What a great forum. Firstly I want to send my best wishes to everyone here.
In the 90's I got 9 months for GBH section 20. I had hit a guy and he suffered brain damage, he very nearly died. At first I was told I would be facing a charge of murder. Things were so close.
During my time inside I found it very difficult, beyond any stress level I had encountered before, but as it was my first offence I managed to transfer to an
open prison. That was better, but it wasn't until my last week that I could actually lift my head up and look at other people. I was really depressed and a little paranoid. One thing that I did find in prison was a small book about
meditation and Buddhism... I was desperate to find some way to relax. It helped a bit to read the stories in the book. The fact you are reading this means I didn't finish myself off....
Despite being so frozen with fear while in prison, I still felt nervous when I left half way through my sentence. I found it really difficult to go out, I was just scared and thought that the people on the bus stop might be talking about
me. I wasn't quite well. Depressed? Lost? Shattered?
Very luckily for me, my old employer let me have my old job back. I worked in a laboratory at that time. However, they wanted me to be interviewed by a psychologist just to 'be on the safe side' before letting me back. I was given the choice of either seeing a psychologist from the probation service, a psychiatrist, or I could go and see the psychotherapist that worked at the university where I was employed. I opted to go to see the psychotherapist... thinking I would just be seeing them for a one off interview....
Well.... I ended up having weekly psychotherapy for 13 years! But.... they were really interesting and amazing 13 years!
When I first came out of prison I was in my latter 20's and had never had an actual girlfriend, never caught a train by myself and had never really been anywhere. I lived at home with my parents as I had done since I dropped out of university in my first term when I was 18. I had very low self esteem... and always had.
The fact is I needed psychotherapy, but it would never have crossed my mind before prison.... I came from a very working class family and things like that were just off the radar for me. While at the
open prison I used to go and have a cup of tea and a chat with a nun who used to come and talk to the prisoners. I didn't believe in god, but talking to somebody was a life-line for me.
It was so helpful to have my job, I could go back to at least some of the safety I had been hiding in before. But after a couple of years of therapy I was changing. I was able to walk around in town without thinking I was going to be beaten up or killed, without feeling ashamed.
By this time I had moved out of my parents home and was amazed to find out I could survive by myself and cope with paying bills and being by myself. I had also started catching trains by myself and used to go to Cardiff, Bristol and London and look round the shops. Then I travelled to Tibet and South Korea to explore and to stay in a Zen Buddhist temple for a short while. This interest in voluntary work continued and I started volunteering back home at a mental health project.
I felt life was a really precious thing. I had really destroyed one persons life and part of me felt I didn't deserve it.... but it wouldn't have helped to destroy my life too. I also realised I didn't want to work in the lab anymore. It was a good job with a future, but I just couldn't stand it. I wanted to be a psychotherapist. I was worried about
how my record would affect that... my conviction would not become spent for many more years and if you work with vulnerable people it never does really.
I found a place that would give me an interview, actually a lot of counsellors and psychotherapists have come through difficult times... some have been to prison.
The course, the therapy and the travel back and forth to London was going to be very expensive and I had no idea how to pay for it... also, my employer, despite having been brilliant were not willing to give me day release to go and do the course. I had to find another job if I was going to do it. I'm sure you all know that that is not easy with an unspent conviction for violence.
The course was going to start so despite being really scared and wondering if I was a bit crazy, I gave up my job at the Uni, and now unemployed, gave all the money I had ever saved up to pay for my first years tuition. I needed a job straight away. Despite my best efforts I couldn't find a decent job and so ended up getting a zero hours minimum wage job in a pub. They were nice there, but I still needed something a bit better paying.
After six months and with the benefit of references from the Uni, my voluntary work placement and the pub.... I got a job working in care with adults with learning disabilities. They were willing to listen to the circumstances of my conviction and gave me a chance.
They were really challenging clients with autism. I was getting beaten up and bitten every week .... but I was so much happier than at the Uni. The pay was still pretty poor, about
a pound an hour better than before.... I still have that job!!!
It took me eight years of training but I am also now a fully qualified psychotherapist registered with the UKCP. I have my own practice and some private clients. I hope one day to get to the point where I can rely on the income from my psychotherapy work.
Even now, I still struggle with self-esteem from time time..... but.... I got married in April and had a Buddhist blessing last week.
Hang on in there folks, everything changes, including you
The man I hit died not long ago. He died young. I'm not sure if this was related to the injury I had caused but I guess it is likely. I can't make it better, I'm sorry.
Something I can do is use my precious life to help other people to know that their lives are precious too... every single one of you.... whatever you have done.