Michael D. Nash
First place, nonfiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Facility writing contest, August 2021
With over 7.5 billion people on this earth, each and every one of us possesses many different characteristics that uniquely separates us from each other. Because we process and react to life’s mysterious experiences at our own individual pace(s), there are exponential amounts of risk factors that must be considered so that we can know how to best move forward with our lives. More often than not, especially through negative and/or violent experiences, the average person tends to suffer from some form of mental health illness at some varying level. If severe enough, the effects of those traumas will produce a plethora of debilitating physical and psychological deficiencies upon the person(s) affected.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t help either how commonplace it is, especially as Americans, to shun and ridicule people who are probably already hesitant to either actively seek the proper help; let alone even admit that they may have a problem. I felt compelled to write about this issue because I’m empathetic to the despair of others’ concerns during these highly uncertain times. With great uncertainty comes great misery. Imagine free-falling into a vast, infinite void that you’re never sure of when/if you’ll ever make it out. So who’s going to bare the weight of the millions of people suffering from depression? Or the many victims of drug, alcohol, verbal, physical, and sexual abuse?
I commend those that are courageous enough to put themselves out there to help someone else in their time of need. Some of the largest advocates in the movement are celebrities and professional athletes. Shout-out to tennis star Naomi Osaka, Olympic Gold Medalist and swimmer Michael Phelps, former NFL Quarterback Andrew Luck, NBA Champion Kevin Love, and up-and-coming track star Sha’Carri Richardson for putting several familiar faces on the subject of mental health. Their valiant efforts have provided a powerful voice for the voiceless. Singers like Mary J. Blige and Toni Braxton understand that having fame and wealth doesn’t automatically guarantee us peace of mind. With prior underlying issues either present or dorment, additional adversity may materialize from such circumstances.
A wise man once made mention that with more money, there comes more problems. Another thing all of the people mentioned before can relate to is how painful it is to be trapped in that dark place. Conjuring up negative, harmful thoughts/intentions. Although I’ve never had any suicidal thoughts, even up to this point in my incarceration; I understand how overwhelming life can be in every facet. One thing to never be mistaken is the significant psychological toll it takes being an inmate. Not everyone is built for the jail/prison environment.
My first few weeks being locked up did not come easy. Never in a billion lifetimes would I have envisioned myself in my current situation. There were many times throughout this experience when I’ve felt confined to and conflicted in a deep funk. I felt extremely betrayed by someone special to me. Someone I would have done anything for. Nothing made any sense whatsoever. So when I was having those terrifying nightmares early on, they really got to me. The worst part was being reminded by my cell lights waking me up every morning that I was living in a 24/7 nightmare. I was going through it.
Finding myself at the brink of self-implosion on more than several instances and overcoming those burdens has humbled me in ways I almost may have never imagined before. One thing I can certainly attest to is that it takes extraordinary patience in dealing with so many different and oftentimes difficult personalities. As well as the strange, adverse situations. There have been plenty of memorable events in my time away from society. Whether it was competing in a Backgammon tournament, learning to break dance from an ex-NFL Cheerleader, knowing a guy who killed himself in jail, or receiving the news that I lost a family member at the age of 27 a few months into my stay here. I felt really vexed in knowing that he was coming in and out of a coma before eventually being taken off of life support. Some things just can’t simply be forgotten. To this day those occurrences are still surreal. They’re harsh but necessary reminders that life moves faster than we could ever realize and can change in the blink of an eye.
I’ve learned not to take anyone or anything for granted. My journey has forced me to see how much of a mental battle imprisonment is. On the plus-side, however, I’ve been blessed with the contentment of knowing how and when to just sit back and stay still. Something seemingly as simple as taking time away from stressing about the things out of our control and just focusing on being grateful and recovering from tragedy is greatly overlooked and undervalued by many inmates because they aren’t in the correct frame of mind and maybe lack the discipline. I had to realize for myself before anything else that I am stronger than this situation and eventually I did.
Having a solid support system in all of this has played a major contributing role in my ascension as well. Knowing that there’s someone to confide in means so much to me because sometimes it’s not about searching for answers or seeking advice. It’s about speaking your mind and expressing your thoughts, your joys and your frustrations. It’s about being heard. To me that’s one of the greatest feelings in the world.
I take life one day at a time and continue to actively challenge myself physically, mentally, and spiritually to remain sharp. Regardless of whatever happens in my near and distant future, I do not have many worries about prosperity. I am optimistic because of my faith and I encourage everyone going through hardships to become more spiritually involved and connected. It may not change instantaneously, but your life will get better. Be proud of who you are. Remember where you came from and never be ashamed in yourself. Let me reassure you that there’s nothing wrong with making yourself vulnerable sometimes. As long as it is with the intent to learn and grow. And it’s perfectly okay to not be okay right now. Seek the proper professional help when necessary and lend a helping hand to a loved one or someone in need. Realize and utilize your talents and your purpose in this world. Always count your blessings and thank the Lord for them any chance you get.
There’s so much to live for so find that inner-strength whenever you’re in doubt. Once you stand firm in your beliefs and set/achieve realistic goals for yourself, your success will shine through your personality. So stand strong and never give up. The universe has an intriguing way of giving back to you what you put in. Soon enough you will reap the sweet fruits of your labor.