Back in February of 1999, I attended a fundraiser benefiting a local community counseling center located in Virginia. I went with another psychiatric nurse, and we were very excited about our night out on the town because we were going to meet a famous doctor. Little did I know that I would be getting into a war of words with a clown.

The event was held shortly after the release of the movie, Patch Adams, and Dr. Hunter Adams was speaking at the gathering. There was a small turnout at the event, and this allowed us to meet Dr. Adams in a small, intimate group. He chatted with each person, and then he approached my friend and me. He was very happy to meet nurses. He said he loves nurse, who doesn’t, right? Then he asked us about our work. When we told him that we worked in a psychiatric unit, he glared at us. I saw rage in his eyes. He snarled, “Psych nurses! So, have you drugged up anyone today?” Then he turned and walked away. We were shocked, and my friend burst into tears. This guy wasn’t like the character that Robin Williams played in the movie, and his comment was a slap in the face. I walked up to Dr. Adams, tapped him on the shoulder, and demanded to know what his problem was, but before he could answer, I asked him if he had been treated badly on a psychiatric unit in the past. He gave me his speech about how love can cure mental illnesses, and then he called me a pill Nazi because I give people Haldol. I stopped and stared at him, and then I started laughing. I told him that he wasn’t the first doctor to call me a name, but he was the first one who had the balls to say something so ridiculous while wearing a clown suit.

In his book, House Calls: How We Can All Heal the World One Visit at a Time, Dr. Adams talks about caring for the mentally ill. This picture is an illustration from the book. Dr. Adams writes:

“ So much of what is called “mental illness” is really a consequence of our troubled society—one that promotes loneliness and conformity in a world whose gods are money and power.”

Dr. Adams goes on to write that mental illness is curable if patients are provided with a loving, creative, and communal environment. I don’t know about you, but I thought much of what we call mental illness had something to do with neurotransmitters. Maybe Dr. Adams would have a greater appreciation of psychotropic medications if he had to care for extremely ill patients on a daily basis.

On the way home from the fundraiser, my friend told me that she thinks that Patch Adams is bipolar because he was loud, verbose, and labile. She also pointed out that not too many grown men run around wearing a clown suit. Whatever he is, I just wish he would stop telling patients that they don’t need to take their medications.

The pill Nazi has spoken.