For many, prison is known as an isolated location for those who have committed crimes. A place of contained confinement for those of us on the outside to ensure our safety. Loss of control, barbed wire and armed security guards. Orange suits, questionable slop and unpleasant smells. You are told who, what, where, when and never why. Rise and shine and lights out when told. Break the rules, pay the price. Men and women live in fear behind these bars. The fear of life. Fearful of who has our back and those talking behind it. Loneliness, nightmares, scattered letters and hopeful visitation. Too much time in our heads to ponder our lives and the decisions we have made. Like a caged animal, we dream of the freedom beyond the cell door or perhaps the fear of leaving it.
What about the prison we live in every day? The prison of our thoughts, fears and behaviors. Behind the bars of mental illness and addictions. Shackled and gagged. Exhausted from the fight of escape. The lies and false promises made from the crowd of screaming voices in our heads. The reaching for an off switch that does not exist. The handful of pills and cries of wanting it all to just go away. The crippling fear of an unknown identity. “Surrender” you say. “Surrender what?” “Just stop” you say. If it were only that easy! We desperately want help but have been trained to push you away. “Go away, we can do this on our own” we lie to you as we hide our shudder and wipe a tear. You see defeat as we rise up to fight yet another round. We don’t want to die but at times death presents itself as freedom from our personal prison.
Please don’t judge what you may not understand. We are not lazy. We fight for our lives everyday. We want freedom more than anything.
Don’t give up on me. I am still here.
Mental illness is not a choice.