Letter #22 from UPIII



Recieved 2nd August 2018 (7 weeks after sending!)

JVA Köln, 14th June 2018

The summarised story of X10


Hello to those who are willing to read this,

I debated whether or not to write this, and I admit that it is not easy.

The subject matter (self harm, suicide, associated emotions and actions) and circumstances (prison, lack of escape from it – the person in particular) are beyond awful.

However, I feel it is important that you, dear reader and friend, if you have heard or seen my letters regarding the person I refer to as X10 (I hate to do this, to make them a number as I am, but it allows me some distance and protects their identity, to some degree), to have, perhaps, some closure on the situation, as I am trying to find.

X10 was a friend. Over two months they slowly opened up to me, trusted me, called me a sibling.

X10 and UPIII every three hour visit, for weeks and weeks. They taught me many things, and they asked me many questions in return, about occupations, resistance, anarchy.

I answered as honestly as I could. I tried to be a friend, a shoulder to cry on, confide in.

As usual, I didn’t give much of myself away, no more than I felt necessary. They didn’t mind.

They spoke more than listened. “My friend” they said. They took on some of my mannerisms. They speak English, but it seems only I understood what they were saying (broken English, so I was their translator. I wrote their Antrags, spoke on their behalf, explained things for them, explained to others, when asked to, their questions.

I drew for them; fairies, trees, animals, whatever they asked. 

They said it helped them be here. Mad it easier. It taxes me emotionally sometimes, but I shook it off. 

They were a friend, and on occaison friends are taxing, as I know I am taxing when I am low. It’s okay, no worries, I’ll be out soon, and I can write to them, which, I hoped, would be easier.

I don’t remember when things started to change.

Maybe after they gave me a letter to take with me to send to their family. When they started telling me to do things (at first I assumed this was only because their English was not fluent – I was wrong), asked (with emphasis) to bring them sugar, among other things, that they knew I had.

Stopped listening, I became a therapist, not an equal friend. So many things, I cannot even remember, that should have made me ask questions. But I didn’t.

I told myself it would pass. A phase. The stress of prison. It didn’t. It evolved. Something inside them changed, or broke, or maybe they trusted me more, to allow me to hear exactly what was on their mind.

Over the course of three days, three visits to their cell, a total of nine hours, I listened to them talk about self harm and suicide. I tried to help. Tell them about self care, how to work through the feelings, pass them.

“I understand I am in prison” they told me, angrily, “but I refuse to accept it. This is not how my life is outside, I miss my drugs, and I hate waiting, I want things done now!”

As you may have guessed about prison, things take time. You can buzz the guards for help, and wait up to an hour or so for a response, and perhaps another hour for them to get around to you. This is not their fault in most cases – there are about forty or so prisoners in this house I think – so everything takes time.

As you can imagine, X10, each time they asked a guard for something, would be greatly angry if their request was not fulfilled immediately. They told me several times they tore apart their cell, books and paper strewn everywhere.

This “earned” them several trips to a place referred to as “the bunker”. Four walls, gym mat on the floor as a bed, hole in the floor as a toilet, two paper cups of water. That’s it. For three days at a time.

Of course, until recently, they only told me they went there for “bombing” their room (their words). No, they went there, I found out, because they said that they would rather die than accept they were in prison.

In those nine hours they also told me the note they gave me for their family was a goodbye.

They would “not survive prison”.

Still, I tried to listen, to help. I told them what I knew of these things my experiences, my loss.

They persisted.

“I miss my friends and family way more than you, or anyone else here, misses theirs.”

I didn’t yell, or scream. I sat.

Some people, I have found, just want – need – to be heard. 

So I listened.

They told me they were stressed I was not free, they needed to make sure someone – me- informed their family they were not coming home.

I didn’t know this until those nine hours – why is my lack of freedom stressing them? - but it makes sense. They didn’t want to die until they tied up “loose ends”.

It became apparent quickly they would start their greeting to me asking how I was – ten minutes – then I would listen to them, sympathise, try to help, advise, whatever, for the remaining time.

I am not angry, honestly, I have been through worse. It doesn’t make it easier but I was more prepared for the blow it dealt. I just felt – still feel – drained.

That was two weeks ago, the last visit.

When I told the guards “please help them, save them, I can’t, I can’t watch them, maybe you can do what I can’t.”

The last hope for me, X10 was determined. If they died, and I knew and said nothing, I would feel responsible. A bystander, if not the bully.

This was during Freistunde – free hour – and X10 called me to their window. Yelled, screamed, called me “betrayer,” I “broke their trust”, I “deserve the worst”, “how could I tell?”

Then, they slammed their window in my face as I tried to apologise.

A few days passed.

They spoke to others, ignored me. I didn’t mind. I was working on myself. Accepting they were not person I thought, or whatever.

Then, the notes came in the morning. “I’m sorry, you are my sibling, please talk to me.”

This is not the first apology from someone to me after an outburst. I echo the words of those in my past, “it won’t happen again, I promise.” It does, it will.

I put the notes away. I knew I was all they had, their only friend. I had others though, who sheltered me from X10, protected me. Cared for me, reached out to make sure I was okay.

I am beyond thankful to these people for their understanding and generosity. But I thought, what of X10? Now alone, friendless? 

More notes came, and I felt torn.

But, as advised by my friends, I kept my distance. Until today.

They were at their window, more a plea to see them than a request. I couldn’t find it in me to say no. So, after Freistunde, I began to write this I have just (at the last sentences of the previous page after “friendless”) returned from the three hours.

I almost feel too exhausted to write. I feel it is important though, while the memory is still fresh. In hopes that you, dear reader, can understand. There are worse horrors in prison than the walls.

X10 shows me their wrist. The thing is, I cannot afford to let this trigger me. I can’t believe even in here I can’t escape my past.

I sit there, silent, as they show me, again and again. Tell me they will try again. That I, a friend, the “person they trust”, must help them end their pain.”

I don’t even have words to write. I feel exhausted. They told me they “need me”, I’m their “only friend, don’t I care about them?”, “why would I let them suffer?” I have never felt so helpless. What the hell do I do? What can I do? I can’t help thinking “not again”.

They cry on my shoulder, cry for their mum, their friends, their family. Suddenly I’m the “older sibling”, the protector, the comforter or whatever, even though they’re nearly twice my age.

They are not the first, and I’d be naive to think they will be the last. Again I find myself in the position, am I the victim or am I being victimised? Or neither? Am I wrong to not want to see this person again?

They repeat the words, “but I need you” with emphasis. “You’re the only person I trust, the only friend I have.”

If you’ve read this far, I am so sorry. As much as I don’t want to be sometimes, I am human. I like to hear reassurances that it’s okay to feel pain, to be sad, to let go. And I have to let go.

It breaks my heart – I cannot even word it – to walk away. But I can’t. I thought I could this, I thought I could help, or get help for them.

They tell me when I leave, they will die. I am their last hope, the only one who understands. “They need me.” I will never forget their face, their voice, as they said those words.

“You leave, and I am dead.” What the hell do I say?

How could anyone say that to another person?

I feel more than physically tired, I’m emotionally tired, soul sick.

I miss the forest, where I felt weightless, breathless, excited, energetic, full of life, delighted with those around me.

I hold onto those days. The laughter. The friendship. The love. The fight. The passion.

Soon, soon, soon.

I have a trial date, this will end. I can go back to safety. To friends. Regroup my emotions, as I have no idea what state I will be in when I leave here.

Rebuild myself.

The prison isn’t taking me apart, the people are.

The pain, sadness, grief, anguish, hatred, anger, regret.

It’s overwhelming.

I’ve been here nearly three months, watched people come and go. Four new faces today alone.

I think there’s something to be said about staying on your own, away from the emotional waves, in prison. For me it’s easier. I think I will spend a few days alone now.

And, say goodbye to a friend. I can’t be carrying the emotions of X10 and my own.

Thank you for reading, dear friend. Please look after yourself.

This story is as hard to read as it was to live (even missing many things).

Stay safe. Stay kind. Stay brave.

All my love,


Recieved 2nd August 2018

JVA Köln, 15th June 2018

Additional thoughts on X10


Hello again to those willing to read, and apologies to those who are reading this letter but may not want to (guards, post control people). You’re human too, please look after yourselves if anything you’re read in this causes you stress/distress. Though I hope everyone who reads this looks after themselves anyway.

After having a (relatively) okay sleep and having time to consider and think through the situation, I would like to add some (I Hope final) thoughts on this story.

I am not angry nor do I hate or hold any negative feelings towards X10.

As you will have read in previous letters, I try very hard to understand why people make certain decisions or are the person they are (for want of a better phrase). 

As they opened up to me it because more apparent that it wasn’t for “shallow” reasons (I can’t think of how else to describe it) they said some things.

From what I understand they only have two friends – very close friends but only two – outside prison. They have only had these two (no one else) for six years. They only rely on these people, and themselves. They try very hard for these two. These two are their “everything”.

They have a mother and brother. They lost their father when they were young. They had to abandon their dreams to support their family, their mother can’t work and their brother is too young.

If they chose to ignore this and continue on their on path, their family would be homeless. They tried to cover the stress and pain with drugs.

They arrived here five days after me, so most (if not all, they weren’t overly specific on all the drugs they took) would be out of their system by now.

They had a horrific comedown, chills, fever, sweating, headaches (that I know of, probably a lot they didn’t say).

They used drugs to cover physical pain from their job, and paracetamol/aspirin/other given here is not strong enough to help.

They are in an “observation cell”, checked every half hour by guards, so they can’t sleep.

The have constant migraines, but refuse to see a doctor as they are afraid.

I’m the only one here who seems to understand their broken English, and no one here speaks their mother language.

Isolated. Alone. In pain. Scared. Stressed.

I write them Antrags for the doctor (which they won’t go to without me but I am not allowed to go with them to “translate” so they don’t go), for classes to help them reach out for support (they only clung to me tighter).

So many more things, I can’t remember (or I do, but it’s probably best not to mention them).

A person, desperate for a friend, to be understood. For someone to listen, to help.

I don’t know, if things had happened differently, if I could have done something, done more. Not left them alone for two weeks, tried to reason with them. Would it have been enough to stop the self harm? Could I have said something else, gotten through to them?

I’ve both been in the situation, and lost from it. It hits harder.

I said and did everything that would have helped me, it wasn’t enough, isn’t enough.

They are determined, and repeat the phrase that when I go “they are done”.

I’m an ear to listen, but not the person they need. I’m exhausted. I want to keep trying, I don’t want to feel responsible, think “I could have done more”.

But, I think, I can’t do more than listen now. I’ve told the guards that they mean to kill themselves, asked (against what I believe, I wanted X10 to ask for help but I feel out of options) them to help, to watch them.

I feel it’s all I can do now.

Thank you, dear friend, for listening.

Stay safe, look after yourself.


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