"The one thing I wish people on the outside knew is how people view others when they're in positions of power [ . . .] Don't look down on someone because they're different; you can only hurt people when you do that."
I didn’t get my inhaler for the first few months I was here, even though I’ve had asthma since I was a little kid. They finally gave it to me after they maced me when I was in the hole. I had a confrontation with a guard and got 60 days in the hole. They overcharged me with time and I was trying to fight my way out, but I ended up getting maced. Then they put me in a restraint chair for eight hours. I was having chest pains and trouble breathing in the chair but they ain’t say nothing. The nurse came and checked my pulse. It was 100bpm and they didn’t do anything. Then they put me back in the same cell I had been maced in without cleaning it first. I had to stand by the vent and suck in the fresh air while wiping down the walls of the cell myself because of the chest pain. My heart felt real heavy; it hurt. It’s the worst asthma attack I’ve had. I was a little scared. It took them another week to get me my inhaler. I have two different inhalers in my cell with me now: one for daily use and one for emergencies. They haven’t been good about getting me refills, though. It seems like they’re delaying on it. But I'm not going without taking my medicine; I need it. You get really paranoid during an asthma attack, this feeling comes over you when you can’t breathe. I pray to God, so I’m gonna be alright no matter what happens.
I was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2018. I didn’t even know I had it until I had an incident with family members. It is what it is. I didn’t believe them when they first diagnosed me, but being inside and dealing with these people has helped me accept it. I’m not normal, but I don’t know what normal is. What is normal in this world? I’m not afraid or insecure about it anymore. The meds have helped. I get them twice a day now. I need my rec because that helps me keep my sanity in here. This hour thing weighs down on you. I’m an outside kind of person. I miss camping the most. I used to go camping with my dad when I was little. I like to take long drives, get lost, and find my way back. I miss being independent. I took my independence for granted. I didn’t realize how great of a thing it is, and it was taken away from me. I feel like a caged animal. I’m so mad at myself for the circumstances of being in here. I can’t wait to get out. I try not to let it weigh me down. It’s gotta get better; it can’t get no worse.
I’ve gone in and out of depression but I don’t have it now. The one thing that took me out of depression was writing. When my sister was murdered, I gave up poetry and I regret giving it up. I used to write music, too. It’s kind of hard to get back to where I was. I don’t know why it’s so hard. Poetry is the love of my life. Music soothes my soul. I love music. You can’t have a loose mind. Your mind will go places in here. I talk to guys on either side of me; I’ve got pretty cool neighbors. When I’m in my cell, I read a lot. I read my Bible. I’m enjoying my tablet, too. I can watch movies, call family, and FaceTime. The tablets help us out a lot because we weren’t able to see our families for a long time because of COVID.
When I was in the hole, it was kinda hard, but at the same time, I knew I had to press on. You can’t let things get you down and flustered. I come from a hard background. I grew up poor, but you have to push on and keep your head up. You also need to get a solution so things don’t keep occurring how they’re occurring. I read the psalms a lot. King David went through a lot, a lot more than what I’m suffering. It could be worse than what it is, even though it could be way better than what it is. I found myself pacing a lot in the hole － I still pace even though I’m in gen pop. I guess I was worried about the circumstances and how the hole was going to affect me. Every time I go to the hole, I get 60, 70 days, but I’m not gonna stop speaking up for myself. The first time I got maced, it was for being boisterous, but they’re not gonna do me any type of way because I’m gonna stand up for myself. I’m just an outspoken person, especially about the way you’re gonna treat me.
The one thing I wish people on the outside knew is how people view others when they’re in positions of power. You could be in the same predicament they’re in. Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot. Just because you’ve got the power and authority to do it doesn’t mean it’s cool. Don’t look down on someone because they’re different; you only hurt people when you do that.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Margaret Chase is a performer, poet, and playwright who has also worked widely in the museum field. Her BFA is from Boston University. She is a member of the Socially Distant Art initiative and was interviewed by DisArt about disability and art amid COVID. In 2020, Silver Birch Press (LANDMARKS Series), NYSAI Press (We Carry Us), and the new zine To Be Young (and Disabled) Volume 1, include her work. Margaret co-curated “Artists Undeterred” showcasing art and performance work by 75 disabled artists in 2018, the same year her play “Pendulum” was produced at Manhattan Repertory Theatre. She’s now writing “Resurrecting Lady Dada,” a play for 3 women. Margaret relies on a cochlear implant and a hearing aid. She says, “It’s good to be bionic!”