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How Do I Overcome PTSD After Being in Prison?

12 January, 2022
Q How do I overcome PTSD from incarceration when I feel hopeless all the time and I feel like this sense of doom?

Answer

In this counseling answer:

Prison is hard and trauma is not uncommon. I would kindly suggest that you seek out re-entry support groups.

Write down anything that you feel was traumatizing (beyond the basic experience) or that has impeded your mental health.

By identifying what supports and strengths you do have to go forward in life will insha’Allah, make it easier to focus on what things you need, one thing at a time.

As I am sure you have repented if needed (I am not sure of the situation that resulted in incarceration) you then know how much Allah loves you and that Allah forgives and has great mercy.


Salam Alaikum,

I am sorry to hear about your lingering trauma and sense of doom post-incarceration. While I do not know the specifics of your incarceration such as the reason why you were incarcerated, the length of time you spent in prison, the trauma you may have experienced while incarcerated, as well as how things are now that you are out, it may be difficult to refer to specifics but insha’Allah I will do my best.

Incarceration at a Young Age

Sister, you are only 23 years old. That may mean you were very young when incarcerated. If so, that is traumatizing for a child. Prison is traumatizing in general but more so for a teen or young adult-especially a woman.

While Incarcerated

Sister, the feelings you are experiencing now may be due to somewhat of an adjustment period especially if you have only been out a short time, and this also depends on the supports you have in place to begin your life on the outside. It also depends on what you experienced in prison.

Aside from the usual horrors of being separated from family, friends, normal activities, and being thrust into a 24-7 controlled cage-you also may have experienced abuse in prison or other events which have harmed you further. Please evaluate your experience.

Write down anything that you feel was traumatizing (beyond the basic experience) or that has impeded your mental health.

Possible Obstacles

Sister, coming out of prison is not easy. Re-entry is hard for most unless there is a solid network of support systems that include friends/family, compassionate caseworkers, and mental health resources.

 Some needs you may have faced already are opportunities for skills training or jobs; financial help, medical assistance, food, housing, among other things. Social acceptance and activities are important too. Often times re-entry involves stigma, sadly.

Also, as you are Muslim, do you feel welcome and supported at your Masjid? In your Islamic community? If not-find another Masjid and community to grow with as Allah is most merciful and forgiving as Muslims should be as well.

Resources and Strengths Analysis

Insha’Allah, sister also does an analysis of your resources and strengths for successful re-entry. By identifying what supports and strengths you do have to go forward in life will insha’Allah, make it easier to focus on what things you need, one thing at a time.

By identifying resources and strengths when restarting one’s life, it can reduce stress, fears, and help us to focus more on what is needed in a more streamlined way instead of worrying about a great big huge-unknown.

Be Easy on Yourself

Sister, I can imagine you have been through so much during your incarceration. You now have a new, fresh start. If possible, leave the past behind. Take the lessons, but start new. That means practicing self-love and self-acceptance. It means understanding that every human makes mistakes-but no mistake or sin (except shirk) is beyond Allah’s forgiveness nor mercy.

As I am sure you have repented if needed (I am not sure of the situation that resulted in incarceration) you then know how much Allah loves you and that Allah forgives and has great mercy. Show yourself mercy and love during this transition. Pray to Allah for ease.

Trust in Allah that all will be well for you and that soon you will be happy, successful, and healed from your past. Be easy on yourself during this transition.

Addressing Mental Health

Sister, as stated I do not know much about your situation, but I do know re-entry can be stressful and difficult. Prison can leave trauma and scars that need healing to improve mental health and wellness.

If after assessing your situation as outlined above this does not relieve some of your feelings of hopelessness and sense of doom-please seek out a counselor in your area for ongoing counseling.

Most people who are released from prison do need some form of counseling. Prison is hard and trauma is not uncommon. I would kindly suggest that you seek out re-entry support groups.

They can be empowering; you can learn new skills; learn how to overcome obstacles as well as hear how others may be experiencing the same feelings you are and how they overcome these feelings. You will learn you are not alone.

Conclusion

My dear sister, please do address your mental health issues as soon as possible so you can feel good about being out, so you can fully enjoy your future successes, and so you can wake up to each day feeling joy and freedom.

There is no joy in being mentally “lock-up” in a mind that is fearful, feeling hopefulness, and traumatized.

Addressing your mental health right now is an act of self-love and defiance in a system that sometimes takes pleasure in seeing people fail. Prove the system wrong…you did come out stronger, closer to Allah, and wiser. You will succeed and you will live your best life.

We wish you the best.

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Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general. They are purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha has a PhD in psychology, an MS in public health and a PsyD. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years at Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. She has worked with clients with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, panic disorder, trauma, and OCD. She also facilitated support groups and provided specialized services for victims of domestic violence, HIV positive individuals, as well youth/teen issues. Aisha is certified in Mindfulness, Trauma Informed Care, Behavioral Management, Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and Confidentiality & Security. Aisha is also a Certified Life Coach, and Relationship Workshop facilitator. Aisha has a part-time Life Coaching practice in which she integrates the educational concepts of stress reduction, mindfulness, introspection, empowerment, self love and acceptance and spirituality to create a holistic healing journey for clients. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocates for prisoner rights/reentry, social & food justice, as well as advocating for an end to oppression & racism. In her spare time, Aisha enjoys her family, photography, nature, martial arts classes, Islamic studies, volunteering/charity work, as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.