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From Surviving to Living
From Surviving to Living
(05) A PADDED ROOM: Pursuit of The Good Life

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In October 2011 everything I thought I knew was turned upside down. My husband fled the state with our children, and still facing 7 more years in prison, helpless, I threatened suicide. While I’d suffered serious depression for years, I became mentally fractured.

I share the emotional journey of hitting rock bottom and finding it’s not the lowest point, experiencing the world as shattered and questioning your own identity, your own ability to understand the world.

I discuss Acute Stress Disorder and its symptoms. Are you facing a rock-bottom moment? Are you looking for hope? Find out about the good life God has waiting for you right now, and how you can pursue it today.


Even after many years, I remember the moment I felt fractured. I had become familiar with suffering, but now life took an unexpected plunge.

Join me on a raw and authentic journey through the prison system, exploring themes of despair, separation, and the relentless pursuit of hope.

Where do you turn when faced with profound self-doubt? Have you faced a rock-bottom moment? And how can you learn about the amazing life God has waiting for you right now?

Suicide watch in Shakopee takes place in the seg unit. While inmates are usually taken to seg for disciplinary reasons, seg is also used suicide watch and health concerns.

It was October 2011. Seven months had slid by since I arrived at prison. I felt my life hit rock bottom when I entered prison. No. So far, I’d only been given a painful life lesson- a new place to live with ugly new clothes in a laundry bag. Rock bottom can be redefined.

How do you define rock bottom? Was there a time in your life when you felt a need to “redefine” it?

In the months since orientation, I had become sick from the constant trauma. My sense of security eroded. I found myself with competing feelings of disbelief and agitation over the reality of my situation. Simple things like TV commercials showing a happy family together easily blindsided me. I missed my family so much. My stress became so acute I wet my bed at night.

At least my children were safe, I told myself. They were living with my parents. Everything was about to change, like a disaster movie.

My husband’s mental health really declined the year before I went to prison. He lost his job, started drinking heavily and did drugs. He became suicidal and threatening.

for the safety of myself and our children I was given an Order for Protection, which is like a restraining order. My husband was allowed supervised visits. I passed custody on to my parents When I was incarcerated. I felt good knowing my children were safe with my parents.

One Thursday night in October I called my parents, and a new nightmare began. “Your husband told us he’s moving to Washington,” my dad said. “He’s picking the kids up on Monday and taking them with.”

Taken completely off guard I shouted “What?! You can’t let him do that! Call the police if he shows up!” Trembling started in my stomach and began working its way out towards my arms and legs. Tensing, I tried to stop the shaking I knew was coming. “Dad! Don’t let him take them!” I pleaded. Now I was shivering from head to toe, teeth chattering like I was in a blizzard without a coat.

“What can we do to stop him?” my dad asked. “He’s been here already, saying horrible things. He’s threatened to kill us, shoot us right where we stand. Says he’d kill you too if he could.”

I was Horrified I hung up the phone and RAN to the dayroom. other women here must have some advice! My mind was racing with ideas but none of them were usable. Ugh! I felt so helpless!

Could I call the police myself? Slamming open kitchen cupboards I grabbed phone books. Throwing them on a table I traced them over the pages, wondering, ‘Would the police accept a phone call from prison?’

Scribbling numbers I needed on paper I charged back down the hallway to a phone and attacked the keypad. I listened to an automated message, waiting for the call to be accepted. Finally, a police officer arrived on the line, “How can I help you today?”

I raced out, “Yes, my husband is going to kidnap my children. I have a restraining order. My dad says my husband is threatening to kill everyone.” I choked on a sob. “Please help!” I pleaded.

“Oh no!” she said. “We will help your parents. Have them call me.”

Feeling a little better, I did as she instructed and waited for Monday to come.

Monday the nightmare came true. “He took the kids,” my dad told me. “We called the police, but they were busy and didn’t arrive until 40 minutes after he was gone. I’m sorry.”

Stricken, I called my husband’s phone immediately. I struggled to dial the numbers, the keypad, all jumbled – my fingers turning numb. My husband accepted the call, but simply passed his phone to one of our children. “Hi Mom!” Tommy answered excitedly, breathlessly. “We’re on our way to Washington!” Adventure sang in his voice. I could hear wind blowing through the open windows of their vehicle, cars passing as he struggled to be heard over the noise. Someone called for Timmy to roll up his window in the background.

My stomach lurched; I thought I might throw up. I cast around in my mind for what to say but came up empty. My hesitation must have said something all by itself. Tommy’s enthusiasm changed to a more calming, reasoning tone. “Dad asked us if we wanted to go. It’s not like we can’t come back if we don’t like it. It’ll be fine, Mom,” he soothed.

I sucked in a sob. Tommy passed the phone to Lukas. I don’t even remember what I said. 15 minutes came and went. I called back and back and back, desperate to turn that car around, to stop this nightmare. I pleaded, begged, became a pathetic mess.

Finally in utter desperation, with an act of immature manipulation I threw out, “I’m going to kill myself then.” I dropped the phone, dead inside, and went to my room.

I was on a train, a speeding bullet, a horror show that was gaining speed and getting uglier by the minute. I was used to the illusion of feeling in control. I enjoyed micromanaging, being bossy, a know-it-all (and that’s so attractive, isn’t it?). I liked being in charge and calling the shots.

Well, I certainly wasn’t very good at it. Look where it had gotten me! My choices had led to my increasing awareness that I knew much less than I thought, I wasn’t in charge, I did not call the shots, and my last-ditch efforts to save the ship were pathetic at best.

Sometime later, 15 minutes, maybe hours, a guard knocked on my cell door. I opened it and she asked if I would come with her. In flip flop sandals I slumped after her out of Tubman and across the courtyard to the Core building. Passing the OCO desk I duly noticed Ashley waiting for medical. We continued deeper into the building, and I was shown into offices I’d never seen before. I was ushered by a guard into a deep cushioned seat and told to wait.

A few minutes later another guard entered and took a chair. Several other guards arrived and remained standing. I would later learn the seated guard was the Watch Commander. With a look of concern he said, “Your husband called us. He says you are threatening to kill yourself. Is that true?” I turned a flat stare in his direction. I felt nothing. I was wilted, suffocated, past caring. A small table stretched between us. My eyes dropped to the candy dish, colorful wrappers capturing my attention.

“I want to help you,” the man continued. “Have you taken any pills? Did you do anything to hurt yourself?” I raised my eyes to his face again, then studied my hands in my lap. Nothing mattered. My face felt numb, breathing seemed a wasted effort. I sighed. We all waited. Finally, looking up at the guards in the doorway, the Watch Commander echoed my sigh and with a shrug he quietly said, “Take her to seg. I don’t know what else to do with her.”

Suddenly hands were gripping my arms, lifting me from the chair. Metal handcuffs were clicked into place behind my back. Cold metal pressed against my wrists as each guard clutched a bicep and directed me out of the room and down the long walk to seg. Again, we passed the medical, Ashley’s face dropping open in shock as I whisked by her with my escort.

I felt mentally fractured. From Wikipedia: “Acute stress disorder (ASD, also known as acute stress reaction, psychological shock, mental shock, or simply shock) is a psychological response to a terrifying, traumatic, or surprising experience….The DSM-IV specifies that Acute Stress Disorder must be accompanied by the presence of dissociative symptoms, which largely differentiates it from PTSD. Dissociative symptoms include a sense of numbing or detachment from emotional reactions, a sense of physical detachment – such as seeing oneself from another perspective, decreased awareness of one’s surroundings, the perception that one’s environment is unreal or dreamlike.” This describes my next several days. So does the word “broken.”

I was asked to dress in a “pickle suit.” The pickle suit is sometimes called a banana suit. It’s a green or yellow … gown…made of thickly quilted material that is shapeless and formless. Its purpose is to keep the wearer from being naked while removing any opportunities for self-harm. I was not allowed to wear anything else.

The room’s furniture was just like a jail cell, with everything bolted to the floor including a toilet. I was not allowed to have toilet paper or anything else (I could request a few squares of toilet paper at a time, when needed). No books were allowed, not a thing. The room had a camera, and I was watched day and night. I was not permitted underwear, which was unfortunate, as I had my period. I had to bleed on myself, the pickle suit, and the room. That’s just how it was.

The days passed in a fog for me. Time had no meaning. Everything was meaningless. I felt I understood nothing. I was in a daze. Sometimes a nurse would appear at the door with meds. I was told by staff to come to the door. I would stand there stupidly, uncomprehending. I was passed a cup, and would stand there, unaware I was holding a cup. I was told to put water in the cup, and I would just nod, not making the connection, that I needed a cup and water for meds.

At times I slept, at other times I tried to think about my life. I came to no conclusions about anything. I knew nothing for certain. As I stared at the wall or ceiling it even seemed I was staring out through a broken lens, as if the entire world had cracked and gone wrong – jagged seams and cracks splitting down the middle and ruining my understanding of everything. I wondered, ‘Was everything I had ever known been …wrong?’ I was shaken to my core. I no longer trusted myself, I no longer unquestioningly trusted nor believed I knew my parents, I no longer understood the world and how to move in it.

I eventually came to myself. I wanted to know how my children were doing, how my family was doing, and in short, I wanted out of seg.

I want to pause here for a moment. It’s important to stop and realize that even when we come to the end of ourselves, we don’t find God by discovering we are not Him or cannot do His job ourselves. This episode caused me to recognize my need more fully, but I had yet to meet the Master. I had heard lots about Him and believed this knowledge was good enough!

Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?…49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed, and its destruction was complete.”

I put in the request and thought I’d be returning to my regular room and job shortly. That did not happen. Instead to my surprise, the prison accused me of selling drugs (my own anti-depressants) and I was disciplined with an additional 14 days in seg, albeit this time in regular seg clothing.

Well, I was certainly getting the full tour. I had not been selling my pills, but I also hadn’t been taking them exactly as prescribed, which is against the rules. Prior to incarceration, I had been prescribed a very high dose of the anti-depressant Effexor, higher than the FDA recommended. The prison doctor chose to prescribe a lower dose, within the FDC guidelines, for obvious reasons, I guess.

I was not feeling well on this lower dose. Considering all my recent stressors, I’d decided to take matters into my own hands. In the 3 days leading up to my seg visit I’d increased my dose one pill each day (so I was short 3 pills). This is a rule violation.

Released from seg two weeks later, the prison doctor agreed to raise my dosage.

This did not solve my problems. There were more challenges to come. I was still hurtling towards rock bottom.

I think about this experience all these years later. I had never felt more broken. I’ve never felt as broken since, despite worse suffering. But As I sat in that cell, desperate for answers, one thing I didn’t do was pray. I didn’t really know Jesus or how to talk with Him. Years later I started reading the Bible, and when I had read it just a little I came across this story. A man asks Jesus to save his son who is very sick. He says to Jesus,

22 And it has often thrown him both into fire and into water, intending to kill him. But if You can do anything, do have pity on us and help us.

23 And Jesus said, [You say to Me], If You can do anything? [Why,] all things can be (are possible) to him who believes!

24 At once the father of the boy gave [an [k]eager, [l]piercing, inarticulate] cry with tears, and he said, Lord, I believe! [Constantly] help my [m]weakness of faith!

Mark 9:22-24

I read that and felt the same as that father! What about you? That deep yearning inside, the eager, piercing, inarticulate cry with tears, pleading to Jesus “constantly help me with my unbelief, my weakness of faith!”

Do you know what Jesus did in response? Healed the son.

Listener, God is urging me to tell you, right now, how much He looks forward to spending time with you! The Bible says,

For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), [d]recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]. Ephesians 2 10

Are you excited to find out what God has been planning for you? Are you eager to learn about the good life He has made ready for you? Oh, He is thrilled to share it with you today!

God, I pray for the person listening right now, that you will encourage and lead them to a life rich in conversation with you. Show them, show me, the amazing impact and power of prayer with you. Help us to start now!

I hope you are encouraged, today!

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