November 18, 2015 by The Jailhouse Doc
Most of the time I feel like I just write about people’s stories. I see all sorts of medical problems, but their STORIES are often what pierce into the deepest of feely places in my heart. Most of the time, in a bad way that leaves me bereft of words, of course.
This is another of those stories.
So, I was doing his general check up. He’s a youngish guy, mid thirties. He’s relatively healthy. I asked him about how he was doing mental health wise, if he thought he needed to see our mental health team. And then he just lays his reality out there, and I stare at it, jaw to the floor. I feel like most of the time the strongest emotion I feel besides the anger over injustice is just plain sadness. That’s what I felt for him. And also an intense sense of helplessness, that’s typical too!
He’s anxious. Depressed. Stressed.
These things are normal in here. We press on. He talks, I paraphrase:
“I already did 17 years for something I did as a kid, and now when I’m out there on the street I try and try to get a job, but nobody will hire you. They just look at that record and won’t give you a chance, for something I ALREADY suffered the consequences of. Things are so different, life has changed so much from before to after I got out. They don’t teach you any skills, or prepare you for being back out. I get a job, I lost it. I get another, I lost it. I feel completely stressed, it’s overwhelming. I don’t even care that I’m here. I don’t care if I’m here another 38 years. It’s less stress on me, it’s less stress on my family. “
So, let’s just get this straight. He should be a free man. He did the crime, he did the time. He earned his freedom after paying with many of his years of his life. Yet, without any job skills, coping skills, life skills, or transitional support, we expect him to be able to now function normally in society, having been “corrected” and all. But none of US want to hire him of course, let someone else take a risk on an ex con.
I’ve heard of people wanting to go back into jail in order to get certain medical procedures. I’ve heard of the homeless doing small crimes to get back into jail during the winter, where they know at least they’ll get three square meals and be out of the cold. But I’ve never heard of someone feeling relieved to be back in jail, having found being released to be an overwhelming stressful burden- discouraging, wrought with rejection and failure.
I usually can find words of encouragement and even though I fumble my way through them, communicate a genuine hope to my patients the best that I can. I did not know what to say to him. Literally, no idea.
Well I’m glad things are better,… now…?
Maybe next time will be better out there,….??
Surely someone will hire you and give you a chance,……??????
Your life really matters, don’t give up yet,…. (I mean it, but why do I feel like this would just be heaping acid in open wounds,.. because he does not believe this. And hearing this from me would probably feel like mockery).
Nope. Silence. Click clickety click of my keyboard.
I do say, OK, well I will refer you to our mental health team, I think it’s important that you get some support in dealing with all of this. Let’s do your physical exam and I’ll get ya outta here. (back to,… your cell.)
There really are no words, only prayers for a heart truly broken.