Orange Is the New Black opened my eyes

78316362My biggest fear in life is prison. I don’t know where this fear started from, but it’s been something I have nightmares about on a regular basis. For some reason I think it’s a fear of both losing the life that I know and love as well as the fear of physically being abused, because who are we kidding? I’d be a prime target in prison. Let’s just be glad I’d never break the law!

Some people are terrified of spiders, others are terrified of snakes, but for me those are just general frightening things. Prison is what terrifies me.

That’s why when I started seeing Orange Is the New Black popping up all over Facebook, Twitter, blogs my friends write and the media I was skeptical. Should I really watch this dramedy, which until I started watching it I had assumed was going to be more of a comedy than a dramedy. Even if it were to be strictly comedic like I original thought, shows and movies that take place in prison increase my already high levels of anxiety and stress, but how can I miss something that seems to be viewed as an amazing piece of work?

Not to mention my boyfriend really wanted to watch it, so I reluctantly agreed.

We sat down the first night and turned on our TV, switched the input to our Netflix account and started watching the first episode. Boy was I ever wrong about viewing this as a comedy. I don’t know how I missed the message that it was a dramedy, particularly the first episode. Yes, it has it’s comedic story lines, but truth be told the writers do an excellent job at fitting every emotion possible into the show.

The first episode brings to reality fears I hold inside, albeit they are realities for a character that is nothing like me, a statement I make because I view this woman as being a much stronger person than I who proves to handle these realities no matter how much she struggles.

Piper Chapman, the lead character, has to say goodbye to the world she knows. For me that would be losing everything in my life, a fear no therapist over the past 15 years has ever been able to shake from me. I thought that these opening scenes would force me to turn the TV off, but I kept watching as anxiety slowly tingled it’s way throughout my body. I felt Chapman’s phases of emotions in every scene. Denial at times, fear at others, optimism, pessimism, pain and embarrassment flowed through her portrayal of what her character was going through. Every transition naturally seamless, while keeping her head together throughout most of it. I know if I were her during that first episode I would have had to be strongly medicated. If my boyfriend has to go on a business trip I go through more emotions than most, let alone having to say by so I could go fulfill a 12 month prison sentence.

I’m honestly glad I did keep watching though. I’m not going to write about the script, which I love. I’m not going to write about the actors, all of which do an incredible job at portraying their characters. Each actor seems to find the honesty behind prisoners from being rough and angry to tender and broken.

What I am going to talk about is what I am taking away from this show and how it’s helping me.

Like Piper Chapman, my life hasn’t always been a bed of roses. That’s obvious since I am the writer of a blog which was started to get me through what I consider one of the worst divorces on the planet coupled with a number of other traumatic experiences. My life like Chapman’s has taken turns I never expected.

In my life, fears have become realized losing everything I knew to be reality more than once. I’ve not gone to prison, thankfully, but I have had to face devastation, transition and pain like I never imagined possible over the past 5 years. Each trauma scaring me in it’s own way. If you’ve ever been divorced, estranged from immediate family, attacked by a mentally ill man, lost a loved one, stood on the street during a drive by shooting or anything, had your best friend or family not love you for being gay then you know just how long wounds and scars stay with you.

In response to many experiences in my life I’ve allowed myself to be broken, but what I should have done is follow Chapman’s plan of fighting to survive in the face of adversity and find a way to live. This woman loses her life and gets locked up away from those she loves, has a lesbian try to take ownership of her, starved out by angry inmates and threatened by criminals more than I could ever imagine just to name a few situations without spoiling the show. None-the-less she wakes up each morning figuring out how to make life for herself better.

She chases chickens to please other inmates, helps inmates write their appeals and contributes to the society she now knows. For me this show isn’t a comedy or a drama, it’s a show about human nature and the best way to make your reality the best that you can. I’m disappointed in myself because I have not done that, but my goal is to try and stop letting the past 5 years haunt and hurt me everyday and love this new life we have started here in California.