"I’m 267 miles away from home" - Robert's story


When you’re 267 miles from your family and in prison, Christmas can be the loneliest time of the year. Here is Robert’s story.

I’m currently an inmate in a prison in the North West, and in here you are just a name and a number. I’m 42 years old and I’ve struggled with my mindstate as far back as I can remember. In 2010, I was told I had complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). I was not a soldier, I had never fought for my country. That’s why when I was told this, I felt ashamed and embarassed to tell anybody.

As easy as it’d be to sit here and write about my childhood, my life growing up and how bad it was, I don’t want to use it as an excuse as to why I am me. To be honest, there will always be someone who’s had it worse, a lot worse.

Over the years, I’ve had some proper sh*t Christmases: as a child at home, in prison, homeless, in hospital with myself and years later with my daughter. I’ve isolated myself and shut myself away. Writing this has helped me realise that I’ve wanted what could’ve been a good Christmas, if I’d let it.

  • Bad things can happen the rest of the year, but Christmas has its own soundtracks and movies.

Christmas can affect people mentally in lots of different ways. Dads who don’t have access to their kids. People might not have much money for presents. There will be some people battling addictions, especially alcohol.

I haven’t been in prison for 19 years and a lot has changed since. A Sunday dinner in prison is smaller than a microwave roast dinner. Last night, I had no tea as by the time I was back on the wing after work, there was no food. No heating either, and no hot water for showers.

Last bank holiday, the wing manager came in just to spin and search cells, to see if we had extra pillows or mattresses. These went outside and were put into the bins! I’m on the family wing and enhanced part of the prison, so to come in and kick lads whilst they are already down sums this place up.

If you think mental health is bad outside of here, you should see what it’s like in here! 127 days of asking for help, asking to see a doctor for medication to treat my PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and C-PTSD (Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). It has been tough.

  • A Sunday dinner in prison is smaller than a microwave roast dinner.

Christmas is meant to be about family. I’m 267 miles away from home so no visits, only a video call link once a month. So, this will help make me appreciate Christmas more when I am released; being home with my partner and my daughters. Every year, I wonder if I’ll get a card or if my children will get a card off my family. I don’t. They don’t. And it’s okay.

I think because I have so many negative memories towards Christmas, it’s a massive trigger for me. Bad things can happen the rest of the year, but Christmas has its own soundtracks and movies. I have so many bad memories of Christmas because it’s easy to forget the good ones I had with my partner and my twins. I’ve had some good Christmases with them, like in 2018 when we went to Eurodisney.

My advice is to try to look forward and never back! If you are lonely, sign up for volunteering. If you want to buy some Celebrations chocolate tins, take them to your local hospital for staff who are giving up their day to work. It will make you feel good. Try and change your focus. If you’re struggling with alcohol addiction, be strong. If anybody close to you is struggling, support them because one drink can, or could, cause them to relapse.

I would like to thank the Rethink Mental Illness team for their support and help during this process and my time in here. They have gone above and beyond to help me and everyone else.

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