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“If You Could Read My Mind”: A PTSD Column by David-Elijah Nahmod

This week on Nearsighted, we’re thrilled to present an interview with writer and film critic David-Elijah Nahmod about his new column “If You Could Read My Mind,” which debuted in the print edition of South Florida Gay News today, August 6, 2014.

Belo Cipriani: How did the idea for the “If You Could Read My Mind” column come together?

David-Elijah Nahmod: I was raised in an Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, New York. At a very young age, I guess I was leaving behind signs that I was gay. At age 8, I was committed to the psych ward at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York on the advice of a Rabbi. My system was bombarded with powerful anti-psychotic drugs like Thorazine, which is now banned from use on children. My psychiatrist in the hospital was an Orthodox Jew who quoted the Torah to me (in Hebrew, no less) during “therapy.” I now realize that I was being subjected to gay conversion therapy. Throughout my childhood and teen years, I was forced to take drugs I didn’t need and was bombarded with all kinds of religious abuse and other kinds of negativity. As a result, I developed PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was actually quite ill from it during my 20s and into my 30s, but at age 31, I cut my still-abusive family out of my life. By my late 30s, my symptoms had subsided. I was symptom free and happy for most of my 40s.

My symptoms returned recently, after two separate incidents in which groups of people from within and beyond the LGBT community publicly ridiculed my PTSD and subjected me to anti-gay and anti-Semitic hate speech. In 2010, realizing that this behavior was coming from the gay and anti-gay alike, I was so despondent that I nearly committed suicide.

But I didn’t, I’m glad to say.

I’m still here, and my purpose with the column is to educate people about PTSD (and other mood disorders) by sharing my experiences and the experiences of others. I hope to erase any shame and stigma that sufferers may feel and to give those who judge and ridicule us something to think about.

Don’t judge until you’ve walked in our shoes.

Writing this column will also serve as a kind of therapy for me. My PTSD is not dormant at the moment — I have moments where it’s a struggle for me to feel safe and to be around other people. Though I am joining a PTSD support group in a few days, it’s my hope that writing this column will contribute to my healing.

Belo Cipriani: Are there other columns like “If you Could Read my Mind”?

David-Elijah Nahmod: There are PTSD support chat rooms on Facebook, but I’m not aware of any other columns like mine. If there are others that I don’t know about, I hope the authors will contact me so we can network.

Belo Cipriani: What type of format should readers expect?

David-Elijah Nahmod: It will be a fairly straightforward column, written in memoir form, or occasionally in interview form, as I find other people who are willing to share their stories. I want other people to come forward and talk to me about their experiences, and I hope people will. I know how painful it can be to be ignored when you’re suffering.

Belo Cipriani: What will your process be to come up with topics?

David-Elijah Nahmod: I suspect it will be random. As it becomes time to write each column, I’ll sit down and think about what I feel I need to say or convey at that time. Sometimes I may write about the past, sometimes the present. My first column goes into great detail about the horrors I endured as a child in order to give readers my backstory. Other topics will include my struggles with forgiveness, finding friends like you who accept and don’t judge me, rediscovering my spirituality, etc. We’ll see what else comes up as the column moves forward. I came up with a great column idea earlier today: a remembrance of Barbara Payton, a Hollywood star who’s career — and life — was destroyed by mental illness. I survived to tell my story, Payton didn’t live to tell hers. There but for the Grace of God go I.

Belo Cipriani: How often will your new column run?

David-Elijah Nahmod: If You Could Read My Mind debuted today, Wednesday, August 6, 2014, in South Florida Gay News. It will first be seen in the paper’s print edition, but will be posted online at the SFGN website a few days later; the online version will be available worldwide. There will be a new column every three weeks.

The column will also debut shortly in Echo Magazine, in Phoenix, AZ, but the date hasn’t been set yet. It will be soon, though.

I’m talking to additional publications now.

People can also look for my columns, and other writings, on my Facebook and Twitter pages.

Thank you for having me back at Nearsighted, Belo. I hope I do as good a job of raising awareness about PTSD as you’ve done for the blind.

David-Elijah Nahmod is a film critic and reporter in San Francisco. He also has articles that appear regularly in The Bay Area Reporter and SF Weekly.

Belo Cipriani View more

Belo Cipriani is the award-winning author of Blind: A Memoir and Midday Dreams. He is a disability advocate, a spokesman for Guide Dogs for the Blind, and is currently the national spokesman for 100 Percent Wine -- a premium winery that donates 100 percent of proceeds to nonprofits that help people with disabilities find work.