A Message to our Depressed Anonymous Fellowship. How are you doing?

Today, is another day  no different from all the rest.  Staying isolated from friends and family . Being pulled apart from all those relationships  which is what makes us social beings.  Being isolated and missing meeting up with friends and our  fellowship-except for our SKYPE and ZOOM meetings which are life  savors for many of us)..  Going to the market is a challenge.  Unable to visit with friends in Nursing home.  You don’t really  appreciate something till  it’s gone.  I think I am in mourning. I am irritable and feel lost. But with you, who read our blog I know someone will be reading what is written here. I am not alone.

This brings me to another very important issue now that I am on the subject of being alone and isolated.  And I don’t think about this issue very often, since life was rolling along fine until the virus put us in lockdown.   When  I was depressed I always talked about how depression felt like being in prison , isolated and alone. I grant that.  But I knew little of what happens in the life of a prisoner, until we were allowed to start Depressed Anonymous  groups in a State prison near our hometown.

It was an eye opener. I have visited prisons before. Short  periods of time.  Having a service for those who wanted to attend. This time it was different.  This prison experience began with being interviewed by a prison staff, including the head psychiatrist.  Our work would be carried out in a new wing in the prison which dealt    specifically with prisoners with mental health issues. I say “our” because I had the good fortune to work closely with a woman corrections officer.  I was there for about three years, with visits two times a week to attend DA meetings which we had set up. I remember well our first anniversary celebration where the warden allowed our fellowship to have  a birthday party for all of those men who were part of our groups. It was a most unusual event as this had not been done before–having punch and cookies in prison, at least not in the wing where are groups are located.

Fast forward to now,2020. The covid-19 virus wreaking havoc on lives around the world.   And now moving into prisons, nursing homes and other persons in institutional forced  lockdown.

All this to share how I have been feeling blue, low mood, and irritable, and wondering it will end and when. Presently, areas of life are still “iffy” and not back to normal. I wonder if there will ever be a normal to go back to?

All this fear and hurt with  so many elderly dying, and those of us who are over 65+ taking the hardest hit. But let me go on to my point and the reason I am writing this article now. My concern is for those men and women in this country, 80,000 or more  who are locked down in Special Housing Units, also  called “Solitary Confinement.”  I have been reading an account of a man named William who has been in solitary confinement for  25 years and more at the time of his writing his story. His story and the story of so many others, is titled  HELL IS A V ERY SMALL PLACE:  STORIES FROM SOLITARY CONFINEMENT.

William speaks about how it was before he was sentenced to prison life.  He mentioned   the freedom that he had before prison –but n o more.  He could ride his bicycle, go out with buddies, walking in the park. Anything.

If you are depressed now. If you are isolated and cut off from life now. You  can count me in.  I am so weary of all this enforced isolation, the social distancing, the masks. But I do believe that these efforts may save my life.  Will it ever return.?   Will normal ever return–not for a time. That’s just my belief.

William, in Solitary Confinement for over 25 years, writes from his 6×9 cell,  wonders the same thing.  Will his life ever return to the way he  remembers it?  I doubt it. No, neither will ours. I am not being pessimistic just honest–but I am still hopeful that we will get through this.

I have been an advocate for persons depressed for most of my adult life. I have been to more places in the world, with persons I never would believe I would meet and who live in countries  I have never been.  All virtually, either on Skype, ZOOM, emails or phone.

I  feel that there are so many men and women who we can reach out to who are in Solitary Confinement and deeply depressed. You and I can’t undepress  anyone but ourselves, but  being part of a fellowship sure gives me strength and  bonding that I will never forget and the Twelve steps and the spiritual principles  saved my life. . Thank you.  Now that we have shared online how the virus has most dramatically affected our lives in so many painful ways, our confinement is in no way is kin to what 80,000 prisoners are experiencing right now in America.

What can  we do. First of all I recommend that you find a way to learn more about people who are in Solitary. We can learn how to help them in ways that will truly be of most help to them.  We can learn more. We can share our own experiences with Depressed Anonymous with prisoners and least give them the knowledge that they are NOT ALONE.   We can be live advocates for those in Solitary, as    we can  share  their stories    how they live out their day in a VERY SMALL PLACE, for days. for months and for years. The name of their story is found in a recent publication titled “Hell is a very small  place: voices from Solitary Confinement.”  The New Press   (2016) New York. London. Edited by Jean Casella, James   Ridgeway and Sarah Shroud.

Here is a place where I hope you will contact: “About Solitary Watch” http:://solitarywatch.com/about. We can learn, we can share, we can act. I hope to do as much as I can in being an advocate. If you would like to join with me in this effort, a justice and human rights issue, let’s get together and work as one voice. A voice for the “voiceless.

If you are interested and want more info please  write to me at : depanon@netpenny.net  and in the subject line put SOLITARY.

Hugh

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