The Journey to Real Resilience: Prison Wife Life
by Crystal Wyatt
When I started my prison transportation service 7 years ago, my main goal was to rebuild families impacted by incarceration. Fast forward to April 24, 2019 when I launched my podcast Real Resilience: P.W.L. I had fully realized that the business of prison weighted heavily on the backs of women—primarily black and hard working women. In Pennsylvania there are approximately 14,000 inmates from Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, housed in a state correctional institution. The backstory to these 14,000 inmates, is that without the “affection of sisters” financial, emotional, psychological and physical support, inmates from Philadelphia would never survive a prison sentence, nor would they be able to re-integrate back into their family or communities.
For years, I watched these women sacrifice rest and relaxation, peace of mind, health and wellness and money to visit incarcerated loved ones. I also realized that within the narrative of criminal justice reform, these women were the forgotten soldiers in the war on mass incarceration—yet no one was “caring” for this vulnerable group of trauma survivors.
Most recently in Philadelphia, we’ve seen the unjust sentencing of rapper Meek Mill. This story stands at the forefront of the criminal justice reform movement, yet women are still left out of the narrative. As someone who has served these women across 250,000 miles and over 10,000 hours on the road listening to their stories of trauma and resilience, I knew that it was my spiritual calling to cover these women with love and provide opportunities for them to heal.
Where did I start?
One year ago, recognizing that women who support an incarcerated loved one were resilient, I wrote a grant called Real Resilience. This 4-week trauma-informed program was funded to support the mental health of women who support an incarcerated loved one. Within the grant, women participated in workshops designed to help them understand the impact of trauma (with the realization that incarceration is the trauma), balance and wellness to provide information on sustaining their health during incarceration, money management—because prison is expensive, and finally, self-efficacy to build their personal capacity. The program was a success and one of the outcomes was women building a powerful social-support network. The other outcome was the idea of creating a podcast for these women to share their stories. I loved every part of that project, but an unexpected byproduct of the work was burnout.
Dealing with burnout
Working within the trauma narrative exposes an empath to secondary trauma and compassion fatigue. I, the empath, had to learn this the hard way. I was exhausted, traveling to prisons and running workshops. l finally had to sit myself down for six months and hit the reset button. I slept a lot, binged watched a lot of rom-coms and surrounded myself with people who loved me. But each time I had a moment of rejuvenation I would think of the podcast idea that never launched. One day, I received an email from a former advisee about her Podcast Mogul class. The email suggested that if you want to launch a successful podcast, take her class. Since she’s someone I had watched develop into such a podcast rockstar, I knew I couldn’t go wrong by investing in myself and trusting her to get me to a place to share the stories of these women.
Investing in myself
Upon her class recommendation, I first purchased a great microphone (Blue Yeti) and took her eight-week course. I knew my content was “fire,” but the course gave me the confidence to put the mechanics together—the hosting platform, the recording, editing, and publishing software, including where to find pod-safe music. Armed with the right tools, I was ready to record.
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I reached out to my business followers on Instagram and conducted some market research—would they be interested in hearing the stories of women who support an incarcerated loved one and would they be interested in sharing their stories?
The response was overwhelmingly positive. I was most surprised that there were even men interested in these stories. I then reached out to the women who participated in the Real Resilience program and invited them to be my first guests. They were eager to share and extremely candid in retelling their stories. You won’t be disappointed when you listen.
There have been 11 episodes released thus far, primarily from women in Philadelphia. But I have had many women from across the country direct message me on my @realresilience_prisonwifelife Instagram page to be interviewed. I’m excited to share their stories, and I’m even more excited that through podcasting, my experience with secondary trauma and compassion fatigue is subsiding significantly. Podcasting is my therapy. And after each interview, off the air, the women express that sharing their stories was therapeutic for them as well.
We may not be able to change the narrative of criminal justice reform to include us, but with Real Resilience: P.W.L , we are using our voice to create our own narrative, that we are resilient!
Crystal Wyatt is a trauma-survivor, the former owner of Ride and Rebuild, LLC a Philadelphia-based prison transportation service, and the host of the Real Resilience P.W.L. Podcast.