“It’s a different world beyond rock-bottom – I know I’ve been there too many times to count.”
A bit of personal history from the Founder of The Opal Place,
Darly Royan Paraha
I grew up in the New Zealand social welfare system during the late 60’s to mid-80’s. Like so many other foster children, I suffered emotional, physical and sexual abuse. I was also unkindly labelled mentally retarded as a two-year-old. The reality was that I was simply a traumatized and scared little girl. I wasn’t good at communicating and rarely spoke and I was unable to read or write for most of my childhood.
Like many other people who have been in my situation, as I grew towards adulthood, I became fanatical about success. In hindsight this was my attempt to try and forget all the bad stuff and prove to myself that I wasn’t as broken a human as I feared.
I played field hockey for my country and surprisingly later in life I did well at business despite my poor education. I made sure my son had opportunities that I didn’t such as a private education. I became a warranted NZ Scout Leader, and we actively participated within the church community.
Amongst my set of friends and colleagues I would have appeared to be a relatively successful woman. However, my inner life was far from successful. I suppressed such a deep self-hatred that I was poisoned. I tried my best to deal privately with bulimia, self-harm, depression, cultural anxiety, continuous anxiety, suicide attempts as well as alcoholism.
I can honestly say that apart from my son and the warm and loving feelings I felt towards him, the remainder of my emotional life was barren. I didn’t know what contentment, pure happiness or even safety felt like. I was still the traumatized little girl. Eventually I crashed. It wasn’t pretty. Long story short I went to prison twice in midlife and made so many mistakes that if mistake-making were an Olympic sport, I’d be a multiple gold medalist.
The first time I went to prison was for a short stint of six months. If anything, this fueled my self-directed hate.
By an intervention from God, the second time I went to prison I was so broken spiritually, mentally and physically that I had to make a choice. At a primal level I knew that my choices were to either continue the path I was on and end up dead, or to change my behavior and live.
By the grace of God and the love of my son, I chose life.
What I learnt in prison the second time was this. It’s not rocket science, but it sure rocked my world! Not all people are bad. Some people will do things to help you for no perceivable gain. Because of these simple realizations, my long-held fear and distrust of other people crumbled. This was because my foundation rock ‘that all people were bad’ had been proven wrong.
For me prison became my blessing. Prison gave me the time to heal in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to on the outside. I had time to reflect, get fit, read and make healthy plans for my future. When I was released back into the community, I went on to marry my darling husband, have a successful career and develop my love of writing and… watch my son develop into a fantastic and healthy young man.
My message to everyone is this.
Prison isn’t an end. If you allow it, it will become the start of all things good. Even if you or a loved one has been sentenced (even a life sentence) look for the positive because it will be there.