Issa Ibrahim is an artist, a musician, and a writer. That’s his most recent bio – but his past has a very dark side to it.
In February of 1990, Ibrahim accidentally killed his mother, while experiencing a psychotic break. He accepted an insanity plea – and was indefinitely committed to a psychiatric state hospital in Queens, New York, called Creedmoor.
Issa Ibrahim’s story was reported by Laura Starecheski for State of the Re:Union in 2013, and the artist just published a book about his life called “The Hospital Always Wins.”
During his time at Creedmoor, Ibrahim participated in an art program on its grounds called “The Living Museum.” Painting was, first, just a way to help him cope in the hospital, but eventually, he became successful with his art. He was selling paintings. Despite that, he continued to get in trouble with staff, and set himself back from being released. He says in a way, his behavior was intentional.
“I was punishing myself in many ways,” he recalled. “By getting into trouble, and knowing that I would get caught. A part of me wanted to heap as much punishment on myself as I could, because I felt so guilty about my mom.”
But around the turn of the millennium, he had a breakthrough of sorts.
“There’s something Dirty Harry says in one of his movies, ‘a man has got to know his limitations’ and I hit a rock bottom, of sorts,” he said. From rock bottom, he was put on an injectible medication that ended up really helping him.
“I came to an understanding that I had to stop fighting this way, and formulate a larger goal.” During that awakening he says he came to understand that his mom wouldn’t want him to suffer, or spend the rest of his life in a mental hospital.
He was released from the hospital in 2009.
“I still struggle with guilt and some mornings, I wake up and feel really bad about myself,” he said.
Ibrahim says he maintains his mental health through positivity and friendship and by staying busy.
“Painting, writing, making music, and I can’t deny that I get my shot every month,” he said.
His network of friends is very aware of his condition, and keeps an eye out for any changes in his behavior or moods.
“They will know what to do, if they have to commit me,” he said.
Right now, though, he says he is happy, healthy, and living a life that he couldn’t imagine when he was confined to his small room at Creedmoor.
“Being free to create without boundaries, and have people hear it, read it, see it, I’m living the dream. If I can continue doing this, I’m just as happy as a pig in mud.”