Now that my ankle is almost whole, I’m back at work again. I work in the infirmary of a maximum-security prison for the mentally ill. I missed working with the inmates – running coping skills groups and “doing” counseling. It’s actually great to be back.
What makes it really great is that we have a new team leader – a young psychiatrist who excited about being there, too. He believes in respecting the inmates as human beings and giving them skills, support and hope that they can improve their lives. Just what I believe. I’m looking forward to working with him.
Yesterday, I was at a mental health conference and happened to sit with this doctor at lunch. We got to talking about the difference between working with the mentally ill violent offenders in a prison versus a state hospital (were he had worked before.) How did he do it without the help of corrections officers, I asked.
He smiled and replied that he had a team of “bouncers, bikers and marshal arts experts” who kept things in line. If a patient got out of hand, these men were at the ready and strode into danger as a fireman runs into a burning building. These men were fearless.
“Studies show that criminals seek out victims who show fear. Predators can sense vulnerability,” he said. I can attest to that in my own history – from being a child who was molested to being an adolescent who was raped to being an adult who was sexually abused. It’s the “sitting duck syndrome.” The more afraid or vulnerable you are, the more likely you are to be a victim. Makes sense.
But how do you get over fear when you’re afraid? How do you find the courage when you have no confidence? How do you stop being a victim? How to be a butterfly instead of a caterpillar? (I sound like Lion from “The Wizard of Oz.”)
Well, if we follow the example of those “mental health technicians” in the state psychiatric hospital, then we see that preparation and fitness is a big part of strength. We also see that carrying yourself with supreme confidence – that going INTO the direction of your fear and not running from it – is key. It also doesn’t hurt to have a faith in something greater than yourself to carry you through.
With this in mind, I am facing the world with my story, determined to bring hope to victims and closure for the victim part of myself. In the dead of night, my dreams tell me I am still afraid but in the light of day, with eyes open, I can face my fears and share my truth. That’s what I’m working on these days, since being back to work.