The Hidden Part of me That Just Won’t Fade Away

Published 15/10/2023
Clara Fernandez

A Series of Voices: Twenty Years on From “Making Good” – Entry 3

I ended up with a custodial sentence because of my poor choice in men – would I have committed something so serious if I was single – I believe that it is a NO. I had a partner at the time, we both became addicts whilst we were together. He was terrible with money and got into a lot of debt – that’s why we ended up doing what we did. I wasn’t terrible with money, far from it. My problem was having terrible choices in men. I didn’t have any boundaries – I was very easily influenced and manipulated when it came to men. I don’t think that if I was single, I would have ended up in such a mess. It may seem like I am blaming him – I am not. It was my own choice to get involved with him. Years later he got in touch with me via social media and he must have been doing step 4 of the 12-step programme. He said that he was really sorry and did I forgive him. I realised then that I had never blamed him, though on paper one would understand why I would have done.

The reason I chose him was because of low self-esteem – I didn’t think much of myself. It has taken me years to feel worthy of a good partner. I guess a lot of my choices came from my upbringing and personality. But people have much more chaotic childhoods than mine and choose a different life – it is something I find fascinating. I have come to wonder if I am on the spectrum or have some kind of ADHD kind of thing going on. When I was a teenager, I just ran on my emotions and have always been a bit off the wall. When I was at school there wasn’t counselling available – maybe that could have helped me. I am not sure. Or maybe I just chose that life, who knows.

When I was sentenced, I was a mess. I was very easily influenced – I am so glad not to be that person now even though I was youthful then. I don’t think I was a horrible person – I had lots of lovely friends, it wasn’t like I was deceitful and dishonest. I was just a mess – as in unconfident, vulnerable and all over the place. Within my family unit I was very unhappy as a child. All of the family struggled emotionally. I had an unhealthy attachment to my mother – once I broke free from that life has been easier and uncomplicated. We now don’t talk but that’s ok. Maybe one day. I feel like I can put up boundaries now. Before I was sentenced, I joined an Access course in Youth and Community work to avoid getting sentenced. I had at the time of my arrest a part time job as a youth worker – and I loved it. I also loved the Access course. It really opened up my perspective – the tutors were great.

After 8 months on the course, I did get sentenced and completed the course in prison. I knew that I wanted to go to university when I left prison and that kept me focused throughout my sentence. I did lots of courses in there and activities. I did make the most of my sentence. Whilst I was in there I applied to go to university and was accepted. This was a big factor in me doing well when I got out of prison. I had structure to my day, week, month and year for the following 3 years. Another big factor in me doing well when I came out of prison was moving to another area. We are talking 300 miles away. I started a new life. I’m not sure what would have happened if I went back to where I was living before. That was one of my first good choices! I did have it easy in a lot of respects – a family member stayed in my flat whilst I was in prison, so I wasn’t homeless upon release. I was supported through the housing association to move to the new area, I am not so sure if this kind of help is available these days.

Readjusting to normal life was not a walk in the park though. The pressure and stress were surprisingly over whelming. I recall people saying that it takes the time of your sentence to get over it and I have got to say that was my experience. It is so confusing – you are meant to be really happy that you are now free, but you don’t actually feel like that all the time. In fact, you sometimes wish you were back in there!

If it wasn’t for the structure of my new life, I don’t know what would have happened. I could have got a job but I would have probably got bored with that as it wouldn’t have been that interesting – I didn’t have a career.

The university course was really interesting, and I found out that I was pretty good at it! That kept me going. The studies – stretching my brain. Meeting interesting people, people who weren’t using drugs to extremes and leading criminal lifestyles. After my degree I ended up meeting a guy, and to be honest looking back at that relationship – I was caught up in a prison again. The fact that I had been in prison had really knocked my self-esteem even further. I was ok whilst I was in university but when it came to making my next moves and applying for further studies in the area I wanted to go into, I would have to disclose my sentence and I didn’t feel ready to do that.

I ended up doing a conversion course to make my degree a psychology one. Whilst I was doing that I worked in several voluntary roles – being a support telephone worker for Parent Line, Working at a pupil referral unit. I really wanted to help out and make a difference. My purpose in life then was to help out disadvantaged people. After me and my partner split up and I started doing a lot of work on myself I realised that I didn’t want to go into the caring professions. My initial dream was to be a clinical psychologist – but I came to realise that I was wanting to do this to fix my past. My mother had mental health issues and I was wanting to fix other mothers and myself!

I was as a child artistically inclined and had experienced energetic phenomena. It was only when I started looking into myself that I realised that this is where I wanted to be, and I now work as a photographer and energy healer. These roles bring me a lot of joy and fulfilment. I volunteered in a healing centre for a number of years supporting newly clean addicts – I really enjoyed this role. Seeing people make progress, get clean and live healthier lives. Paying back, and not wanting to forget where I have come from is important to me. I am a trustee of a charity that takes mediation and yoga into prisons. I am also in the process of becoming a Longford trust mentor, this will be one on one work which I am really looking forward to. There is a part of me that really wants to own my past – and I am hoping by getting involved in the ways I have just mentioned, will enable me to fully integrate it into my life without all the negative emotions. Maybe these emotions will always be there – and at times I do think that I deserve to think and feel them as I did commit the crime.