So I’ve finally finished watching 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. It has taken me longer than some because of the difficult nature of some of the themes. I had to pace myself with the intake because this is one of those things that makes you feel, no matter who you are, and I already feel a lot on the subject matter. I needed to moderate the intensity for the sake of my mental health.
I will try to get through this without any real spoilers, but if you are thay concerned, maybe don’t read until after you’ve watched or read it already yourself. 

I think it’s incredibly important in this day and age for us to ensure we are still warm blooded, emotion feeling creatures, because we are so prone to becoming desensitized with all the excess stimuli we are flooded with at the speed of information. Furthermore, this show also makes it personal. Whether it’s someone you know, or a few more degrees of separation in between, you can still relate to this on some level. It’s important to say to begin with that sexual violence wasn’t used gratuitously in this show. At the same time though, it also wasn’t diluted. 

Teens all know about the struggles and hardships of navigating social life in high school, while still wrestling with a means of self-discovery and identity. Parents and adults in general forget all too quickly about these things… This show will make you feel closer to your teenaged child than you’ve felt in years. It will give you a glimpse into their life, it will help you understand some of their behaviors and it will explain the tether to their electronics. If for no other reason, you need to watch this show with your child for that.

The harder lessons… It touches on the uglier aspects of this world of ours, from substance abuse to sexual violence, mental illness, and yes, even suicide. These are not nice topics. They are not meant to be nice. They are supposed to make you uncomfortable. That discomfort signifies how human you are. 

As always, it strikes me as utterly tragic that something terrible has to happen before people will start treating each other with respect and consideration. It is ever the tragedy but, fortunately, at least this time the loss is a fictional one, however symbolic she may have been. I think it’s so important for all of us, from teens to parents from poor homes and affluent ones, to victims and survivors of rape, to families and friends of those suffering from depression, to even those who suffer from mental illness themselves, if for no other reason than to understand how not alone they are. This show is so uniquely poised to teach lessons across so many social demographics…it is my professional opinion, as a survivor, an advocate for mental illness, someone who made it out of high school alive, as well as someone working towards being a better counselor than Mr. Porter, that everyone should watch this show, at whatever pace they themselves can muster, because it will change them, and it will grow them, and it will strengthen the connections they have with the people in their lives. Isn’t it those connections, after all, that keep us grounded?

As an aside, I think it is SO important to also watch Beyond the Reasons. It provides some exceptional insight into the spirit behind the book, as well as the show itself, and it also helps process some of the tougher themes in the show. We are told here some of why some of the mechanics were used the way they were.. victims of sexual assault have a very hard time talking about what happened to them. It’s clouded with so many feelings of shame, of anger, of disbelief, of guilt, and a myriad of other things. Victims can’t process easily themselves, let alone explain to someone else. 

So it’s been a pretty crazy few months. I’ve written less than I should. It’s the tail end of the fall semester, my last semester at a two year school and am transferring to a four year school next semester. I’ve also recently begun working nights after being laid off a couple months ago, and have been struggling in the usual fashion; too much month at the end of the money. I’ve found myself taking pride in my resistance to falling back on old comforts during a trying time, and have even managed to weather this particular storm without the aid of my counselor, with whom I came to a mutual decision to stop sessions for the time being. granted, when the decision was made, the sky wasn’t falling and my day to day was still in tact. Nevertheless, I’ve done alright and haven’t failed myself in the important ways.

Tonight is my first night off after my first full week on third shift, and I have spent it working on the remaining assignments for my classes, watching Netflix and generally pondering a lot of things. I’ve been watching Nurse Jackie in particular, and I laugh a little at myself because the first time I tried to watch it, I couldn’t get into it. In retrospect, I feel that maybe it was because the self destructive attitude the main character embodied in the first season was a little too familiar for comfort. I wasn’t ready then to see that close reflection of myself. I started over a few weeks ago, and have made it into the fifth season.

The thing that prompted this entry was the aftermath of the death of Jackie’s rehab friend.. a just-turned-18-year-old who also happened to be the son of her new boss. I like the way that real life happens to her character, the good and the bad, and she weathers it accordingly. I can’t help but note that some parallels hit really close to home… Jackie says several times in later seasons that shit didn’t start falling apart until after she got clean. I know the feeling; I’ve been of that mindset a thousand times at different points over the last few years. I think maybe it really does seem that way because when one is using, nothing else matters. That is, shit still happens in the world around you, but you just don’t care because life isn’t a priority for you then. She’s so flawed, just like me. I’m not sure if it is a mark of good writing, of good acting, or a combination of both, but I find myself more and more relating to so many facets of this show.

When Charlie, (her boss’ son,) died, Jackie kept calling his phone. They had been each other’s support system, and she didn’t stop leaning on him, even after his death by overdose. Her former boss, Mike, ended up listening to the voicemails she had left on Charlie’s phone. Apparently he hadn’t been able to bring himself to get rid of the phone thus far. He reached out to Jackie, and following a lot of albeit dysfunctional healing, they ended up having a very profound conversation in the chapel at the hospital where she works. He opened up about his grief, and about what he had felt and struggled with following the death of his son. He said that he felt like it made him an awful person that the first thing he felt following his loss was relief, and then anger at himself for feeling that relief. 

Am I the only person who sometimes finds herself offering counsel to fictional characters on TV shows in her head? I hope not. I wanted to tell Mike that it didn’t make him an awful person that he felt relief. I’d tell him that he should first consider what he felt relief for. I don’t think any parent would ever feel truly relieved to bury their child. I do, however, think that most parents would feel a sense of relief at the idea that their child was no longer suffering. I think that any parent would feel a sense of relief that their afflicted child was finally at peace. 

This hardly scratches the surface of the monologue in my head. I believe that while some things might seem simple, they are often more complicated than we want to acknowledge. Complications, after all, take effort and putting forth effort is exhausting, and honestly can be so emotionally draining, depending on the nature of the issue. Addiction, emotion, relationships… these are all extremely complex concepts, ones that humanity is simultaneously afflicted and blessed by. 

How can these things be good and bad? The latter two are a given. The former, however, might be confusing to an indivudual on the outside looking in. Let me explain:

Addiction is a horrible disease, it’s ugly and it is ruthless. I’ve lost a lot in my life due to addiction, both my own and those addictions of people I care for. I also gained my path, my life’s work, in part due to my experience with substance abuse. My active addiction and my ongoing recovery have both contributed in a major way to providing me with the perspective I needed to make choices for myself, for my future. Without the trials in my life, I likely would still just be existing, which is no life at all.

I believe that we are the sum total of our experiences in life. It is the things that befall us as much as the successes we earn for ourselves that mold us into the creatures we are on any given day. By this logic as well, we are not ever the same person we were the day before. The trick, I think, is to make use of the experiences, to absorb the lessons with grace and humility, because experience has taught me that one can never truly know when their own past can help them save a life, whether it is their own or not. I can think of no more worthwhile endeavor either.

This is a paper I wrote for ENGL 1302; the third & final paper of the semester, written in MLA format.

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Justice, the American Way.

Mass incarceration is the name given to the practice of locking up a notably large number of people. The United States is home to only five percent of the world’s population, and yet it is home to twenty-five percent of the world’s inmates. The US housed an estimated 1,561,500 inmates at the end of 2014 (“Prisoners”), spread across the country between both state and federal custodies. In recent years, a combination of the war on drugs, tough on crime political campaigns and emphasis on illegal immigration have assured a near endless stream of bodies, and as that number grows, so, too, do the demand for beds in which to house those bodies. Naturally, in the last two decades, corporate America has recognized this need, and has risen to the occasion, birthing the true face of corporate greed: the private prison industry. This industry represents all that is wrong with capitalism, with its unethical, borderline unlawful practices, which negatively affect the American people, should be banned.

While the industry in corporate form is relatively new, the principle behind the practices are as old as the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States, when slavery was abolished, except in context of “a sentence of ‘confinement at hard labor’ comprised the core of the penal system” (Fraser). In layman’s terms, slavery is illegal and unconstitutional unless you are sentenced to perform labor as a punishment for committing a crime. This is the origins of chain gangs, which are very much still utilized throughout many states. Now that CCA and Geo are at the table, however, slavery has evolved with the times. Companies such as Chevron, Bank of America, AT&T and IBM all utilize the inmate for labor services provided by the corporate giants. They lease inmate labor for manufacturing jobs, call centers, agricultural work and slaughter houses, and are compensated little to nothing: $0.93-$4.73/day (Fraser). In addition to these uncivilized (and, one might think, un-American) working conditions, CCA ran facilities are consistently failing to meet regulations in terms of occupancy, medical care and basic human rights (Wessler). The deeper one digs into the CCA’s closet, the more acutely aware one becomes of just how political the for-profit industry is. There are several crossover employment strings one can observe, between the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and CCA. “In 2011, for example, just a year before the riot, Harley Lappin, who had served as the bureau’s director for eight years, left to join CCA as executive vice president. Last year, he earned more than $1.6 million” (Wessler). There is much evidence of the BOP being complicit in sweeping cost cutting measures taken by CCA under the rug, instances where BOP failed to enforce the breach of contract penalties included in their contracts with the corporation.

But what, some might say, does this have to do with me? I’m not a criminal, I am not in prison and I don’t work for any of these companies or agencies. There are a few that might not be impacted as heavily by the system as it is: approximately 1% of the population. The other 99%, however, who pay taxes, who go to work every day in an effort to make it, to support their families, they are affected by it directly. CCA and companies like it initially offer overflow services to overcrowded state and federal run facilities. They offer to buy prisons outright and run them contractually for a 20-year period, all for the measly sum of $250M. “The $250 million proposal, circulated by the Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America to prison officials in 48 states, has been blasted by some state officials who suggest such a program could pressure criminal justice officials to seek harsher sentences to maintain the contractually required occupancy rates” (Johnson). Different states have different contracted capacities, [which] “range between 70 percent in a California facility to 100 percent in an Arizona facility, with most contracts requiring a 90 percent occupancy. In Ohio, a 20-year deal with CCA to privately operate the Lake Erie Correctional Institution includes a 90 percent quota; cost-cutting measures in the facility have also led to significant growth in violence, gang activity, and drug use” (Fischer). Just to be clear, this means that the state incurs harsh penalties if any of these facilities fall short of 70, 80, 90 percent occupancy. We have to keep those beds full, regardless of whether there are enough legitimate criminals convicted to fill them. Does that sound like justice and lawful policy to you? These companies cut serious corners in order to convey the illusion of savings to the governments they offer to do dealings with. “Typically, [private prison companies] can site and build a facility within two years compared with between three and seven years for a publicly controlled one, according to Manav Patnaik, an analyst at Barclays Capital. The private sector’s construction cost per “bed” is as much as 50% cheaper, too. Running costs per inmate are also lower” (Denning). As crime rates fall in different areas around the country, the challenge to maintain these quotas grows. The only way to avoid paying penalties for failing to keep the beds full (which, mind you, are paid by tax dollars) is to keep those beds full, which means harsher sentencing for low level, non-violent offenders. A report from In The Public Interest (ITPI) notes, “When entering a contract to operate a prison, a private company should be required to take on some risk. Private prison beds were intended to be a safety valve to address demand that exceeded public capacity. It was never intended that taxpayers would be the safety valve to ensure private prison companies’ profits.” Yet this is the reality we face. Either thousands of our citizens are consistently occupying the space in these facilities, or the government is paying large sums of money to make up for the lack of volume.

The quotas aren’t the only conniving means by which companies like CCA profit from American citizens via the states in which they reside. I believe as well that this is the foremost misunderstood element of incarceration in this country. These people may have committed crimes, and they are paying for their crimes, however incarceration doesn’t somehow reduce the humanity of these people. They are still human beings and, at least for many of them, they are still American citizens, which whether we like it or not, entitles them to humane living conditions, and medical attention. “Under Supreme Court rulings citing the Eighth Amendment, prisons are required to provide inmates with adequate health care. Yet CCA has found ways to minimize its obligations. At the out-of-state prisons where California ships some of its inmates, CCA will not accept prisoners who are over 65 years old, have mental health issues, or have serious conditions like HIV. The company’s Idaho prison contract specified that the “primary criteria” for screening incoming offenders was “no chronic mental health or health care issues.” The contracts of some CCA prisons in Tennessee and Hawaii stipulate that the states will bear the cost of HIV treatment. Such exemptions allow CCA to tout its cost-efficiency while taxpayers assume the medical expenses for the inmates the company won’t take or treat” (Bauer). There is the other foot. Not only can CCA force local law enforcement agencies to keep their facilities full, they can also be selective about which inmates they accept, or barring that, they can force the taxpayers to foot the bill again. Where is the justice in this? How does this curb costs for the state? For the people? It doesn’t. These unethical practices are purely for the benefit of CCA and no one else.

No one is forcing the government to enter into these contracts with CCA and other such companies, some might say. It’s just an option that they can consider when evaluating budgetary allocation. This is certainly true, at the surface. However, “it took seven years for the bureau to release its studies on the BOP’s first privatized facility, in central California. One study found that any cost savings were eclipsed by the financial burdens of oversight; another took up the question of quality and found a litany of deficiencies, including health services that had barely met standards for nearly two years” (Wessler). As the bottom line is the priority for these companies, the net effect is it is the inmates and their families who suffer. ‘”Profit is still a motive and it’s structured into the way these prisons are operated,” says Judy Greene, a justice-policy analyst for Justice Strategies, a nonprofit studying prison-sentencing issues and problems. “Just because the system has expanded doesn’t mean there is evidence that conditions have improved”’ (Chen). Conditions improve only as much as they have to in order to appease the scrutiny of external groups and agencies. “The [Louisiana Department of Corrections,] which has ultimate authority over all prisons in the state, has been taking a closer look at Winn’s day-to-day operations. (According to DOC documents […] later obtained, the department had just written to CCA about “contract compliance” and areas where Winn’s “basic correctional practices” needed improvement.) Wardens from publicly run state prisons have appeared out of nowhere, watching over COs as they work, asking them questions. The newer guards fret about losing their jobs. Old-timers shrug it off—they say they’ve seen Winn weather tough times before” (Bauer). Corners are cut constantly in the name of upping that bottom line. Private prisons house 7% of state inmates, 19% of federal inmates, 62% of immigration detainees and 31% of juvenile detainees. Combined, these numbers make for a lot of human beings that are no different than chattel in the eyes of CCA.

Rehabilitation is a misnomer in this day and age. Low crime rates and low recidivism are not priorities for politically driven entities amongst the 1%. Incarceration is no longer a punishment but a commodity, packaged and sold to the highest bidder. It represents everything that is wrong with this great nation. We have a responsibility to treat people like people, to punish the crime with a sentence that is fitting of the crime. We deserve to live in a world where Justice isn’t just a fancy ideal, and where unethical practices aren’t allowable when the price is right. For-profit prison industry is a mar upon the face of America, and it should be altogether banned.

So I have been in my head a little bit recently, with all the goings on in the news and just a lot of reality being a little too real for my taste. 

Sooooo I’ve decided to acknowledge myself for a minute, and have a quiet little celebration of self, because I always say the little victories are really big victories, but I don’t always practice what I preach. 

I saw a post about sobriety in one of the groups I’m a part of on Facebook, and it reminded me of this poem. The poem chills me to my core but sharing it always feels like something of a public service announcement because if you don’t know first hand how evil the shit is, the poem paints a pretty accurate picture. 

I’m proud to say it’s been 28 months since the last time I touched the stuff. There have been a few bumps in the road but nothing that could push me hard enough to make me take a step backwards and for that, I am proud. 

I have also leveled up somewhat with regards to counseling. We are meeting approximately once a month now, as I am functioning and coping with the stress in my life on my own. I no longer feel like anxiety rules my life, and PTSD isn’t driving anymore. I don’t feel like rape girl anymore. It’s really a stellar feeling. I still have my issues and scars, but they aren’t all there is of me. I am so much more.

I’m close to buying a home for when my husband comes home next year. I will have earned my Associate’s of Science by the end of 2016, and come the spring of 2017, I will have begun work towards my BS in Psychology, with a minor in Sociology. 

It’s a little bit overwhelming when I consider just how much has happened in such a relatively short period of time. But truth be told, I’m okay with that pressure because I did that. I refused to be a statistic and I accomplished that. I continue to embody that. 

I guess the moral of the story is, no matter where you’ve been, or what you’ve been through, don’t give up. There will always be those who are critical or judgmental but they don’t have any authority over you unless you hand it to them. Hold on. If you’re going through it, don’t stop and don’t lose momentum. You will make it through to the other side and you will be proud of yourself. I’m proud of you too, for what it’s worth.

I have experienced something today that I’m not altogether sure how to articulate, largely because I have yet to fully wade through & identify all that I’m feeling as a direct result of this news and the implications it carries with it. I can identify one thing I’m not feeling, however: anger. For the first time in nearly three years, I don’t have this overwhelming, smothering cloud of rage and indignance surrounding my conscious mind. I had forgotten what this feels like.
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The entirety of your being is a conundrum.

Source: How Extroverted Introverts Interact Differently With The World

nye

So here we are, on the brink of the new year and I’m feeling very introspective. I’ve seriously slacked in maintaining this blog in 2015, and for that, I’m a little sorry. Truth be told, this blog has served as a coping mechanism for me. It has been a means of expressing myself and fleshing out my thoughts in a meaningful way that allows me to make sense of them. 2015 has taught me that I don’t always require or have the steam for this particular mechanism. The writer in me laments this fact, while the survivor in me understands that it isn’t a horrible thing. I truthfully hope that I manage to be more attentive to this means of expression in 2016, and I have every intention of making every effort to make it happen. Time will tell.

So it’s 10:30 pm CST and I’m vegging out following a much needed shower after putting in two really long days at work. Since my husband’s arrest in 2013, I have found holidays to be the most difficult to contend with. I absolutely don’t begrudge anyone else their happiness and their companionship and celebration on these occasions but I’ve found time & again that I don’t really have a place in them. It’s awkward more than anything, and it’s just easier for me to separate myself from it as best I can. In doing so, however, the cue to maintain caution for another reason sounds. I’m 20 months clean now, and most of the time, getting high isn’t even an afterthought. It’s not even at the forefront of my mind in any sense of the word. When I’m alone though, and unoccupied, my mind wanders to places I haven’t voluntarily visited in quite some time. This is why I immerse myself so enthusiastically in my schooling and my work. Much like idle hands are dangerous so, too, is an idle mind.

I’ve made a lot of progress this year though, in spite of the conflicts inherent with adulthood. I’m in a transitional period now as I try to get situated and get a home, and that has been a little stressful for me. A lot of this scenario resembles some factors of the calamity in 2013. I try not to look directly at it for just that reason. The busier, the better.

I was inducted into two honor societies this year, and am hopeful for some scholarships through them to continue my education after the federal aid dries up. I’ve started a small business, promoting health & beauty products that I really believe in, and it is slow going but it is exciting just to consider the potential it carries. I hope to grow that business substantially in the coming year, and (though I hesitate to even say it out loud,) regain some semblance of financial freedom. Oh to be debt-free again. There is so much potential that it just makes me weak in the knees. I’m not a greedy woman, but I am no stranger to stress and I create more than enough of it myself without the added burdens of responsibility.

On the note of stress & anxiety, I dropped from weekly counseling sessions for 17 months to every other week in the forth quarter of 2015. I feel that denotes some semblance of progress on my part. I’m less prone to post-nuclear meltdown, which is nice. I still have bad days but they are less frequent & I blessedly perceive fewer boogeymen than I have since I was assaulted in 2013. It is a massive relief on a scale I’m not altogether prepared to express. One such development in counseling has been survivor panels. I spoke at three of them in 2015. These panels are an avenue for advocates at the crisis hotline provided by my counseling agency who answer those calls to speak directly to survivors and to get a better idea of what victims need from them. These panels have been incredibly empowering for me and have been pivotal in my own healing process. I’m happy to say that I am already scheduled to speak at one in the first quarter of 2016. I’m looking forward to it more than you know.

April 2016 also has the potential to carry happy news concerning my husband’s incarceration. He is up for parole again and, should the state grant it, he will then only have 14 months to serve in a federal facility before coming home to me. I’m trying very hard to not get my hopes up, as last year’s denial was soul crushing. If not for the amazing people in my life, I might have relapsed. I’ve resolved myself to hope for the best, but brace for the worst this year.

I am on track to finish my Associate’s Degree in 2016, and transfer to continue work on my Bachelor’s Degree. All in all, I am cautiously optimistic about all the potential I see in 2016. I’m eager to see what it brings, and hopeful that it will prove to be the fruition that the transitional period of 2015 brings.

I wish you all a safe & Happy New Year and that 2016 finds all you’ve been working towards and hoping for.

The Next Big Adventure!

Posted: November 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

Hello friends,

I’m embarrassed to acknowledge how negligent I’ve been this year in regards to my blog here… It has been a year of change and progress, to say the least!

The biggest development is my new business! I have started my own business with It Works and am on my way to achieving financial freedom! I’m very excited about this and and working hard to realize my dreams!

Kelsey’s New Business!!

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So I’ve been pretty negligent of… everything but school and work really, over the course of the holidays. I’m sorry. It’s not you, it’s me. I struggled a bit through the holidays. I mostly resolved myself that it was just another day of the week, because this was the first holiday I really had to face without him. Last year he was gone, sure, but I went home for Christmas, and didn’t feel the sting of his absence as much as I did this year. That’s okay though; onward & upward. Hopefully he’ll see parole review in the next week or so, and if, God willing, they grant it, he’ll have just over a year left before coming home. I’m pretty certain the waiting and wondering is the worst part, at least for me. I’ve long since adjusted to life without him here physically. I don’t like it, but I’m used to it. What I haven’t really been able to adjust to is the hurry up & wait policy of the bureaucratic red tape. Patience has never been my virtue and this has been a test unlike any other I’ve encountered before. I’m really not a big fan of it. But who asked me, right?

I’ve been plugging away the last few days at the wintermester history class I took to help fill my time. I’ve been a little stir crazy since the fall semester ended, because I got pretty used to juggling my three classes and full time job, as well as familial obligations and visitation. It was hectic, but it was healthier than I’d been otherwise since this nightmare began. While this one class is pretty heavy in that it involves A LOT of reading and whatnot, the assignments themselves really don’t take a lot of time at all, except for the couple of papers I’ve needed to write. It has been a bit of a learning curve for me though… hell, a lot of a learning curve for me. All of my grade school & high school education was in Canada. There are some elements of US History that I had vague familiarity with, but no where near what I’ve learned in the last few weeks. It’s been extremely sobering and in a lot of ways really disheartening. I can’t change the past, but I can try to not participate in the residual elements of the ugly truths still present today.
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I feel I’ve been pretty productive today though.. all but one mandatory paper and my final done, and those will be finished in short order this week. I may also get to feeling froggy and get one or more of the extra credit assignments done. We’ll see how that goes. Back to work this week for a full week, dinner plans with a favorite family member on Tuesday and counseling on Wednesday for the first time in three weeks. I’ll also formally meet my new counselor starting this week as well… I’ve met him before but never in a formal session. I’m sorry to see the current one go, but I do understand life happens to everyone. I’m hopeful that she will stay in touch.

Overall, 2014 proved to be a lot better than 2013… I’m hopeful that things will keep going in that direction. Cheers to that. Onward & upward, y’all. Here’s to a phenomenal 2015. The best is yet to come!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 440 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.