There’s this phenomenon with most prisoners that anyone who’s been in prison understands intimately: when someone your close to releases from prison and then doesn’t contact you while you’re still in. It hurts, a lot.

I remember when I first fell in 2011 I came in and found someone I liked and we dated for 18 months. When he went home it was the hardest thing for me, he even talked about doing something to stay in for a little while longer. Then he released, I waited and waited and it broke my heart when he never wrote back. That was it, nothing. It was as if the past 18 months never happened for him. That was my first lesson- emotions we feel in prison are not trustworthy. As the years ticked by it happened more and more until I began to understand that something happens to us when we release. It’s as if we forget we were just in prison.

This concerns me a bit because we spend an extraordinary amount of time with the people in here. We form bonds under these stressful conditions and face situations together that reveal our true character. We see each other sober (and sometimes not) and face life from under the pretense of fight/flight/freeze/please. All day every day for years.

To forget that…it pains me to think that I’d forget that. Prison, despite it’s foundations and traumatic impacts on the human psyche, has given me a second chance at life. While I am excited to go rebuild life elsewhere, I also want to continue life with the brothers and sisters I have found right here.

I have my little family that I can’t imagine life without. Rory Andes and Christopher Havens are two people that will forever have my support. I don’t know what they could ever possibly want but whatever that may be, they got that coming from me, period. I cannot imagine not communicating with them as soon as I release, to simply forget that we spent the last 4 1/2 years deep in the battlefield of this place together. No, I cannot fathom it.

If we can forget our prison experiences so quickly, what then of the changes we made inside that experience? Do we forget those as well? I think not. This tells me it’s a choice, a choice to forget. A choice to forget the people we once depended on for sanity and love.

Above all I am a loving woman. I make mistakes. But I still love my network and those beyond it. Even the ones who left me behind to forget this place. It was told to me when I first fell that we will spend a decade or more in this place and never hear from anyone we once knew. Then the moment we get out they attempt to come back into our lives as if nothing happened. As if you didn’t just spend a decade like an animal. As if you weren’t sitting in a cell by yourself going crazy hoping that somebody, anybody would remember you existed, would touch you to let you know you’re still real. As if you had no reason to be upset by that absence because “you did this to yourself”. Nobody understands the loneliness of being forgotten for such a long time unless they’ve experienced it like a prisoner has. Nobody.

It’s like an ache that begins in your sternum and radiates into nausea throughout your intestines and restricts your breathing into short, unfulfilling breaths. It sucks.

I don’t understand how I could forget that.

With Love
Ruth Utnage