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.
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.
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 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…?
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…