Charles Feldman is a survivor of mental illness and an advocate for people in need of services and support. I knew him from First Unitarian Church where he and others organized a speak-out on mental illness that opened my eyes to the suffering and courage of people who live with these conditions. I ran into Charles at Netroots Nation in Providence, and he generously allows me to publish his story. He hopes this will help others find their way.
My Recovery Story By Charles Feldman
This is my story of my childhood, my youth, developing a mental illness, and recovery from mental illness.
I was born in Rochester, New York, where my father was a professor at the University of Rochester. My father was a professor of theoretical physics, and my mother was a homemaker. My parents had both been brought up in New York City. When I was four years old, my father became a professor at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. I was to grow up in nearby Barrington, Rhode Island.
Growing up, my main concern was that I felt that I did not know what to say to people, socially. Other people in my classes in school, would start talking the moment the teacher left the room, and I would mostly just sit there, not knowing what to say. I felt socially isolated. There was a group of kids who I would hang around with in the neighborhood. We would play cards, play sports, and explore the nearby woods.
In my teenage years, I wanted to play the guitar, wanting to play rock and roll like the Beatles. My parents would only get me a classical guitar and made me take classical guitar lessons.
I identified with the hippie movement, feeling that it would bring about a social revolution in society. I thought that we as a society would be done with boring school and work, and would live in communes, experiencing sex and drugs and rock and roll. I was too socially awkward to make contact with the hippies, though, and mostly just hung around in my neighborhood, where there weren’t any.
One day, when my parents wanted me to get a haircut, I ran away from home, but came back the same night when I couldn’t make contact with any hippies. I didn’t know what to say to them. In high school, I would read anyone who was countercultural, like Krishnamurti and Alan Watts on eastern religions, the Yippies and Paul Goodman on political and social change, and R.D. Laing on personal growth through schizophrenia. I now joke that I am one of the few people who chose to develop schizophrenia.
Next– Part 2–In Therapy