This has been something men and women have struggled with, for as long as anyone can remember. And it’ll be something that’ll affect men and women, for years to come! Being locked-up from COVID will be a struggle for all.

Because with any physical confinement comes the mental prison, that inevitably goes hand-in-hand with it. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re strong & disciplined or weak & wanting… at some point ALL of us face the many mental pressures, that come with being locked-up!

And, there’s never been a time, like now, when so many people… incarcerated and free could truly relate and empathize with what’s happening across the board. It’s been these unprecedented times of global “stay at home” orders that have found us on such common grounds, when it comes to the mental struggles that accompany ANY lengthy confinement.

For myself, having been locked-up the better part of the past 28 years, the MANY mental trials & tribulations have become common place and much easier to work through. These being the mental and emotional pressures, that have plagued the masses being forced to stay home and be isolated. The same pressures that plague those of us, within the prison systems every single day! This is the 1st chance, for the majority of society to really see and feel, 1st hand, the mental aspect of the mass incarcerations that are occurring within our Nation.

Don’t get me wrong though, ‘cuz I still struggle and suffer some losses which I’ve written about previously, in my struggles with depression and just some of the overwhelming stresses I’m confronted with almost daily. This is why I can empathize with the struggles that are being seen, in the streets, right now.

Being confined anywhere will take its toll on you mentally, emotionally and physically. You hear about people gaining that “quarantine-weight”, but that’s a surface issue and a superficial one, one that can be corrected with a little physical activity.

But, no, I’m talking about the deeper issues, that aren’t always as easy to see, that are causing the greatest damage! Loneliness, boredom, fear, and isolation. These are just a few of the feelings that we can experience when locked-up that can wear-down our mental and emotional health, which in turn can ALSO affect our physical health, as well. This can be seen with the massive rise, in drug use and huge spike in drug overdoses… you also have the spike in domestic abuse claims and divorces/ separations. And these aren’t as easy to see or correctly identify!

How many times have you sat there and just felt like you were going stir-crazy, since all this began? Longing to just go back to work (even to a job you might not particularly like) or perform some other menial task, that would just get you outta the house and hopefully introduce the opportunity to find ANY social-interaction?!

If you even had to think about it, then this could apply to you. I know 1st hand how being confined can make you look back and reminisce on some of the most trivial things… things that I can no longer see, touch or experience! And if I allowed myself to sit here and dwell on those things, then I would probably have to be medicated and/or seek some form of therapy, for real!

And I know this is new for a lot of people and having been thrown into this situation, unprepared, can make for a very difficult adjustment! A situation, that millions of households has been effected by, during this time of: social distancing, quarantining and isolation.

So, with the knowledge of what’s affecting so many people, in a negative way and while still maintaining these forms of social distancing & isolation… what can we do to overcome these pressures and re-achieve some balance to our mental & emotional health?? I know that all this shit was uncomfortable and unexpected… how could you ever prepare for a global pandemic and the lock-down that would follow?!

All I can do is speak from my own perspective and experiences… on how I’ve tackled loneliness, isolation, a lack of “real” social-interaction (both physical and verbal) and the “stir-crazy” that comes with long-term confinement. And trust me, as many of you now know… it’s not as easy as one may have thought, but like any action used it repetition these things become easier.

For me, one of the biggest obstacles on my path, to overcoming the mental & emotional pressures was constantly focusing on the things I was missing out on and realizing how life was moving on without me… with little to no effect on those lives that were moving forward.

Of course, for those who are home due to this pandemic… the situation is different, since most people are in the same situation as they are. But, then I would get stuck just thinking about the things, that I woulda been doing… were I not removed from society. I know some of my struggles may be different… cuz at the end of this brief period you’ll be able to rejoin family, friends & loved ones and continue to move forward.

Soon, this will become a blurry memory that’ll continue to fade as your lives resume to a normalcy. Those behind these fences will just have to continue to confront the never-ending onslaught of mental & emotional attacks, that are as much a part of our incarceration as the fences they place us behind.

The best advice I can try and give, is to try and just “let go”. If you can be successful with that simple-sounding thing, then you can allow yourself to quit: focusing, dwelling or being absorbed in your current situation. This can allow you a release from that “mental-prison” you had yourself in… and you can begin to re-focus that time, energy & mental space onto more positive and productive tasks. This should be the end-goal, for us all… to make the most of our time and be able to gain from any situation we find ourselves in. This also allows us to feel better about ourselves and the things we’re trying accomplish … this also adds to how we feel inside… improving our outlook and how we view ourselves. All of this just goes to re-enforce our positive & healthy mental & emotional well-being.

Now, follow that by working to maintain regular contact & communication with some positive people in your life… this continues to re-enforce your own positive thoughts & actions. Being positive is truly contagious, which I why I strive to surround myself with as many positive people as I can… even when I’m struggling (at times) to stay afloat in a sea of negativity. Because all it takes is that 1 positive hand to reach out and pull you, from drowning in that negativity. And I’ve been on both ends of that, out-reached hand, more times than I can count!

I know that we all deal with things differently and what may work for me… may not work for you. The best advice I can give is that if times get to feeling, too hard, don’t hesitate to reach-out and ask for help. I pride myself on my mental strength & discipline, but I am blessed to have had some people in my life… even in prison… who I can reach-out to and rely on when I feel overwhelmed, over-stressed or just over it all. That’s the only way I’ve been able to maintain the semblance of mental & emotional health! I’ve recently made efforts to expand that support-system outside these fences, with hopes of re-building my skills of social-interaction and allowing my mental to expand back outside these fences. It’s proven a little more difficult than I might have hoped for, but it is something I continue to strive towards to bring a healthier balance back into my life.

Look, this has been a horrible situation, that’s put those on BOTH sides of these prison-fences on, equal footing. This is a thing that hasn’t ever occured before, that I hope can bring a little more insight and understanding to the plight of the human lives that are being warehoused in isolation… under the guise of protecting human lives, while at the same time creating conditions that can be inhumane and mentally-torturous. There just needs to be a better… more healthy balance to who gets incarcerated, how long they’re incarcerated & how they’re treated, while incarcerated!

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