As a child I was extremely sick. I spent the first 4 years in and out of a Children’s Hospital because they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. It almost bankrupted my parents. Because I was sick all the time I was malnourished, my body didn’t hold on to anything long enough to really absorb the nutrients. It turned out that my pancreas doesn’t secrete the enzyme for my body to digest sugar. If I had too much my body would purge itself and shut down, including my immune system. Once they figured out that I wasn’t supposed to have sugar wasn’t the end of it. I had a lot of respiratory problems, croup, bronchitis, pneumonia. There were a couple times when I thought I was going to die, I’d wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to breath. Every year until I was 13, I was bed ridden sick on my birthday and Christmas.
When I was sick like that, I couldn’t do much, so I spent a lot of time alone. It made me introverted and made it so that isolation wasn’t a punishment because that’s what I was used to. I read a lot because it helped take my mind off physically being miserable. I was very active when I was a kid and besides me enjoying sports it was important for me to be active because it helped keep me healthy. There’s a lot I enjoy about working out as much as I do (See my post “Do the time, don’t let the time do you”) but a big part of it is so I stay healthy. I don’t ever wanna fall back into being sick like I was, so working out has more of a necessity aspect to it for me.
Since I was used to being alone and reading, prison isn’t much of a punishment in that perspective. In all honesty there are times when I want to spend some time in the hole to have a little vacation. I do my best to maintain a positive attitude but there are times when being in here is mentally exhausting. I’ve described the mentality being in here in a couple different posts, you have to be consciously engaged at all times. There’s never really a time when I get to turn my mind off and relax. I can’t put my headphones on and just focus on whatever I’m watching or music I’m listening to when I’m in the cell because I have to have an ear open to the hallway to be aware of what’s going on out there.
Being sick like that also did something else to my mentality besides being ok with isolation, it also made me despise vulnerability. At the time I couldn’t do it physically, so I started to do it mentally. I became desensitized to sympathy and empathy because they were vulnerabilities, things that made me feel bad or upset. It made me cold and detached. In my mind I had it bad, but I used it to help myself and made it something positive and if I could do it with my situation anyone else could with their own.
Being sick like that actually made me really grateful because I know how bad it could be. the only thing I really let myself feel was anger and that was because it made me feel powerful. Nobody could do anything to me, I didn’t care about anything and I was always ready to take everything farther so I would always come out on top. Certain things about my mentality helped prepare me for prison.
When I first came down, I was like a sponge. I was still young and growing into a man and knew that I had to live here. At the time I wasn’t thinking about how the things I was learning would affect my life in the long term. What I learned in prison I adapted into who I was, they weren’t things that were just relevant while I was there. One good thing was that I learned not to react impulsively or to my anger. I learned discipline. I also learned to be more conscious, to have a logical thought process and reason for everything that I do. This motivated me to learn about how things worked and why.
I had allowed myself to learn about being a prisoner so much that being in prison was what became normal for me because it effected every aspect of life for the time I was incarcerated. The same way I was uncomfortable when I first got locked up, and when I first got out, I was uncomfortable again. My reality was significantly different than the people around me and it was hard to relate to people.
When I got locked back up, I still maintained that same mind set. I didn’t think about the things I couldn’t have, I stayed detached, and I made the best out of the circumstances I was in. I was in the county jail for a year fighting this case. When I made it back to prison it was the same way except, I had a new environment to focus on adapting to. Being in level 4 was a way different style of doing time and especially because of how much time I came back with it puts things in a different perspective. To stay on subject for this post though I maintained the same mentality for years.
Your thoughts control your perception, your perception shapes your reality, your reality causes you to act, your actions become habit, and your habits define your character. My thoughts were always positive, motivated, and hopeful until 2018 when I had someone completely unexpected come into my life. I hadn’t really cared about not having any friends left outside of here. One of the guys I was cool with said he had an introduction letter from one of his girls friends because she wanted someone to write to. I wrote to her and at first it was cool. As always, I was skeptical and distant. She started telling me more about herself and stuff she’s been through. I found a situation where I thought I’d try to open up because I wanted to do what I could to help this girl. I ended up feeling a really strong connection to her and opened up more than I would have ever thought I’d allow myself. I allowed myself to feel even more connected even though I shouldn’t have, and as things got better for her she wanted less to do with me. I haven’t mentioned it before, but I’ve got a self-destructive pattern and because I cared about her and felt connected to her, which made me feel uncomfortable, I know there’s a part of me that subconsciously pushed her away.
Also, once she started doing better, I knew what I provided wouldn’t be needed anymore so part of me wanted to end things before I could be left like basically everyone else has left. It felt good to think I could help someone but it doesn’t feel good to be shown that it didn’t really mean anything to the other person past what they could gain from it.
Last I heard from her she was doing good and I hope she still is but I don’t believe that she’s where she’s at today because of me, she could have gotten there all on her own. I put myself at a disadvantage though because now I have to deal with the fact that I allowed myself to care about someone and I’m terrible at caring about pretty much anything. I’m good at dealing with standards and principles, not emotions. I’ve been internally conflicted because I’ve been told before that being vulnerable is the only way to be loved and truly belong, but is all the disappointment worth it? And what if I never find those meaningful relationships? Because I’d rather get stabbed physically than hurt emotionally. Physical wounds heal way faster than emotional ones for me
I can’t just blame other people though; I have to take responsibility on my end too. I’m not good with people. I’m socially awkward and I’m not good with laughing and joking. I used to be witty and charismatic and funny. I’ve lost that part of my personality. I’ve traded those characteristics for the characteristics of a successful and respected prisoner. It wasn’t a conscious transition, I never noticed that as I was becoming more disciplined, I was losing my sense of humor. There have been plenty of times that I ask myself why everyone can just walk away from me, why people don’t care, and I ask myself what’s wrong with me? Don’t get me wrong, I love who I am, I have a lot of confidence in what I do possess. But I also realize that I can grow and there are some things that I don’t have that I should.
Because I’ve done so much time staying focused and not allowing myself to think of things outside of here, I don’t have many interests that don’t have something to do with prison and who can connect with someone like that? Who likes to talk to someone who’s serious all the time? It’s something that I’m working on. I don’t wanna become institutionalized. I wanna be more personable and sociable. I wanna be able to have meaningful relationships with people. I wanna be able to have friends. I know without a doubt that I don’t need anyone in this world besides myself, but I should also be able to be comfortable with having more than just myself. I’m at a disadvantage to have all those things because I’m in here and I don’t have many resources to meet people but if the opportunity does present itself I’d like to be able to have the necessary qualities to have different kinds of interactions with people and build real bonds.
I had one other person come into my life that ended up being special for a short amount of time. She wrote me first and I responded. She didn’t really show much interest at first, but I was a little persistent. We started talking on a regular basis in August and it was better than I would have imagined. I was more reserved because I saw the potential to get hurt from the beginning and the fact that I was even allowing myself the possibility to get hurt was progress.
We talked a lot and I started to open up. One thing I had learned from the previous experience was how to balance opening up a little more without being as attached. There were a lot of things I was skeptical about and that let me keep some distance too. Then we started talking on the phone. Within the first month of us talking on the phone we spent $250. We spent a lot of time on there. It was so refreshing to find someone who was really interested in actually getting to know me as a person. She saw past me being a prisoner. She didn’t care that I was locked up because she valued who I was. She would actually pay attention to the things I said and was insightful about who I really was, not because I told her but because of how she read into the things I would tell her about. She lived in Florida but it didn’t take long before she started talking about coming to see me to find out if what she felt for me was real.
I sent her a bouquet of red, white, and pink roses in a nice red glass vase, the first time I’ve ever sent someone flowers. She said she fell for me. She picked up another job and we started talking less because she was so busy. I ended up getting moved to the facility that I’m at now in the end of October. I talked to her once not long after I got here and everything was great and she told me she loved me before we got off the phone. It was the last time I heard from her. I still to this day don’t have the slightest clue about what happened. Thinking that someone actually cared, accepted me, and wanted me just to ghost me a few months later hasn’t really helped my process in learning to open up. I let myself miss her and I never let myself miss anyone because there’s always a reason why they aren’t in my life anymore whether it’s their choice or mine.
In all honesty I’ve gotten some good insight from writing this. Talking about anything having to do with myself has never been my way but with having this site, something that’s bigger than myself, as a reason to talk about things that’re raw and real has been helping me with some realizations that I hope will help me grow. Writing this goes against so much that I’ve taught myself to value and how to be. Learning to open up hasn’t done much good so far but change can’t happen if nothing changes right? It doesn’t feel good to allow myself to have feelings, but maybe one day it will.
Source of Featured Image: BBC