Father Moves Past A Once-Unforgiving Diagnosis

Jon Brock and his daughter Glenny Brock visited StoryCorps in Birmingham, Ala. i i

Jon Brock and his daughter Glenny Brock visited StoryCorps in Birmingham, Ala. StoryCorps hide caption

itoggle caption StoryCorps
Jon Brock and his daughter Glenny Brock visited StoryCorps in Birmingham, Ala.

Jon Brock and his daughter Glenny Brock visited StoryCorps in Birmingham, Ala.

StoryCorps

In 1965, when he was 22, Jon Brock's behavior began to change.

His family worried that he might be mentally ill and took him to Bryce Hospital, Alabama's oldest and largest psychiatric facility, where he was treated for schizophrenia.

Brock, now 68, tells his daughter Glenny, 34, that at the time, families of the mentally ill didn't have very many options for caring for their loved ones.

"Having no other choice," he says, "my parents had me committed."

Brock says the doctor told his parents that he was hopelessly insane and would most likely never leave the hospital. He advised them to visit Brock less, talk about him less, and even move on with their lives and leave him behind.

"Do you remember anything that happened to you in the hospital?" Glenny asks.

"Yes," Brock says. "I began to be given shock treatments."

Brock remembers one day, when his older sister, Kay, visited, asking her to tell the doctors to stop the treatments.

"As the day went on, I spoke with the doctor, and I said, 'Doctor, I'm not supposed to get a shock treatment today. Permission [has] been removed by my family,' " Brock recalls. "He looked at me and he said, 'Get up on the table.' And I do remember a slam of the electricity through my head."

Some years later, Brock looked back through his psychiatric records and found that Kay had, in fact, retracted his family's consent to shock treatments.

"How did you get out?" Glenny asks.

"In a word, I lied," Brock explains. "I started studying television programs. I would just watch people, listen to how they interacted. I knew that to the degree that someone seemed normal — the doctors, the nurses — they were more interested in thinking of that person as someone who could, should leave Bryce Hospital."

Jon Brock went on to get a master's of public administration, and today he works as a peer bridger, someone who helps current and former mental health patients with their recovery.

"Watching how you have lived your life makes me think that it is possible to fight through things, and to live," Glenny tells her father. "I think it sort of made me brave."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Nadia Reiman.

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