What is a Bad Day like for me?

island during golden hour and upcoming storm
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If I was to walk down the street with a bandage or a limb in a plaster cast or even in a wheelchair, I doubt very much that I would have taken as much verbal abuse as I have and I think any physical attacks would have been avoided in their entirety, though I am sure I would receive some sort of verbal attack.

I also seriously doubt that anyone that has ever attacked me in ****** would have done so had I had an arm in a plaster cast.

But with a mental disability, such as PTSD, no-one sees it. No-one sees, nor do I believe they would even care, the impact their words can have on me.

I keep telling myself it’s their opinion and I don’t have to listen to it…but it comes down to the following:

Are their words stronger than my own ability to ignore them? Sadly the answer is sometimes ‘yes’.

I fight to ignore them, but I’m also fighting not to self-harm as a result. I don’t want them to have that kind of power over me. But when I am in a vulnerable mood then my resolve is not strong enough and each word uttered strikes me as though it were a physical blow.

One of the things I have to remember is that my Disability is a hidden one. It is not on show for the public, nor most people, to see. For me it is a private issue as it involves disclosing a lot about my past.

However, I have learned that there are ways to disclose enough so that the listener has a good idea of my past, whilst withholding anything I do not wish them to know e.g. the extent of my self-harm or the emotional turmoil I live with daily.

Physical disabilities are understood by the public. They are, at times, easy to spot, and a Blue Badge is something they can instantly understand.

Mental disabilities can be hidden and, unless they are disclosed, are not easily spotted. Even if they are made known, I do not believe there is the awareness out there for people to understand the scope and weight and impact these disabilities can have on peoples’ lives.

What is it like to live with my Mental Disability?

It’s hard work…would be the simple answer. I’ve spent years working hard to keep my symptoms under control…trying to hone my thoughts so that I am completely aware of my emotions, especially my annoyance, frustration and anger*; which are 2 separate emotions.

I am ALWAYS 100% aware 24/7/365 of my anger. I am reflexively on the lookout for any warning signs that I am getting annoyed, frustrated or angry. I’ve maintained this heightened awareness for 20+ years now. It rarely takes me off guard. Though it can surprise me just how quickly I can get angry at times and I always catch it in time so that I remove myself from that situation before I do something I would enjoy at the time but later regret once the flames have died down.

On a normal day I can function quite normally. You would never know I have Mental Health issues. I would say I am quite an intelligent. I have a good heart and my intentions are always honourable.

My mood can swing quite dramatically from one day to the next. One day I can be highly functional where nothing can bother me no matter how much abuse or threats I get from the public.

Then the next I am living on a ‘hair trigger’, where it would take just a simple comment to send me on a downward spiral.

*Anger

I feel I need to talk about this. If I were to give it a name; a form; I would describe it as a Dragon.

My Dragon

My Journey began

So many years ago

Where it will end

I do not know

The scars I have

You cannot see

They are not on my skin

But hidden inside me

The rage that was bottled

Has now begun to crack

Once it shatters

There’s no going back

The fight is on

The dragon has awoken

Now its container

Has finally broken

I will beat this anger

And I will thrive

I am now stronger

And I will survive

You will not kill me

That much is true

You’ve done your worst

And I say ‘Fuck off’ to you!

Whilst my Dragon slumbers there is peace in my heart and all is right with the world. But once he awakens…he just wants to watch the world burn. He is fire and fury at all the injustice I have ever experienced. He doesn’t care for others or their emotions. His pain, our pain, is too numb for the empathy of others.

My Dragon feels like raw power. I feel agony when he is fully awake. My body aches all over from holding back the pain and emotion I am feeling. I feel my legs give out from underneath me and I fall to the ground. And yet the fire doesn’t go out.

I cry. Fuck I cry. I let my dragons’ full fury out and feel him unleashed upon the universe. I cry silent tears and scream my loudest…silent scream. Not making a sound is my last and only remaining strand of control. A silent protest to my Dragon, telling him he has not bested me completely.

I HATE him and he hates me.

What is a bad day like?

On Monday 19th February 2018 I experienced, what I would describe as, ‘an episode’. This is what I call the results of a small events leading to a mental breakdown where all my defences fail and I am in a state of visible distress.

I think I slept OK the night before. I woke up several times during the night (this is normal) and didn’t feel tired. I think my cats wanted fed at 0400 and 0500 when they don’t get fed until around 0600.

I made a minor mistake this morning and it put me in a bad mood. But I was trying to keep it under control and was looking forward to a day working in ***** on my own so I can blow off some steam by going for a walk and pounding the pavement.

My mood worsened when I saw my colleague walking into my office. I was annoyed my solo day was ruined. I began my shift 10mins early and I kept my head down and my eyes looking only a few feet ahead of where I was walking. Actually I nearly bumped into a few people.

I felt very annoyed and recognised the warning signs and began to consciously do breathing exercises to calm my mood down. I knew I was in danger of having ‘an episode’.

I was OK at first; I was busy concentrating on my breathing and keeping a lid on my anger and listening to my music on a black earphone, which was helping immensely with my mood as it was giving me something else to focus on.

As I walked past the male he tried to get my attention. I thought nothing of it and continued on. Then I heard him again. I turned around and saw him giving me the finger and smiling.

That was it. That’s all it took. I felt my Dragon waking up. I knew now that I was in deep trouble. I could feel those angry flames rising and the tears threatening to spill out of my eyes.

Regardless, I fought those flames with every ounce of strength and will power I had. But it was too late. My Dragon had awoken and I knew I needed to return to my sanctuary.

Once I was there, I took a break; though I still didn’t feel safe to let loose in the way that I needed to as I knew my colleague could walk in at any moment.

Seeing me during a full blown ‘episode’ is every distressing. I don’t release all of my shackles; I never do as I am too scared to turn my Dragon loose. He just wants to destroy the world and see everything burn.

I finally began to cry as I felt the full might of the pain and fury I was trying to hold back. But I fight to stop every time a tear finds freedom. I went outside and grabbed the metal railings and just shook it hard. It swayed dangerously enough that I realised I was in danger of damaging more property.

I stood at the door and cursed the universe for giving me all this pain when I don’t deserve it. I feel my anger crystallise towards my dad and I feel furious with him for leaving me when I was 8 years old. I feel huge unimaginable guilt at feeling this emotion and my anger doubles and so does the pain.

I had terrible and distressing thoughts going through my head…feeding the fire I was trying so desperately to quench.

15mins later I rang ***** and explained what had happened. I rang again 15mins after that and following a conversation, during which time my previous fears were realised when my colleague came in and stood near me and heard more of my conversation than I wanted him to, it was decided that I was going home sick. I said I was throwing up and explained what he needed to do.

On the way home my anger was still strong. Those distressing thoughts, now made worse by the guilt I was feeling at having them, drove me to tears once again.

The drive home was dangerous. I was fighting a war; and sometimes winning, sometimes losing the battle that was raging within my own mind. A silent fight which only I was aware off. At times I was physically shaking with rage…whilst the entire time I was telling myself to calm down; focus on my breathing. Keep my mind clear and don’t think about anything.

When I finally got home I felt some relief to be somewhere safe and where I can fully express all the complex emotions and pain that were going through my head and manifesting physically through my body.

I made it into the kitchen and I just felt exhausted. I the strength I was using to keep my emotions in check was finally depleted. My legs gave out and I collapsed onto the kitchen floor.

Then the pain came…there was no holding it back. Emotional pain made physical. I felt like my entire body was in agony and I was screaming and crying as hard as my lungs would allow, but only a whisper escaped my lips as I did not want to alert anyone to my private torture.

Eventually the pain subsided enough for me to stand and compose myself; though it took several days for my anger to fully subside.

Sadly I know that this will happen again. It’s only a matter of time. It hasn’t been the first time this has happened and I know it will most definitely not be the last. It’s only a question of when…?

 

 

 

 

 

It Began With Murder…

black pistol with bullet shell in mid air
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Note: Names and dates of this incident have been altered to protect identities, but that does not change the fact that this murder took place and nor does it diminish the everlasting affects it has had on me and my family in the years that have since past.

We each have an origin story. A series of events that have taken us from one location and have led us to where we are now.

In my short intro I state:

“I am someone who has spent the last 30yrs living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of being a Victim/Survivor of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. My PTSD has driven me to the brink of suicide more than once.”

The question you are probably wondering is…how did I get here?

It was the late 1980’s and ‘The Troubles’ were still going on. The news frequently mentioned punishment beatings, bombings, shootings and murders.

My mum had just left with my baby sister to go to a local Chinese to get some dinner and my dad was standing at the end of the driveway have a beer with a few of the neighbours.

Late one warm, dry summer night as I was playing on the pavement outside my house with my younger brothers toy car, I noticed a pair of car lights coming up my street.

The car stopped outside my house and as soon as I saw the men wearing masks I knew there was going to be a murder.

I ran for the house and when I was mid-flight I turned and saw the sparks coming out of the barrel of the gun and my dad falling to the ground. I knew he was dead.

I later found out that he had been shot between 5-7 times, including twice on the ground, and any one of those bullets would have been fatal.

Subsequent police investigations discovered that this was a purely sectarian murder of an innocent family man, who left behind a widow and 3 young children…one of whom witnessed his murder.

Our lives were forever turned upside down that night and we have been living with the consequences ever since. 

But as this is my journey, and I cannot speak for the other witnesses or family members, I can tell you that I cannot remember the 12 months following this murder. For that year my mind was, and still is, a complete blank.

The ripples of that night are still flowing today as the blood flows in my veins. In the years that past I have developed PTSD and its affects are life-changing and impact on every aspect of my life. The older I get the more I can see just how complex and destructive it is.

I have been through more counselling than I ever believed possible (I lost count after seeing my 15th or 16th counsellor/psychologist. I have spent the last 30yrs (and I will expand on this, and other issues raised in this post, in a separate post) trying every coping strategy I can think off, whilst avoiding illegal drugs and alcohol abuse. 

I have battled suicidal impulses, self-harm, depression and much more. But sharing these behaviours is the point of this blog.

At the time of writing this I am older now than my dad ever will be…and brings its own problems.

To date, despite knowing the identities of the gunmen, no-one has been brought to justice and due to the forensic counter-measures taken at the time, it is unlikely anyone will ever spend even so much as a single day in jail for this horrible crime.

And to make matters worse, I was told that even in the extreme unlikelyhood of someone actually going to jail for murdering my dad, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement 1998, the maximum the person(s) would be sentenced to is 4yrs and they would be freed in 2yrs or less. I wouldn’t call 4yrs for intentional and premeditated murder is not justice; but these killers have given myself and my family, through their actions, a life-sentence.

My dads death is, and always will be, an unsolved murder…

 

Just a Thought…

analysis blackboard board bubble
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After a long dry period of warm sunshine during which time we spend many a day going for walks or laying about and basking in the heat when we get the chance, it is easy to forget the cleansing affect a downpour can have, especially early in the morning just after sun rise.

The leaves on the trees open up and the air feels fresher and is filled with the smells of nature, as if the earth has just awoken from a slumber and is now stretching and readying for the day ahead.

As I drive towards my place of work I see a layer of cloud resting on Cave Hill like a veil, partially cloaking the mountain from view. The memory of a once occupied ancient fort perched atop and now in ruins, returns to my consciousness and I can’t help but wonder about the thoughts of the former inhabitants of this ancient land and what it would have been like to be amongst them on a morning such as this, overlooking what would become Belfast.

Looking out to the shore as I drive along continuing my journey, the high tide of the sea is filled with hundreds of seabirds all resting on the gentle movements of an otherwise apparently calm sea.

Occasionally I catch a glimpse of an upturned bird seconds before it disappears below the surface of the water in search of a tasty marine meal before resurfacing like a bobbing cork.

The sound of the rain against my windscreen pulls my thoughts out of their daydream and, with a rush, all the sounds of traffic associated with modern life rush to greet my ears.

This entire time, which may only have been a few seconds, my eyes have been staying alert to the possible dangers of the road which accompany 21st Century living.

When I have a few quiet moments at work to reflect on today’s car journey, my thoughts once again return to the past.

The Norman Castle which has stood ever vigilant over the Lough for nearly 800 years now stands out amidst the modern world. It’s presence never waning and constantly serving as a reminder of where we came from and with closer thought, of battles fought and won. Brave warriors throughout the centuries fighting to survive countless savage and bloody battles.

I often wonder what it would have been like to have lived during the time of its construction. How different would Carrickfergus have been and looked. What remains today of that ancient landscape that is still recognisable today? Some of the town streets have barely altered their path from the Medieval period during which they were first marked out. The town walls still stand just as imposing as ever, though now the threat has passed and their defensive purpose now rendered obsolete; they remind us of a more violent time during which they were very much needed and actively used.

Along the Marine Highway still stands the original sea wall marking a shoreline that was still in existence 100yrs ago. The main road and associated gardens now occupy land that was once owned by the sea and reclaimed at the hand of man in an effort to keep up with the ever changing and evolving society in which we now live.

The full moon and stars of our own galaxy would shine like billions of fairy lights hung high in the night’s curtain, brighter and more startling in ways that there are few opportunities to observe in today’s world of light pollution, which shields their glory from view.

Still, we must carry on the traditions of old laid down by our ancestors, in the best manner appropriate for the outcome that we seek to achieve.

We find ways to incorporate our love of the Goddess and God into our everyday life and each environment in which we find ourselves.

And all we have to do to reconnect with nature is to go for a walk and feel the same wind, sun and rain upon our bodies as did our ancestors before us and become at one with them and with the spirits of the earth and sky.

Kinbane Castle

Kinbane Castle

 

As a resident of Northern Ireland I have the privilege of having access to a huge amount of local and interesting history and all parts of the provence are within a 2 1/2 hr drive from my home.

I recently ventured to the North Coast, Kinbane Castle to be exact and, having been warned about the steep descent along concrete steps, down I went anyway; knowing the steep ascent back to the car park would burn my legs and torture my lungs.

I knew I would be in trouble as soon as I started down; but the enticing view of the castle combined with my trusty Canon EOS 650D, was enough to override my caution and I had already decided the end price would be worth the experience.

Perched on an outcrop of rock and mostly in ruins, I was already seeing the Black and White photos begging to be taken. The deep blue sky with vivid white clouds and low angle would make a wonderfully striking image of a once striking structure.

I could sense the history of the castle as I got closer and closer. I could almost see the people who built, lived and died in this castle…over 400 years ago. I could easily see their hard labour and toil taking place. The sounds of happy children once laughing and playing was whispered by the wind as it blew across my ears.

Inside the remains of the Keep, I had no idea how the former residents accessed the level above; the only remaining evidence are the familiar large square holes where the wooden joists once stretched across the void to create rooms above. I couldn’t see any recesses or protruding foundations that would indicate the presence of a stone staircase.

Looking around the remains of the courtyard, I wondered about the lives of the people who once walked upon the same earth on which I now stood. I am a visitor to their home…and in some cases I am sure I walked upon the same ground where they also bled and died. That realisation triggers a deep sense of respect in my heart.

But in other ways these memories of history live on. Their descendants walk the land which has remained the same. I’ve no doubt that I have spoken or seen them during my many visits to the North Coast.

I also took away a degree of comfort and familiarity with these locals, whose names history has long forgotten, when I think that they looked across the water and observed Rathlin Island. The same sun and wind and rain strikes my face that also warmed, blew and soaked these Irish Ancestors.

Short Intro

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Hi, this is my first Blog and I am just posting a short introduction.

I am someone who has spent the last 30yrs living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of being a Victim/Survivor of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. My PTSD has driven me to the brink of suicide more than once.

I am a fossil collector, avid reader, writer and photographer. I enjoy spending time with my family and spending days, and nights, out exploring the wonders of this little Emerald Isle.

I guess the main reason for writing this is to document some of my experiences living daily with PTSD or a Mental Illness. At least with a physical disability or wound you can see it clearly. Crutches, wheelchair, bandages, a limp, missing limbs etc. 

But with a mental illness you don’t see my struggles as easily. Sometimes I can be having a super bad day and I can walk right past you and you would have no idea of the fierce battle I am having with my thoughts within my own mind. 

When this mental pain gets too much, it actually turns physical. I can be in agony; but because my pain is not coming from the outside, though it may have been triggered by an external event, people cannot see it. 

Basically these are some of the thoughts that go through my head and rather than leaving them there I have chosen to share them here. 

Welcome to my world…