If You Could Read My Mind

David_Elijah_Nahmod_BTR_thumb_thumbDavid-Elijah Nahmod is a film critic and reporter in San Francisco. His articles appear regularly in The Bay Area Reporter and SF Weekly. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

David developed Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder (PTSD) after surviving gay conversion therapy as a child and has found that many in the LGBT community suffer from severe, often untreated emotional disorders due to the extreme anti-gay traumas they endured. “If You Could Read My Mind:  A PTSD Memoir” chronicles his journey.

The Worst Therapist in the World

Regular viewers of MSNBC might recall Keith Olbermann. From 2003-2011, before Rachel Maddow became the network’s biggest star, “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” helped to put MSNBC on the map.

Olbermann is a liberal who pulls no punches. He often startled Countdown viewers with his outrageous candor–even those who agreed with Olbermann’s point of view noted his tendency to push the envelope much further than MSNBC suits might have wanted. One of Olbermann’s more amusing segments was “The Worst Person in the World” in which the pundit would toss inflammatory jibes at his GOP opponents–Fox News contributor Bill O’Reilly was a frequent and favorite target.

“It’s Bill O’Reilly–today’s worst person in the woooooorrrrrlllldddddd,” Olbermann would shout at the camera. These segments were often quite over the top–and, truth be told, Olbermann was usually right.

Once upon a time I had a friend who would have made a perfect candidate for one of Olbermann’s Worst Person segments. D (his initial) fancied himself the last of the great queer social justice radicals. According to D, he and he alone knew the difference between right from wrong–he was only too happy to educate others about their racism, sexism and homophobia. And who better to educate us, since D, by his own admission, was never wrong. Ever.

But he seemed to have a good heart, and so for about 18 months, I tried to be his friend. I actually attended several Occupy Wall Street marches with him, and truth be told, I enjoyed those rallies. It was good to see so many people standing up to corporate greed and corruption.

But I wasn’t “radical” enough for D. I don’t, for example, think that the actions of Palestinian suicide bombers are justifiable, nor do I give Arab governments a free pass on their well documented history of murdering their own LGBT citizens. D was also displeased about my lack of support for a group of local activists who equate walking around downtown San Francisco in the nude with free speech.

As D began to “educate” my about my “conservative values”, I began to notice a disturbing trend in his behavior. He would often fly into furious rages whenever anyone said anything he disagreed with. He would cut people out of his life at the slightest provocation, claiming that he was “putting up boundaries” and “empowering” himself. At one point he did this to one of my closest friends, telling me that I wasn’t “allowed” to mention my friend’s name in his presence.

At the time I knew him D was training to be a therapist. As his rages escalated, I began to wonder what kind of therapy he was going to offer his clients. After awhile he got an internship in a respected therapist’s office–he then proceeded to go on and on about what a horrible person his new supervisor was.

“I want to cut the bitch,” D told me of his new boss.

I began to feel very uncomfortable around D. I felt unsafe. He was triggering my PTSD. Why I remained in that friendship for another six months when I knew it needed to end is a testament to the harm PTSD can do to a person’s judgement.

It was D who ended the friendship. When he finally cut the cord, he sent me a lengthy email in which he listed my myriad of faults–one after the after. He went out of his way to be as hurtful as possible and made it clear that I was not to respond because he was once again “empowering” himself and putting up “boundaries”. He was too full of himself to hear my sigh of relief that this toxic friendship had finally ended.

But then……

Several people I had contacted regarding news articles I’d been assigned to write told me they were “advised” not to talk to me by a “friend” of mine. I soon found out that the “friend” in question was–you guessed it–D. I left him an irate voicemail in which I told him that he goes to far and doesn’t know when to stop. A few days after that, I received a phone call from the Parkside Station of the San Francisco Police Department. It seems that D and his boyfriend had filed a harassment complaint against me. Among other things, they claimed that I wanted to have a “relationship” with D, which was news to me.

“What are you going to do about this?” I asked the police officer.

“Nothing,” was the reply. “This complaint has no merit.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“It means that this is a false police report,” was the response. The officer told me that filing a false police report is a misdemeanor felony and asked me if I wanted to press charges against D and his boyfriend. I wish I had.

Instead, I filed a complaint against D with the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, the office which licenses therapists to practice in this state. I sent the Board a copy of that false and quite laughable police report. I told them that D had expressed a desire to physically hurt one of his supervisors–”I want to cut the bitch” were D’s words. I stated my concern for the fact that someone as obviously unstable as D was being allowed to provide mental health services. Because I wasn’t his client, the California Board of Behavior Sciences dismissed my complaint against D without even attempting to verify if what I had told them was true. One would think that D’s desire to “cut” his supervisor would be of concern to the Board, but it wasn’t.

More recently I found out about another unstable therapist in California, a friend of a friend. This other therapist is clinically depressed and a “cutter.” She likes to cut herself, and has done so many times. Like D, she’s a member of the LGBT community.

As for D, I recently found out that he’s begun working at a counselling center which serves the LGBT community here in San Francisco. I shudder to think of how much harm he’ll do to the psyche of his clients.

Like many LGBT people, D comes from a background of abuse. He’s endured the sting of homophobia. He’s been traumatized. Whether he knows it or not, he suffers from PTSD. He’s damaged goods. With that in mind, its relatively easy to forgive his behavior.

But what about the California Board of Behavioral Sciences? What’s there excuse? Why are they knowingly allowing mentally unhealthy therapists to work with people who are seeking to be healed from their own traumas? How can we, as LGBT people, a community that’s been traumatized by decades of hate and bullying heal from our wounds when the therapists we turn to for help are themselves unstable? Is this a situation we can live with?

We need to speak up and to demand higher standards from the mental health profession. We should not be expected to turn to unbalanced people for our therapy.


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