A lasting state….
As my previous blogs have detailed various experiences of prison, probation and post release discrimination, I have decided to leap into a current and lasting state of affairs…. Or, a lasting state. This being, a feeling that was learnt in prison, that has never left me. Since finding my 2013 prison diary, a quote in there that I wrote, that stays with me ‘’My tears dry on their own’’. This has a lot more meaning than I sometimes like to admit. Sometimes I think its ironic that I have been so productive in campaigning against ex offender discrimination, when prison enabled me to build so many protective barriers in regard to work, family and a social life. All of which I didn’t have prior to prison.
Prison is lonely. An environment that only the mentally strong can survive. No-body goes into prison, mentally strong. Not as strong as you need to be. I went to prison a popular young girl, with many a nights partying still ahead of me. I came out of prison, with the number of friends I had, countable on one hand, with no desire at all to go partying or celebrating a release. The days, weeks and months I spent training my brain to survive alone, to let my tears dry on their own, to find the answers to my own questions, and to decide what I wanted from family, friendship and love. While I sat in prison, considering a heap of questions of which I wanted to ask certain people, in my own solitude, without speaking a word, I found the answers. I found a peace in silence, I wouldn’t describe myself as reserved now but in prison, I didn’t fit in to any crowd, I didn’t seek friends or associates and countless times, I walked alone, ate alone and learnt alone. These lessons to me are priceless. As much as I protect myself, my lessons of resilience, of longevity and being ok with standing alone, mean everything to me. My playlist of Destiny’s child got on everyone’s nerves, but to me, these words rang true and I knew that for me to survive what was happening to me, I had to be independent and a survivor.
My family supported me throughout prison but they had each other. I had no-one. Knowing that I have survived what I have been through, not just prison, but prior to that also, alone. I came out of prison a completely different person in mind, body and spirit. The things that usually annoyed me as a teenager, didn’t phase me. The need to fit it, to go out, to make friends. I didn’t want to do it. It really didn’t bother me at all, now upon reflection of my life prior to prison and my life now, I am starting to see so many barriers I have built myself, that are not easy to let go of. The things that I taught myself, in order to protect my sanity, my mental health and my heart from anything the prison experience could do to me, are all still here with me 4 years later. I am still unable to pinpoint whether I feel this is a good or bad thing, but hopefully through addressing them I will be able to gain some clarity.
My friends prior to prison were all pretty decent. I wasn’t with any of them on the night of my offence. Whilst incarcerated, in the early days while not only being devastated with being parted from my family and child, I couldn’t help wondering what I was missing, my sisters were still living life and so were my friends, while I can’t hold this against them at all, being in prison it’s a bitter pill to swallow. I had two years to sit there and keep contact with them, listen to their stories and keep up-to-date with the trials and tribulations of all my teenage mates….. or for my own reasons I could cut all contact with them and get on with me, my life in prison. That is what I did. In the early days I still received letters and the odd visit but no too long into my sentence, I realised that none of these people could at all comprehend the reality of the life I was living now. It was all well and good laughing on visits and replying to letters slagging off their current boyfriend, but this was tedious, stupid and too much effort for me. I could have communicated better the way I felt, how I was now living and my life as a prisoner but for me, that was letting people too much into my life behind prison walls. If I was going to break down, I was going to do that quietly, motionlessly and alone. Nothing was going to change and in reality, my friends at the time probably couldn’t of cared less.
I left prison with three friends, women who I had met in prison and to this day, those are my real friends. The people who like you on your darkest day, with nothing to offer them but a joke, a shoulder to cry on or a bloody stamp!
Being a prisoner destroyed a happy-go-lucky, sociable and polite soul. I am still polite and sociable, but I don’t engage in conversation unless I have to, I don’t go out unless I have to and at work I switch into a completely different person. I guess, prison taught me an adaptability that will never leave me. Its frustrating to realise just how quickly I can switch persona to fit an environment, and I always wonder, did prison take the real me and now I am just getting through life switching from work mode to having to make friends mode and then when I am in the house I feel like my persona goes back to a prisoner where I feel like I have to keep my guard up and the prison walls around me to regain my own protection. True resilience is losing everything you have, from possessions, to relationships and getting it all back but starting from scratch. Knowing this happened to me and I got it all back on my own, scares me sometimes. It makes me realise a power I struggle to notice sometimes, a power that I have inside of me.
Living so much of my life, fending for myself, witnessing addiction and mental health problems on a daily basis, living in prison for two years, it really has changed me. To say I feel like I don’t need anyone would be a lie, but I have a vision for my life, a path that I want and need to follow that was born from solitude, It keeps me from engaging in anything that I feel may have a detrimental effect on my own journey.
I guess life is a funny thing, no one call tell you how to live your life. We all have experiences and it is in our moments of decision that shape our destiny. I felt trapped in prison so I trained my brain to not let it get to me and I decided to cut everyone I possibly could, out of my life…. I came out and by anyone’s standards I am doing well but the inability to share my emotions and feelings that I forced upon myself during my time of incarceration for the sake of myself and my family, I am struggling to let go of. Maybe its fear of appearing weak, when I had to toughen up or maybe I reflect on prison and think, well if that didn’t break me then nothing can so I won’t address my feelings. Who knows, I am still on this journey called life!