My healing came in three stages. It’s thinking we have in the Five Percenter community that deal with Knowledge, Wisdom, Understanding. Each is a level in your awareness with Understanding being a completion in an idea you needed to comprehend.
My first stage of healing came when I least expected it. I was depressed or on the verge of sliding into depression. I felt like the bar I held myself to, I was well below it. I was my hardest critic. The time and discipline I had put into building my social equity or capital seem for nothing. The time in my relationship produce my daughter but I had felt like a mate and partner a failure. The time of 5 years I put in for schooling didn’t produce the results I thought it should.
I called my oldest and closest prison comrade who became my brother in Hell’s Prism [. Life was going better than average for him. As I was sharing with him what was going in my life it’s like I had a panic attack, broke down, and slid to the floor. I was in some much pain I couldn’t breathe. I could barely manage to talk, and tears came flooding out of my eyes. At that moment I felt like a broken man.
He sent a ticket for me to come to spend the weekend with him and his family. As we shared brotherhood that weekend. He looked me dead in my eyes and apologize for not being a better friend to me. I was taken aback by that statement because I couldn’t figure out why he said that. He continued “I should have been checking in on you more and didn’t know you were going through all this. I took for granted that you were good because you the strongest person I know.” There was no doubt that this man who I met in prison was my brother. My family. He saw me at my lowest moment and threw me a lifeline. No judgment. Here we were two former gangsters, former ex-cons with murder jackets, now fathers: sharing a deeper bond as brothers. I felt revitalized as I touch down at Newark Airport and killed my second-round job interview [ on Zoom.
The second stage of healing came when I decided it was time for therapy. This time I would do it for myself and not appease anyone. In the Black community mental health is not a talked about subject. It should be with all the trauma we endured and still go through in America. I didn’t want a male therapist. Or someone not from my cultural background. I wanted a woman not because I was being sexist. I was being biased. I knew most women carry a nurturing trait and have a naturally caring understanding that most men don’t have. I was getting stumped in my search. I didn’t have the best health insurance at the time and the selection of therapist was not meeting my criteria or was not covered under it. I reached out to an old colleague that was a social worker. She sent me a service called Open Path Collective [. The rest was history after that.
The Universe would align me with what I needed. A Black woman who happened to have two things in common with me. We both were from Bushwick and went to the same middle school (at different times). My guards were at ease. I had worked to do.
Another reason I took therapy seriously was that I started to study PTSD for formerly incarcerated people. I had a friend of mines after doing 26 years in Hell’s Prism commit suicide a week shy from being home for 2 years on my daughter’s birthday. I wonder how he could do that after being in some of the worst conditions in prison including VADOC's first supermax. What pain was he going through that he couldn’t share with me 5 days before when we had spoken?
I went to therapy as a dry sponge. I would be introduced to Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). The cognitive distortions that we identified that I had to work on were Jumping to Conclusion/Mind Reading and Should Statements. Mind Reading built skills in my street and prison persona. That was needed to read the room, understand the vibe, and anticipate violence or be willing to give it at a split second. After being testified on I was on guard for the slightest chance of betrayal. That is what a hostile environment produces in a person. The thinking doesn’t translate over in application when you are in a relationship. It will have you seeing ghosts in a person's moves, trying to read their mind, taking offense to minor issues or mentally created issues.
I think the Should Statement aided me in my core frustration. I felt logical I should have been in a better situation. This was based on the path I took since I was home. I felt like I had more accomplishments and credentials than I had when I first came home. But why I was in a worse situation? That was what I thought. Looking back that was the furthest thing from the truth. I was comparing myself to myself and the high standard that I set for myself. I started to review the social factors that were also going on at the time. Covid disrupted our lifestyles and opportunities disappeared. I forgot that sometimes it’s not the season for your fruit to bear. I realized I am on the right track I just have to keep striving.
My therapist helped me to develop coping tools that I could not develop in Hell’s Prism. People often say you do not mature in prison. That you stay the age that you got incarcerated. That statement is a conundrum. It is true and false. A person can mature in Hell’s Prism in some areas in their life. I did not know what area I was not developed in. I would find out. It would be in dealing with a serious adult relationship. How could I when I didn’t have one until my early 40’s?
My therapist saw me over the duration of time develop the skills I needed to aid me on my life journey. She asked me do I still need therapy because I went from once a week to once a month. And my initial pain, frustration, depression was not a factor any longer. She left the door open for me to swing back through it if I needed to.
 Hell’s Prism is how I saw prison and a nod to my prison memoir called Prison Survival: Hell’s Prism available on Amazon and Kindle.
 I got the position as a Reentry Coordinator.
 Open Path connects clients in need with mental health professionals who offer affordable therapy for $30-60 per session