Thursday, December 24, 2009

...Simply Can't Be Put Into Words!

How Does It Feel To Give?

Hummmm, I can't say I've ever given, how it feels to give much thought. That's not to say that I don't give. It's just that giving, or the feelings that follow isn't something I think about. I just do it and move on.

Giving was exemplified in just about everything my mother did. Aside from the abuse she subjected me to, Momma had the biggest heart I've ever seen. That was the beautiful thing about Carol Bridges, better known as Momma. Not only would she give of herself and her wealth but of her ears, and her shoulders for tears. She didn't lend a hand, but two- And don't let her know you need money or a place to stay; she'd give you her last dollar, and make extra space. That often meant on the floor I had to sleep, but I never complained because I could clearly see... GIVING was bigger than both Momma and me!

When it's all said and done, I learned early on that GIVING is far more than a holiday or a kind deed, but OUR DAILY DUTY TO ONE ANOTHER AS FELLOW HUMAN BEINGS! I'm thankful to my mother for teaching me this. Now my heart is as big as hers and HOW IT FEELS TO GIVE simply can't be put into words!

Andrae L. Bridges

Friday, April 24, 2009

Depression and Me


by Andrae L. Bridges

I originally had intentions to rewrite the article, Depression Is Learned From Parents from Psychology Today/ submitted by a prisoner in WSPF so that it might be easier to read and understand. However/ after reading the article and taking several notes/ I found myself so lost in my own thoughts and discoveries that my original intentions have disappeared. You see/ in reading the depression article my mind was opened to things I hadn't given much thought/ if any at all. Much of which centers around my mother/ grandmother/ and family as a whole. If you read my article entitled/ At The Hands Of His Mother then you're aware of the fact that my mother was very abusive towards me. Thus I eventually abused myself but more on that later.

The depression article has prompted me to look at my abusive past and personal bouts with depression from a different perspective. One that is outside of myself. As a result/ I've been able to connect quite a few dots with regards to depression and my family. That's just a small example of how eye-opening the depression article has been for me. All the more reason I'm unable to focus on editing it. However/ I do feel the need to share some of my personal discoveries which might provide good examples of what the writer of the depression article is trying to say. In that/ hopefully others will be able to go on and connect dots in their life as it relates to depression as well.

I often tell people that we (human beings) tend to learn just as much from one another through nonverbal communication than we do through verbal communication. Therefore it's very important that we be conscious of our actions and behavior. For someone is always watching and taking notes. I know that to be true as a direct result of the things I learned from my mother through nonverbal communication. As a child I watched and imitated just about everything my mother did. I wanted to be just like her. And why not? She was my everything and I tried to show her that through my actions. As it's said/ "Imitation is the greatest form of flattery!" Go figure!

Oddly enough/ after reading the depression article I didn't want to believe I learned depression from my mother because it hit me so late in life. Thus I felt as though the depression was something I brought on myself. But you know what/ at one point in my life I also felt as though I brought all the brutal beatings I received on myself as well. I firmly believe actions speak far louder than words. In consideration to that/ and taking a closer look at the relationship between my mother and I/ I have accepted that we do learn depression from our parents/ as with a lot of other things. In that/ I learned depression from my mother just like I learned to believe I was never good enough. To hear her actually say those words only confirmed what I learned as a direct result of the way she treated me. Make sense?

"We are born utterly dependent from the moment we pop out/ a social relationship becomes essential to living/ namely the relationship with our mother (as well as other family members). Through that dependency—for physical survival and mental/ social/ physical/ and sensory stimulation—we form connections with other people who become significant in shaping our view of ourselves and of
the world around us. That socialization process also structures the brain in important and enduring ways. Through the complex processes of socialization/ families can create in their members/ and especially in their children, either susceptibility [open] or resistance [able to stop] to depression that can last a lifetime.

The notion that depression can be spread strictly by social means as a social contagion [able to be spread] is supported by a great deal of evidence- For example/ there is now neurological [dealing with the nervous system] evidence that the apathy and withdrawal of mothers who have postpartum [shortly after child birth] depression show up in the baby's brain as an underdeveloped emotional region. Such mothers are constricted in their emotional displays and do not engage with the baby the way nondepressed mothers do—talking in a singsong voice/ playing games/ stimulating the baby. That deficit in the brain, along with other related risk factors/ dramatically increases the likelihood that the child/ too, will become depressed."

With all that being said/ in order to accept that I learned depression from my mother, I also have to accept that fact that she not only suffered from depression but learned it from my grandmother, who also suffered from it, and so on and so forth. This where my mind was opened to things I hadn't given much thought. I have never thought about my mother or any other family members suffering from depression or any other mental/emotional disorders for that matter—until now- Looking back/ there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that depression has tore through my family like a tornado/ and still does. When I think about postpartum depression I think about the pictures taken of my mother shortly after she gave birth to my youngest brother. In every picture she looked so sad, disconnected, and needless to say, depressed.

Although I don't have a lot of details about my mothers childhood, I do know she was subjected to lots of verbal abuse and emotional neglect at the hands of my grandmother. Granny simply wasn't there for my Momma. My mother is the middle child of my grandmother's seven children. Care for my mother and her three younger siblings was left up to the three oldest children. Who ultimately left everything up to my mother. Once the three oldest children started having children of their own, my mother was left to care for them as well. Momma loved her siblings and my grandmother dearly but there was some serious tension between all of them. Thus the moment they were able, they all moved away from one another- I thought families were supposed to stick together. As I got older I could never understand what it was that drove the wedge between my family. And we never talked about IT. IT was what IT was and we all accepted IT as that- Whatever IT was or is, mind you.

"Further evidence that moods spread through social interaction is found in the social lives of depressed people and their loved ones. The depressed have far more difficulty than the nondepressed in their social experiences. They have more family arguments and more marital arguments. They have less relationship satisfaction and are significantly unhappier. And they deplete everyone around them/ spreading social pain and further corroding social relationships in an ongoing vicious cycle."

It's really sad and disheartening to me how my family is so disconnected from one another. But a bit of light has been shed. The constant mood swings/ family arguments/ total lack of communication... It all makes perfectly good sense. Don't get me wrong/ I'm not basing all of my family's problems on depression but it's definitely something to consider. In and with that we have a start. In order to fix any problem you must first recognize that there is a problem/ then take the time to get to the root of that problem. As previously stated/ depression as a consideration is a start. Unfortunately/ nothing has been done in my family to examine and eventually break this ongoing vicious cycle. As a result the problem has continued to run its ugly course. Getting worse and worse as it is passed down from generation to generation.

"Long-term epidemiologic [cause/ distribution and control of] studies show that depression intensifies from one generation to the next. Today's parents represent the largest group of depression sufferers raising the fastest-growing group of depression sufferers. We are on average four times more depressed than our parents and ten times more than our grandparents. This is not just a reflection of greater awareness of the disorder.

Depression is a disorder with many facets. There is genetic vulnerability/ although it is turning out to be smaller than many scientist thought. The largest contribution comes from the ways we learn to regulate our own internal experience/ which includes our explanatory style (the meaning we attach to life experiences)/ our cognitive style (how we think and use information)/ our coping style (how we manage stress and diversity), our problem-solving style/ and our relational style.

All of these are acquired through socialization forces in the family/ the modeling transmission of enduring patterns of thinking/ feeling, and relating to others. We learn to think and to interpret and respond to events through the cumulative [as a whole] effect of our socialization—the kinds of parenting received/ the kinds of explanations offered/ the influence of family members/ the teachings of others.

There is a near-perfect correlation between a parent's explanatory style and a child's. Every time a child asks/ "Why/ Mommy?" or "Why Daddy?" the explanation provided invariably embodies a particular style of thinking and attributions of causality. Each question is a vehicle for the transmission of thinking that interprets events in a way that is congruent with external reality or that reflects more subjective [personal, emotional] or hyperemotional [over emotional] responses."

Now when applied to my family/ the above excerpt becomes very interesting and all too real. There's so much I can share in regards to that them/ but what victimizes us the most is telling ourselves what we can't do/ what we're inept at/ what we're not good enough to do—all those things by which we limit and even devalue ourselves.

Although it may seem to/ depression doesn't usually strike out of the blue. The average age at onset is in the mid-20's. (Not long ago/ it was mid-30's/ another factor pointing to social contagion.) But by the time a person becomes depressed/ the risk factors have typically been in place for years."

I had never heard of depression until I came to prison. As previously stated/ it hit me late in my life. It wasn't until maybe nine years or so into my bit that I really started to feel the hold depression had on me. It had long since had its long arms wrapped around me (and my family) but it wasn't until I was twenty-five or so that the depression started to literally squeeze the life out of me. And I had been doing so good in and with my personal growth. In fact/ that was around the time I made one of my greatest breakthroughs in regards to my abusive childhood and everything thereof. Thus/ shortly thereafter At The Hands Of His Mother was written. It's hard to believe I wrote that piece nearly seven years ago. But as I was saying/ it was like the more I grew on the inside/ the faster and harder depression slugged away at me. I went down fast. I didn't care about keeping my cell neat and clean/ I didn't want to socialize or participate in any group sessions. I didn't want to do anything but sleep and keep to myself. And then there were the suicidal thoughts which turned into promises and eventually attempts. I attempted suicide several times prior to coming to prison because I wanted out of this life. I didn't know that had anything to do with depression.

I'm quite the perfectionist. Depression prevented me from doing and being what I thought was perfect in my daily routines which ultimately made things worse. I felt so worthless and inapt. And yes/ my perfectionism was learned from my mother. She found reason to criticize everything I did/ be it good or bad/ right or wrong. Hence/ I was never good enough and could never measure up but that didn't stop me from trying. I developed obsessive compulsive disorders as a result. I still have a few but they don't control me. Once I regained control of my thoughts and life, I was able to continue addressing the personal issues that had crippled me. In all that I built up enough nerve to finally ask my mother/ WHY. "Momma, why did you abuse roe so?"

"Andrae/ I only did what I knew." she replied.

As you can see, her response was very short and seemed to me like an excuse/ which broke my heart into pieces. But I quickly got over that because I blamed myself for expecting more of her. Taking into consideration everything I've written here/ quoted and and everything I now know/ I GET IT! There's no doubt in my mind that my mother really did do what she knew. Perhaps the same thing can be said about my grandmother and the way she raised her children. It's all learned and rolled down from generation to generation like a snowball effect. Wow! I intend to stop the snowball in its tracks and thereby break that vicious cycle. I recognize there's a problem and I'm ready and willing to do what I can to fix it!

psychotherapy/ and an anti-depressant (Prozac) to get me on track. Or as I like to say/ see the light!

There was a period in my incarceration where I looked down on inmates who took psychotropic medications because in my ignorance I seen taking meds. as an easy way out. Never mind the fact that individuals taking meds. might really need them. But it was that kind of thinking that made it so hard for me to start taking Prozac. But I wanted and needed the help so I didn't fear what others would think and went on to put my ignorance and pride aside and tried it- Needless to say/ it helped. My emotions and overall thinking became stable enough for me to focus on other things/ namely goals and ways to accomplish them. Two years after getting on Prozac I was confident enough in myself to get off. I'm pleased to say that I to this day I stand even stronger. But don't get me wrong/ I still have my moments with depression. I don't think it ever completely goes away. It's just a matter of how we deal with it; I refuse to be it's victim. Besides/ I can't fix the problem if I'm a part of the problem by socially passing depression on to others. Feel me? If you're battling with depression I encourage you to get help! Put your pride aside and open yourself up to therapy/ support groups/ and even medication/ if needed. Then educate yourself. That's where your real defense comes from. Don't fear going deep to discover the source of your issues. Then and only then can you rise above them and be their master as oppose to the other way around-

"Despite the huge role that social factors play in depression/ the disorder tends to be addressed only one-dimension-ally—physiologically/ with medication. Antidepressants/ now the most widely prescribed drugs in America/ maybe part of the solution, but they are not the whole solution. No type or amount of medication will build you a support network or make you more socially skilled. Good relationships are essential to establishing/ maintaining/ and restoring mental health."

- Bridges Not Barriers! -

Friday, January 23, 2009

Crime- the Other Cancer

CRIME, The Other Cancer;
by Andrae L. Bridges

According to the American Heritage College Dictionary, cancer is defined as la. Any of various malignant [deadly, toxic] neoplasmas [tumors] marked by the proliferation of anaplastic cells that tend to invade surrounding tissues and metastasize to new body sites. b. The pathological condition characterized by such growths. 2. A pernicious [deadly, toxic], spreading evil.

As unfortunate as it is, everybody is familiar with and/or affected by cancer in one form or another. That's a small testament to just how serious this sometimes deadly disease is. Which I'm all too familiar with because not one, but five women in my family were diagnosed with cancer. One woman unfortunately lost her battle with cancer as it spread from her breast to her brain thus she passed away in 2006. (Rest In Peace Granny!) Two of the other women had to have full mastectomies (surgical removal of the breast). Another woman had to get her cervix removed, and the fifth and final woman underwent several grueling and sometimes debilitating rounds of chemotherapy. Although four out of those five women went on to win their battles with cancer, they were left scarred in ways that only a first hand cancer survivor could understand.

Cancer isn't just limited to women. It attacks men just as much. In fact, according to The World Almanac and Book of Facts of 2009 (via American Cancer Society), the expected new cancer cases of 2008 for women was 692,060-It was 53,120 more for men coming in at 745,180. That means a staggering total of 1,437,240 people were expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2008. The almanac went on to include the expected deaths of 2008. For women it was 271,530, with the number for men coming in at 294,120, that's 22,590 more than women. Wow! The cancers being referred to here include everything from breast and thyroid cancer for women to prostate and pancreas cancer for men. With that being said, I must go on to inform you that in 1998 my grandfather was also diagnosed with cancer and passed away shortly thereafter. (Rest In Peace Grandpa!)

Now, would you believe me if I told you there's another form of death with numbers far higher than that of the expected number of deaths from cancer? Well it's true. And the form of death I'm referring to is Institutional Death. In a word, incarceration. Yeah, incarceration currently claims the lives of well over a million men and women. According to The World Almanac and Book of Facts of 2009, in Mid-2006 the United States had a total of 1,485,884 sentenced prisoners. In Mid-2007 the number increased by 42,157 plus (Illinois did not provide Mid-2007 data on sentenced prisoners).
"As of June 30, 2007, 1,595,034 prisoners—about two-thirds of the nation's incarcerated population—were under the jurisdiction, or legal authority, of federal (12.5%) or state (87.5%) correctional authorities. Jails, which are locally operated and typically hold persons awaiting trial or sentencing as well as those sentenced to one year or less/ held most of the remaining inmate population (780,581 as of June 29). An additional 68/245 persons were supervised outside of a jail facility/ through weekender programs, electronic monitoring, or treatment programs among other methods.
As of Mid-2007, the incarceration rate in state and federal prisons for those with sentences of more than one years was 509 per 100,000 U.S. residents/ up from 501 at year-end 2006 and 478 at year-end 2000. The rate of incarceration was 957 out of every 100,000 males and 69 out of every 100,000 females. Also, as of Mid-year 2007, an estimated 96,703 non-U.S. citizens were in state or federal custody."
—The World Almanac and Book of Facts of 2009

Yeah, yeah; I know, the nerve of me. How dare I put the words crime, incarceration/ cancer and treatment in the same sentence. Let alone attempt to compare something as serious and life threatening as cancer to crime and incarceration. By no means will what I attempt to convey here take away from the seriousness of cancer. No, not at all. I'm simply trying to get you to see the correlation between cancer and incarceration in terms of seriousness. In that, I intend to point out why crime and incarceration is as serious as cancer and should therefore be thoroughly examined and treated as such. But don't take my word for it. Be motivated to investigate so that you might be able to make your own diagnosis.

The moment someone is diagnosed with cancer talks of treatment strategies begin. Said treatment(s) are dependent upon the type of cancer one may have. As there are many kinds of cancers with just as many possible treatments. The key word here is TREATMENT. As we all know, the purpose of any treatment is to help the ailment get better, if not remove it all together. Well, if crime is the cancer or ailment and incarceration is the treatment, why don't crime rates decrease as fast as incarceration rates increase? I read something a few years ago that stated/ "Wisconsin's incarceration rate has risen three times faster than the crime rate." How is that even possible? Then I came across a piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel which stated, "When Truth In Sentencing sailed through the Legislature in 1998, Wisconsin's crime rate had fallen 14.3% over the preceding five years- From 1998 to 2003, that trend continued, with a decline of 12.4%." In that, you'd think the incarceration rate would've also started to decline, right? Wrong! In fact/ the incarceration rate only continued to rise. Proof of that came as a result of Wisconsin having to house inmates in other states as the prison population continued to expand. More on that later. The question here is why? In short/ because no one gets released!

For starters, it's not about crime, the other cancer; or incarceration, its treatment. It's all about big business. I shall go on to provide three examples of such that basically branch off into a whole bunch of other examples. First, in the late 80's and early 90's crime rates went through the roof, especially juvenile crime. That prompted a get-tough-on-crime campaign that swept the nation; gaining all kinds of support along the way. Thus, vote seeking politicians jumped right on board. Every politician looking to get into office promised voters that they would "get-tough-on-crime." The politician with the toughest methods got the votes. That's the first example of big business from a political aspect.

The get-tough-on-crime campaign quickly went from words to actions as legislators enacted laws that took get-tough to a whole new level. Judges were given the power and even encouraged to "lock1em-up-and-throw-away-the-key." That didn't take much encouraging/ if any at all. Especially if the judge was looking to keep his spot on the bench. Again/ big business and politics. But victims of crime and just about everyone else were none-the-wiser thus they apathetically supported this madness. For it all made perfectly good sense; the more aggressive the cancer (crime), the more aggressive the treatment (incarceration). Aggressive in the sense that prison sentences got longer. (See: footnote 1) A crime that carried 5 years quickly jumped to 30. Which should've been a crime in and of itself but the aggressive spread of crime, the other cancer, was cause for aggressive incarceration, the chosen treatment. As criminals received lengthier sentences, the rate of release got lower and lower. Then the growth of prison populations began to runneth over. With that came the need for more prisons. More prisons produced more jobs. That's my second example of big business. And business was booming!

My third and final example of incarceration being big business can be summed up in a word. Investments. Now this is where I turn your attention back to the subject of out-of-state facilities. I had never heard of CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) until in 1998 when Wisconsin first decided to start sending their inmates to prison facilities in Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Minnesota. Said facilities were owned and operated by CCA (Note: it's a known fact that CCA is made up of a group of investors who are in the business of corrections for profits and profits only. Go figure!) So, Wisconsin shipped well over 6/000 inmates to the states I previously listed. Everybody was getting paid; big business at its best! Although inmates continued to get shipped out-of-state, the prison population continued to rise- So much so that inmates who would normally be housed at Dodge Correctional until getting transferred to the prison they were staffed to ended up at county jails throughout the state.

It was said to be cheaper to house inmates out-of-state so what happened to the funds Wisconsin had left over as a result of doing so? It most certainly wasn't spent on treatment programs. In fact, as prison populations grew, programs disappeared. Treatment programs cost money. Remove the programs and you get mo' money, mo1 money, mo' money! Prisons became nothing more than warehouses and inmates were livestock. In 2001 many correctional officers staged a protest. Their picket signs said things like, "BRING BACK OUR INMATES!" and "DON'T SEND OUR JOBS OUT-OF-STATE!" I was quite disgusted by that because it was then that I realized inmates really were nothing more than livestock; a product and job security. Not one of the signs read, "CREATE TREATMENT PROGRAMS TO REHABILITATE OUR INMATES!" or "EASE THE overcrowding BY RELEASING INMATES!" Nope! None of that mattered. Hence, this ain't personal, it's SERIOUS BUSINESS! And therein lies the problem-

According to The World Almanac and Book of Facts of 2009:
"In 2008, an estimated 182,460 women and 1,990 men in the U.S. will have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and about 40/480 women and men will have died from it. Currently/ an estimated 2.4 million women are living with a history of breast cancer/ the 2nd biggest cause of cancer death for women in the U.S. (lung cancer ranks first). But mortality rates have been declining/ . ' especially among other women/ probably because of earlier detection and IMPROVED TREATMENT."
The almanac goes on to Wisconsin ranked as number 8 on a list for having the largest percent increases in prison populations/ at 70.2% from 1997-2007. West Virginia is ranked number 1 at 96.0%.

As previously stated, everybody is familiar with and/or affected by cancer (the disease) in one form or another. Everybody is also familiar with and/or affected by crime; the other cancer in one form or another. So why is one treatment taken more seriously than the other? Oh yeah, that's right, people don't deserve cancer but people often deserve to get incarcerated. And believe it or not, I can totally agree with that. Commit the crime, do the time! But in doing the time, shouldn't one be provided the appropriate tools to better him or herself? And then be given the opportunity to atone for his or her actions after demonstrating positive change? In considering crime to be cancer and incarceration its treatment, that would mean the criminal is the anaplastic cells that tend to invade surrounding tissues and metastasize to new body sites. All the more reason inmates shouldn't be denied IMPROVED TREATMENT. The aggressive treatment of longer sentences has proven futile-However/ it's said that 90% of inmates will one day be released from prison-I believe they will leave worse off than when they entered as a direct result of minimal to no treatment. Thus 40% of them will eventually return. Hence/ Wis"con"sin Depart Men Of Corrections!

1. In 1989 the law which had parole eligibility dates for lifers set at 13 years and 8 months was changed. That change gave judges the ability to set parole eligibility dates to wherever they saw fit. And so, in 1992, at the age of 16 I was convicted of First Degree Intentional Homicide/ Party To A Crime and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole until 2037. Jeffrey Dahmer received multiple life sentences but due to the fact that we all only have CNE LIFE TO LIVE, isn't it safe to say that I basically received the same ammount of tine as him? He was an adult at the time of his arrest and thereby experienced life. I was a juvenile who
experienced absolutely NOTHING!... Please think long and hard
about that!