I spent the last six and half years incarcerated. The first two years were spent at Bridgewater State Hospital (BSH). The later years at a county house of corrections. I always felt like I was living someone else’s life, that I was in this nightmare and I could not wake up. At first I felt like I had nothing in common with any of the people I was surrounded by. I did not socialize with anyone. I was scared and did not want to be bothered by anyone. I had a hard time dealing with the environment I was in, as well as my legal situation. It was the first time I had been around people with serious mental health issues.
Things got better once I was there a while and got moved to a stable unit, where people were not acting out as much. I started talking a little more with a few people. I was in a room with three other guys who were friendly. I started doing groups which I enjoyed and got a job working in the garden and doing landscaping. I learned a lot from the groups, like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), grief and loss, and expressive art therapy. I also enjoyed the family art group that was offered. The groups also brought out an artistic ability I never had before. I started drawing and painting. Over the two years I spent at BSH I did a lot of drawings and read over 40 books a year. Reading was something I never enjoyed doing before, but it definitely helped me pass the time.
In the time that I spent incarcerated I ended up meeting some good people who were in similar situations. There were a few guys I was friends with and we played a card game every day, sometimes for hours on end. It helped make the time go by fast. Throughout this whole experience I have learned a lot about myself. I feel getting through it made me stronger, and if I could get through that, then I could accomplish anything I set out to do.
Transitioning to the outside has been challenging. The world has changed so much since Covid-19. It felt weird doing things for myself. At first I was kind of scared of going out in public. Things are slowly starting to come together and I am very grateful for all the support that I have been given throughout this whole experience. My advice to someone who is going through something similar is to keep to a regular schedule, focus on things to keep your mind busy like playing cards, reading, drawing. I also found that calling a friend on the outside helps when you need to get away from the stress. In summing things up, know that there are good people out there, who are doing great things to better your situation and who care for your wellbeing.