What You Come to See Behind Bars


| This is the 589th story of Our Life Logs® |

I was born in Lancaster, in Southern California, on July 28th, 1992. I don't remember too much of my early life besides a boundless love and admiration of my grandfather, who, at the time and unknown to me, had lung cancer. I remember his few kinds of favorite snacks. Cactus Cooler, Orange Slices, Oatmeal Creme Pies. They all became my comfort foods after he died. I wish that I remembered more of him, but I know from the wistful accounts of others that he doted on all his grandchildren. 

I was still in diapers when he passed. Somehow, I remember the day he died. I’d gotten out of the yard of their trailer home and toddled down the street, with my brother and cousins chasing after me. When we returned, we discovered that he had passed away while we were gone. It didn't hit me at the time as I didn't understand at that age, but I knew I missed him.   

In my teenage years, my parents filed for divorce. It was the first event of my life that really rocked me to my core. Suddenly, the mother that had watched over me all my life was gone, and my father was working all the time, leaving my older brother and me to ourselves. This was the first taste I felt of abandonment. Though I still saw my mother from time to time, I felt bitterness toward her. It felt like she chose a guy over us. So, with little to do since my father would lock away our internet modem in his safe when he left for work, we escaped to our grandmother's house. We spent our days on her couch, playing video games and living on a diet of Ramen, hot dogs, and soda. Not really the healthiest of diets, but that was what we had. 

It was during these times at my grandmother’s house that I had access to the internet and social media, namely Myspace. I met my first girlfriend on there. Our relationship only technically lasted 3 months, but I fell for her hard. Afterward, we maintained contact and played a back-and-forth game of will-they- won’t-they for nine and a half years. It was an emotionally abusive situation. This only furthered my abandonment issues. She would pull me in close, call me hers and only hers, then abandon me when it wasn't convenient for her. I was stuck. I was devoted to someone who didn’t show me the same. I couldn't move on.  

My abandonment issues manifested themselves even more in high school. I had a short fuse that made me feel like a monster. I would push people away and keep to myself even when people reached out a comforting hand. I wanted friends, but I could never keep them for long. People got tired of my outbursts after a while. I knew something was wrong with me. I just didn’t know what. 

On top of the raging outbursts, I began to have anxiety attacks. I couldn’t be around anyone without blowing up. So, I moved on to independent study, isolating myself from my would-be friends and moving into my stepfather's home with my mother to focus on my studies until I graduated.   

The year after I graduated was fairly calm. Being away from everyone turned out to be a nice escape. I liked the idea of being able to take my time getting my head straight before I pursued college. But when school wasn’t there to distract me, a lot of the anxiety and rage bubbled back to the surface. In June 2012, my teenage angst came to a head when I finally lost my temper and attacked someone. 

It was midnight. My nephew from my stepfather's side came home banging on the door. Given the time and figuring it could be anyone, I grabbed a baseball bat and went to answer. My nephew was the same age as me, but he was always disrespectful, ignoring any rules he felt didn’t apply to him. This included my stepfather's rule, “If you are out past midnight, don’t bother coming home.” He knew the rules. He just didn’t care.

When I scolded him, he arrogantly replied, “I don’t need to hear it from you.” His attitude was nothing new and yet for some reason, that night, the burning rage within in me spilled out in waves of flames. No. I thought. This is the final time you’ll ever disrespect me.   

There was nothing and no one that could stop me, so I struck. The fight was quick since I was armed, and he wasn’t. The angle of the foyer only allowed for vertical strikes to his head and shoulders. He attempted to tackle me, but I was larger than he was, so he pleaded with me to stop and to let him go. I did not want to hurt him, so after a few strikes, I did, my anger draining. I felt that I’d taught him the lesson that he needed. But I knew full well that this wasn’t the end of it.  

Soon after, he called the cops. When they arrived, I surrendered myself. The rest was a blur of moving from a holding cell to the county jail. At first, I was terrified. My anxiety attacks doubled. I lived my life in a daze after my sentence was handed down. I was alone.

My parents could do nothing to help me from the other side of the glass and so, I felt lost. It was only after my time had been served that I heard that my stepfather, the one who should be most angry that I attacked his grandson, had firmly stated that I was not guilty. However, the courts had already decided. I was bigger than my nephew and wielding a weapon, so I was the guilty party. My sentence was set, two years with half time, a fancy way of saying a year, for committing the misdemeanor of battery with serious injury. 

I was almost 19 when I was placed behind bars with quite literally no light in sight. From what I’d seen in media, I went into jail expecting rough individuals that would sooner violate me than help me out. But in County Jail, the real injustices were actually the guards. One time, my bunkmate decided to sass a guard during roll call, and what followed was all of us enduring cavity searches while he was taken to the visitor room and beaten. I never did see him after that. The brutality of the guards was a known fact among the inmates. 

However, not all inmates were violent like the movies showed. Some were rather calm and showed me subtle kindness like offering me some food or a few words of comfort. I think many were kind of indifferent because we were all in the same situation. I didn’t really get into fights during my sentence and had little reason to do so. The guards were rude and armed, and I didn’t want to get on their bad side.  

To pass the time, I began to read the Bible that another inmate gave me; something I had never wanted to do before. I just needed hope in my life. I didn’t know why this anger inside me was uncontrollable at times. I needed something to cling to for comfort. It was in these pages that I learned not really faith, but lessons to take into my real life, such as forgiveness. 

It was at this time that I learned a sense of independence. I felt strength in my decisions. I was my own person and though rules and laws still applied, what I did was my choice and mine alone. From going to get lunch to getting books or even working out. Realizing this helped me take responsibility for my actions and confront the feelings I had toward the people I resented, myself included. I had to learn to forgive myself for being a punk kid who didn’t know any better as a teenager. I even went so far as to forgive my abuser so that I could move on with my life. This forgiveness helped me feel lighter. I could begin to confront all the pain in my heart.      

My sentence wound up only being 10 and a half months thanks to programs I participated in that shortened my sentence by a total of six weeks. Coming home and getting used to life anew was strange. It was during the following years that I met people, fell in love, and came to terms with my sexual identity. Being in prison, I finally came to terms with the fact I was bisexual. Were it not for my time away from my family, I would never have known those parts of me or been able to come to terms with it. Before, I had made excuses of why I wasn’t, because to me it was either I was straight or gay. But now I felt confident in who I was, which helped the levity in my heart as well. 

My anxiety over my past failures and shortcomings was gone. Having met the love of my life several years after my release, I knew they, as well as myself, deserved better. I had to be better for her, to feel worthy of her. She loved me and still does to the ends of the earth and back. I was kinder. I was happier, I was more understanding, and overall, I was calmer. But the anger still remained, and I couldn’t understand why. I processed so much, I forgave, so why was I still so angry? I didn’t understand where the anger within me was coming from. Though I didn’t harm anyone this time when I was out of jail and angry, I did have emotional outbursts I could not help to control. At my wit’s end, I begged my parents to get me help. I wanted to improve and become a better person without anger hanging over me.  It was that acknowledgment that saved me. This is when I developed a life plan, one that would take roughly a year, but change my life almost entirely. With my then fiancé by my side and a good friend, I finally knew what to do.  

Here’s the gist of that plan:

  • Apply for my state's medical program. (I’m 26, aren’t I? I can’t be on my parent’s any longer)

  • See a doctor who can help me—that, and a psychiatrist. Get mental help.

  • Find a source of income.

  • Live better.

All these things led to the discovery that answered so many questions for me. I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder or BPD. My disorder causes my responses to conflicts to always be fight or flight. I exploded at people who didn't deserve it for little reason and now I knew why. I finally knew I wasn’t crazy and that it was my own brain working against me. I wasn’t this rage monster that I had viewed myself as for all these years. The next step was to be put on medications. After a couple of weeks of my body adjusting to the meds, my anger practically blew away with the wind. Even missing a single day of meds raises my risk of my brain going into fight or flight. Still, knowing I have control of it somehow has been such a relief.   

My next step was income. My state had programs like General Relief and CalFresh that helped, and though it wasn't much at all, it was something. I could start to feel independent with a bit of money in my pocket. Next was to seek a source of greater income. Getting a job was always on my mind, though it was a difficult journey. I had never worked before in my life. I had been in school, then prison, then fumbling around afterward with no one taking me in due to lack of experience. All of this made it nearly impossible. 

I had always loved writing, so in 2016, I started freelance writing to make money. It wasn’t much at first, but it was a start. To get better, I knew I had to get better with my writing. So, after a couple of years, I decided to expand my education. It didn't need to be college, but I felt that it needed to be something. Something that I could really get into and enjoy learning.  This is where my local library helped. 

The library had several resources from language classes to free music and movie websites, and what I ultimately needed: classes. Because they were through the library, these classes were entirely free to take. I took all kinds of of them--from interior decorating to cooking, to art, to writing. The writing class is the one that really spoke to me. As my lessons revolved around writing, I looked closer into freelance writing and found a wide range of websites and businesses that needed people just like me. My background didn’t matter as long as I could write well.

The place that really helped build my writing career was Contena. Although the pay for entry seemed high, it was the tools I gained after entry that really helped me kick my career as a freelance writer into high gear. I had an expansive list of ways to make money, from simple submission jobs to contracts, and so on. I was also given a coach named Amanda who became invaluable in finding my way through the freelance writing world.

Now, prison feels like a distant memory, but in reality, it was the first step into becoming my own person. It was a rough first step, to say the least, but it was the one that got me into a better frame of mind that has continued for many years afterward. That one mistake truly began a domino effect. It was that time in my life that made me realize when I was out and free again that I needed to get help to find the source of my anger and pain. I needed to do that or I’d never move forward. Now that I’ve done both, I feel so free. Now, I focus on the solution to things instead of lamenting about the problem. Seeking help from others and learning to reach out instead of holding it all inside is what saved me.  

I hope this story helps those of you who can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. Let me tell you, it's there. You just need to keep moving until you see it. 


This is the story of Roy Moody

Roy made a mistake as a young adult that sets in motion events that changed his life. From behind bars, to on his own making his own decisions, meeting his future wife, and finally discovering a career in writing, Roy was only able to do this because he acknowledged that he needed help. He says helping people around him has always been a goal of his, even in the times he couldn’t help himself. Discovering what ails him is what helped him become a better person for himself and others. Roy’s talent is his words, and he wants to use them to enrich the world around him.

This story first touched our hearts on May 25, 2020

Writer: Roy Moody | Editor: Kristen Petronio; Colleen Walker

 

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