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  • Writer's pictureAndi Settlemoir Barney

How did you do it?

This is one of the most common things I hear about my past: "I don't know how you did it."

12 years have passed since my release from prison. For the first few years, everything still felt really fresh. As I've mentioned before, it never occurred to me that PTSD played any sort of part in my issues post-incarceration.

But by the end of 2007, my life swung the other way and for the very first time in my adult life, I was living in stability. Paul and I realized we were meant to be together in September of that year, and we were married by New Year's Eve. It wasn't a relationship built on false dreams, romantic fantasy, or anything like that. It was, and is, true love.

Paul told me I didn't have to work, but yes, I did. I don't idle very well. I am a worker, a producer, a doer. I went back to work and went back to school, all before leaving it behind to raise Aaron.

Somehow through all of this, I have done a lot of healing. Sometimes it was with intention - by doing some self-therapy through books, through some writing, through just letting things pass through me and carry on.

But honestly, I think it's mostly numbness. Not necessarily trying to forget, but maybe on some level. It doesn't cross my mind every day. Or even most days anymore. For the most part, when I think about prison and life before Paul and Aaron, it all feels like someone else's life.

So when people ask me how I did it, I really don't know. I just did. The way I saw it back then was THIS was my biggest stressor. And back then, people would tell me, "Man, I'm stressed, but it's nothing compared to what you're dealing with!" And I would always think that stress was relative. Sure my big stessor was big, huge. But when your biggest stress is not making ends meet, a dying parent, a sick child, loss of a job... the stress feels the same. It doesn't feel any less stressful simply because in theory it's not "as big" as my stress.

And to be honest with you, if anyone else was in my situation and forced to go to prison, they would "just do it" also. You really don't have a choice. There was no choice but to serve time and make the best of it. Amazing things happened for me in prison. I'm pretty sure a good portion of that was pure luck and chance.

It's the same now, 12 years later. I don't have the stress of prison or trial or probation anymore. But am I any less stressed? No. I try to remind myself (especially in moments I can't control like being stuck on an interstate in traffic) that "at least I'm not in prison."

I wish I could say that tactic worked.

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