The thing that was broken
Has now begun to mend
My hope has been awoken
As I near journeys end
My path has been rough
And filled with much emotion
I knew it was tough
Like sailing a stormy ocean
I do not regret my past
For without it I would not be
Able to move on at last
And finally be free
I can see in plain sight
The end of my plight
The dawn has broken
Now my hope has awoken
A future lies before me
Unwritten and totally free
Whereas before I could not see
That the best is yet to be
I will give it my all
And defiant I stand
Because I will never again fall
For upon my feet I will always land
Mind Maps are something I came across whilst studying for my GCSEs and they have stayed with me since then.
My English teacher, Mrs Morby, told us that before we begin writing a story, we need to plan it out in our heads and visually before we begin writing as it would help us provide structure.
For example, when I was writing the Titanic poem, there were certain areas I wanted to cover such as:
- Why was it going so fast
- Something about the people boarding it
- Recent history
This helped me keep on topic and gave me different areas which I wanted to cover.
But Mind Maps have also helped me when it has felt like I have too much going through my head to even think straight. It has helped me visually see connections to different things that were going through my head and which I couldn’t understand.
I approach Mind Maps in relation to Mental Health as though it was a spiders web.
At the centre of the web is me. My life. And from it there are branches that go off into different areas of my life. The big areas from which everything else is connected. E.g. Work, Health, Home etc.
From here I can break things down even more into the image you can see above. I can then see the bigger picture of what is going through my head and from here I can make connections. E.g. I enjoy outdoor photography so I can make a connection between it and my physical health as it means I have to get out and walk, which has a positive impact on my life.
At the same time I can create a box relating to my PTSD and draw connections to anywhere else in my life that it can be connected.
Suddenly this nice spiders web is no longer orderly and structured, but has connections that link different areas and it becomes quite messy.
But it does help me see those connections and through self-awareness I can either challenge those beliefs or I can pick an area to work on improving.
E.g. Coping = self-harm = physical pain = impact on my physical health as it takes time for my injuries to heal and I feel I need a way to justify them to people who may query them.
In the past I have had to do a web, such as that for my PTSD, in other areas of my life to see what the relationships are between the different groups and where those connections not only are but where they also lead.
So in the end I have an overall picture but also a more detailed picture of each specific area of my life.
Doing it this way has shown me just how complex mental health can be and how it can drastically affect different areas of my life which were seemingly unconnected. But that PTSD has its tendrils linked to every aspect of my life and personality. It’s impossible to untangle it without completely changing the person whom I am today.
In fact, the only way to remove it is to go back in time and stop my dad from being murdered; then I would be a completely different person and we delve into the realms of “what ifs” and that road only leads to pure speculation without any concrete evidence or impact on my life today.
These diagrams are just examples and simplifications of what my life is like.
Any questions, just ask 🙂
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 ‘Goodbye to you!’
A secret hides in a little red box
Described by a word, rhyming with Ox
It awaits being mixed in many a kitchen
Into something tasty, described as bitchin
It also comes in a few different flavours
Give it more variety for us to savour
It helps make dinner time taste even better
So thank you Oxo for this little letter
I lost my dad at the age of eight,
And this opened a secret gate.
I went down this path of sorrow,
Only to return the next day, tomorrow.
If only people knew,
Of the pain I’d gone through,
They would think twice,
And take my advice,
To stand your ground and face the threat,
Rather than run away and later regret,
That you did not make that vital stand
And someday shake the hand
That you once feared.
The older i get the more I realise just how ingrained this is within myself. It’s like looking at yourself and trying to notice the details and not just the overall picture. Within your exterior, hidden in plain sight, are all these details that make up who you are and they are there if you know where to look.
I say exterior, rather than interior, because I am referring to physical clues such as tone of voice and body language. Non-verbal communication.
In my case I have a strong compulsion to punish myself for the slightest wrong that I perceive. Simple things that have caused no distress to others feel to me like they are worthy of reprimand and I MUST be punished.
Recent Example No.1
Last month my wife went on a foreign holiday with her sister for a few days. This holiday had been planned for months but only booked a matter of weeks before the actual departure. I was invited as well but I declined for practical reasons and I also saw an opportunity to spend some time doing some things I always wanted to do but couldn’t whilst my wife was here. Nothing bad, just spending some time up the coast at night (ref Kinbane Castle).
The next day, I decided to watch a couple of DVDs and to have a few drinks and let my guard and defences down. It was during this period that my wife and her sister text to ask me what I was up to and I replied via FB messenger that I was sitting naked having a few drinks and beginning to feel tipsy (I don’t know why I said this as I was sitting fully clothed) and I suddenly got a phone-call from my sister-in-law saying that my last message was sent on a group chat and that I should delete it ASAP.
Too late; I received a reply from someone who was not meant to see that message saying ‘TMI’. I deleted my message right there and then but the damage had been done. My sudden concern turned to embarrassment, even though there was nothing to be embarrassed about. Unfortunately this proved to be a perfect storm as not only was I starting to feel intoxicated, I also hadn’t taken my meds the day before nor on this night in question, and my embarrassment quickly turned to anger.
Suddenly, and without hesitation, I sunk my teeth into my left arm and bit myself hard enough to make my teeth ache in my gums. In an instant the alcohol that I was using to lower my guard was now my weapon of choice to further self-harm. I knew I would be sore and there was a possibility that I may have a rough night ahead of me, but I didn’t care and I felt like it was something I deserved as I was such an idiot for not being more careful about where I send my messages.
This is like the time when my dad asked me if I wanted to move to Antrim a few years before he was murdered and I said no. I know the names of the people who murdered him and I know mine is not counted amongst them and never will be.
I know I was not to blame for his death; but survivors guilt leaves its own scars and this is one of them.
I know I am being irrational in that I have nothing to feel guilty about. I know I need to stop punishing myself for every slight I do. I know I need to stop letting others make me feel guilty. I know I need to stop treating myself so badly and I know I need to stop self-harming. I know I am a nice guy with a good heart who is caring and compassionate.
But I also know that I hold myself partly to blame and that as I cannot punish the people who killed him, I CAN punish myself as the nearest substitute.
I also know that after 30+ years I need to stop this destructive behaviour as the only person I am hurting is myself…but I can’t help it. It feels wrong if I don’t punish myself; like I am letting the guilty walk free.
Recent Example No.2
I was driving home one late afternoon and I saw the lights ahead of me turning from green to yellow. I knew in a second or 2 they would be red and I need to make a decision NOW as to what action I need to take. Do I have enough time to stop safely? I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.
I hit the accelerator and saw the lights change from yellow to red just before I reached them. I had just went through a red light.
FUCK! STUPID STUPID BASTARD!!!
My wife had to calm me down because I didn’t cause an accident and I wasn’t caught by the authorities and I was starting to over-react in a big way over something so simple that it may go unnoticed by other people or it is the kind of thing people do all the time.
It’s what I do and whilst I can override these instincts some times…others lead me to some sort of self-harm.
I try, internally, to make them feel better by punishing myself for their wrongs rather than my own. I feel like I take upon my shoulders all the weight and troubles of the world because this is what I have been doing most of my life and, whilst it is entirely illogical, it is something I feel I am compelled to do.
I am just too bloody nice and too caring 😦
This is a completely natural emotion to feel. It keeps us safe when we feel threatened, increases respiratory rate flooding the blood with oxygen and releasing adrenaline and our bodies natural painkillers; in preparation for either attacking a danger or running away from it – flight or fight.
I have some difficulty with this particular emotion as it conflicts with some of my personality traits in that I am not an aggressive person and I do what I can to avoid conflict and try to deescalate any increasingly hostile situation which life throws at me.
I have seen people get angry and loose their temper with people who are only doing their job or they get so engrossed and passionate about a sport that they easily take offence at anyone who disagrees with their view.
Anger also has its place within our society. Soldiers, martial artists, sports; any sort of situation where we are competing against or in conflict with another person and anger is useful in a controlled way as it improves our performance, increases our pain threshold and enables us to go that little bit further…or in the case of military personnel, helps keep them alive.
For me its different as it conflicts with my personality. I hate being angry. I don’t find it to be a pleasant emotion and it makes it easy to loose control of a situation and react negatively. But then again, that rush of endorphins flooding my body and increasing my confidence can be exhilarating lol.
Sadly my anger often times results in self-harm and emotional pain that’s almost beyond endurance.
I’ve spent years learning to be on the lookout for warning signs that I am starting to get angry and as a result my anger rarely sneaks up on me. There are usually early warning signals. Maybe I am feeling more irritable than normal or I feel that adrenaline starting to be pumped into my blood and my breathing increases. I also use my eyes, ears and mind to assess what is going on in my surroundings to see what the stimulus is that could be impacting negatively on my emotional state.
In the meantime, having had these early warning systems being triggered, I immediately focus on my breathing to try to calm down. Deep breath in… hold… and slowly release. Repeat as often as is needed. I also take myself out of and away from any situation that is causing this level of distress.
Sadly we all have a breaking point. I’ve found myself in situations where I need to have that physical release of energy and I usually end up punching a wall and damaging my knuckles or biting my arm until my teeth hurt all the way to their roots.
This is a controlled, and destructive, release as I will NOT take my anger out on ANYONE as I don’t believe this is productive. And I rarely find myself in situations where my safety is in question. I am always on the lookout for an alternative to a physical confrontation. I pose a danger to myself, but not to others.
But like I said, we all have our limits and even mine can be tested to the extreme…
Many years ago I remember one night when I was supposed to be staying with a friend in their flat. They had a visitor from Scotland over and the 3 of us were supposed to be going to a fancy dress party. I had my dads leather jacket and was going to go as John Travolta from Greese.
The situation that night took an unexpected turn before we even left the flat. My friends visitor had begun drinking and, having been informed somewhat of my past, he began questioning me about my experiences. I wasn’t happy about this and refused to answer. But the questions kept coming and were becoming more aggressive in nature.
I could feel those familiar warning signs being triggered and I was becoming concerned. I began to employ calming breathing techniques. As the minutes went by the questioning changed and this visitor began to ask before demanding to try on my dads jacket. This to me would be the equivalent of trying on his skin and desecrating his memory.
I looked to my friend for help and asked them to help; but my pleas were ignored whilst they laughed.
I had to get out of there before I snapped. I began to pack up and was being told to stay by my friend whilst being called a ‘chicken’ and a ‘little boy’ by this visitor.
Nah, fuck this, if I don’t get out of here I am going to loose my shit!
It took several trips to remove all of my belonging from the flat, but despite now being outside and away from these idiots, I was barely in control. I was physically shaking with rage.
Sadly, I seem to have somewhat of a delayed reaction in that even when I was finally out of that flat, my anger was actually increasing as the gravity of the situation began to fully catch up with me.
All I wanted to do was to kick a bin, but I didn’t do this in case the neighbours heard and began to ask questions.
I walked to my car, determined to drive away. I also knew that as soon as I got behind the wheel, this would not be safe and I could very likely end up in an accident or hitting someone; but such was the heat of my anger I decided to be selfish and not care about other people. With the distress I was feeling I just didn’t care about myself or others.
I think something must have clicked with my friend because they came out and grabbed the keys from my hand and threw them away before shoving me away from the car. I was so so close to hitting them. I wanted to. I felt justified in throwing that punch.
But the morals my parents instilled in me as a child came to the surface and they were my last line of defence.
I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I just wanted the pain to stop. Emotionally I was in agony and just wanted the pain to go away. And I will admit that had I gotten into the car in this state, suicide was most definitely an option I was actively considering.
Fortunately my friends shove, when combined with my own constant calming techniques, did the trick. I calmed down just enough to regain my desire to not do anything stupid.
After a few minutes my anger had cooled from 100C to 98C. Still far from being safe and calm, but cool enough to regain that valuable control of my mind and actions that I so desired.
I still left. I drove away angry and alone, but now no longer carelessly so. I don’t remember where I went but as I am here writing this today, I clearly got there safely lol.
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.
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.