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Coping Mechanism

You can’t feel it anymore; that silver glide of steel. You should feel its sharp nip on your skin, but it’s numb – you’re numb. Oh, the psychologist told you to snap an elastic band around your wrist, pluck it when you feel yourself weaken, but that’s just it, isn’t it? You don’t feel anymore; you don’t feel anything. Even blood is silent.

No sense in trying to move, you’re fixed to this point. You can’t even lift your gaze away from those ragged red horizons. Your heart beats in time to the dull echos of your thoughts. The air molds itself into liquid glass, tightening around your chest. Crushing. Colours ghost into ash. Solid shapes become dust. Walls open into blackness. Light upon the floor stutters and fades beneath a void. This is your mind, emptying itself around you. This is your world, filling the stagnant nothing around you. The nothing you have become.

Isn’t that what you begin telling yourself, that you are nothing? You’re already standing outside of the world – their world: the real world. Yours is no longer real, but then neither are you. There is no more becoming. Nothing left to do; to achieve, to be. You tell yourself, amidst the black winds storming your mind, that the horizons lie behind you. In front there is nothing. And part of your mind falls to its knees, clawing the darkness beneath, trying to tear light out of shadow – to fill the hollow of its hands a brightness to wet your dry mouth. But your voice tells you to turn away – is it your voice: that hollow whisper in your head; telling you there’s no longer any place for you back in the world? This is not your voice: you’ve abdicated that, let this other voice sooth your mind, extinguished the fires which part of your mind had kindled with some, last, primal instinct to survive. Now there’s only you, the whisper, and … a sense of being at peace, a certainty of mind – of an ending.

Here, I lost myself. My Self.

So simple, yet each synaptic bridge seems to flare brightly before collapsing as the mind screams with electric intensity. There is no ending, no whisper, only what you tell yourself, what the scars on your brain project around you. No, it’s not that easy to quantify and rationalise such a ‘frame of mind’, such a living death of a soul – it never is, never can be. It’s that final threshold, that last horizon, once crossed any chance of return increasingly diminishes.

For this reason it’s important that you are forearmed for when the world falls away into nothing. To notice the sly coaxing voice, reassuring yet wholly alien. The slow creep of fog around you, masking the world. But, the most dangerous and compelling aspect is a sense of ending; a flame pluming into smoke which thins and fades to nothing. But the noticing is key to holding on to this world. And this noticing can be amplified through pain. Remember that elastic band? You snapping against flesh, over and over again? Becoming a survival mechanism. Preventing you crossing that final threshold to nothing? So simple, but effective. You need these mechanisms in place, be they the quick pain of an elastic band, a predetermined vista your mind can find solace in, or the rapid repeat of a mantra you have stored which will bring the light back.

We cannot predict when our feelings will suddenly dim and coil around us, but we can have set in place mechanisms which may free us from the seductive whispers and thoughts which seek to guide us forever beyond that final horizon.



Help for suicidal thoughts

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.

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