Based on the circumstances of your home life and then of the murders, anyone would have to believe that you should have received intense therapy in order to try to heal and work through the abuse you endured and also to work through the ramifications of your actions as a result. I’ve been told you’ve never had any kind of mental health treatment at all. Have you taken steps to try to work through these issues in other ways? How have you coped?
I haven’t had any kind of formal therapy to speak of in here. Mental health in prison is concerned with keeping people alive and from hurting others. Being healthy is waaaay down the list. I did receive some help when I was in CSP the first time. This was smack dab in the middle of when I was focusing on being the man I wanted to be, and that included being “normal”.
I used to carve on myself. I guess “cutting” is the usual term, but I always used staples or paperclips so I would have to repeatedly carve into my skin to form a groove. I liked the pain, it felt good, it was cleansing and relieved pent-up chaos. I knew it wasn’t healthy so I asked the shrink to help me with it. After a few sessions in the visiting booth, she diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder. With what she described, I’ve had it since I was 14 – trouble identifying emotions, huge ball of chaotic emotion in me trying to be contained, always being in the extreme of no emotion or too much, self-mutilation to release the chaos…it described so much, perfectly. I remember times of having minor confrontations with the cops [guards] and having a rush of chaotic emotion just overwhelm me. I didn’t know that wasn’t normal. I thought that was being in touch with my feelings!
I was put on Paxil and once the dosage was set right it made a world of difference. I could then get into confrontations and feel the emotions identifiably, separately, and manage them! I thought “wow”, so this is how normal people feel. The chaotic ball was gone. That helped a lot in getting myself on track.
Even when I met with the shrink regularly, it wasn’t much like therapy. I could never get fully relaxed or comfortable talking with them and it isn’t exactly a safe environment in here for letting your guard down. Inmates and staff alike ridicule and exploit any soft spot they see.
That’s not to say that I’m without the tools necessary to confront future problems and I don’t think therapy could do much for me at this point. Although I had already come to many of the same conclusions beforehand, I have taken all of the rehabilitative classes DOC has to offer and use the techniques. The classes are a hodge-podge of self-help fads and Covey seems to be a God to them, but there is a heavy emphasis on cognitive restructuring. Basically, the system is about countering false thoughts or thinking distortions with more correct or moderate thoughts (i.e. after making a mistake, “I’m worthless” becomes “that’s OK, I’ll do better next time”). It is just a way of positive self brainwashing and it works quite well. Thoughts cause emotion so if we change our thinking patterns we change how we feel. The key is becoming aware of the thinking patterns we have now and identifying the destructive ones.
I know what problems I have resulting from my past. I have a tendency of self-condemnation over little things, my mother’s attacks on my self worth, and a fear of doctors (resulting from my childhood fear that I’d be told I was “making it all up” if I complained). But I am aware of those things and don’t let them negatively affect my life. Everybody has their ghosts and quirks. I don’t see therapy ridding me of them, all they can do is help me deal with them and I seem to be doing fine at it.