A Letter from Prison


In September 2012, just a few weeks after my son’s death, I went on a date. I had not dated in a long time, but the idea of going out to dinner seemed great at the time. It was something to take my mind off the crushing grief I was experiencing, if only for a couple of hours.

I was not in any frame of mind to start dating. I did not intend to start dating, but somehow, I started to date this man. Soon, he was separating me from my friends and family. Nothing I did was correct. I was “too independent”. He was “the man” and I was supposed to do what he said. This did not go over well with me. I had never been treated this way. I refused to do things the way he started telling me to do. I refused to stop talking to my family and friends. He called me several times a day to see what I was doing and who I had seen or talked to.

Eventually, he stole money from me, quit his job, and tried to take over my life. Also, he was arrested for driving under the influence. I was reeling from my son’s death and all the details that I needed to handle. Arguments were frequent and became shouting matches. I started recording the arguments. I became concerned that these arguments and the verbal abuse would escalate into physical violence, but he would not go away.

After talking to the local sheriff’s office and Safe House, I learned he had a conviction for stalking and was on probation. I was advised to be careful and not to be alone with him. The woman he was convicted of stalking came to my house. They were back in some sort of relationship, which was a violation of his probation. She started calling me, looking for him. His mother called me, begging me to be good to him. I considered suicide, the situation was that bad and no one would take me seriously. All of this just in the first few months after my son died.

Eventually, I had the sheriff escort him from my property when he refused to leave. Over the next 18 hours, he called my home phone and cell phone over 80 times. I was afraid to go home and was staying with a friend. I got a new cell phone for friends and family to contact me and saved all the texts and voice mails he left on the other number. Eventually, I left town for a few weeks, coming home only to get a restraining order and swear out a warrant for his arrest when I learned he was sitting in my driveway and in front of my house, waiting for me to return. It was almost six weeks before he was arrested and held without bond pending a hearing for probation violation.

In April 2013, his probation was revoked and he was sent back to prison. At first, he wrote me and even found a cell phone to call me. Finally, he left me alone. No letters, no calls for a year. Peace at last.

This week I received a letter from him. My hands were shaking as I opened it. I considered sending it back or throwing it away, but I know from my prior experience that I need proof of harassment. The letter was full of promises that he was a different man, that he loved me and missed me, and that he went to church every day. He begged to see me, wanted to call me and wanted me to write him. There were no apologies for what he did. He wanted me to feel sorry for him. His letter described the horrible things that had happened to him in prison and mentioned that he that he was up for parole. He actually asked me to pray that he would be released so he could come see me. I thought I would faint right then, thinking he had been released from prison. I was not the victim in the case that resulted in the prison sentence, so I was not informed of any parole proceedings.

Hours of research indicated that he was still in prison and that no parole had been granted, nor is a parole hearing scheduled at this time. He managed to upset me through a letter from a prison about five hours from me.

There are people on this earth who have no goodness in them. They exist solely to take advantage of and control other people. They lie, steal and cheat. This man is one of them. He will not acknowledge that his behavior resulted in his arrest and conviction. In his mind, this is all my fault.

If you meet one of these people, run. Run fast and far. Do not become friends or lovers with them. Do not believe their promises. They can turn the charm on and off like flicking a light switch.

And, that is all I can think about after getting a letter from prison. Running.

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Fear has me in its grip


I have been living in fear for several months now.  The fear is pervasive and crushing.  There are so many facets to my fear that I don’t know if I can describe them all.  You might think I’m nuts.  Sometimes, I think I’m nuts.

What do I fear?

My son died on August 18, 2012.  A sudden, violent, tragic end to a young adult’s life before he could start living the life he had been anticipating for so long. Since I have already lost the one who I loved the most, why does this make me afraid?  I am afraid because we still do not know why he died.  We do not know if it was self-inflicted, intentional or accidental, or if it was homicide.  As I go through the stages of grief, I know that one day I will receive an autopsy report and a toxicology report that may or may not give me the answers I need.  Even if I get the answers to my questions, how am I going to deal with that knowledge?  How am I going to feel?  Am I going to suffer that crushing grief of that first day all over again?  I’m afraid the grief will never ease.  I know that it will never go away, but at some point it needs to get easier.

After my son died, I started dating a man who seemed to be sent to comfort me, support me in my grief, be my friend, my partner, my lover, my companion.  He was a great actor.  At first he was kind, loving, generous and such a gentleman.  As time went by, he became his normal self: controlling, possessive, verbally abusive, and emotionally abusive.  He stole from me.  He cheated on me.  He tried to take my deceased son’s truck from me. I learned he had an extensive criminal background, including stalking.  When I finally got him escorted from my property by law enforcement, he began harassing and stalking me.  He called my cell phone hundreds of times.  I had to block his number, his mother’s landline and his mother’s cell phone, and still he called.  I had to leave my home for several weeks.  I went to stay with relatives in another county.  I’m home now, but I’m always scared that he is out there, watching, and waiting for me.   I have alarms on all my doors, I’m armed with a variety of weapons and I have my cell phone with me even in the bathroom.   I’m still afraid.  I watch everyone.  I look at all the cars around me when I’m driving.  I look around at all the cars in parking lots where I shop or visit.  I stand on my deck or in my driveway looking for him.  I’m watching over my shoulder all the time. I can’t sleep soundly.  I’m afraid to be out after dark.  My electric bill is going to be sky-high because of all the lights on in my house.

I had to get a protection order and a warrant, but he has not been served or arrested.  As the magistrate told me, the protection order is nothing more than a piece of paper.  It won’t stop a bullet.  It may make him more determined to control me.  I check the web every day to see if he’s been arrested.  I’ve called his probation officer to notify him of the harassment and of the protection order, both of which are a violation of his probation.  If his probation is revoked, he will be in prison for up to 10 years.  His probation officer has failed to return my calls or respond to my faxes.

I have suffered from major depression and generalized anxiety disorder for many years. Sometimes its is basically under control.  After my son’s death, it became much worse, which is understandable.  Grief, especially over the loss of a child, is crushing.  It comes in ever-increasing waves that threaten to drown me.  The experience of learning that the man I trusted was not the man I believe he was, and the fear created by his controlling, possessive and abusive nature, has made my depression much worse and my anxiety levels spiral higher than ever.

I have finally agreed to be hospitalized for treatment of my depression.  I’m scared of what it will be like in the psychiatric unit.  I can’t get any clear answer of what will happen in there. My perception of the psychiatric unit is based on movies, books, blogs, and reports by the few people I know who have been hospitalized for mental health issues. None of what I have read or heard is reassuring.  It feels as if I will be in a prison.  The list of things that I cannot take with me is baffling, but I know it must be for my safety and the safety of others.  I know that I need to try this because I am getting so much worse.  My doctors can adjust my medication and observe my response to it in a way that is not possible from outpatient visits.  I fear not only the inpatient stay but I fear it will not help me.

What is Fear?

I’ve listed the main things that have me in fear’s grip.  So, after discussing my fear with my therapist, I decided to write about it.  In that process, I also decided to research fear.  Here are some of the things I have found:

Merriam-Webster defines fear as:

1
a : an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger

(1) : an instance of this emotion (2) : a state marked by this emotion

2
: anxious concern : solicitude
3
: profound reverence and awe especially toward God
4
: reason for alarm : danger
According to Psychology Today, “Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger—if we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats. But often we fear situations that are far from life-or-death, and thus hang back for no good reason. Traumas or bad experiences can trigger a fear response within us that is hard to quell. Yet exposing ourselves to our personal demons is the best way to move past them.” http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/fear

Fear, as I have learned, can control you.  My fear is controlling me.  I’m afraid of everything, even those things that pose no danger to me.  “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”  This quote by President Franklin Roosevelt often comes to mind, except that there are real things that we should fear.

So, what can I do?  I can learn to recognize what real danger is.  I can practice relaxation techniques when confronted with perceived versus real danger. I can pray and remember these favorite Bible verses:

Psalm 23:4

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 27:1

The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:13

For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Matthew 10:28

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

2 Timothy 1:7

 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

One of my favorite Bible teachers, Joyce Meyer,  said:   ” Don’t stand still in terror, but take His hand and go forward. Remember, fear torments and God wants to deliver you from all of your fears.”  http://www.joycemeyer.org/articles/ea.aspx?article=overcoming_fear

Another quote which I find inspiring is by Eleanor Roosevelt:  “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

At times, I think my biggest fear is a fear of having no control.  As long as my fear controls me, I am giving in to the thing I fear most.  What a paradox!