As I sit here contemplating the five mental health challenges that make up my POST INCARCERATION SYNDROME (PICS), I realize they all share one thing in common, at their core, is a habit. A habitual way of responding and/or reacting to outside stimuli. The word habit is defined as an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary.

Each of the five PICS symptoms consists of habitual behaviors. 1). Institutional Personality Trait (IPT) is passivity derived from the learned state of helplessness caused by deprivation of prison life and the suppression of personal nature and critical thinking used as a defense mechanism. 2). Antisocial Personality Trait (ASPT) is a passive-aggressive coping mechanism learned in response to an abusive environment. 3). Social Sensory Deprivation Syndrome (SSDS) caused by long periods of solitary confinement due to deprivation of social contact and infliction of sensory deprivation. 4). Substance Use Disorder (SUD) simply put is a drug habit. It’s when an individual turns to drugs to self-medicate in order to tamper or escape symptoms and disorders caused by PICS. 5). Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) causes cognitive impairment; feeling on edge, having angry outbursts, and/or reliving the trauma.

The question then is how does one change their habits. The key for me, and perhaps you as well, is to first understand what makes up a habit. What are its ingredients? There are three key ingredients of a habit, They are:

1) Knowledge (what or why?)

2) Skill (how to)

3) Desire (want to)

When understanding the ingredients of a habit one can now focus on changing bad habits into good habits. There are keys to forming good habits which are:

  1. Evaluate the value you say you value. ( How am I incorporating it into my daily life?)
  2. Begin to see beyond where you are right now. (Don’t become locked in the moment.)
  3. Do not accept limitations set by people around you. (Remember who’s your God.)
  4. Do not accept your own limitations (Watch what you say to yourself.)
  5. Live by vison, not by history or the past.

While habits don’t change overnight if we consistently work on our new good habits, they will replace the old bad habits. By Akili