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
The Red Coats are coming!
The Red Coats are coming!
They’re on their way!
I know I’m in trouble
They gona make me pay
When I see them walking about
With their little machines
I love to yell at them and shout
I know what that bloody sign means!
I needed to use the bank
Told them 5 mins is all I’d be
I know it was a taxi rank
They still put a ticket on me!
I’ll yell in their faces
And tell them where to go
I’ll do it in public places
To my red coated foe
And in car parks, they’re just as bad
Sneaking around, it makes me mad
Nasty gits, always looking mean
Hiding around corners, too late to be seen
Look, I swear I bought a ticket and I hadn’t gone far
When I turned around to see him, standing at my car
Tried to say, the wind must’ve blown it down
Got a “too late mate” from the red-coated clown!!!
I mean to say, it doesn’t make sense
Getting such a large fine
For the sake of a few pence
The sneaky Red Coat swine!
I got booked again the other day
Forgot to put the latest badge on display
I said “here listen, sorry ‘bout that mate”
“It’s my fault the badge was out of date”
Warden said “hey no sweat let’s see what I can do”
And what he did next proved his word to be true
For when I showed him the badge from my other car
I won my appeal, thanks to my red-coated star
They even keep the loading bays free
For cars and trucks, to unload
Cause it really bothers me
To carry heavy stuff up the road
They are professional and polite
And very hard working
They never rise to the fight
That people are provoking
And here’s a little known fact
That some may not know
If the wardens failed to act
Our town would not grow
For poor parking would quickly spread
And the roads would start to clog
Shops would soon be dead
Because of the parking backlog
So listen up, and this is true
They are under-appreciated
Most people haven’t a clue
Just how much they are truly needed!
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.
Let me ask you a question. Could you name the most wonderful experience of your life?
Most people may describe losing their virginity, others the day they met their partner. Whatever the case, just remember and remember well!
I’m going to try and tell you about mine. I say try, because the most wonderful experiences are ones for which words are not enough to describe, a voice does not compare too and even you cannot describe the feelings and sensations you experienced, to yourself!
It all started on a family holiday to Lough Melvin in Co. Fermanagh in 2001. We were camping in a town called Garrison, on the shore of Lough Melvin, through which runs the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. ‘Twas into the last night of the trip, about 8:00pm that night, whilst my family was in the camping reception house, when I decided to go for a long walk to gather my thoughts.
As I ambled along I decided to go to the small peer jutting out into the lough. The light had begun to fade, turning the sky ever darker shades of Grey, and the wind was blowing, not strong, but enough to give a chill through the thin jacket I was wearing.
Following the shoreline, I walked into a small stone and concrete parking area and past a white van with a man and woman inside and then to the beginning of the peer.
Looking out onto the lough; the waters were dark and black. A thick carpet of cloud in the sky hid the setting sun from sight. The mountains around me were smooth with a few white house’s dotted on them, like stars laid down onto the landscape, and the occasional row of trees marked otherwise unseen field boundaries. I could make out the different shades of green grasses on the hillside and could tell where it was longer in some places.
To my right I looked back at the campsite. The few tents of different shapes and sizes, some with vehicles stationed outside, making mini boundaries, an old rock harbour big enough for the few row boats still tied there and the rocky walls being held in place by huge amounts of thick chicken wire. As I allowed my gaze to travel I could see the large circular, red brick structure with the fresh water tap, the park with a few swings and a climbing frame, the utility shed with showers and toilets with automatic outside lighting and finally the stone wall marking the edge of the site.
In-front of me was a peer maybe 40 or 50 feet long, wide enough only for one person to walk, a metal grab rail on my left and wooden decking at my feet, turned dark brown, almost black by the fading light. The peer was being supported by thick round, concrete pillars below, disappearing into the black swelling waters of Lough Melvin.
I started out. Heading for a small right angled turn at the end of the peer. As I walked, the wooden decking felt damp and slightly slippery from being soaked by the water for so long. My hand clutched the cold metal grab rail, as I looked down I could see the black water through the gaps in the decking. There was no way for me to know just how deep the water was should I have the misfortune to fall in. This realisation sent a chill up my spine and played on my nerves. But on and on I carried till I reached the end. And I looked out at the new sight that welcomed my eyes. I could see more of the Lough, more of the mountains and more of the setting sun. I could see where the thick darkening carpet above me broke and allowed some of the land below to bathe in the suns warmth. Where the carpet did break, streaks of yellow and orange light came flooding downwards and onto the mountains below. Like the heavens above opened for a short time and allowed me to bear witness.
Fear and my now over active imagination took over and I slowly proceeded to walk back along the peer. The planks beneath my feet did in deed feel slippery to my step. At one point I thought I was going to fall in, but my main concern was not for my safety, but for the expensive camera I had taken with me.
Back the way I came and onto the campsite I went. Down to the shore once again. I found a spot just a few feet from the rocky shore, sat down on the damp grass, looked and listened to the wonders happening around me. The sound of the water breaking on the rocks just feet from my feet (excuse the pun) and the sun still trying to break through the thick graying cloud carpet. Eventually the grass beneath me got too wet and I went in search for another observation point.
I found a bench made of thick wood and mounted on two concrete pillars painted white and covered in pebbles for decoration. The dark chocolate coloured seat looked inviting when compared to my current perch.
As I sat on the bench, I shivered both from the cold and the dampness of the seat but my discomfort was soon to be forgotten as I gazed out upon the shore waters once again.
And again I found myself lost in a world of beauty and peace.
The clouds now threatened to rain. I scanned the Loughs length taking in every detail my eyes could find. On the far shore white buildings stood out like stars in the night sky. An array of greens in varying shades marked field boundaries made of grasses, trees and bushes.
As the night progressed and the sun sank further into the distance, the cloud began to break and fracture allowing light, like gleaming blades, to shine upon the mountains. Almost as if God himself were viewing the land. And the waters changed colour to a deep, dark blue haze.
The evening wind started to blow, piercing my jacket and biting at my skin, and causing tiny waves to form in the waters and crashing into the rocky shoreline.
Streaks of oil floating on the surface left behind by some unknown vessel show up like white slime trails.
In the distance mist starts to roll of the shallow mountains like a hazy tide slowly coming towards me. Enveloping everything in its path. The greens and browns and yellows of fields all get swallowed by the encroaching tide.
I look up at the clouds and can clearly see the different layers. The lower parts are a light Grey turning to a graphite shale colour. The upper levels retain a light white, still being fed by the disappearing sun.
In the furthest parts of the Lough a seemingly tiny boat can be made out only by the white colouring of its sail in contrast against the darkening Lough waters.
As I sit, I admire Mother Nature and all her glory. I look at the watch on my wrist and it reads 21:30. Half nine at night. I’d been watching the Lough for what seems like 15 minutes when it has actually been 90 minutes. As I sit I think about what I had the privilege of witnessing, thoughts and feelings of peace and serenity fill my entire body extending to every nerve from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. Mere words are not enough to describe this sensation, but it is one I shall never forget.
The gentle dripping of water on my face and jacket tell me it’s going to start to rain. Time to go back to the tent and get a bite to eat and still think more of, what has possibly become, one of the most awakening and perfect experiences of my life and one which is likely to remain as fresh at the time of my death, as it is on that very same day in which they took place.
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.
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.