Category Archives: Korey

Why Did She Leave?: Koren Brand

I saw her standing there
Yesterday morning,
Our eyes meet
And when my brain and my heart realize that it is her,
I turn my head
And focus my eyes
Far away.
I know that it breaks her heart
But, pretending she doesn’t exist,
Is my survival of the fittest.
She left me,
Alone, afraid and needing my mom,
And still she chose drugs over me,
And let her friends ruin
The life that she had with me,
And every time I think she’s changed,
She calls me collect, from a recorded prison line.
She leaves me,
Always following other people,
Like a sheep does to a wolf.
And every time I tell her the truth,
It makes her sad.
And being without her,
Makes me mad.
So I pretend she doesn’t exist
And when I ride by her
I’ll turn my head
Which seems much easier
Than letting her break my heart again.
Time and time
I’ll casually ask around about her
Hoping to hear that she’s doing just fine,
Wondering if I cross her mind?
I love her,
But the people around me,
Tell me that she will never change,
Secretly hoping that they’re wrong,
Praying that she is happy and safe.
Dreaming of future days,
Where endings are happy,
And my story is told a different way.
Trying to figure out why I was never enough for her,
And why she would hurt me the ways that she always did?
Does she know that the pain she caused me,
Made it hard to be a normal kid?
I miss her,
But I don’t know if I’m ready to forgive her.

Koren (Korey) Brand is a returning citizen. She is passionate about writing poetry and essays as a form of sharing her experience. Korey wants to change the world and one way she is doing that is by volunteering for The UnPrison . Read Korey’s full bio.

New Year, New Skills: Koren Brand

As a young child, I was diagnosed with various mental illnesses. This was only the beginning of my childhood challenges. I was in second grade, about 7 years old, when I was first put on medication. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Even the first medications I was prescribed; adderall and risperidone. It was set up for me to get my meds in the nurse’s office at school daily. I remember feeling as though I was different from all of the other kids. For most of my existence I felt this way. I never felt like I truly belonged. That feeling brought me into dark times, too many times, in my life. In grade school I had an Individualized Educational Plan (I.E.P.) for behavioral issues, and struggled with reading, writing, and speaking. I met with both a speech therapist and someone to work with me one on one for reading. I never put honest effort into either because they were both things I was taken out of class for and the last thing I wanted is more reasons to stand out from others.  All I ever wanted was to fit in, make friends, and have the childhood I saw the other kids have. 

Well that was not the plan others had in store for my life. At home I had no one to teach me about life or help with education. Home life for most of my early childhood was difficult. I was sexually and physically abused on a daily basis from age 5 to 12 years old. My nights at home were not teaching me to read and helping with homework but instead fighting to survive. I was growing up too fast, too young. 

In grade school I acted out in search of attention- good or bad. Fourth grade was the first time I was ever expelled from a school. By the time I was in 6th grade I had been expelled from three schools. At this point, schools were becoming unwilling to accept me. From an outsider’s point of view, I was out of control and would never change. Although those who choose to remain open-minded, and who really got to the person inside the behavioral nightmare, always had faith in me, and saw far more in me then I could ever imagine. It was those people who always believed in me, who gave me the strength to believe in myself. I never had someone who believed in me and wanted to support me in being my best myself. When first meeting these individuals often I would try and push them away, because it felt unnatural and uncomfortable to me. I have learned in recent years to remain open minded and give people a shot before denying their support.

School remained a challenge. At the age of 12, I was sent out of state to a residential school for girls 12 to 21 years old who struggled with mental illnesses and public school. I remained in Massachusetts until I was 17 years old, although I did not remain in the same residence. I bounced from psych ward to different residentials over those 5 years. Never having true stability or knowing where I’d be next. Those years weren’t spent on education though, those years were spent learning to control my actions and live with my mental illnesses. Working through the trauma of my childhood, and learning to cope through the many flashbacks and nightmare I suffered through daily. 

At 17 years old I moved back home to Vermont. Home wasn’t like childhood with the abuse but it still remained unhealthy. I watched my family struggle with alcoholism most my life and as my brothers and cousin got older drug addiction as well.  I was no stranger to either. Actually I struggled with both even before spending those 5 years in Mass. I started drinking at age 9 to deal with the abuse, but at 10 years old the man abusing started buying me a 5th a night. That continued until age 12 when I watched that man die in front of me- alone. 

Before being sent away to Massachusetts I started hanging out with teenagers smoking weed and eventually formed an addiction to opiate medication. My best friend’s mom had a year’s worth of oxycontin. She was 16 and I was 12. She ended up stealing a couple bottles. At first I said ‘no’, the next day we were smoking, and drinking out in woods. Then I chose to join in with them and do a line. That one line wasn’t enough though instantly I wanted more and more, until they had to be taken away. That continued for a couple of weeks until I was given the news about going to Massachusetts.

I want to share this story with everyone, with the hope of giving others the strength and confidence to do something that might scare them. I want to remind you all that nothing is ever impossible, so, never give up. I know how easy it is to feel hopeless and discouraged. I truly believed that my dream of being able to read and write was an impossible one to reach. I wasn’t able to even read a chapter book. Reading was beyond just challenging.

Today I read on a daily basis, and am able to read much more than a mere chapter book. Learning to read changed my life.

Koren (Korey) Brand is a returning citizen. She is passionate about writing poetry and essays as a form of sharing her experience. Korey wants to change the world and one way she is doing that is by volunteering for The UnPrison . Read Korey’s full bio.

Fight Song: Koren Brand

I take on more than I can accomplish sometimes,
The challenge keeps me sharp in my mind.
I want to help the people I love,
The people I once knew, who struggle with the same things that I once did, the things that I still do.
I preach to loved ones to not give money to those in active addiction,
How important this concept is,
For helping them achieve success,
I’m out of my depth,
And sometimes I cry at night because this fight, this war,
Is too hard and too big for just me to keep score.
But still I try,
I find myself praying at night,
But to who…
It’s not that I don’t believe,
I just don’t really know what I believe.
Confused, and overwhelmed
Sometimes I feel as though I live in another realm.
A secret world just for me,
Where everyone living in it
Is free,
Free from pain, and loss and grief,
Free from the struggles we all see,
I’m not blind or naive,
But can’t everyone be happy and love themselves, just like me?
My words feel hollow,
Like no one can hear me,
But I won’t give up trying to make people see,
To see the world for the mess it is, and for them to want different, for them to want to be happy.
But I am not alone,
Not ever am I alone,
To have people who love me,
Who pick up the phone.
I’m far from perfect,
But always evolving,
And never quiet about what I need.
For I will be
Exactly who I have always been , and who I was meant to be.
Like a caterpillar
Finding it’s wings.
Walk with me,
And find yourself.
No matter your struggle,
You’re never alone.
I’ll be here,
waiting when life gets scary.
And everywhere you turn it’s dark and aimless.
My thoughts are clouded
I must confess,
It’s hard work being a person of influence.
Everyone is watching,
Pointing out flaws,
Listen to my words,
My heart is the song.

Koren (Korey) Brand is a returning citizen. She is passionate about writing poetry and essays as a form of sharing her experience. Korey wants to change the world and one way she is doing that is by volunteering for The UnPrison . Read Korey’s full bio.

Meet Korey

Meet Korey, a 33 year old with an aversion to submission. Submission to addiction, submission to her mental illnesses (all of them), submission to being homeless and alone, submission to “the man”, and submission to backing down (from literally ANY fight) . It’s true she loves a good fight, but most of the battles she has faced were anything but “good”. So when she finally made it out on the other side of all of these “aversions” she realized that she could not in good conscience allow another to go through any one of these things alone. After years of standing on the sidelines, she decided to take a “hands on” approach to community outreach and avocation. Which is the reason she now volunteers for The UnPrison Project.

More than anything, she wants to change the world and the perceptions people have of those of us with disadvantages such as addiction, homelessness, mental illness and oh yeah, that one mistake you once made a decade ago that makes it impossible to find employment or to be taken seriously by anyone… ever.

Check out her stories, poems, and blogs right here on the UnPrison Project’s web page!