August 12, 2014 by Rivky Gee
About two years ago, after watching Robin Williams play a clown doctor I discovered there was a real Patch Adams. While battling my own demons, I was given an unexpected and unusual opportunity to run an art open studio in a psychiatric outpatient hospital where I was a patient. Many of the Staff were confused by my role, some were outright condescending. They felt uncomfortable in my presence. There was tension, division. After being given an opportunity to share in creative healing, it was decided to be quickly taken away. As irony would have it, The Art director didn’t want me sharing art. I was repeatedly told that I was no longer needed, when, clearly, patients were roaming around and sleeping on couches with nothing to do. It was difficult to realize the reasons why they didn’t need ME. They simply didn’t want me there. Except for the very few who weren’t afraid of the dragons in the hierarchies. One nurse who had been the director for over 40 years there – she actually helped sneak art supplies with me to keep the studio running. She would say with a smile, “I saw nothing” and run off to continue her work day. At this point I started researching how others tried to create a bit of change in their community. Small things, big things, medium things -they were all big in the end.
Today, the Art studio is still running because someone believed that I was capable of being more than a patient. Others believed that peer lead initiatives could work. Not just work but, sharing in responsibility, contributing in some way, while slowly breaking away a bit of the barrier between Doctor/Patient, the Them/us approach that keeps us in a vicious loop which can prevent Staff AND Patient from growing, learning and seeing anything outside of those roles. Sort of how the rest of the world seems to function…but anywho, I digress, as often I do…apologies.
As I curiously researched about art studios in hospitals I then remembered Robin Williams playing a clown doctor. It turned out, Patch Adams was still alive and kicking. So I decided to write to him. A few weeks later I received a phone call from Patch, which then lead me to his institute in West Virginia called Gesundheit! At this point I had started songwriting and playing around with the idea of actually sharing my music. To stop shying away from the idea that perhaps, I, Rivky, could actually compose one song in my lifetime and even share it with some people. And somehow, I created an album instead. Calling it, “Angel Sings The Blues.” For me. For others, simply for healing.
I had asked Patch what were some of the tools he used that initially made a dent for change? He said doing what he loved, being funny, building the best, long-lasting friendships that become your family -and also, it didn’t hurt to have a movie made, based after his life. We live in a culture where fame, good or bad, can become quite useful. But can also be quite damaging. Especially for those who seem to carry the heavy burden of the worlds pain mingled in with their own pain. It can pull you down hard. Real hard.
It was because of Robin Williams that I had discovered Patch. And through my continued struggles and the battle with stigma that is still so prevalent in our society, these issues continue to wax and wane and perhaps will continue for the duration of my own life. I will remember the things that took me out of my isolated bedroom that got me to this point. Robin Williams, thank you for adding such a richness to my own adventurous journey thus far. Indeed, you will be missed.
*For more information on the real Patch Adams go to: http://patchadams.org/