My Incarcerated Truth: How Solitary Confinement Affected My Mental Health

An old jail cell interior with barred up window with light rays penetrating through it reflecting the image on the floor
Image: Inked Pixels/Shutterstock

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Being locked up inside the Washington State Department of Corrections prison system can cause stress and anxiety to emerge at alarming rates creating a clinical diagnosis of severe depression and developmental disabilities mentally.

The psychological impact of incarceration can manifest from the feelings of loneliness and sadness that come with the emotional aspects of being locked up inside the cage of seclusion.

I’ve been forced to spend years of my life behind bars inside the Washington State Department of Corrections prison system for my poor choices and bad behaviors while in the community. The superior court of the state of Washington sentenced me to solitary confinement.

The limited human interaction I was forced to endure made me realize how alone I was and how much I missed my family, friends and loved ones. I realized I was stuck inside a prison cell with nothing but time to think and no way to escape the emotions that entered my mind and the amounts of loneliness I was feeling inside.

I started to notice how much I missed my daughter and then I started to think about what she was doing at that exact moment. The thoughts of my first-born child became the manifestation of sadness and depression that make it hard to feel any type of confidence toward visions I was having about the days ahead.

At first the sadness that emerged from the thoughts of my daughter were easy to transform into motivation and aspirations to be a better father and become a positive role model, but over time the feelings and emotions became harder and harder to change. I started to feel as if happiness was evading me and I was only able to be enveloped by the air of negativity and this cultivated into me falling more and more into a depressive state mentally.

The fact that the world was continuing to spin through space and days were continuing to pass only exacerbated the entire situation. The loneliness created by all the time spent inside of confinement can transform anyone over a period of time and I was no exception. I started to notice thoughts of hopelessness and a lack of energy. I found myself full of sadness when I was normally happy. I noticed I was becoming more irritable when I should have become more focused. I started to become more argumentative with everyone I came in contact with.

The psychological impact of incarceration was beginning to set in and there was nothing I could do about it. There was no way I could take my mind off the reality of my environment and there was no way I could create any more positive energy. My life was small and the people in it were becoming even smaller. The vision I had was vividly displayed in full view of my mind’s eye and the truth was becoming blurry. All I seen was negativity and all I cared about was confrontation, There was no peace and all I felt was bitter anguish inside my soul from the lack of happiness I was able to experience. The time I was spending in the prison system started to lead to a mental illness that doctors labeled borderline personality disorder and severe depression.

I been to jail before, I been locked up before, but never have I ever been forced to endure so many painful emotions and memories that only stayed inside my head and made me think constantly about things I could not change. My desire to escape any and all emotions and the way life was turning out made me not want to be a part of it any longer. The focus to succeed became like a dimming light only getting darker and darker with time. My vision started to become so bleak I didn’t even know if my eyes were even open. Suicidal thoughts emerged at a time when I was looking for a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Being incarcerated made me realize the importance of having someone to turn to in my worst time of need. I knew I needed psychological help and someone to talk to about the problems that were emerging but I was inside an environment where human contact was limited and the ability to have regular scheduled mental health appointments was nonexistent.

By the time my prison sentence was complete the damage was done. My daughter was grown, my mental illness was diagnosed, and the need for treatment was inevitable. The only thing I can do now is realize the fact that I have a voice that needs to be heard. I am utilizing my disability rights in the state of Washington and unlocking my incarcerated truth.


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Eldorado Fleetwood Cadillac Brown is the founder of The Incarcerated Truth. His story is featured in "On The Outs: Reentry for Inmates with Disabilities," a short documentary produced by the Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities (AVID) Prison Project.