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Artist, Survivor, Thriver!


Patrick Brandt

Patrick Brandt is coming home.

After losing his job—in the wake of the economic downturn following 9/11—Patrick became paralyzed by depression and hopelessness. He wanted to die. He sought treatment even though he was not optimistic. Unfortunately, the medication only made him feel worse. Just as Brandt had given up hope, a friend recommended AHP. “I had nothing to lose,” Brandt said, “I just felt wretched.” AHP helped Brandt, “and not just to survive, but to thrive!”

Brandt grew up with very few resources. But not having drawing paper wasn’t a problem; he drew in the margins of the novels on his mother’s bookshelf. Later, Brandt pursued an art degree from Webster College in St. Louis, Missouri, and art has made tremendous contributions to his mental health. “When I paint,” Brandt reflected, “I feel happy, challenged, and expansive.”

It was not only 9/11 or his unemployment that pushed Brandt beyond his own capacities to cope. His father committed suicide when he was 8 years old. His partner died of AIDS in 1990. And Brandt, himself, has been living with HIV since 1992. Brandt said his AHP psychiatrist allowed him to take his time, talk through his feelings, investigate his symptoms, and to slowly try new medications. In counseling sessions, the AHP clinical intern who helped him confront his losses, “always made me feel so understood and empowered, as if I were making all the decisions.” And the fact that AHP staff understood the nuances of living with HIV and of being gay made him feel safe and understood.

Patrick credits AHP, and his love of painting, with his stable mental health today. So stable that, after spending three years in Grass Valley, he is moving back to San Francisco, where he hopes to be inspired by what he loves: urban energy, artists, palm trees, and visual stimulation. Which is fortunate for AHP, because Brandt represents not only a story of healing, in which AHP staff were honored to participate, but also a story of giving back. Brandt is an artist, and AHP has benefited from his love of creativity, because, for the last couple of years, he has donated his work to our Art for AIDS auction.

Patrick longs for a mental health provider like the ones he had at AHP; providers who really understand his intersecting conditions which have been compounded by aging, chronic pain, memory loss, and neuropathy.

Brandt concluded, “I try to focus on making the best of my situation.” It’s clear to AHP that Brandt’s resilience and capacity were crucial to his restoration. We just helped him recognize it. He remains a true survivor and someone AHP is honored to have on our team.