Memories of Pain beyond Pain

This morning I was sitting on the bus with my wife on our regular morning commute to Belfast when, for some reason, I started to drag up some very old memories of being in first year at school. One memory in particular came to mind; I remember staring at this girl in my English class and I obviously looked a little too long; I think I had started to daydream about something, when she snapped, “What are you looking at?”

I must disclose that I was still dealing with the trauma of my dad’s murder just 3yrs before. In addition to this, I had lost a full years’ worth of memories, my mother had moved a new partner in, we moved from Belfast to Antrim, I then had my 11+, changed school again for the 3rd time in 3yrs, my self-confidence and self-esteem were at all-time lows, I was dealing with the beginnings of survivors guilt, my mental health problems had begun to accelerate, I didn’t trust anyone, I thought people were all out to make fun of me, I was starting to self-harm in different ways and I was also dealing with anger issues that were directed entirely towards myself.

In an instant I was able to examine all the different ways this could go wrong for me if I had told her the truth. My initial thought was to reply, “something beautiful looking back.” But I already knew nothing would ever happen between us; I was unpopular and a bit of an outcast. I was never tall or muscular or popular with the ladies (I am nearly 40, happily married, but even now I would struggle, if my marriage ever failed, to meet someone new as some issues have never been examined nor dealt with). I also read the tone of her voice – the venom and warnings it contained and the clear message that I was shopping where I could never afford, and even if I could, it was not for sale to people like me, and the aggression that told me to clearly back off as far as possible as quickly as possible. It was something I have heard often before and since, when I have been attracted to girls my age or slightly older/younger by a year or 3. 

I also knew that if I told her my initial thought, meaning it as a compliment and nothing more, that she would seize upon the chance to humiliate me as I think she would feel like I had made her feel unclean by even considering looking at her in a way that denoted any sort of attraction or appreciation of beauty. All this went through my head in less than half a second and I realised I had only one option open to us both was to tell her something that would allow her to verbally get her point across and, having dealt with the situation to her satisfaction, despite the pain I knew it would cause me, I needed to lie to her.

So I replied, “something ugly looking back.” She replied, “Well you must be looking in a mirror then!”

Back then I was never good at reading between the lines, and even now that still applies. What I was and always have been, however, am deeply respectful. I always knew that if I was told “no” then I that would be the end of it and I would not pursue the matter.

However, in another window of insight into my developing mental health problems, I never always obeyed this rule. Don’t get me wrong, I never physically touched anyone or forced myself upon anyone – that would be something I could never forgive and I would self-harm until I felt I had been suitably punished, even if other people did. But I didn’t always take no for an answer. I was 11 or 12 and hormones were starting to compete with my level of self-control over my mental state. When I finally gave up, I made myself write 100 lines as a punishment. In a few years this would progress to starvation, cutting with a blade, punching walls (I once went 34hrs without drinking any liquid and I wanted to go much much further), mentally beating myself to a pulp every day and night and l began to think of ways to end my own life. I prayed that day would come very soon.

As the years were to go on through my teens and my defeats grew ever higher whilst my successes remained at the Zero mark (13+ strikeouts (I stopped counting) versus ZERO successes), my mental health problems within this area were to get ever worse and also contribute to other destructive behaviour aimed at myself to cause as much internal pain as I could. I must also point out that when I mean I struck-out, I don’t mean on an intimate level, I mean on ANY level. And it wasn’t just the continuous rejections; it was the way they were handed out.

I could never figure out what I was doing wrong, but I was also never told what, if anything I was doing right either. I was destined to keep making the same mistakes, but also hoping for different results every time (the very definition of insanity). I got to be beyond desperate. I prayed every night for nearly 2yrs, without answer. In the end I had to assume that the thing that was wrong was…me. My very existence was what was wrong. I represented everything a person DIDN’T want in a partner.

I took advice from everyone I could think off and when I wasn’t asking I was observing. I tried being upfront and asked people out = FAIL. I played the friend game = FAIL. I played the long game = FAIL. I played the waiting game in the hope that someone would ask me out = FAIL; and this was partly because when it did happen I was always distrustful (see the contradiction in behaviours emerging again?) and thought that they wanted to humiliate me as others have done, so I was too quick to reject them. And then I self-harmed as a result of blowing another chance. That anger that came as a result…is just…WOW!!! Like a nuclear blast going off inside my ribcage. Mental pain beyond pain; mental agony beyond words. I would scream my head off, and had enough control that the sound that escaped my lips was a mere whisper. I always felt that if I fully let it out that the only way to stop the pain would be to kill myself. And it wasn’t just the pain; it was the energy that came with it. It was more than my physical body could cope with or contain.

Remember the venom I spoke about? That was something I came to know the pain off only too well. The disgusted look on their faces, the tone of voice used; it wasn’t just heart breaking…it was soul destroying. It was also something I look and internalised. When I looked in a mirror I saw the most disgusting, humiliating, inhuman and unworthy of life, thing looking back. I wanted to kill it!!!

You have to have experienced this and more to fully realise the power of a simple kiss on the lips can be. On those unbelievably rare occasions when it happened, it had the power to drag me from the depths of my own self-induced personal hell and sent me to heights that would make an Eagle jealous and at speeds that would dwarf any rocket NASA ever launched into space.

And this was just ONE KISS on the lips, from ONE person, ONCE every 15-18months on average (I never got any further than a kiss, for a long time, but that is a different story). I needed these EXTREMELY rare victories as proof that I am worthy of some affection. That I am not a waste of time; that I deserved a chance to continue to live.

Things got so bad that I made a plan to end my life when I turned 25 as this pain was everything and every day. I knew roughly where I would do it (see plan below), I knew I wouldn’t be found on time, I knew how I would like it to happen and I didn’t give a fuck about the pain it would cause because no-one ever gave a flying fuck about how I felt, only to twist the knife to maximise my pain. The world had fucked me over and I was done being everyone’s punch bag. I was expected to absorb the punishment and not complain. Well…FUCK YOU!!!

I will also say this…I was a coward. As 25 approached I thought it was a little soon. I thought 30 would be a better number and by that point, if things hadn’t changed, the pain would be so all-consuming that suicide would be a relief!

I met my wife just a month before I turned 26.

Mind Scrambled

I don’t know if my mind is quiet or overactive as it seems to be doing both at the same time and I can’t figure out what the heck is going on.

I guess it’s because there is so much uncertainty around what we can and cannot do in this day and age that it’s hard to see a beginning and an end. Where does one start and the other begin? It’s hard to plan much in advance, and therefore commit to anything, without knowing for certain if plans will change and therefore is it worth building up much excitement knowing that it could be snatched away at any moment?

Sorry, I know this is not making much sense right now. this is just the garbage that is going through my head and I feel the need to vent these thoughts.

Despite all of the uncertainty with the new restrictions coming into play, and more are due to be announced within the next 72 hours by the Stormont Executive, I am still looking forward to opening new possibilities.

I have ordered a special book for keeping all my records of any Rune work within it and I will be calling it, “Odins Gift” as it was Odin who gifted the runes onto mankind. I have also ordered a few necessities for the new laptop (which I am not going to fill with useless software can cause the same problems as the last time) as well as waiting on the engraver to arrive at the end of the month. I have bits of wood and leather set aside on which I can experiment with the view to making gifts for friends and offering services to my Viking group.

I think the other issue I am having is that I have read so many books (well over 52 since 21St January 2020) that I have reached a kind of saturation point and I am just reading for the sake of it. It has lost some of its pleasure and now feels more like a habit than a real joy.

Finally I think, for the sake of my Mental Health, I just need to get out somewhere new and do something for myself. Though, with the current and new restrictions coming into force, this will be hard and therefore creating a vicious cycle where mentally I am being worn down as I can’t get out and the less I can get out to ‘reset’ my mind the worse I feel.

Time will tell what happens next…

I hate my mental illness

I HATE having a mental illness! I hate the pain and confusion that it brings. And people can’t see these wounds and relate them to my, at times, unusual behaviour. I hate that people make judgements about my behaviour and that even I have trouble understanding my actions.s

This is one of those battles that happens for no reason and which I cannot explain, even when such reasoning is warranted or expected.

I hate the fact that the person who caused all this continues to wreak havoc on my life without knowing it. It feels like I am being punished over and over and over again.

Self-Harm – Origin

person uses pen on book
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This is one of those complex stories that I am not sure how to fully get across, so I will undoubtedly revisit this topic in the future. 

Such is the nature of Mental Health that when I began to write about this I had forgotten just how complex an issue it was. So this is going to be the start of a series of posts on this topic as there is far too much to cover in one post and those reasons aren’t straight-forward.

So, lets start with the simplest of reasons for me doing this – WHY???

Less than 12 months after I witnessed by dad being murdered (don’t forget, I was a young child when this happened), during the year where I have no memories, we moved to a new town, I started a new school and just when I needed the most stability I had the least.

I had to deal with the trauma of dads murder and now I had to deal with starting a whole new life in a new house in a new town and going to a new school and trying to start making new friends.

My mind already felt like it was a scrambled egg and now that scrambled egg was put in the microwave and turned up to the max.

All I knew was that everything I once knew was no more and I realised just how little control I had over my life and my choices. 

I don’t blame my mother for this; she was doing the best she could having now been widowed with 3 children all under the age of 10. I can’t imagine that anyone could have done better.

By this stage there were no arrests nor convictions for my dads murder and as I started to form new memories my young mind was in chaos trying to make sense in a senseless world where justice seemed to fail and it just wasn’t fair.

I was angry and that anger was just growing and growing and growing. 

But being the quiet reserved kind of child that I was, and still am as an adult, I turned that anger (I will post more on my anger later) inwards until I could not contain it and it exploded outwards. I also felt huge guilt and blamed myself for my dads murder as, when he asked if we should move house several years earlier and I said ‘no’, we never moved and had that move taken place then he would still be alive.

Because I could not target my anger and frustration at the person whom I knew was responsible for my dads murder, I turned my anger towards the next person whom I felt was responsible – me.

So, just to recap, within 12 months of my dads murder:

  • Witnessed murder of my dad
  • No memories for first 12 months afterwards
  • No chance to grieve or come to terms
  • Moved to new town
  • Started new school
  • Had to make new friends
  • No arrests or convictions for my dads murder
  • Survivors guilt
  • Held myself partly to blame for his murder

I began to self-harm partly to punish myself for my dads murder and also partly to show externally all the pain I was feeling internally. I couldn’t cope. I didn’t know who I was, where I was, what I was supposed to do etc.

In the years that followed, from then to now, I have:

  • punched walls / floors / doors
  • carved words and sentences into my arm with a variety of blades
  • headbutted walls etc
  • ate too much
  • starved myself
  • ate all the wrong types of food
  • refrained from drinking any fluids for 34hrs and could have pushed this to at least 36hrs easily 
  • exercised beyond pain
  • beat myself up mentally for each and every mistake I made
  • told myself I was ugly, pathetic, I deserved to die, was useless, weak, total scum, better off dead, waste of air, didn’t deserve to live – I HATED MYSELF AND FELT PHYSICALLY SICK WHEN I LOOKED IN A MIRROR
  • looked up suicide websites for ideas and one idea was called ‘psychological suicide’ where the goal was to ‘kill’ your emotions to the point where you don’t feel anything. You basically become a Zombie
  • became suicidal and began to make plans for my own death

This was the beginning of my journey into self-harm and anger.

What is a Bad Day like for me?

island during golden hour and upcoming storm
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

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…?