Jon Brock tells his daughter Glenny Brock about being committed to Bryce Hospital, Alabama’s oldest psychiatric facility, in 1965.
Jon Marshall Brock (JMB): At the time, there was a lack of other resources for what a family could do when they had a family member who was not well. Having no other choice, uh, my parents had me committed.
I was put into a small room, locked. There was nothing in the room except walls, floor, ceiling, a window on the far side. Bars, bars on the door….
The doctor told my parents that I was hopelessly insane; that I would never leave; that they should visit me less; at home, they should speak of me less; and at a point, they should move on with their lives and leave me behind.
Glenny Brock (GB): Do you remember anything that happened to you in the hospital?
JMB: I began to be given shock treatments. And after a number of them, my older sister, Kay, visited. And I spoke with her with great feeling about it. And asked her that she have them stop giving me shock treatments. Kay said that she would. And when the attendant came to move me to the next ward, I spoke with the doctor, and uh, I said, “Doctor, I’m not supposed to get a shock treatment today. Permission had been removed by my family.” And I remember his saying, “Get up on the table.” And, uh, I do remember a slam of the electricity through my head.
In some years after, I, I went and looked at my psychiatric records. And, uh, Kay had removed family permission for them to give me shock treatments.
GB: How did you get out?
JMB: In a word, I lied. I started studying television programs in the ward. I would just watch people; how they sort of interacted; listened to how they interacted. I knew that the doctors, the nurses, that to the degree that someone seemed normal, acted normal, spoke normal, to that degree; they were more willing, interested in thinking of that person as someone who could, should leave Bryce Hospital.
GB: Watching how you have lived your life, makes me think that it is possible to fight, to fight through things. And to live. Just to live. I think that it has made me deeply sensitive. And I think it sort of made me brave. It’s powerful.
JMB: Thank you Glenny.