THE TROUBLES AND ME

My story of personal experiences during my time growing up as a youngster during the ‘troubles’ based in Belfast since 1989.

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Ireland is most famous for its Guinness, the shamrock, its international music figures Bono and Van Morrison, but what about Belfast?

Belfast has grown massively over the years being a fragrant city of culture, opportunities and landscapes of outstanding natural beauty. The city is widely famous across the world being the birthplace of the Titanic, the divide between the catholic and protestant communities, and the conflict known as ‘The Troubles’.

The height of the troubles dominated all of Northern Ireland since the 1960’s and ended in 1998 during the Good Friday Agreement.

The conflict still continues with the occasional riots, the mighty protests, the 12th July marches and murders making headlines on a regular basis.

I wasn’t born during the height of the troubles during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, however during the 90’s was enough to traumatise me. Unfortunately today there are still aspects of my life today which is badly affected, battling with PTSD.

I lived in an area of the Limestone Road known as Parkside situated 50 yards away from Tigers Bay. Parkside was a catholic neighbourhood and Tigers Bay being protestant. There was a huge divide between both communities which fuelled the troubles.

I have many experiences to share, some being small and others huge.

My journey to primary school was at the top of my street, but taking that walk each morning, you never knew what you where going to face, whether it be rioting, verbal abuse or a bomb scare. You never really knew, it was a gamble each morning.

It was a terrifying time and now in adulthood and reflecting back, I honestly don’t understand how I managed to cope all those years of suffering.

When riots started whether it be 10am, 9pm or 3am you were alerted each time by the loud sirens that rang from the neighbours gardens.They sounded just like the war sirens you would hear in the films. Everyone was alerted, adults would get together, teenagers would wake to get involved and the children, some watched, some cried in fear.

During the days after school or the weekends, the kids of the area, me included would gather up stones, slates and rocks in huge buckets and glass bottles would be collected too. Crates would be led out in rows and we’d be given petrol to make petrol bombs for when the troubles would occur.

It would usually start with verbal abuse, some shouting and some stones would be thrown. Then glass bottles and before you know it, petrol bombs are being used, blast bombs going off, group charges and the police would arrive in their riot gear, ramming both communities with their land rovers and before you know it the British Army are in their land rovers and saracens and they would be lifted out in their riot gear.

I’ve seen land rovers being set on fire and some blown up, I’ve even seen a land rover being rocked so much so it was pushed on its side. I’ve seen police shoot, soldiers on fire and have seen a lorry being given permission by its owner to be pushed towards the protestant community, set on fire and abandoned. That’s how dedicated people where during these moments of conflict. It was pretty horrific!

I would love to say I never got involved, but with friends sneaking off and throwing a stone, I wanted to do the same. I was terrified and the one time I did, I was caught on camera. My ma and da gave me a hiding when the found out. It was my first and last time.

When the riots was happening it was scary, but when nothing was happening it ghostly too. Usually when it was quiet you knew something was up or something was going to happen. You just didn’t know when.

At night the street lights would be cut and you’d hear breaking glass shatter, you’d smell the fumes of the paint that was thrown over cars, a neighbouring houses and across the street roads. The next morning when bright you’d see the damage, the disgust on the faces of those targeted and the anger bursting from every person on the street.

I was a target myself having a knife put to my throat as a teenager, being accused of terrorising an alcoholics home. Thankfully nothing more happened other than the blade sitting beneath my chin and the warmth of urine streaming down my leg. I wish I had have been that person terrorising the persons home, then I would have known why and that the scare I would have deserved, but I was completely innocent.

Another night my siblings and I where in bed and my mum and grandfather was sitting in the living room downstairs at around midnight. The street electrics was cut, rowdy crowds was heard and flashes of fire was seen. My family home was targeted in an arson attack with petrol bombs, leaving us homeless for months living from one hostel to another. My mother grabbed us all and we evacuated the building, my grandfather was stood outside shouting god forgive you to the arsonists. I remember that night as clear as if it was yesterday. I can still feel the coldness of the ground beneath my bare feet as I ran from the building wearing nothing but my batman pyjamas.

Months after the attack we moved back into the same house after it was renovated, I wore my shoes to bed for I do t know how long and the area became super cautious.

Another day I left school and from there we had to scoot to Tesco for our weekly shop. We had to pass our house to reach the supermarket and I didn’t want to carry my school bag, so I left it at my front door. We went to the shops and on our return, the street was closed, filled with police, the army and bomb disposal. My schoolbag looked suspicious propped up against our front door, they called for emergency services and the street was evacuated. I had to explain it was my school bag and had to identify the bag and the contents inside. That just showed how cautious everyone became. Again, I got another hiding for making a scene and being a lazy b*****d!

The riots continued and continued, it was like a competition, game scoring who one what fight. Even on Christmas morning rioting still occurred, it was just horrible.

The troubles where bizarre all over Northern Ireland, the news on the television was always crammed by the riots and the newspapers front page was blaze after blaze.

The trauma was endless, the sights became a regular thing and nothing would surprise you. I seen a gunman put a gun to a neighbours head and run off, I was dragged to the ground by a stranger telling me they where shooting, I was evacuated from school due to suspicious packages being found and bomb-scares being made.

The area soon became a horrible environment and residents lost interest in their home, some fleeing the area and many putting barriers up on their windows and peace walls was erected, cameras were put in place and although they didn’t stop the riots they reduced them a little.

My family ended up moving away from Belfast to a seaside village in County Down. It was a game changer having little worry, the peacefulness and the freedoms was immense.

Parkside still exists with new developments, the peace wall within the local park is open during daylight and one of the peace walls was made into a garden whilst another was removed. Tigers bay still stands with new developments and the two communities are working together.

Right across Northern Ireland you will always have political groups scattered here and there and conflict will always continue, but if two communities can join forces and become one, I am hopeful for our future.

Despite all the hardship, the trauma, the worry, the fears and sleepless nights growing up, the sights I have buried into my head and the memories replaying constantly…

I can honestly say I have zero anger towards any protestant community. I have nothing bad to say about the emergency services whether they are police or soldier, man, woman, young or old. I don’t hold grudges For I have learnt to accept all for who we are and what we can do together to create hope, love and peace.

– James Keenan

BEAUTIFULLY IN LOVE

A poem written to express my appreciation of love, protection and hope!

When I first met you I knew it was love,

As if an angel had sent you from the heavens above.

Your smile so cute gets me every time,

A beautiful signal that reminds me your mine.

It was an instant connection and being inseparable,

Our journey began to a destination to be so incredible.

It wasn’t long before I got to know you,

A man so gentle and loving with a heart so true.

The beauty of your kiss and the magic of your touch,

It’s all these reasons and more why I love you so very much.

The smiles and giggles, it’s just us two,

Now I will thank you for making my dreams come true.

Its in your arms I feel best protected and less restricted,

Our love together has only ever got stronger, just as I predicted.

You make me smile and mostly laugh,

Here I hope we continue to remain on this amazing path.

The little things you say and do, proves your love to be true,

So rest assure that no one else will ever take the place of you.

Beautifully in love, trusted and love prone,

I would rather share one life time with you rather than alone.

-James Keenan

LITTLE SISTERS

A poem written to tell a story of my appreciation towards my siblings.

You’re my life a circle, one that never ends,

We may have fallouts but can always make a mends.

I’ve now been a brother for almost thirty years,

Starting with the first arrival who brought me happy tears.

We’re best friends, soulmates and siblings too,

Even through the darkest day, we’ll stick like glue.

We stick together during events good and bad,

We know how to give a hug when one of us is sad.

My precious little sisters so loving and kind,

When we are together we’re powerfully combined.

Years have gone by and I have had time to reflect,

Whatever path you decide to take, i’ll be smiling with great respect.

You have your families and you’re maturing now,

But I still as a big brother, I always question why?

Yous are the apple of my eye, the heart of our family tree,

I love each and everyone of you forever what will be.

Together we as siblings who are totally inseparable,

Cherishing each moment and making a life so memorable.

I’m your big brother yet I can still turn to you,

The same applies I’ll always be here for you too.

You aren’t just my sisters, but you’re my inspiration,

For it will always continue throughout our life’s duration.

We may not always be together with life sometimes keeping us apart,

But that doesn’t matter for you’re all in my heart.

So in happiness and filled with love, i’m gonna shout out loud,

I love yous so dearly, thank you for making your big brother proud.

– James Keenan

THE SECRET

The Secret is a book and television documentary, written by the fantastic and beautiful Rhonda Byrne, based on the law of attraction.

The law of attraction is a tool that can be used to help change your life. It can also invite positivity into your life and by simply believing in yourself, you can change your mindset by the way you think and react. This in result broadens your core values, ethics and beliefs, whilst accepting the law of attraction this will guide you through the universe to create a destiny for yourself.

In order to become a master at manifesting the law of attraction, we have to undo the patterns that have been stored in our unconscious mind and replace them with positive, empowering patterns. In other words, we need to rewire our brain.

You can begin by implementing daily positive practices in our lives, we will shift and raise our energetic vibration so that we can manifest from a place of calm, inspired action yielding a faster result. If you get into the habit of using tools that will insert empowering and positive thoughts into your mind, you’ll be poised to produce good experiences and results!

You can start by paying attention to what you you need to focus on. Do you pay attention to what’s going right or what’s going wrong? When you’re working on manifesting your dreams, challenges will arise, but when you focus on what’s right, you become an incredible problem-solver, which builds confidence and quickly raises your energetic vibration. You will be able to move through obstacles quicker without worry of challenges.

You can practice by using breathing exercises and techniques using your belly and not the chest. This type of breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system (rest-and-digest), which helps produce a sense of relaxation and contentment and allows us to be calm and clear when taking inspired action.

Meditation is a huge advantage to use if you follow the law of attraction. Meditation can be used in a spiritual format or simply during relaxation and yoga. You can practice anywhere at anytime. Meditation helps us withdraw attention from stressful, negative patterns we’ve created over time. Practicing can be a huge benefit and has been known to change millions of peoples lives. It can improve your sleep and guide you through wellness and recovery.

Move your body whatever way you want, do what is most comfortable, there is no right or wrong way to sit when meditating, manifesting your vision or practicing the law of attraction. Negative emotions are stored in our bodies on a cellular level. Moving is one way to release stress and negative energy. It doesn’t have to be intense; you can dance, practice yoga or go for a walk. It’s as simple.

Get yourself a journal, write how you want, but practice gratitude. Gratitude is one of the simplest ways to raise our vibration. When we recognize our great fortune and appreciate all our blessings, it automatically puts us in a “feel-good” energetic vibration. Writing your goals will not only help you get clear, but will help you create inspiring actions towards your dreams.

My favourite part of manifesting my thought process is reading my goals that i’ve noted in my journal first thing in the morning and before going to bed at night. I allow myself a little headspace to visualize and connect with the feeling of achieving my dreams. Feel like you already have what you want. It’s as easy.

You can practise whatever way you want, however I would strongly recommend finding headspace, meditate beforehand and believe in yourself. This is my practice.

You can only be the best version of yourself, you are the only person who has the power to create your own destiny. Be brave, smile and know your worth!

– James Keenan

Whatever feelings you have within you, are attracting your tomorrow.

Worry attracts more worry.

Anxiety attracts more anxiety.

Unhappiness attracts more unhappiness.

Dissatisfaction attracts more dissatisfaction.

And

Joy attracts more joy.

Happiness attracts more happiness.

Peace attracts more peace.

Kindness attracts more kindness.

Love attracts more love.

Your job is an inside one.

To change your world, all you have to do is change the way you feel inside.

How easy is that?

Practice, Practice, Practice.

– Rhonda ByrneAuthor, The Secret

BOY WHO’S GOOD ENOUGH

A poem written by myself, which tells the story of how setbacks stole my dreams of succeeding to be a writer.

I’m just a boy, who dreams to write,

Writing stories under my bedside table light.

This is my dream; I want it as my future,

There is nothing holding me back, yet I feel the loser.

I’ve been stuck in these manic daydreams,

But this has been me since before my early teens.

People bullied me and tried to tear me down,

Making me out to be the classroom clown.

I feel as if i’m a brainless boy who’s life is so pathetic,

I haven’t got a clue, but still I try, but i’ve learnt i’m not fantastic.

My life is always the post of something else,

But I suppose that depends on how I present myself.

I’d pass colleges with my head down in shame,

with all the things I wanted to learn, i’ve only suffered in vein.

I want to work hard; I want to write about me.

I want to write books that are meant to be.

I need to allow my mind broaden to enlightenment and interpretation,

I’ll not be William Shakespeare; I just want to be someone’s recommendation.

I just want to be me without the frustration.

Confused I’d ask for help, to be told to look up the dictionary,

I didn’t know how to, with words I couldn’t spell, it all became too scary.

While my diagnosis went unnoticed,

My dreams of becoming a writer soon became less focused.

I want to dream big so I ask to take me to that place i’ve never been,

I promise to be less scared and wanting to be heard and seen.

I will learn to love the skies I’m under,

I’ll not be that person that people walk over.

The struggles I faced, the chances i’m now taking,

I may feel knocked down, but this time I’ll not be breaking.

I’ll accept my limits, aim big and maybe I’ll be slow,

I can change, but until I try, I’ll never really know.

I’ll keep trying to come out from the darkness and into the light,

I’ll never give up, I can see my future now in sight.

I’ll not give up; I’m out to be heard,

I will do this and may not win, but I’ll happily come second or third.

I struggle with grammar and I can hardly read, does this mean i’ve a disability?

Big or small, clear or not, the beauty of writing shows such gracility.

I want to succeed but not to be famously known,

I want to write my goals and ambitions proving how much i’ve grown.

I needed to learn the charisma and education,

I didn’t need the worries of my frustration.

It’s small, yet powerful; i’m not psychotic,

I’m just a boy who is dyslexic.

I’m not normal but who is?

I’m certainly not perfect; does it even exist?

I was once given a quote that keeps me strong through the rough

“I may not be normal or perfect, however i’m just a boy who is good enough”

– James Keenan

MY HOPE TO INSPIRE

By sharing my experiences and beliefs, I hope I can inspire at least one person by giving them hope.

Hi Guys,

I wouldn’t say I am a fully pleadged blogger, professional and making money, i’m just a casual guy who is an amateur blogger sharing his story through words inspired by his lived experiences.

To an extent I will say unfortunately, but I can now see the positive impact of having a mental health illnesses by awknowledging my growing strength and believing in myself, having self respect and embracing courage.

When I first started blogging, I had some ignorant people share their opinions on mental health and suicide, commenting abuse under my posts. These persons and their their input slowly began to affect my want to express awareness.

I deleted blog after blog and started again, changed my name and shared what I felt is important to me. I do understand that a persons opinion is allowed and I fully respect that, I believe in having a right to express opinions however when opinions turn to abuse, it becomes a different story.

It hasn’t been all bad, it’s been powerful over the last couple of years sharing my lived experiences and allowing strangers to connect with me.

Receiving messages of gratitude admiring my bravery, showing courage and creating an awareness is a real joy that leaves me inspired. Reading such comments makes blogging worthwhile publishing.

At the beginning of my blogging journey I had always said if my story was to be shared and only one person was to read it and learn from my mistakes and errors and embrace courage, in sharing my story and showing courage is most definitely a story worthwhile sharing.

The statement that is often repeated in my blogs; “I hope to inspire others, like others have inspired me”  is a statement I strongly believe in and hope that I can inspire at least one person.

My hopes are realistic, I will not be able to inspire millions, but I write from the heart and writing about my life experiences is a method of managing my own recovery in a therapeutic manner to overcome a past of negativity, trauma and pain.

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” – Helen Keller

James Keenan


Victim Support!

A short poem of my experiences of historic child abuse and written in my own words of I how I suffered, seeked the appropriate help by Victim Support and became a survivor.

A sharpened dagger stabbed in my heart,

Ripping in it in two, ripping it apart.

Taking advantage of the faith and forgiveness he possesses,

Tears roll down my cheeks as soon as it became excessive.

That first day that we met I cant regain in remberance, however yet,

They’re feelings I’ll never forget.

I knew from the start you where just an old man, however rare,

With those memories I wish were just a simple blur.

Darkness unfolded with one man’s touch,

Caressing my body I hated so much.

I closed my eyes, I closed my mind,

My childhood years left behind.

I’d break each day more and more,

Struggling to keep my emotions in behind my core.

I would find myself hiding behind this smile,
the one that shows my denial.

It seems that the struggle, is always here with me,

I wouldn’t be here now if he’d let me be.

You say it doesn’t matter, it’s all in the past,

Yet you never see my pain, hidden behind my mask.

I lived a life of loneliness and one filled with pain.

living a life empty with nothing to gain,

Surrounded by darkness and overwhelmed with shame,

A life without peace with only one person to blame.

We wear our heart on the sleeves of our shirt,

Aware of the cautions that it will get hurt.

From the depths of despair, when my world fell apart,

I felt all alone and struggled with what was left of my broken heart.

Allowing it from at the age of nine,

now twenty eight the torment remaians at the back of my mind.

I hid behind lies, when things got tough,

I soon forced myself to say enough was enough.

For every time that I broke down,

There was a fake smile to cover the frown.

With no self esteem, confidence and in a broken mess,

I made a decision about my happiness.

I reached for paper and pen and and soon my laptop,

No fears and not restrained, judgment still remains in hope it will stop.

I reported my monster and now write to my best, of my worst,

I opened up from my heart, which was getting close to burst.

If only I could turn the clock back,

I’d find everything that I learnt to lack.

My face woould sit still, where my fake smile appears,

They’d be true and filled with fear.

It’d be as though it was all just a dream,

That came one night so horrriblby to make it seem.

As though this was real, lived and true,

Now there’s only one thing I must do…

To those who tried to fight,

and to those who never slept at night.

To those who never made it through,

and those who were just like me. Be gentle, be you!

I hurt and held back for such a long time,

Struggling through life wearing nothing but a fake smile.

I was helped by the one I love mostest,

That same person who stood by my diagnosis.

I was once told, by a previous counsellor when things got tough,

“No one is perfect, but we are good enough”.

a comment that is burried in my heart,

something that should be learnt from the start.

Then most recently where i’m a patient on a Psyhatric ward,

A statement buried into the flower bed in the centre of the garden that struck a chord.

“It’s not the size of the person in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the person”,

In regards to therapy, words like these make sense of a new learning.

Then an oppertunity arrised, something to seek Justice,

A lady named Anne, brought me a great strength of toughness.

Although a volunteer, a lady with a massive heart and an adviser,

her words; “You are no victim, you are a survivor”

Memories can come and go, mostly buried in mind,

But there is always hope whatever way you look I’d like to remind;

When you think there is nothing more or anyone, there is always an last resort…

Do what I done and contact Victim Support!

-James Keenan