Extracting the story that has been my life has been excruciating, though therapeutic. My family over the past years encouraged me to write, as did the Trojan and determined professionals that worked with me. I resisted doggedly in true tribute to the stubborn Irish bastard in me! These burning questions do not go away. What had I missed? What sin had I committed to deserve prolonged incarceration, punishment and abject abuse in the pedophilia and prostitution business operated by these pillars of the community, my parents? All this under the umbrella of their Hotel which operated at the heart of, and with the approval of a tight-knit “God-fearing” community.
The writing of the book began as an organic process. Notes on my mobile phone, jottings on the back of an envelope, reading a quotation that resonated. There was no deliberate attempt to write a book. Then one night in the clinic I inexplicably googled poetry readings on love. No three o’clock. I was mesmerised by the words my eyes were drinking in. I had rediscovered my love of the rhythm of poetry and it’s ability to express and vocalise feelings in a way nothing else can. Seamus Heaney’s words came flooding back to me with new meaning now making sense of my confused world:
Human beings suffer,
They torture one another,
They get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted and endured.
History says, don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme
From The Cure at Troy by Seamus Heaney
His words resonated and leaped off the page. Finally, I knew there was someone who knew my inner thoughts, who knew and could give meaning to my in-depth feelings. Complete strangers writing about totally different, random disconnected topics could encapsulate the workings of my troubled mind. Not literally give meaning but offer me connotation and context. It seemed like a miracle. Writing poetry is an art, a way of expression and finding meaning in few words. A melody of passion flowing out onto the pages, words that flow into each other and yet express the innermost thoughts and feelings of those who read the words. I have always seen writing poetry writing as a gift, a wonderful gift, being able to illuminate words so that they form a picture, express a feeling and share a thought in so few words. Unlike telling a story or writing a novel that explains every intricate detail a poem leaves you to draw your own conclusion. It was like being wrapped in a warm blanket and my emotions were given a voice. The poem Past, Present, Future by Edward Webb struck me the most and opened my mind.
Life, lived; not by the present, contained within the Now,
so thinking of a recollect – of what your mind will allow
means present becomes, neglect – and the past, does future infect,
no change can be made- of what past has played,
to live in its control- decays the soul
for only in now, can a person be whole – only in now, can a body contain the soul.
the thought of a future that has not yet played – a worry of a nothing, means, now, gets mislaid.
no future is set – none should forget
if a present moment in now is given neglect –
a life will be stained with the inks of regret.
His poem hit a cord and opened up the gates of hell. They were not my usual tears of pain and anguish but rather droplets of unexpressed feelings released. A voice had been found. I started writing and some days got out of bed, had breakfast and just wrote all day literally. The words just came flooding out. At times I just ended up in the corner of the room sobbing or sitting on the bottom of the recess of the shower as the story came out. I found myself writing in Gaelige a language I had no idea I even remembered let alone could still write in but it just flowed. It helped enormously with psychotherapy and with working my psychiatrist. It explained a lot of the confusion going through my brain. I was finally able to sort out a timeline because as I was writing dates were inexplicably falling into place. Work I had done under EMDR made more sense as it was given context and names were put to faces. It was true as if a fog had been blown away from my brain and clarity had come. However, it made me more dangerous to myself. It increased the suicidality. The revelations offered no peace just more pain. Suicidal attempts increased and yet I still could not stop writing. I was driven to get my story on paper. I wanted to bear witness to the deaths of those poor children. Stays in the clinic became longer and my mother’s personality became ever stronger and domineering driving the suicidal urges. Events took a nasty turn for the worse when I became temporarily homicidal and declared that if my Psychotherapist and Andrew interfered in my suicidal plans I planned to kill them. I openly admitted to it under EMDR and later without it. It had to be reported to the police. This lasted two months. I was deadly in earnest that’s how committed to killing myself I was and now I was threatening others I loved who intervened in those attempts. I could not be assuaged from that path. I was single-minded in my thinking. We increased the psychotherapy sessions and I remained in the clinic. After concentrated EMDR and a change of medication and a leap of faith by Andrew, they discharged me from the clinic to home. My mother made no appearances at home and I had no flashbacks. I had self-harm episodes but no suicide attempts. It was a very tense time for everyone. I could not be trusted to be left alone under any circumstances so that level of supervision on a 28 acre property is very difficult. Andrew and I are incredibly lucky we get on so well as we spent an enormous amount of time together !!!!!! However, as time progressed I had the opportunity to reconcile a lot of what I came to know and as I say the writing has been therapeutic and has been a necessary part of the process both for my family, me and certainly will be in bringing justice to Aisling and the other children.
Coupled with EMDR, psychotherapy, dedicated professionals, medications and the love of my family I am finding a way forward. It’s rocky at times. Different voices from the past win the battle and consume me but my present life is rising from the bomb site of my brain and rebuilding a person able to live with the memories and finally grief for the lost children I could not save. I comforted them and relieved our joint experiences as best as I could. Where once in my mind my best was not good enough now it’s slowly being accepted as the only alternative a four to eighteen-year-old had available. To be a survivor one has to accept that one was a victim first. That is happening very, very slowly and painfully and while the suicidality is ever present and ubiquitous and a tantalising solution on those days of battlefront flashbacks, other days I can live. Truly live. The taste of a salty sea can be safely enjoyed as a swim not an escape through drowning, a crispy hard carrot can be confidently chopped for a laksa without danger to my wrists. I can spend an hour a day, maybe, that is not consumed byways to harm and kill myself. I can be with my children and remember what they have eagerly shared with me the previous and maybe even tantalisingly hope that I could hope to plan for the next day. I might even remember the next day what they told me the previous. My memory can be of the previous day’s activities not just ones of Ballyculchie and that room. My condemnation of those that ignored us and allowed such atrocities to continue and stood by in silence or actually perpetrated the crime is absolute and there is no forgiveness there. I have to learn to forgive myself first and not blame myself for Aisling’s death. Darling Aisling in her oversized uniform and a head full of such mesmerising stories of her world at the school or our sometimes joint story of escaping on the back of the ceramic ducks outside the room on the wall. I deserve her forgiveness first before I can give any to anyone else. Such is the positive progression to the present and rescue from the tentacles of trauma wrapped around my brain.
Since my brain has released it’s demons and I have been forced to relive the first eighteen years of my life to vainly try and make sense of the other side of humanity I marvel at my partner’s love and his unconditional support and caring. There has never been a word of condemnation or disbelief. No recriminations at repeated suicide attempts, self-harm, the deception of alcoholism. The subversive attempts to buy Nembutal online and what that cost us financially as I was scammed by the criminal underbelly of those that prey on the vulnerable. No blame. I am assured of my children’s love and support too. They have never wavered, guided by the security of their father, one of life’s great human beings. Partners are the hidden heroes of rescuing the broken in society. The silent warriors living with the reality of mental health and the damage it can cause. Through them, we crawl back to a life in the present, slowly but in the knowledge that you have a staunch ally at your side. Aisling and Cieran were my first loves as a child. Andrew has been my first and only love as an adult. The only adult I can completely and totally trust knowing in total surety he will never betray me in any way. Despite everything I have put him through I am still convinced of that unwavering trust and devotion knowing he loves me still. It’s unconditional. I can say that with such belief because I can reciprocate it despite my suicidality. I know that sounds ludicrous. That I could be so committed to killing myself yet so unconditionally love this man but that it is the cruel nature of the Disorder PTSD. It totally and completely fucks with your brain is the only description of it and I have no control over it. It is a desperately sad situation for our close-knit family. He gave me four of the most wonderful children who matured into amazing adults I admire. In my darkest depths, I have to cling to the life raft of my families love. When the tentacles of abuse wrap themselves around my brain and highjack my world I have to learn to default to love, not guilt. The guilt is the main scaffold my personality is built around. Guilt brings shame, self-hatred, self-abomination, crippling negativity where the reality of what is real and present is lost. It is an abyss of mortification, negativity, and debasement. It is of absolutely no consequence that the guilt is deserved, real or imagined but emotions and feelings brought with it are invasive and steal your ability to live in a world that is truly actual and real. It is important to realise that shame and guilt are not one and the same, being closely related, but one is a feeling where you do not meet your own standards of behaviour and one an emotion impossible to hide. Impossible to escape. It is insidious, obsessive and makes you feel totally worthless and alone. It brings with it untold despair impossible to escape. Of all the emotions and feelings that I have relating to the first eighteen years of my life and subsequent realisations, guilt is by far the most crippling and the primary driver of suicidality. It is not until this guilt is absolved and redemption sought if it ever can be, and I am forgiven by the children I left behind, that I will have a will to live. Until such time I work hard at staying with the family, I so dearly love and appreciate the enormous support of professionals and a few loyal friends who have managed to stay with us throughout this turbulent journey. Where there is life there is hope and life can be good once again.
A wise Indian woman tells me this three times a week and I have to believe her. I believe in her and I do. She is a psychotherapist of enormous skill, compassion and skill. She is my lifeblood and connection to reality and acts with such benevolence it is mind-bending. Each week, three times, we wait outside her room, her door opens and this beautiful person says optimistically “Come”. That’s all just “Come” and I enter her room for two hours to whatever my mind belches out that session and she handle whatever one of my personalities is dominant that day. It may be a terrified five-year-old child, a suicidal teenager, my raging mother throwing cushions and tissue boxes around her treatment room or others. She deftly, superbly and non-judgmentally manages them all with extraordinary empathy. As I wrestle with these multiple personalities, she explains them to me and attempts to knit them together into a cohesive “present day person”. That person is the partner of Andrew and mother of four children. It’s two steps forward, one step back. I struggle with flashbacks, chronic suicidality, a will to live in this wonderful world but she has promised to always be there for me. I believe that. It took me a long time to trust in it but I do now. I believe in her, her love of humanity and her work. I believe in my family and all that they will accomplish. I have borne witness to the little children, acknowledged they lived and died. The next will be to fight for the recognition of their deaths. I owe them that and with that may come to some peace. There is much to live for and copious fights to strive for each and every day. Each day achieved is a battle won and is to be celebrated and a joy to be lionised and acclaimed. I will seek address for recognition for all those children. I will bear witness.
In summary, I would say to life, you do not scare me I was raised by an Irish Mother.