Thursday, June 12, 2014

Breakout? No, Breakdown

People here tell me I'm doing good for my first month: that I seem well adjusted, happy, relatively content. And I am. Really. In my blog posts I play up the absurdity of the place a bit for dramatic effect but the reality is that, now that I've settled in, most days are relatively uneventful. Although it's most definitely not a resort, it's hard to complain about yoga every night (free) or a weekly massage (three bars of Irish Spring soap). I've even joined a group called Toast Masters to master the miserable art of public speaking for that distant day when I'm back out in the real world making big bucks by recounting my journey to the dark side.

So, you see? All in all, not so awful. I even manage to laugh once in a while at a bad prison-house joke (usually related to farting, women, the food or the general absurdity of the place). I'll devote another post sometime to the lamer jokes we laugh at here on the inside.

But to say that it's been smooth sailing from start to finish would be an overstatement. There are, truth be told, a few things that get me down, so down that I feel I might momentarily lose it. At the top of the list is any reminder of my children. We had what you might call an untypical relationship with our daily Skype sessions and periodic full-immersion visits. But we managed to make it work. That's obviously all gone now and I miss them terribly. I try to control my thoughts because if I let my mind drift to them then....breakdown! The tears well up and I need to find a door to hide behind.

Other breakdown issues include:
- my sentence (day-by-day is the only way to go. If I think forward to 50 months from now I just can't deal);
- my dog (I miss Sorbet!)
- my old apartment
- my family, including my sister, my mother, my father, my grandparents

Of course I miss other things but those are really the only issues (at least that I can think of at the moment) that threaten to set me off in a truly depressive way. I felt similar on my various forays abroad so the feeling is not new: call it a vague, painful homesickness. 

Truth be told, it's generally advisable not to let your emotions show too much while in prison: emotions are a sign of weakness and if there's a cardinal rule to successfully doing time it's to show no weakness. Weakness, in this place, makes you vulnerable.

The strange thing is that we're all of us here in the same boat. Every single one of us miss loved ones on the outside. Of course, the emotions are stronger in the beginning but there's just not getting used to the separation. A few people have opened up to me to say that in the first few months they broke down all the time: weekly if not daily if not hourly. 

Yet we all try to hide our feelings, pretend that all is fine. If you look around this place at any given time, you'd swear that all the men just love to be here and really don't miss anyone on the outside. But us guys: we're generally good at masking our emotions. In this place you have to take the tough-guy exteriors with a grain of salt. And of course in here, where emotions are a liability, that's more true than anywhere. My advice to any future con: keep your chin up, carry on (it's really not that bad) and soldier through.

There's no shame in crying, but here on the inside it's best to hide it away.

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