Letter #13 from UPIII



JVA Köln, Sunday, 17th June 2018

“… It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle … and walking into the arena with your head held high. 
Some people, perhaps, would say there was little to choose between the two ways, but … there was a ll the difference in the world.” - Harry Potter #6, pg479

“… Sometimes you’ve got to think about more than your own safety! Sometimes you’ve got to think about the greater good! … I’m going to keep fighting even if you’ve given up! … I’m going to keep going until I succeed – or I die.” - Harry Potter #7, pg458

“… The thing is, it helps when people stand up to them, it gives everyone hope.” - Harry Potter #7, pg462

“Just going to make it up as we go along are we? My favourite kind (of plan).” - Harry Potter #7, pg469

“… come on, think of something happy … we’re all still here, we’re still fighting.” - Harry Potter #7, pg522

“… but he will know why … and I hope he will understand. I was trying to make a world in which he could like a happier life.” - HP #7. pg561

“Do not pity the dead … Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love …“ - HP #7, pg578

“… so it’s now or never, isn’t it?” - HP #7, pg503

Hey again dear friends, and out tag along post control readers,

I’m not sure how you feel about Harry Potter (or quotes in general) but I wrote these out for a friend here who felt super low the other day and they gave them hope, so maybe it will give you hope, too.

I’m not kidding or joking or whatever when I say I’m okay here, really I am, and I spend more of my day listening than talking. Which I like. 

There are so many people with problems, enough to drown in, who just want to be heard. Have a person to listen, to understand. So many just need someone to hear their story and say “it’s okay”. Which I do, and I like to do, because I’m not stressed about my situation. 

I can’t change anything, I have to wait. I have a count down going which is all I can do. So, I don’t mind listening to other peoples problems and offering advice if I’m asked/can. 

I don’t know the German court system that well, but I can offer what I have heard from others. If I see new people in the yard, and can somehow talk to them (I wish I knew German! But there’s also about six or seven other languages here), 

I try and reach out, explain how the prison works, how to write Antrags etc. Simple stuff that another person very kindly taught me, try and take away a little bit of the shock and fear. Let them know they aren’t alone.

It costs me nothing to be kind, so I try really hard to be. And the stories here are amazing!! From flying to Abu Dabi for three hours for cheesecake, to living it up in Paris for a crazy (and expensive) weekend “just ‘cause”, to horrific stories of loss, to strange miracles (I’m not even sure about some of them), to scarily similar personal stories that bond me with several people in the house like missing family members, or like a missing or hidden part of my soul – we see ourselves in each other even though, in most cases, they’re at least twice my age. 

I cannot even describe it. In under three months I can’t seem to recall not knowing them. Like I’ve spent my life waiting to meet them, to hear their stories, to feel, for the first time ever, really, truly understood. And I don’t even know their name, as they don’t know mine. But I feel better, lighter, freer than I have ever felt, that someone understands, has the same “skeletons in their closet” (I think that’s the phrase). 

That they aren’t afraid. That they are open, honest, genuine. The absolute, most awful, horrific, heart breaking part of all this though is when I go free I must leave them here. I cannot bring them with me. Sometimes, I try and think perhaps we were only meant to meet for a short time, to make each other stronger, braver, to have someone understand when we needed it most. 

Someone to hear our pain, to tell us “it’s okay, I understand, I am not afraid of who you are or what you’ve done, I love you just the same and nothing you say could turn me away.” 

I’ve voiced many things for the first time, as have they, and I cannot begin to tell you how worried I was – would they leave, like every other person has, when they got even the slightest inkling of that story? - but no. They have a similar, or the same one. The relief, for myself and those I told. The real, truly genuine understanding that only comes from shared suffering, mutual pain. So, I am okay.

Arguably better than ever. I have no pain, no anguish, no suffering. My heart is no longer heavy. I feel good. 

Someone once asked me which was worse, to never have anyone know all about you (your past, you fears, all of it) or have someone know all about it?

Before prison I would have said it was worse for someone to know, because what if they left because they knew, what if it frightened or disgusted them? What if they grew to hate you because of your past?

Now I’m not so sure. Perhaps it is worse for no one to ever know the “real” you, because would that not feel like hiding the truth? Like a game of pretend, where you only allow what you think is pretty, good, “acceptable”, to be seen and heard? Why do we insist upon pretending all the bad, super damaging shit we’ve been through never happened?

Is it because we are afraid of other peoples opinions, or afraid of admitting to ourselves that it happened? That we are damaged, that we’re not “perfect” and blemish free like a piece of supermarket fruit?

So fucking what if we are “damaged”? Are we afraid no one will love us if we’re “second grade” on a shelf?

No one is fucking perfect, no matter what anyone says. We’re all hiding something.

Be fucking honest, with yourself if no one else is. Bad shit happens, damaging, life changing bad shit sometimes. Shit that makes you want to crawl under the covers, the comfort and safety, of your bed and never resurface.

Might make you want to disappear, never wake up, whatever reaction is valid. Because you and your suffering is valid. Don’t put up with and fucker who tells you that you’re not allowed to feel like you’re suffering.

Yeah, someone might have it worse. That should never be used against you to tell you that you are “not allowed” to suffer. Fuck them okay. Your experience, unique and complex, which they (might) not understand does not allow them to tell you how to handle your pain.

You handle your pain how you see fit, hopefully in a healthy and constructive way. But I can’t talk about “healthy and constructive” coping mechanisms with some of the worst ways of dealing in my past. You do you. What feels right for you, and only you can decide what that is.

I can only recommend you don’t self isolate after a damaging event (again, the definition of damaging is up to you). Some people can deal with things on their own and some have no choice (like I didn’t). 

I can tell you right now that the only thing self isolating did for me is now I’m super wary of people and super worried to open up about the shit I’ve been through. 

I got lucky here. The people here opened up to me, and that was super brave of them because some of the shit they’ve been through is beyond belief, but then I opened up, let go of things, because we share a lot of the same or similar damage. 

I let go of the ideas, the memories, the things that acted like a disease and festered inside me; the hate, the anger, the pain, all of it. I talked about it and let go.

As humans we need connection, to feel like someone understands us. To feel appreciated, cared for, loved. We need someone to hear us, hear our pain and then tell us they won’t leave us, not matter what has been done to us. We need someone to not walk away, to make us feel accepted. We strive for our parents to accept us, our friends to tell us we are accepted.

That’s why places, like prison, use isolation as a punishment. To make us worry, to create a rift between us and the outside world: “there’s us and them”. People outside these walls think of prisoners, of us, as crazy, dangerous, that we are locked away go their safety. 

Arguably yeah, some people here are crazy, dangers to themselves and others. But the other 99% are just like you. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers. They made a decision the state doesn’t agree with for five minutes, an hour maybe, and someone dobbed them in.

Now they’re here, for years maybe, wondering why the hell they were “so stupid”. They cry for their parents, their children, missing birthdays and life events. They are weighed with guilt, drowning in it. 

They can’t do anything. They just want to go home. They would sell their soul to go free, just to hold their mum or dad or son/s or daughter/s and tell them they are sorry. To beg forgiveness. To have someone treat them like a human being, not a no name number in a box in one of dozens of houses. 

Within a couple of weeks most become zombies, to stressed to function, too exhausted from crying, in constant crises over their loved ones outside, prying they are safe and okay. I watch the light dim, the energy inside them to keep going fade away. 

It’s torture, not being able to help. I never eat the chocolate from my visits, I share it out, try and show some love, some understanding, show that someone thinks the people here are more than a fucking number. 

That, hey there, I remember your name, I remember you. I don’t even fucking remember my own name but I remember yours. Your are not a number to me, but an unique and complex person who is valid, cared for, loved and I give a shit about your problems. 

That I am here for you and nothing you tell me will push me away. So, dear friend, if you’ve read this far, spread some love today. Look after yourself and your friends, and go change the fucking world. I believe in you, in us.

For the forest, for the future. Stay strong, be brave.

<3 UPIII/Vahra

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