I grew up in a land of constant fighting. The Ireland I grew up in is a divided nation. So much hate, dotted across a beautiful green island. People killing constantly. Taking young men out to the back of the pub, putting a bag over their head, making them kneel down, and shooting them in the back of the knee. This is specifically designed to be irreparable. The man will never walk again, can never be healed. He will live in pain and hatred. Every week people would perform an act of despicable horror against other people. Nobody was immune – men, women, children killed and maimed for life. Physically tortured. Emotionally ruined.
This is the land I grew up in. The land of saints and scholars. The beautiful Emerald Isle, full of history, friendly natives and Guinness. And the face of pure evil manifest every single night on the news at 9pm on our small TV in the corner of the room. Every. Day.
A bomb goes off in Boston and three people die. The entire nation of America goes ape-shit for months on end. Imagine that happening every day of your life. With no rhyme or reason other than that’s the way it has been. Bombs after bombs after bombs. You cannot enter downtown without you and your car searched by soldiers with machine guns. There are no mailboxes anywhere because they have all been sealed off to stop someone from putting a bomb in there and killing another fifty people. Car bombs all the time.
You’ve seen those John Grisham movies where someone – a minor character of course – turns the key and hears a click and suddenly realizes, with a close-up of their face, that this is the end. There is a beautifully pretty explosion. Yeah, well the real thing is not pretty. It’s not this nice fireball of orange. It is the legs and arms and faces of real people blown off. It is the face of the dad sobbing uncontrollably who’s eight year old daughter is now half a bloody torso and an arm; the rest of that young graceful bundle of joy who was bouncing down the street to meet her friends is now deconstructed into a mass of flesh, veins, intestines and blood, spread across the quiet residential neighborhood street. Free human anatomy lessons for all, whether you like it or not.
And hatred. Endless hatred spewing everywhere. I cannot bear it. How could anyone? How do you go on with your life. You learn to compartmentalize. You build up a wall, where you get to not feel the hurt so deep. You look away from that small TV in the corner when it gets really bad. You turn it into a drone, a background buzzing noise – “Oh yes, more violence today.” Except it’s not that way, you can’t really ignore it. You protect yourself as best you can, but it sucks you dry, pulls the air to breath out of you.
As soon as you can, you run away. You don’t talk about Ireland, you don’t talk to Irish people, you don’t talk to your family. You don’t want to give up your Irishness, somewhere inside you’re proud of your heritage, it’s who you are. But you can’t accept the hatred and terror and blood that belongs to that heritage. So you’re in between. You’re not American, and you’re not really Irish. You’re not really anything.
And there is nobody to talk to about this. Nobody here understands this, there is too much history to explain. There seems to be no real understanding of terrorism here. There is fear but it is hysterical fear. Temporary. People in Montana buying duct tape when something happens in New York. Different than an ingrained, endless, hopelessness, beaten in from day after day of horrors visited upon a child trying to make sense of the world. Like a tire tread beaten into every day of your childhood by a tank rolling back and forth, deeper and deeper. Screaming silently, on the inside, forever.
And, yet, this too passes. Peace breaks.
I wrote the words above several years ago. I was finally feeling anger and opening up to what had happened all around me in my childhood. I had suppressed it, left the country to avoid it. But at a certain point it all came back. And I went deep into PTSD. I started having flashbacks. One time it happened when I was at a therapy appointment, and I remember the only thing I could do was snap my fingers. I started snapping them frantically to try and get the attention of the therapist, to ask him for help, because my entire body was reliving a deeply traumatic experience, and I had no way to exit it. I could not speak, the experience was in control of my body, not me.
The flashbacks became more frequent. They began to be triggered by construction noise. I had to plan my route to work to avoid all construction. Sometimes it was unavoidable and I would be trapped in my car next to a construction site at a red light, and the loud digging noise would bring back the sound of British Army helicopters, and I would be held mercilessly in a terror attack and flashback.
The worst time I was hunched over on the ground in the home of a guide, a teacher that I was working with, in his living room, crouched in the fetal position, shaking uncontrollably in a full on terror attack, a severe PTSD flashback. The noise of some construction going on outside triggered a violent attack. I was inconsolable. I had to lie on the floor, I couldn’t even sit on a chair, it was too unsafe to be up that high off the ground, that was the only place I could exist. I stayed, shaking, on his living room floor with all the curtains drawn, for probably four hours, until I could venture outside to rush home. I kept my eyes to the ground. The slightest noise triggered panic. I had gone to his home to meet him, but he was late by just a few minutes, and in that amount of time outside, about 7 minutes, I had entered such a state of extreme terror that by the time I got inside his house I was in full PTSD flashback mode, just exactly like you see in the movies.
I was so agoraphobic, so intensely affected by years of suicidal depression, that I could not be outside for 7 minutes, without being triggered into a terror attack that lasted hours, and took days to recover from.
I want to say to those who suffer in this way, or know people who do – I understand only too well the pain. And, yet, it is indeed possible to move ourselves to a different space of being. I have lived this transformation. I live now in a place of wonder and magic and joy – wonder at this beautiful, magical world we find ourselves in, and then I find wonder in the wonder, in what seems to be a self-energizing perpetual motion energy flow fueled by appreciation.
I’ve created some wonderful results and experiences in my life, that I enjoy and appreciate deeply. I want also to remember that for me this is probably the most incredible result of all. To go from not being able to go outside at all – not even my back deck, to where I am living my life as much as possible outside, and have created a life of freedom where I can move around freely in the world, outside, and see the joy and magic of it all – this is the biggest result of all.
I have such deep appreciation for the many guides and teachers that helped me along my way. The world is packed full of beautiful humans who can help point the way to discovering amazing wisdom and help in ourselves. I have traveled and spent time in many beautiful communities. I honor all those that have guided me, by living my well-being to the fullest, and by always being open and willing to pass the torch when another traveler comes seeking.