Design a site like this with
Get started

This Is The End Of Everything

Years of conflict. People – mothers, fathers, sons, daughters – ever moving, struggling, under acrid mists. The air clammy with suspicion and fear. A society flowing upon waters of constant apprehension. Terror seemed to tremble from every lip. A minority raised their voice against the terror. Others, cheered its race to ruin. Many more remained silent. The latter felt, maybe more acutely, the black wind against their faces. A wind perfumed by the blood of the dead, and the forever lingering shiver of dread. This dread, in turn, seeped into families. Soaking some in the dreary, grey rains of the Troubles which curtained over our bomb-hollowed streets.

It still resides within many, that feeling of hopelessness. A sense of no function, no future. Its easy to envisage our family, our friends – the world in general, to take it to its extreme – without you in it. People move on. They move on quickly. The ‘many’ that is, not the ‘few’ (to paraphrase a political slogan). Those few who have suffered bereavement and / or violence in the name of some warped ideology cannot simply move on. Some will forever live in that trauma, in that time of loss. The future cannot reconcile the void they carry. A loss of a loved one might become a loss of self. A loss of a limb might become a loss of purpose (the witnessing of such losses is, often, no less traumatic). In some cases a survivor is left with a sense of guilt – they may torture themselves with thoughts of ‘it should have been me’. You will also relive the moment(s) over and over again – through the waking day, and in your hells of sleep. The symptoms of PTSD are many and unpleasant. But in the context of the supposed ‘post-conflict’ of our society – of Northern Ireland – symptoms such as depression, a future already lost, as well as the struggle for identity, seem endemic to society, especially amongst our children. A slow, unconscious, dripping poison has flowed down through grandparents and parents into our children. Those from working-class backgrounds seem most affected? Of course, those estates and communities bore the brunt of the Troubles, coupled with poverty and the continuing grip of organised crime gangs who garb themselves in uniforms of thuggery and brutal histories.

How do you cope with that loss of identity – that loss of purpose? For the young they have to forge an individual identity while already being branded at birth as ‘Taig’ or ‘Prod’. Doesn’t matter if you don’t want to let these terms define you. People want to know what school you went to, where you were christened. How do you stand back from something when your friends, your peers, may easily isolate and turn on you for not joining the herd? How do you reconcile watching your friend die in your arms while onlookers jeer? How do you live in peace when everyday that bomb explodes, or that bullet tears through time – the one that took your loved one, your friend, your limbs, your wholeness? How do you try and hold on to some semblance of control while the world pulls away from you?

Pain matters

Pain? I posted the poem below some time ago on Twitter. I think it was more to myself? Again, that urge to write out the scars, the need to hurt, to wound. To self-harm. I think I was quite angry when I wrote it? Another overdose was around the corner, now I had no firearm to fumble with. Still, there was the blade – that hard, shining mirror which reflected the ‘unreality’ that around me. Only my blood, and its attendant pain, could draw me back into this world. A world I saw in every, bright, crimson line. A world which had detached itself from me until I cut an opening for it to flood around me again. Of course, I was seeking a more permanent ‘escape’. Working in a constant environment of threat and death had stripped me of any identity. When I retired I went into a gradual free-fall. I grasped those spinning blades of despair and darkness. I was the outsider; a stranger amongst strangers, and I had no place amongst them. Their world, and their time, was not mine. It could never be, I believed. My world was a maelstrom of steel. A brutality of bombs and the crippled sneers of killers. I simply wished to rid this world of my shambling flesh. I had no place in it any longer, and it had no interest – or need – of me remaining. All light was leaving me.

Thankfully, as I’ve already written, my family began to observe my behaviour; my withdrawal into myself, and the mental isolation I had begun to forge around myself. Ultimately their love saved me from myself, and continues to do so. But there are many who do not have that support, or are better at hiding their methodical transformation to a place apart from others, and means of leaving this life.

I still had to write, even as I struggled with the words. I still had to give written form to that dark wind in which I was caught. I think I was almost searching for a justification to wound and kill myself. I had to convince myself that I was not needed any longer and a burden on my family. I nearly succeeded a number of times. Yet, when you write you create. Words are, in a sense, the material offspring of your trauma, but – and it’s important – the more you transfer your mind to the page, the more you take these thoughts – these images – of self-destruction and YOU CREATE. YOU GIVE LIFE TO SOMETHING GOOD. Poems or a story. They don’t hurt anyone. They let other see how you feel without you having to speak. You have already articulated your feeling OUT of you and CONTROLLED them. YOU CONTROLLED their assembly and formation onto a page. YOU are not some redundant husk drifting through a world were you are not welcome. YOU have taken your trauma and YOU have turned it into a gift. Many poems are melancholy – don’t worry about the theme of your poems. They will still rise from the page with a beating heart. An affirmation, of sorts, because YOU have made your trauma a part of THIS world – by doing so you have used them to step BACK INTO THIS WORLD – YOUR WORLD, as much as anybody else’s. Such writing also provides a view of the stages of your past. As I reiterated, I was angry and in a self-destructive place when I wrote the following. But, I wrote a part of that destruction out of me and I regained an element of control over it and diminished it.

We all have the capability within us to control the demands of our trauma. With mine I poured it out as words. You can do, too: words, pictures, whatever. I am now able to recognise that the hate I speak about below was self-hatred, self-loathing. By seeing that for what it was I was able to HEAL, in part.

And the web of wounds, wound,

where in this burning world

is there room

for the mutilated, the drowned

who cut and slice

at stubborn flesh

to gain ground

on sight of bullet’s butchery

or bomb’s cruelty?

I strike with blade,

tighten knot,

I hate this world;

Happy to bury me.

Thank you for reading. I hope to continue with another poem and more thoughts in my next post.

Below are agencies which can help with how you may be feeling.

Published by Writer of fiction about Irish terrorism and the lives it damages.

This trilogy of novels will be set during the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ I always wanted to read. Having changed an aspect of ancient history (Constantine chose Mithras over Christ in 312 CE) this ‘butterfly effect’ freed me of the fetters of recent history and able to craft a counter-factual novel. A tale of working-class lives caught up in the deadly maelstrom of sectarian violence. While the focus is on characterisation, ‘The Bitter End of Dreams’ explores internecine violence, as well as the beliefs and fears which drive ordinary people to murder. Young lives seduced into joining paramilitary organisations and committing terrible acts of violence. Elements such as protection rackets, and the shadow of political and religious leverage also loom within the story. While the primary religion, and some names, is different, the hatred and violence remains very real and familiar. To date, most novels on the ‘Troubles’ have been post-conflict. My novel is set during the mid 1970s and fixes its gaze firmly upon the cramped terraces from where paramilitarism entraps young people, and, subtly, oppresses communities. I recently retired after over thirty years service in the RUC and PSNI. I was exposed to a number of terrorist incidents in which colleagues and members of the public, sadly, lost their lives. My novel began as a part of therapy to manage my diagnosis of Complex PTSD. While ‘The Bitter End of Dreams’ focuses on one side of the community, a second novel will explore the opposing community. A final novel will be written from a policing perspective. I have also written a number of poems centering on the pain and grief which continues to ripple from the ‘Troubles’. During my service I have striven to understand the ideologies of both Irish and Northern Irish paramilitaries: how they justify murder and extortion. To do this I have spoken to many paramilitaries - on both sides of the conflict. I hope my novel sheds a little light upon the dark heart of religious violence; not only in terms of the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’, but also on a global context.

2 thoughts on “This Is The End Of Everything

  1. So accurate, so desperately hard to read whilst suffering as its a complete mirror image of my head, my brain,my mind, my life
    All i ever did was stand up for truth, honesty and protection of life and abided by the rule of law.
    I now carry a very severe moral injury as all my work blood sweat and tears where it seems given for nothing as was the lives of all my colleagues.
    I know I’ll have this till i take my last breath no matter what im told.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: