Opening up the topic of childhood trauma in DDN has resulted in letters from prisoners that give penetrating insights on cues we are missing. Here is a selection of extracts
I am a very average man. I have never personally known anyone who did not suffer childhood trauma, abuse and neglect. Rich kids suffer from over-indulgence as poor kids suffer from deprivation. Most adults have coping mechanisms to deal with their problems. In this twisted modern world there are multitudes of problems. Every person’s pain is unique to them. We can sympathise, pretend to empathise and indulge their phobias, fears and fantasies. Any addiction is a temporary illness Ð madness.
Some people need help, some people give help. Some people only take Ð another addiction. Like the song says, ‘some people like to abuse, some people like to be abused’. We really are all equal in as much as we are all potential victims.
Telling people they are victims encourages them to be victims. We need a solid combination of love, care, help, tough love and complete honesty. Psychology can be used by qualified counsellors not wannabe do-gooders Ð cheap watered-down care is useless.
Childhood trauma and experiences are for life, they should be used as learning structures not crutches. Mental health problems are for life, but addictions can stop. People need to realise addictions are prisons and the pursuit of drugs is slavery.
Childhood trauma cannot be cured by drugs. Personal support and understanding should go a long way. Seventy per cent of all drugs in prison are from the NHS. Prison health care teams seem to lose something and take the easy routes. Some prison medical staff are beautiful people, but they go with the flow. It is far easier to control a mental health problem than to treat it.
Once a criminal always a criminal Ð it’s hard to get a job unless it’s Timpsons or drug dealers. We are what we lived through. We all need help. Get rid of the pretenders and help each other take the goodness from the past. Leave the crap to the wrongdoers. Do not give people reasons for failure. It’s easy to fail. Hard work can be very pleasant and rewarding Ð do not let childhood trauma maketh the man-woman.
Yesterday’s gone. Let’s start from now.
PS It’s my first time in prison. What do I know.
It’s OK to be honest
As a child growing up I knew that I wasn’t the same as other kids. I never really mixed with others, I had very little confidence and didn’t know how to start a conversation. I would always say the wrong things or my words wouldn’t come out.
That’s when I started getting bullied and when I started primary school it got so bad that I would get physically punched, kicked and robbed of property. It was most of the lads in the class but ended up being just one person for all of my time at that school. I left primary feeling scared, but I did feel stronger in a strange way.
The same thing happened all through secondary school. At home my dad suffered with severe depression and would be very angry. Me and my mum used to feel scared around him – he also had a bad addiction to gambling. When I was about 19 my anxiety was so bad I just wanted to sleep and not wake up and hope that when I did I would feel content and happy to be able to get on with life.
I was too anxious to even go to the doctors and tell them how I felt. I used to go with my dad to the pub around about when I was 19 and that’s when I discovered alcohol. As soon as I drank my first few pints all the anxiety, all the past things that had happened went away and my confidence came. I felt confidence for the first time in my life.
That was it for me. From then on I said I’ll come for a session whenever my dad was going to the pub – not because I was going to have a good time, because at that time I was suffering from anxiety and depression, but because of the way alcohol made me feel. It took the dark thoughts away, and the anxiety, and gave me confidence so I could enjoy myself.
I will have to cut this short now because I could be here forever writing. All I really wanted to try and say was my experience of alcohol abuse came from a deep-rooted cause from a young age, and that for anybody that’s reading this it’s ok to be honest and by being honest with yourself you can start to get well and concentrate on the things that triggered the drink addiction or substance abuse.
I am now 33 years old and I am serving a short sentence for abusing alcohol and all my previous times in prison have been alcohol fuelled. I am currently still battling with anxiety and depression and I am on medication for this and continue to try everything to get over it because I now fully know the reason why I have depended on alcohol for such a long time.
I believe that tackling the root cause of dependency, that’s when you can concentrate on staying clean and it can be hard but it’s worth it if it can give years of happiness and joy. The first thing I was told by the substance misuse team was… step one, we admitted we were powerless and our lives had become unmanageable.
A Means to an End
I am now 56 years old and in prison. From the age of six to 13 I was abused by my father, physically, emotionally and sexually. I have been in and out of prison since I was 20 for theft, robbery and deception. It was always a means to an end, to get money for alcohol.
Prior to the start of this sentence I never spoke about what happened to anyone except for once. I finally went to my doctor to say I wanted to stop drinking BUT I had to find a way to deal with ‘stuff in my head’.
I was referred to psychiatrists, mental health teams and as I had a few attempts at suicide, even crisis teams. Every single team or person I met said exactly the same thing Ð ‘we can’t deal with your mental health until you deal with your drinking’. I had this for two years. I even woke from an overdose in hospital to be told I would finally get some help and then psychiatrists ten minutes later saying they will do nothing because of my drinking (around three litres of vodka a day).
Nobody understands or helps with the fact I drink to mask what happened. I have been diagnosed with complex PTSD and when I came into prison I knew alcohol would be taken away. If I came in as a heroin addict I would get methadone but as an alcoholic I got nothing.
So, when I came into prison I was asking for help with PTSD. On day one I saw the GP who categorically stated, ‘I do not know why they sent you here as we can’t treat PTSD.’ Since then I have been on various ACCTS (self-harm documents) and passed around various departments but all say they can’t help. When I ask about a pathway for anyone coming into prison with PTSD to get treated it seems impossible to get any answers. I accept it is a bit more difficult as I am convicted of a sexual offence.
Finally, a year later, I managed to access CAT [cognitive analytic therapy] with a lady who comes in from outside the prison. This, for me, is exceptionally hard work confronting a lot of what happened but has finally started to look at why I drink.
In nine weeks I am due for release and the plan is to go to a rehab eventually for a 12-week period. My therapist wants to do some referrals for when I am released, to include EMDR [eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing], but with things as they are I’m told I’m not likely to know where probation want me on release, so they cannot do any referral without knowing the area I am going to.
So I fear that as I will only have a few sessions prior to release, I will end up drinking again as the reason I drink is still there, albeit partially processed.
Why is it so much of a problem for people to understand it. It took me years to get my head in a place ready to talk and then I felt dismissed by everybody due to drinking. Yes, I feel a failure but also that I have been failed.