People with criminal conviction records eventually will slip into a coma-like mental pattern where opportunities feel hopeless or disconnected from the operational world around them. Many people have spent countless days in jail, prisons, or perhaps at home with a jail-like experience with inabilities to either leave or not having the finances or knowing where the next meal, roof, or opportunity will be before them? I, too, have been in that dark place. There will always be unhelpful opportunists to exclaim “well, you put yourself in that place.” But trying to find the light with so much darkness around can be a steep path to navigate. But the one thing that kept me going was a determination to discover answers. Rather than sulking in sorrow or misery, I had to ask for help first mentally and then spiritually. For some of you, the spirituality method may be a sore subject. I completely get that because I felt abandoned by my own God. However, for the sake of keeping a compass bearing, let’s focus on the mentality part.
1.2 million individuals living with mental illness sit in jail and prison each year
Mental health is nothing to put off thinking that one can “get brave” and handle it. Asking for help for any mental health issue is a challenge because we are embedded by parents, spouses, leaders, friends, and sometimes self-help materials to not let people see the vulnerability within us. We are reminded to keep our tears secreted and masked only to show the strongest side of us. Without hesitation, I say that well-being is the worst piece of advice anyone could ever give! Naturally, our survival instinct triggers us mentally to panic and survive at nearly any cost. But that is the vulnerability we should pack away for a moment and allow others to assist in a healthy direction. That direction begins with contacting local, state, county, social services, churches, LGBT centers, NAACP groups, food banks, creditors, banks, online friends, former contacts, allies and sometimes non-traditional support methods. If it has a phone number, call it! Asking for help is the hardest part because not only do we feel shame on one level we experience shame on another level for asking for help.
Ignoring your pain, masking your weaknesses, and suppressing your emotions won’t make you any better. Remind yourself that asking for help means you’re strong enough to admit you don’t have all the answers. … It means you’re trying to deal with uncomfortable emotions, like humility, fear, and embarrassment, head-on.
People that know me will immediately say that I present resources and contact information to get things started. Yes; Others must do the work, but I can show the doorway by being a support resouce for others – as other have the ability to do so. I have rarely had feedback saying, “they couldn’t help at all?” Instead, I have witnessed successes because providing the door allows others to maintain control without feeling as much shame. But then once the austerity conditions set in the shame switches to frustration, anger, and blame assessments. This is common. But a good plan is to be aware that these feelings are normal. But they are feeling and not a factual part of your life directly. Anger happens to lots of people. So, don’t feel so all alone and isolated. Instead, bring a manta in your life to keep you going. Mine is, “don’t bring me a problem; bring me a solution.” That way, I don’t complain to others or fall into a gap of seeming to blame others. I work out my problem to find various solutions and then attempt to implement them. If I need help, I discuss the solution to determine if that part plan is realistic?
But this piece of advice may be adequate or inadequate depending on where your mental health is with you today. Try to be hopeful. Hope has allowed me to cling on perhaps the worst days of my life. But at least I can be optimistic about something in my life or the optomism in the life of others. Without question, being hopeful and positive require lots of energy. But I would argue that it takes more energy being angry at the world than it does to be happy and optimistic. Therefore, I encourage all to be positive in your day-to-day routine and try to be positive for others.
Attitude is a decision.
Lastly, for those that have an issue with spirituality. If you have a problem with God or a fixed ultra-being, then I highly recommend finding a temporary fix to your religious situation. For example, if you enjoy eating, then perhaps the refrigerator could be your temporary God? That way, the light comes on and goes off each time you open and pay respects to the refrigerator-god! (feel free to play dramatic spritual awaking background music at this moment) Sometimes there may be food, other times not. But if you require a spiritual awakening moment, place your head in the freezer portion for a few minutes – to cool down from being so overwhelmed. But develop something that gives you a spiritual goal until you are comfortable enough to maintain a relationship with whatever religion you choose. Spirituality provides not just comfort, but it provides guidelines and an ethical code to follow, which can help mental health issues. It is somewhat symbiotic but helpful to find balance in life. (and dont worry about the graven images commandment. You have a long way to go at this point!)
If you have never experienced jail, prison, house arrest, or confinement. Congratulations! Now take that virtuous life you live being helpful to others returning others towards a good life similar to yours. Help one another and hope for the best!
One more thing. Learn to laugh again and share that laughter!