. Two supervisors were right there, talking with each other and apparently ignoring Betty's screams.  


I liked Betty and I wanted Betty to like me too, so I jumped in to save her. As soon as I got close enough she grabbed my head and in her utter panic pushed me under the water in a desperate attempt to raise herself. Afraid that she was going to drown me, I lifted both of my six-year-old feet and kicked her in the stomach, then pushed off from her and banged my head on the overflow gutter at the edge of the pool. I was gasping and trying to catch my breath after damned near being drowned by Betty when a supervisor jumped in, gripped the side of the pool with one hand, reached out with his other arm, and pulled Betty over to the side. 

I was sent to the shower room to wait until 'pool time' was over. I decided right then and there that I would not try to help anyone again. My experience with Betty confirmed my earlier experience with Cindy. In both instances I knew better than to try to explain my actions. My explanations would just be seen as contrivances to manipulate the situation and get myself out of trouble.

A new therapist

Ann quit her job as my therapist. At our last session she explained to me that she wasn't abandoning me, she really cared about me, but she just had to go back to school. She went on and on about it. I could hardly tell her that it really didn't matter much to me. 

I was assigned a new therapist by the name of Jack Johnson. When we met I had been in the hospital for what seemed like forever, though it had probably been no longer than a year. After introducing himself Jack asked me where my family was from. Maybe we were related, he said. But I could not tell him anything about my family. I didn't have a family.

Jack was adventurous with me. He tried to gain my confidence. He did not make me sit in his office and talk, as Ann had done. Instead Jack and I walked the halls of the hospital, with me leading the way. 

I was really going to test the guy. I led him to the cafeteria. Jack got me a glass of milk and got himself a cup of coffee. When we finished, I went through the double doors with the round porthole windows into the kitchen. Jack was right there with me. He was wearing his hospital ID badge on his suit jacket. None of the food service workers, all of whom were black, ever batted an eye to see this little white boy leading a professional white man through their domain.  

On one of our expeditions I led Jack through a utility door into a room with big electrical boxes on all the walls and a trapdoor of expanded metal grid in the floor. I asked him whether we could see what was down there. He told me that it was the sub-basement and lifted the trapdoor open. I explored the sub-basement with Jack until I got tired. Those expeditions with Jack were great! He came to Wing A-1 to see me. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before. And to make things even better Jack brought me a Duncan Butterfly yoyo that he had bought for me! It was blue with sparkles on it. I learned how to yoyo after Jack showed me how. 

A sex lesson

Then there was Vicky. She was probably 13 or 14 years old. She was a rebel: headstrong, shocking, unafraid – and devious. Vicky was friends with Chris. She was mean like him. 

Vicky asked me whether I wanted to f—k. I had learned all the cuss words used by all the kids on Wing A-1. F—kand shit were the best cuss words, with hell and damn trailing far behind. The only thing I knew about f—k was that you said it when you were really pissed off. 

Vicky told me that f—king was when a guy parked his car in a girl's garage. 

 ‘Sure,’ I said, ‘but I ain't got a car.’

 ‘Yeah, you do.’ 

So off she went and fetched Rosie, a pretty little girl about my age with burn scars on about half of her body. Vicky took us into the dayroom and told us to get under the table. Then she told Rosie to lay on her back and pull her dress up and her underwear down. Rosie did as she was told. Then Vicky told me to get down on my knees, pull down my pants and undershorts, and lie between Rosie's legs. I did as I was told. (I hadn't crapped in my undershorts yet and this was before they made me wear diapers.) I looked at Vicky, who was now under the table with us. She was looking up at the glass partition. Her gaze still fixed on the glass, she told me: ‘Now lift your butt up and down.’ I did it for a few seconds. Then Vicky said: ‘OK, you can stop now.’ She got up and left us there to rearrange our clothes and get out from under the table.  

The next day, or perhaps the day after, the staff had all the boys pack up their stuff, lined us up, and marched us to new quarters in Wing B-3. There were only a couple of spare beds left in the wing after the eight or nine of us had moved in. I overheard Chris tell a 10-year-old boy named Mike that he and Vicky had had a fight and that was why we had all been moved. Only decades later did I draw a connection between our being moved and the time Vicky got us to f—k under the table. When she looked up at the glass partition she may have been making sure that we werebeing observed. Vicky and Chris may really have had a fight, after which Vicky may have devised a scheme to get rid of Chris. As I said, Vicky was devious.

Soon after that Mike and I happened to be under one of the two picnic tables in the dayroom of Wing B-3 when Mike punched me in the right eye. I was shocked for almost a whole second. Then I slugged Mike in his right eye. He too was astonished for a second. When Mike let out a low growl I slid out from under the table and ran yelling ‘Get him! Get him!’ as he chased me with what I imagined was murder in his eyes. A staffer grabbed Mike, put him in a corner, and then said to me:

‘Good job! I saw what he did to you. He's a bully and you did the right thing.’ 

I've been thinking about that for years now.  

A wishing well

One day Jack came to get me from Wing B-3 and we went outside to the concourse. There were two wide sidewalks and a fountain where they intersected. Lilly pads covered about half of the surface of the pool under the fountain. People had thrown coins into the pool. Many coins were clearly visible through the clear water. I asked Jack why the money was in the pool and he told me that people used it as a wishing well. They believed that if they tossed in a coin then their wish would come true. I asked Jack whether I could fish out some of the coins. 

‘Sure,’ he said. ‘Collecting money is a better way to make your wishes come true than throwing it away.’

I believed him.

My parents had come to the hospital a couple of times to visit me and taken me out to eat lunch and talk. I wanted them to take me to Holiday Park but they never did. We always wound up at the Sugar Shack eating Bar-B-Q. I guess now that on those visits they also talked to my doctors and therapists. During one visit Jack actually took me and them to the concourse and to our favorite fountain. I asked Jack whether I could take off my shoes and fish out coins and on this occasion he told me not to.

During the previous year my parents had taken me home for a week. It hadn't worked out too well. The night before they were due to take me back to the hospital ended with me sitting on the floor in a closet and screaming F—k you Anita! at my parents as they sat at their kitchen table. F—k you Anita! was a phrase carved into the dark wooden door of Wing A-1; Vicky had read it out for me. I thought that it was a general curse – a stronger one than F—k you on its own. I ended my rant with a series of F—k you’s. 

Late one night a nurse came and woke me up:

‘Mr. Johnson is here to see you,’ she said. 

For some reason this didn't seem strange to me. My parents had just returned me to the hospital earlier that day after a home visit. Jack was in the cafeteria. I said Hi! He told me that my parents had had a car accident on their way home. My father was OK but my mother had crashed through the windshield and flown through the air for almost a hundred feet. Jack told me that she might die. I remember now wondering why Jack was telling me all this. I sat there thinking about it in silence for a while. Jack asked me whether I was OK. 

I replied: ‘Yeah. Can we go to the fountain tomorrow?’ 

We did.

A year or so later, ‘they’ finally let me go home. My parents came and got me. My mother was still very much alive, though she did have several scars on her face. Not very long after coming home I started in third grade at the local elementary school. So I reckon I was in the mental hospital for at least two years, perhaps a bit longer.  

SCUBA diving

After I went home I had to be taken to appointments at a local mental health clinic. I was prescribed 10 mg. thorazine tablets three times per day. [Thorizine is a brand name for the antipsychotic and tranquilizer Chlorpromazine—ed.] Perhaps I was already taking them at the XXX Memorial Hospital – I’m not sure. 

The hospital never did solve my ‘problem.’ I continued to crap in my pants until I was about twelve years old. My mother took care of the mess. I refused to do so myself. I also refused to attend gym class or use the school shower room.

What eventually did cure me was Jacques-Yves Cousteau's book about undersea exploration The Silent World. I talked my mother into getting me SCUBA (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) diving lessons. I was a strong kid at the age of twelve and could easily lift over 100 pounds over my head. A SCUBA outfit with a 71.2 cubic foot tank weighed just 60 pounds. My mother agreed. She pointed out, however, that in order to go SCUBA diving I would have to ‘straighten myself out.’ And I did.

By the age of thirteen I was a certified diving instructor. Pat DeLaney, my instructor, who in the 1960s held the world record for the largest hammerhead shark ever taken with a Hawaiian Sling (an underwater slingshot that propels a spear rather than a rock), presented me with my National Diving Association (NDA) card, which entitled me to have my SCUBA tank filled with air in the United States.

My mother drove me to and from eight weeks of SCUBA diving lessons. It was always she who took me. My father never went with us. He regarded the lessons as a waste of time and money.


My two years at the XXX Memorial Hospital had no impact on the problem that led to my admission. But those years greatly exacerbated other problems and changed me in fundamental ways. When I came out I was not the same person as when I went in. I am a deformed product of that ‘cutting-edge facility’ and the ‘treatments’ I received there – social isolation, pills and shots, ice bath and ECT.  

Andrew M. Colman’s Dictionary of Psychology mentions a condition called ‘reactive attachment disorder,’ which he defines as ‘a mental disorder of infancy or early childhood (beginning before age 5 years) characterized by disturbed and developmentally inappropriate patterns of social relating, not resulting from mental retardation or pervasive developmental disorder, evidenced either by a persistent failure to initiate or respond appropriately in social interactions (inhibited type), or by indiscriminate sociability without appropriate selective attachments (uninhibited type). By definition, there must also be evidence of pathogenic care, assumed to be responsible for the disturbed social relating, in the form of persistent disregard for the child's basic emotional or physical needs or repeated changes of major attachment figures’ (p. 636). That seems to fit my case.

Young children are vulnerable and defenseless. Psychiatric patients are only slightly less vulnerable and defenseless. When psychiatric patients are young children the vulnerability and defenselessness are at a maximum and abuse is inevitable. A mental hospital is no place for children to grow up. 

So many well-intentioned folks 'go along' with whatever the ‘clown in the white lab coat’ recommends, simply because they regard him or her as an authority in such matters. The relatives of the troubled individual bow to the ‘professional’ judgment of the ‘expert.’ The experiments conducted by Stanley Milgram showed how perceived authority could induce well-intentioned people to deliver excruciatingly painful electric shocks to others despite their desperate pleas and screams of agony. It doesn't matter that it was all faked because the experimental subjects believed that they were delivering the shocks. But they thought they were doing the right thing.  

When my adoptive parents dropped me off at the XXX Memorial Hospital that fateful day in 1959 I'm pretty sure now that they were putting their trust in an institution whose staff – so they sincerely believed – possessed integrity, dedication, and professional expertise. They bowed to the 'authority of the white lab coat' and never looked back. I do not and never shall forgive them. All I ever wanted was a family who loved me and whom I could love in return.

A long and winding road led me through the land of alienation and apathy to that hospital and from there onward into the labyrinth of the prison-industrial complex. 

Joe R. Hopkins, January 2019

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