When we think of prison we think of a contained cell where ‘one’ is behind bars, with restricted visiting times to see loved ones, only being able to eat what is given, having to share a cell with another that may not be the first choice of a room buddy, supervised wash times, having to use the bathroom openly in the cell, staring at the ceiling wall with an array of past memories of times when there was freedom and shared times with loved ones that maybe were not considered at the time of the crime that led to that very prison in the first place.
When we think of prison we think of bars, black and white or orange jumpsuits, 10 minutes a day of fresh-air time, hellish dynamics between other cell-mates. A world that isn’t safe – which is what a lot of the prisoners are used to in the outside world. Some would say that some inmates actually get an easy time, or a perceived vacation – with a t.v in their cells and free meals but the truth is, they are behind bars, restricted and ultimately shackled to a world in which they belong to no matter what.
Their freedom is branded in a number, they see the sky but it is not a free one, it is seen through the bar lines and covered by a smoldering guilt and conscience that even though may be quiet at times, will always remind of the past events, if not faced or healed. I do believe prisoners do become accustomed to their surroundings in some way or another – as human beings do in the name of survival – we adapt!
On some level I feel like I know this prison. Now, I have never actually been inside a jail and I plan to keep it that way but I have struggled with the prison of my own mind and all the ‘dealings’ that goes on inside that place – well quite frankly, is sometimes criminal to my own personal well-being.
The infamous Bob Marley sung “emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds” and boy was he right. But! How can you be the one to free yourself from the very thing that put you in there in the first place. Take addiction for example, it’s like to saying to a person who regularly shoots up heroin, you can’t just say to them, “stop putting the needle in mate”, they are addicted! They only know their needle and the short fix of momentary peace that comes from it.
“Stop Over Thinking it!”
Many people have told me throughout my life to stop over-thinking but over-thinking was my survival method born when I was a child when I felt abandoned, unheard and especially misunderstood. I would hear myself scream on the inside and thought someone would hear me. It took me 28 years before I would finally hear myself and walk towards the door of that inner prison and start to present the key to the broken and frightened child inside. After many conversations with her, she finally told me that she had been sexually abused at the age of 6. When she finally told me as much as I knew in my stomach she was telling me the truth, a part of me looked over my shoulder and said, “surely you are talking about someone else?”.
But it all started to click into place, I started to tick all the classic ‘survivor’ check lists of non-functional patterns of behaviour. The naive part of me thought that once I had opened pandora’s box then that would be it – I had found the key, so surely the search would now be over and I could return to “normal” – but in truth, little to my awareness, that was just the beginning and the start of my healing. That little girl had been inside that locked room for 28 years, alone, deeply hurt, betrayed and worst of all blamed and self blaming to add deeper insult to injury. Totally innocent and sweet but neither the less angry and sad and hurt by the way everyone had treated her and still continued to do so.
Many of my relationships reflected that of my abuser to the point that once the light had turned on, I started to notice how much of what I had considered love was nothing more than the smoke screen of lust and desire. Feeding that inner child poison in that prison had become my fortai and now it was time to make up for it and that was going to take work, time and most of all trust.
The Start of a Healing Journey
I am around 5 years into my healing journey and I would like to say it has gotten easier but it doesn’t always appear that way or feel so.
Although, I have noticed I am getting better at the word NO – and it feels good to finally voice my boundaries! That little girl hasn’t made it all the way out of that prison cell yet, sometimes she comes out to play with me and we sit and talk and sometimes she will even go outside to the green fields to play but she hasn’t quite understood yet that she doesn’t need to live and sleep in that prison anymore. It has been her home for so long and that she feels that she really doesn’t have anywhere else to go.
Her inner prison reflects that much of an external prison, similar to that which I spoke of right at the beginning. She has many pictures on the wall, some that she has drawn herself and some photos of memories both good and bad. She eats as if she is in prison, hardly that is! She is quite mal-nourished and doesn’t go outside that much in order to see the sun. She has become rather “comfortable” in there, she reads and distracts herself with the latest videos or movies and just stays there in the comfort of her hard floors – because well after all, at least they’re hers and no one can take those floors away from her.
She occasionally has to share herself with parts of herself that she hasn’t quite befriended yet, rather like in real prison where you don’t get much say in whom comes to stay! Sometimes I feel she is waiting for a knight in shining armour to come and rescue her – she originally grew up on way to much Disney! I have tried to tell her that I am here, I am here to rescue her but she rightly reminds me at times that I hardly love myself too so how can I love her and look after her. So much like a single Mother coming off her addictions, I am trying to move into a more stable place inside me whereby I can hold my own hand through trial and tribulation so I can finally set that 6 year old free to come and live with me permanently – far far away from that cell – that’s if she’ll have me of course!
Making Plans to Play
I am planning on getting her a Dog in the hope that he will make her want to go outside and play more and forget the inside of that jail. Here’s hoping! I believe in her and it’s only a matter of time that she re-kindles with the sun and remember that’s truly where she comes from. That sweet child of mine needs me now more than ever and it’s time for me to step up and do more than my usual duties, it’s time for me to love her so much that it will finally hit home one day – that she does not deserve to live in that place anymore. Her eyes are open but she continually sees the same movies play over and over. My prayer for her, is that one day soon, it will be the day that when she opens her eyes, she can see clearly, that no longer does she feel blind nor deaf or that she is unlovable, but that the door is wide open and has always been. One day, she may believe the world is safe again and I hope this day will be soon!
The Prison in Me, by Erica Rose 2018, #myprison