By: Joseph Green
In this post I want to be honest and transparent about my own personal mental struggles in hopes of shining the light on the struggles that so many others endure in my situation and even those who are not incarcerated. Yet they are apprehensive to talk about it. Prison is a very dangerous place but it’s main objective and design is to break the mental mindset of everyone that enters its doors.
Coming into this system I had no doubt that physically I could protect myself. I was equipped to handle whatever…so I thought. I didn’t know the amount of stress it would play on me mentally. I was tough on the outside but on the inside I was being mentally broken down. My reality was, I was falsely accused of a murder. I had to watch my beautiful black mother fall victim to her own mental illnesses and drug addiction. My younger brother was also serving a life sentence and it was a strong possibility we would never be face to face again. My niece was growing up without my physical presence. My grandmother was getting sick and had to watch her grandkids grow up in prison. And to top it all off my appeals kept getting denied.
These were my thoughts as the years, months, and days begin to pass for me in this prison system. And I was not prepared for this reality. As my appeals got denied I begin to see people in my life lose hope of my return, write less, visit lesser and financial support became non existent. I was now on my own to face this reality. Not because I wasn’t loved anymore but because when I got sentenced, my life was put on pause.
I never understood or even thought I could have a mental illness. I didn’t want to accept that I was dealing with anxiety,severe depression and PTSD. I tried to numb and mask my pain behind laughter and drugs. If you can relate then you know it only took me away for a moment but my reality was always present. For the first time in my life as a grown man I had to come face to face with Joseph. I had to acknowledge that I was not okay. I was hurting and I needed help. I had to regain control of my mental wellbeing and life.
I wanted and I knew I needed help but I couldn’t trust anyone. I made the decision to talk to a psychologist. This had to be done on the low because I didn’t want anyone to know my business. I knew that in order for me to grow and get better I had to face and address my illness.
Prison is filled with men who strive to keep their street image. Believing that their street rep is what defines them as a man. Yet many are wearing mask pretending to be something they not. Telling war stories and king pin stories trying to validate a image or enhance a ego to make themselves seem tougher, smarter and more important then the next man. And yet we all sit in the same unfortunate position here in prison.
Society forgets that we human beings that have emotions and feelings. I’m in love with a beautiful woman. Many believe that we are absent of such a intense and intimate yearning for another human being. Many men strive daily to express this emotion to their family, friends, children and the woman that sacrifices and supports him with her love and support. Everyone needs support now more then ever with all the stuff happening in today’s world.
Everyone is dealing with something that they may not speak about. If you have a love one or friend incarcerated they have moments of despair, loneliness and flat giving up. Your words of encouragement on any given day may be the spark needed to ignite change, hope, and optimism in a dark and demoralizing condition.
It is a huge stigma placed on mental illness so much so that it is rarely spoke about or addressed. Society tends to avoid or downplay the reality that many imprisoned men and women come from low income or impoverished communities. Where drugs, murder, and violence is a norm which causes us to become desensitized to these hardships and realities of life. We begin to accept these negative things as normal activities of the “hood” and ways of life. But none of these things are normal.
Many men are taught to be emotionless especially when your apart of the street life. Like the soldiers who fight for this country, they are taught to detach their feelings and emotions or risk death. No matter the race, culture, economical or social status we have all experienced some form of mental illness. We don’t have to allow ourselves to be controlled by it. Victor Frankle said,” Suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning such as the meaning of sacrifice.”
We suffer from our mental illnesses because we fail to acknowledge they exist. Being incarcerated and battling a mental illness has caused me much suffering but it has also guided me and allowed me to share my experiences and my story in hopes of helping others going through tough times. Your suffering has a purpose and meaning. Remember everyone is going through something. Be that positive light that helps guide them out of darkness. Listen to their voice and help bring about change. Remind them that they are not alone……Things will get better. Have a blessed and peaceful day.