Saturday, March 26, 2011

Happy Birthday


I was listening to my Podcast this morning from Story-corps about mental hospitals in the 1950 and how terrible they were.  At that time the main therapy was electric shock treatment.  Historically the resident population  in mental hospitals was at the highest.  The proven method of therapy was to lock people up and throw away the key.


When I was nine years old and my sister was eleven years old our mother was placed in the Iowa State Mental Hospital in Cherokee for depression.  I remember details of that time as if it was yesterday.  My mother suffered from severe migraine headaches.  We lived in northern Iowa so the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota was the closest, best medical facility.  She was admitted there and diagnosed with mental illness/depression and sent to the State Mental Hospital in Cherokee.  

My sister and I lived with our paternal grandmother a few blocks from our home during the time our mother was hospitalized.   

Mother's treatment was electric shock therapy.  My father would drive my sister and I to Cherokee on Sundays to spend time with our mother.  I remember sitting on the lawn at the mental hospital grounds on a blanket with our family.  

I also remember that when my ninth birthday occurred no one remembered.  At that time the birthday kid would bring treats for the whole class on his birthday.   I did not have any treats.  Later that day I mentioned it to my grandmother.  And she was very sorry that nothing was done.  She got me a Hostess cupcake and that was my birthday cake.  

We had many aunts and uncles in the community and when word got out, my sister had many birthday cakes for her birthday.  I was happy for her and thought it was neat that they did remember her birthday.  Now 60 years later I still remember the time that my mother was in the mental hospital and everyone forgot my birthday.  Funny how things like that stay with you.

I also remember that from the time I was in kindergarten to the day I graduated from high school my friends and classmates would never refer to someone as being crazy.  They would always say hurtful things like, "That person should be put in Cherokee."   Of course they never considered that my mother had been a resident there for a while in 1951.

When I was living in New York City during the 1960s I was just a few blocks from a major mental hospital, Creedmoor, and each time I would drive by on the Cross Island Parkway I was reminded of 1951 and Cherokee and my mother.

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