Just talked with a friend who happens to be in prison for allegedly killing her five-year-old stepdaughter. No, we weren’t talking over a cup of coffee at the local coffeehouse where we met and greeted each other with a hug, followed by a “how are you doing?” It was another telephone call from a prison constructed with concrete and metal pipes. God, it’s a cold, hard place where she has lived for the past fifteen years with some forty-five years to go. I’m certain that a lot of you are thinking that it’s appropriate that she lives in such a place, and is left to suffer every second of the day after day, after day, after day…. After all, she killed God’s greatest creation, a precious child. I have to admit that there was a time when I, for a minute or two, felt the same way. It was the time when I saw the photos of the little girl taken by the pathologist. Her face was smashed, bruised, and then I saw her swollen brain. I nearly vomited. I swallowed hard, pushing the vile matter further down into my stomach. But I still remember the image.
Now I see things quite differently. Becca is a friend of mine who suffers from a severe mental illness and just happened to do a very bad, unimaginable thing. Now that Becca is on her medications and away from the violent men in her life, she is a different person: a good person, a loving person, who suffers everyday of her life.
Becca’s life was a combination of factors that we see quite often today. It was a formula destined for tragedy. Lets see if we can put the pieces together — a heavy dose of a severe mental illness, no medication, three abusive husbands who beat the shit out of her, and a mental health system that fell short. Each time Becca went into a mental hospital, she received treatment for about seven days where she was put on medication and a few therapy sessions. Oh, I almost forgot, she was in the hospital for thirty days one time. But each time she came out of the hospital she went back to her family and friends, back to the things that had destroyed her. We’ve heard the same song before, and the lyrics cry out for help. It’s not in the top forty, but it’s still there for all to hear, if they would only listen.
I’m sorry if I had to rant over my lost cause. But Becca is my friend and I had to write something. God help the mentally ill.
Becca was the character in my second book, “Cherry Blossoms & Baren Plains: A woman’s journey from mental illness to a prison cell.”
2 thoughts on “A phone call from a prison cell that houses the mentally ill.”
This simple little post is without question one of your best writer’s moments, Larry. Wish I knew how to express that more fully, but know that it is both powerful and comforting.
Thank you so much for your kind words.