Ralph Hoffman's Story
I owe my recovery to having been employed continuously from 1966 to 1986.
However, it was job stress that led to my first hospitalization.
I was working in a petrochemical plant in 1968 when we had a "turnaround," a
shutdown for maintenance in which minimizing the time it takes to get back
on-stream is of the essence. Fourteen hours a day for 14 straight days,
my job was to inspect vessels, furnaces, compressors, and other equipment
of all shapes and sizes for damage, and then inspect them again when repaired.
I returned to work but, feeling anxious, I had my wife take me to our
family physician. He referred me to a psychiatrist, who hospitalized me
in a locked ward and put me on increasingly heavier doses of Thorazine,
telling my wife not to come back for five days. I was given an unknown
number of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) treatments three times a week,
at much higher voltages and amperages than are permitted now. Finally,
I was stabilized on Thorazine, place on an unlocked ward, and returned
to full-time work two months from admission.
I have been hospitalized since, but for briefer stays. In 1978, my diagnosis
was changed from schizophrenia to bipolar affective disorder, which is
what it is today. In 1986, I received SSDI (Social Security Disability
Insurance), with the aid of my company. Although I grew up in abject poverty
in upstate New York, my wife and I have a net worth of over a million dollars,
derived from my income.
I have just filed for the third time for non-partisan public office. Since
I have been open about my psychiatric history in the press, I fully expect
to lose some votes from those who harbor stigmatizing ideas about mental