My poems got through my first night in jail


As a person with mental illness, I was deeply troubled for a long time, and now I’m not. When things were not going well at all for me, I lost hope. I decided that there was “nothing left,” and made several suicide attempts. One of them was an attempt at suicide by cop, where I grabbed for a police officer’s gun. Post traumatic stress disorder is a biological and human reaction to horrible thing that have happened to people. I am still learning how this affects me.

I was having a little bit of a tough time one night and went for fresh air to clear my head out. I was hanging out with at Apocalypse Point, this place shown here under the Broadway Bridge. A train cop came and told me I was trespassing and asked me for ID. I told him I didn’t have any because I thought I didn’t have to carry ID. I tried to leave and he grabbed my stuff. I pretty much freaked out and all my past came crashing down on me like it was happening just then. All I was thinking was, “That can’t happen again, I have to get out of here.”

I guessed I pushed my stuff at the train cop and he started pepper spraying me and hitting me with his police baton. I ended up wrestling with him. We were still tussling when the regular city cops arrived and arrested me.

This was the first time I’ve ever been arrested in my whole life and they told me I was on a 24 hour hold in the jail. I was already feeling kind of symptomatic with my schizophrenia which was why I was out getting fresh air in the first place. Then they told me they weren’t going to let me have my meds even though I had them in my bag with me. My meds have a bad withdrawal effect plus I knew I was going to get even more disconnected with reality as the night went on. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to sleep.

As the night went on, I got more and more hallucinations. Things got more and more scary. I was worried about what would happen with the charges and not knowing if I’d be charged with a misdemeanor or felony. I didn’t know how much of my life I might have screwed up with my PTSD reaction. I had some really important work events coming up and I thought I might be missing them. The fear of course makes the hallucinations worse. The hallucinations are scary but it’s also scary to be hallucinating.

Every time I got too scared I just stood up in the cell and started working through my poems. I worked through almost my entire repertoire that night. The performance would calm me down and help me stay focused in the present moment. The poems made me feel strong and OK again. Every time I started worrying too much, I just did more poems. The people watching me thought I was talking to voices, but I just using a tool to get through a really tough moment. It turned out I was only charged with the lowest level of misdemeanor which will go away after a year of probation. The first night was a really, long, terrible night, though.

One of my mentors who helped me through the time said, “I’m so glad you had your art to get you through that tough spot.” Me too.

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