Verlie Word, 133220, Nottoway Correctional Center, Virginia Department of Corrections.
After receiving feedback and encouraging words, I was inspired to continue with the subject of mental health. When I use the word mental health, I’m speaking on psychology well-being.
Before I continue, I have a question. Did you know mental illness disguises itself in different forms, such as anxiety, paranoia, stress, and depression?
Before being incarcerated, I didn’t appreciate my mental health. Truthfully, I had no opinion on the subject. Now having some understanding of the symptoms, I can say I was living with a psychotic disorder, mostly hallucination.
I started my prison times in the mountains of Big Stone Gap which was a level five institutions. The prison breeds stress and depression. Let’s start with stress. It refers to a state of mental or emotional strain resulting from demanding circumstances.
I have learned there’s two categories of stress: situational stress and self-inflicted stress. Situational stress occurs when you are confronted with stressful situations that will come. There is nothing you did to cause it or could done to prevent it. I’m pretty sure my stress came from the latter, self-inflicted stress. This one refers to stress that was being brought on by myself, my personal choices, and daily actions—basically making bad decisions.
Now stress wasn’t alone. I had depression to deal with daily. Depression is a prolonged sadness that involves gloom and dejection. Any jail or prison is an unnatural environment, so it’s not surprising that the majority of us in prisons have or will experience a sense of hopelessness. This is when things get dangerous for the individual and possibly for those around him.
Here are some symptoms that are associated with depression.
Negative emotion: this is when you are depressed, you become angry or hateful towards others.
Fatigue: depression causes you to be more fatigued than usual. I slept the majority of 2004 away. You will find yourself sleeping more throughout the day. In some cases, I’ve seen guys in prison who have trouble just getting out of bed.
Isolation: I can speak on this personally as well. When people ask what’s wrong, I usually don’t want to talk about it. Us men are quick to say “I’m good, everything is okay.” Shutting down and isolate myself was much easier.
Last, negative coping mechanisms: these are tools we use to cope with our problems. For example: substance abuse, overeating, sex, whatever we do for temporary solutions for coping with stress or depression.
Depression is hard to recover from, and it ill take time and persistence to overcome. Listen, dwelling on what you should be in life and how you messed up in life can lead you to deeper depression. I experienced it firsthand. Depress can lead to suicidal thoughts that tells you in a quiet voice that all hope is lost, you are worthless.
But let me tell you: between 2003 and 2005, that played in my head like a song on loop. If you ever had suicidal thoughts, remember that you have self-worth and a purpose in life. Suicide is not the answer to solve your personal, social, or family problems. Your life is more valuable than you can ever know.
Find someone you can open up to. No longer should you deal with mental illness alone. As for me, I had to be honest with myself. There are symptoms I have overcame and there are some things I am still dealing with. But what I get excited about is my health. I’m not alone.
God said his grace is sufficient for me. His power is perfected in my weakness. Therefore I will gladly boast all the more about my weakness so Christ’s power may reside in me. I will end with this.
If you know someone in prison with mental illness or in society, maybe you are dealing with mental health issues yourself. Please know you’re not alone. The more of us that speak out, it will give others the courage to share their struggle. Thank you.
These commentaries are recorded by Prison Radio.