A Little Hope From My Friends

Not all days are our best days. But asking for help is not a weakness. It is perhaps the strongest part of maintaining a positive outlook on life.

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!)

Perhaps the original messiah of refrigerators

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!

New Year Resolution

To begin a prosperous New Year’s, it is essential to reflect on past events.

A few months ago I was assisting an ‘adoptive relative’ with his educational pursuits. Each semester he would receive a refund from his community college Pell grant into his own personal bank account. He accepted a student loan to purchase a laptop to continue the remainder of his junior/senior at a 4-year institution. What he didn’t know, at least what he said to me, was his “adoptive mother” had been siphoning his bank account unknowingly to pay for utility bills. A little over $7K was supposedly saved to continue college, not including the $2,250 student loan for a future laptop, and supposed inheritance money left by the person he knew as his grandfather. When he attended his recent student orientation, the money he had saved or thought was saved was gone entirely; except 90 cents.

When I confronted missing money issue I was repeatedly told by the adoptive mother “there was no refund” and continually barraged with no knowledge of a distributed college loan. Again, when confronted about the money I was told, “I only get a petty social security check each month” as to assert she was privileged enough to take from others with no restitution plan but also admitting to taking money from his account. His college plans and savings he thought was being saved over time been in exploited for other uses. She owns her own home, has no house payment, received child support payments, receives SNAP, worked part-time, and gets a social security check, and taking handouts from other family members. It wasn’t enough for her.

The money was in the bank the whole time and spent by her as she had custody and control of his bank cards the entire time.

When the onion is peeled back more, I learned that she had illegally opened a credit card account in her own daughters’ name twenty years ago before this incident. The daughter would eventually end up telling her “brother” everything that happened. The information was enough to break the camels back. He decided he had enough and needed a restart and safe, trusting place to influence his life.

He decided to move out and into his biological mothers home in Virginia. However, the drama escalated as he mentions the gifts and presents he acquired over the years were no longer legally his. He said, “they don’t want me to have anything or be successful moving forward. They want to sweep everything under the rug and blame me!” The texts he showed me was heartwrenching and hurtful, especially during Christmas. It wasn’t the “adoptive mother” that was texting or calling making him feel like a second-class family member. It was nearly the whole side of his adoptive family. Why? Because they only were privy to a one-sided story without listening to his accounts severe misdeeds and abuses.

Instead of making an issue right and being supportive of a young man and his decision making. The tables were turned to demoralize him with screaming filled emotions, anger, deceptions, and blame assessments. However, a positive light to all of this drama is that he made a choice to be safe from future abuses, mistrust, deception, and being labeled as second-class. He is now safely with a family starting over to learn about the true meaning of family and where one fits in the assimilation of generations.

New Years has a tradition each year where individuals make resolutions to better themselves. Sometimes a resolution is a decision that either is relevant or a timidity based on either emotion or fact. It is our personal stuck point in the decision making to choose either to be a better individual or want to sustain what we define ourselves by the level of our own transparency.

A lessons learned moment for me and resolution is to become a stronger advocate and remove myself from defamation of others so that I do not become a denigration and calumniation towards others. It is bad enough the world is already filled with more anger, hate, and blame assessment entrapping others to join in on the hate-filled drama train of emotional instabilities. If anything was learned from this observation was that a young man made a critical choice in his life and gave me the ability to pursue my future choices which I am grateful for and proud of his decision and wish him all the best in future outcomes.

To me, that is what resolutions should be in our transparent lives so that we are no longer second-class factual or feeling. Preferably we are bonded as unified individuals with a purpose to be better to ourselves and one another.

Registry Advocate Site Sometimes Toxic

Over the past year, I have taken the time to personally take notice of each and every comment left on social media and offender registry websites. A common trait found within each posting is angered, choleric, frustrated, outraged, and worked up individuals. Naturally, it is rightfully so because of constructive methods the offender registry has caused and its effects on families, friends, and advocates. It is, after all, a severe topic matter leaving no wiggle room for positivity or light joking banter just to escape a moment of sanity. Most interesting is how one toxic comment can have an adverse effect on followers or allies. My discovery and rumination of registered offender comments perhaps are fueling the flames of consumption towards self-destruction and initiate disharmony by becoming overly critical of one another. Afterall, registered offenders are listed en masse without division or reasonable classifications that the public comprehends. To the ordinary viewer wishing to understand the dilemmas of registered offenders, is typically not introduced with efficacious dialog. Instead, it is a blended catchphrase cycle of coded information leaving future advocates, allies, and perhaps scholars feeling there is no representation of sounds individuals without becoming too personal rather than informative.

 

Let’s be honest about the elephant in the room. Sex offending is something that is on the one hand very serious but on the other hand, has been intensified and amplified. To the average citizen, the charge or allegation of sexual offending or registry requirements must indicate a grievous crime. The art of investigative technique is so arbitrary with the victim’s name removed for privacy sake and the details carefully scrubbed by prosecutors and police working in conjunction that it makes any allegation rather one-sided and guilty appearing. Of course, people are angry. But the accused has a duty or at least is told to remain calm and say nothing. Once trial comes and passes the indicted quickly learns a valuable life lesson that public opinion and plea bargains will continue to be the routine of the day. It is then that the registry requirements mixed with anger, disgust at a system that accepts tissues of tears instead of evidence or facts. The once calm and compliant accused is now labeled forever as the registered guilty offender with little to no support system to vent or seek a remedy to reverse a poor judgment or poor verdict. The anger should be redirected towards how media, justice, and public opinion has overtaken the balance of justice rather indifferent methods not found within any other trial standard – unless a witness protection program has been introduced.

 

This is where registered offenders take to the internet to voice a barrage of toxicity and vile about a system that has failed them. The the new second class citizen trying to figure out how to survive, cope and move forward with a syllabus listing of requirements to follow that often changes without notice. The rage and anger online overtake the critical message that people are suffering and require a moment to be heard. To the average joe that stumbles upon an offender, advocacy website is either introduced with a bombardment of anti-patronage issues or anger filled rhetoric. It turns off the potential learner leaving less informed and lessor of an advocate. There is a right way to exhibit immediacy, directness, passion, and emotion without scaring off a much-needed target audience. I too have accidentally fallen prey to my own unthought words in the past. I guess what I am trying to say is that caution is critical when attempting to discuss sensitive topic matters. Registry advocates shouldn’t appear to be in an “us versus them” standoff. Instead, the dialog should center at rationale and reasonable justice education.

 

What may work to educate the public is easy to read graphics, charts where offenders are prohibited to live/work/reside, a quick card of restrictions per state, a map of lifetime states regardless of a misdemeanor or low-level offenses. My point is that anger and disgust must develop in actionable policy with something indisputable and easy to read. News articles, blogs, social media, and passion rants eventually fade and die away. I fear that is what registry advocacy websites may be unintentionally doing. Offender sites must learn to play fair with one another and those that leave comments. Sometimes the comments are a sign of distress and help that may require some other intervention if we are going to be candid about mental health issues. Sometimes I bite my lip or roll my eyes at caustic comments between offenders, allies, and visitors. I’ve learned to read beyond the noise and try to understand how they feel. At some point, the anger and frustration must become a positive so that others can achieve hope or a bit of light when they need it most. Just because you are angry doesn’t give license to make others mad with you. In fact, I would like for all those affected by the registry to become educators. Tell your story, honestly and with conviction to influence others to become advocates, allies, and campaigners towards a change of this horribly constructive registry. Basically, learn to hone your interpersonal skills and become a bit more inclusive – even if you don’t want to be. The key to fighting the registry is to work together instead of tearing others away because they don’t think like you?

 

Don’t be ashamed of your past or something you cannot change. Turn that shame into constructive energy and learn to not only advocate for yourself but for others. You don’t have to be a perfect speaker, but you must learn to reign in tempers and going off script. Don’t worry about what the opposition, police or district attorneys say. Use your first amendment right to reach down deep and become a positive message for just one moment. Learn to say thank you once again, like someone on social media, follow them, repost to social media an article to garner attention to a particular cause. If someone wants to troll and express a dissenting position – let them, and don’t reply. Show the higher road and educative level of regaining your life, dignity, and sanity in return.

 

This particular blog is not intended for any individual. For the most part, registry websites do a wonderful job of getting the message out. It is the anger from within those affected by the registry that can bring more harm than good. But I completely understand and empathize that offenders need a platform to vent or rage. But think critically about who you may abandon at that unfiltered unparliamentary language? Use social media ‘like’ buttons rather than hate-filled rants. Do not give the opposition any platform whatsoever because they are not relevant – they are NOT on the registry. The most credible noise that should come from the registry is from people affected by it. Therefore they should be the voice that delivers how the registry has affected them, family, friends, advocates, and allies. Once we have a battle mission as to all agreeing together then will it be possible to win more allies and voices of rationale and change.

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