EXHALE AND RECOVER

A story of my life, written by Our Life Logs.
**warning contains sensitive and adult content**

Covered by ourlifelogs.com.

I grew up in the 1990s in Belfast, Northern Ireland, during the times of “The Troubles.” If you didn’t know, The Troubles refer to a nasty civil dispute that spanned over 30 years between the British and Irish in the country over religious and nationalistic differences. Naturally, this made Northern Ireland a dangerous place to grow up.

When I was eight, riots made their way to Belfast and brought angry people with the intent to cause destruction by throwing homemade bombs into buildings. Well, my family was one of the unlucky houses hit. I remember waking up to a loud crash and the smell of smoke and petrol. My mother, my four younger sisters, and I were forced to evacuate.

Meanwhile, my father was drunk at a pub. When my mother called to tell him what happened, he basically said, “Well, I can’t do anything about it.”

He left us alone to fend for ourselves. Furious, my mother left him but still allowed him to take us every other weekend. I hated visiting him because he used to tell me I was stupid and that he didn’t like me very much, and all he ever did was drink at home, or leave us kids and drink at the pub.

Me as a baby

Having left our father, my mother started drinking every day and every night, leaving me to step up as the older brother. I wish I could say I held the family together, but that’s not entirely true. In some areas I succeeded, and in others I failed. We all just tried to get by.

For a year, our family jumped from one hostel to another until we found a small flat in 1998. By then, The Troubles were coming to an end, but the trauma was irreversible. Living with that fear took a toll on my psyche, and unfortunately, it was just the first of many dominoes to fall in deteriorating my mental health.

My mother did her best raising my sisters and me alone, and I tried my hardest to be helpful. Every Monday morning, I’d collect my mother’s benefits for her from the local post office. There was always an elderly gentleman queued up when I arrived. I eventually got to know him and would look forward to seeing him as he would give me 10 GBP whenever I saw him. To a nine-year-old in the ‘90s, 10 GBP was a lot!

But then, the “how are you’s” turned into strange, inappropriate questions like, “do you masturbate?” I began to see him daily on the streets in the neighborhood. He told me that if I told my parents about the questions, I’d get put in a home and they would be arrested.

One day, the man told me about a toy car that he’d left at his flat. He asked me to come by and get it. Innocent and trusting, I agreed, and that’s when the sexual abuse began. He often tied me to a chair and forced me to touch him.

Looking back, I wish I had screamed, but in a scenario like that, it’s often fight, flight, or freeze…and I froze. This went on for six years, and he kept me silent with threats and gifts. I didn’t want my parents to go away. So, terrified, I never told anyone and the secret weighed down on me until I grew to hate myself.

When I became too old at 15, the abuse stopped, but the years of damage remained. By then, I was struggling to grow into a teenager and figure out my sexuality. There was a duality to my feelings that made me question if I was having thoughts about men because of the abuse or if was I truly curious. I hated it. Not to mention people were being called gay as an insult on the streets as it was a heavily conservative area.

I began to feel like I was contagious and disgusting. I tried overdosing on pills but I had no idea how to do it. The pills I chose just made me sick.

In 2009, in the midst of me battling all the demons that had weaved into my psyche, I was hit with another wave. I learned that my father was sexually abusing a close relative when he got drunk. I was furious and tried to get the police involved. I see the irony of wanting to report others’ abuse when I was afraid to report my own, but maybe this was my offhanded way of getting justice.

Unfortunately, my father heard that I had sought help and got spooked. He killed himself before the police got to him, refusing to face his crimes.

When his family learned what happened, they immediately targeted me, blaming me for his death, saying that the allegations were false. They turned their backs on me, and I, of course, was riddled with guilt. I felt like I was at fault for his death, and having something like that on my conscience made the dark feelings from my past traumas grow stronger. I attempted suicide by overdosing once more but failed.

I was embarrassed that I had failed. It began to feel like I could do nothing right.

I tried my best to move forward despite my mental health crumbling with each hit. I found a job taking care of old folks and I started experimenting with both men and women. Eventually, I fell in love with a woman and married her in 2012. She knew that I was bi-curious, she knew about my father’s suicide and about my childhood (except the abuse), and still, she accepted me.

Our relationship started off great, but over time, she became more controlling. She’d clock the miles on my car and freak out if I derailed from her expected schedule. Then, it grew harder when she fell pregnant only to miscarry. We didn’t talk about the loss. It simply hung in the air around our every movement. She’d dismiss my issues with mental health and tell me that it was all in my head. I began to feel trapped and depressed by the grief and control of our relationship.

Then, in 2015, I had an out-of-body experience where I was cutting carrots with a knife and had a psychotic break. I vaguely remember calling my mother and telling her I wanted to die. My mother immediately told me she was on her way. She was coming from the countryside, so by the time she got to me, I was outside in the garden in my underwear in the pouring rain. When I came back to myself, I was baffled at how I’d gotten out there. That’s when I knew my mental health was getting far worse.

Not long after this experience, my wife and I separated, and while we remained friends, I felt empty.

Then, an angel came into my life—a man named Andrew. We met through Instagram when he commented, “Nice smile,” on one of my photos. We met in person, and it was love at first sight. I told him about my mental health issues, and he embraced me. When we kissed, I knew for a fact that I was gay. It felt right, never like how it was with women. In discovering this, I came out to my mother and sisters who accepted me with loving arms.

Me, my mum and sisters

Yet even a healthy relationship can only do so much for a person still battling self-hatred and repressed trauma. It’s like a band-aid. It stops the bleeding, but the scab always has a chance of busting back open.

I started hearing voices that convinced me I deserved to die and that my feelings were punishment for driving my dad to suicide. In 2017, I tried overdosing again, and just to make sure I succeeded this time, I tried hanging myself too. Thankfully, my partner, Andrew, found me before it was too late. He helped me check into a mental health facility, but being there only made me feel worse.

Ten days later, I checked myself out of the facility and tried to hang myself again, but the belt ripped. Quickly, I grabbed a scarf and tied it to the doorknob. Somehow, the door didn’t stay shut. I failed then too. That was when I took a look at the scarf and the door and knew I needed to accept help, even if it was going to be hard.

I was sent to a psychiatric hospital where I remained for three months. The voices continued until I was placed on psych meds. The voices may have quieted but the meds made me feel numb, like a dummy. One of the only things keeping me tethered to the outside world was Andrew. Through each of my suicide attempts, he stayed by my side. While in the psych ward, he visited me and supported me in my recovery.

And and I

I knew I could completely trust him, and after years of keeping it hidden, I told him about the childhood abuse. Andrew said to me, “You’re never going to get better if you don’t report this and get closure.”

Unfortunately, and fortunately, the investigation proved that the man who abused me had already passed away. I wish I had spoken up sooner to prevent others becoming his victims, but there was no going back. Even so, I felt…lighter. Simply being open about the abuse for the first time in my life was justice I could be content with.

When the doctors concluded I was fit to be discharged after three months, I started seeing a counselor for the sexual abuse and another for mental health problems for the next year. All that was well and good, but it wasn’t until I discovered Recovery College in 2018 that I had hope.

Recovery College is a program curated to educate those struggling with mental illnesses and help them learn how to self-manage their symptoms, help others, and step back into daily life. Through them, I was able to recognize my own strength, practice mindfulness, and develop a self-confidence I’d lost early in life. They helped me see that the bad things that happened to me weren’t my fault, even though it felt like it for so long.

I was so grateful for their help, I decided I wanted to be a part of others’ recovery. I had so much life experience to pull from and I wanted it to be used for good. Through the program, I got qualified, received my certification in suicide prevention, and began teaching there in 2019. I was trained in mental health and acute emergency care, gained specialist skills in suicide prevention, and now work in the SET Recovery College as a peer support worker and tutor and work within emergency acute care within the ED (Emergency Department) when busy. I also volunteer with NexusNI, a charity that provided me with the specialist counselling to overcome the trauma of sexual violence and rape.

I also found the courage to begin blogging about my life experiences and volunteering in the community. In doing so I’ve found healing I never thought was possible.

When I look back on my life, I see how much pressure I put on myself to hold it together despite what I was going through. I wanted so badly to appear normal and perfect, but the truth is, no human is. I used to live a life of holding my breath, but now, I can finally relax knowing that the demons of my past are behind me.

This is the story of James Keenan

James currently resides in a small town on the countryside of Downpatrick County Down, Northern Ireland (the burial place of St. Patrick), where he works as a suicide prevention specialist and writer. Growing up during The Troubles which led to his house getting bombed, James’ life started out rough and continued to be rough including sexual abuse in his pre-teen years, his father’s suicide, a messy marriage, and struggling with his sexuality, which all led to major mental health problems and many suicide attempts. It wasn’t until 2017 that he got the help he’d been needing for years. Since then, he has recovered and learned how to manage his depression. He is now employed in the Recovery College. He is also working closely with other charities and has dreams of starting his own charity. James believes that his biggest achievement to date is fundraising for a Cambodian NGO and twice visiting to build three houses, a toilet, and repairs on other houses previously built—and, of course, having managed his own mental health while helping others through their recovery, trauma, and preventing suicide within his local community.

This story first touched our hearts on June 22, 2019.

He likes to write poetry in his free time and plans to write his first novel soon. He is grateful for his partner who has stuck by him through his recovery and loves him despite his affinity for oddly designed socks. He remains proud of his sibling and says his dear nephews are the apple of his eye. He plans to focus on his future with Andrew, adopting children, travelling, and marriage. He also hopes to start his own business, create his own charity, and focus on writing a novel.

James in Cambodia

| Writer: Kristen Petronio | Editor: Colleen Walker | https://ourlifelogs.com/2019/08/01/exhale-and-recover/

THE POWER TO CREATING YOUR FUTURE

We can change our future in seconds, a future controlled by our thoughts and what we do now will make an impact one way or another in your later life.

The person you will be in 5 years’ time will be based on the things you read and watch on television and the people you hang around with today. This may come across as nonsense, but in reality it’s very true, but it just doesn’t apply to you, it applies to everybody as well. 

You, the person you will be in the future is based on everything you do today. The people you hang around with, more so the people you listen to. The stories you learn, the opinions you believe, the books you read and the videos you watch – all this information you take in – both positive and negative will affect your future one way or another. The activities you do, whether it’s exercise or holiday, a trip to town or a night at the movies This will all show in your future.

It’s the smallest of things that we may not acknowledge, the things we take for granted all day. The food you eat today will affect your future on a visual and energy level. The same applies with your and thought process. What you feed your mind will shape your future massively. If all you do is take in all the negatives, well I guess that’s what your future is going to be made up of? 

Set yourself goals to aim for, inspire yourself to see the the positives in everything. The more you feed your mind with successful thoughts, and surround yourself with those who have the same ambitions. It doesn’t matter where your information comes from – you may read, you may get it from podcasts or videos – it doesn’t matter, just make sure you keep feeding your mind every minute of every hour, each day. Time is critical. 

Your future self is always telling your mind to show some empowerment, some sort of discipline to stop with the judgement, long periods on your smartphones, to spend less time feeding your bad habits and learn to focus on the important stuff, all the positives, the roads to successfulness. 

Don’t ever lose your life direction to be like other people. I have two separate opinions on this. You can work your hardest now to strive to have fun later or you can have fun now, study later and still have fun. It’s optional, but don’t go jumping in head first, ask yourself what is your gut telling you, what is your head telling you and what is your heart telling you. I attend to follow my heart. Just don’t lose focus on what you do every day for it’s each day, each tiny little things that will dictate your future. What you want out of life, you must put in. 

If you want success, put it in there, keep it in there and remember it’s there. Live for your dreams. If you want health and fitness, put it in there. If you want peace, love and happiness, put it in there. If you want a strong successful business, put it in there. Your actions equal your results. Your thoughts become things. What you put out there you attract. The law of attraction is a powerful thing and it’s only you who can put out to the universe to create the destiny you want. 

It may come across as being silly, but acknowledge what you are thinking, what you feel and hear, what you believe. Keep teeling yourself “my mind is strong, I am strong, my thoughts are strong, my beliefs are strong, my life is strong. They say I can’t, but I can! They say I won’t, but I will! They say I’m not, but I am. I am limitless. There is nothing I cannot be. There is nothing that an not do. There is nothing that I cannot have.”

“I hold the power to my future, to my dreams, I have control of my life now and I will continue to use my strength, my abilities, my positivity, my aims, goals and ambitions. I will be the person I created”

Who ever said we don’t have powers? We all as individual hold the ability to have such powers, but you need to believe it. You need to feed it. You need to know how to create it. 

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

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


JOY AND HAPPINESS INSPIRES OTHERS

A poem of joy and happiness to inspire others alike.

I’m thankful to those I love and care,

It’s those that hold me when I’m in dispare

The warmth of their cuddles, their kisses and hugs too.

It’s fills me with warmth and feelings so new.

With a network of support from professionals and those not,

Makes me feel secure, something i’ve learnt to adopt.

Whatever happens within the centre of my chest,

My mind may not be great, but my heart knows best.

I’m not saying by all means, it works for all.

But for me personally, i’m smiling and standing tall.

We are different in many shapes and forms,

For me it was strange, as if I was drying in a thunderstorms.

My life isn’t great and nor is it perfect,

I attempted suicide in fear I’d be seen as a weakening reject.

I’ve grown to think it’s normal when it’s not,

I woke up in the garden thinking I had lost the plot.

So my advice to you; be brave, smile, speak up and don’t pretend

Otherwise like me, you’ll suffer and apprehend,

Stand your ground and don’t be bullied,

Stay strong and show your worth with a good deed.

Through words and experience I hope to inspire,

I pray for a persons hope that doesn’t expire.

With love, experience and use of my expression,

Through truth and hope, there’s no such thing as perfection.

Don’t fake smile and pretend to be okay,

Just be you, live and love, through each shining day.

Through days of blue, just be yourself and pick your colours

For its through joy and happiness that inspires others.

– James Keenan

WHO INSPIRES US?

A little about my inspirations, family, boyfriend, managers, friends and those famously known. Who is yours?

How often do you reflect on life and ask yourself “who inspires me”? How often do you reflect on gratitude? Who is your biggest hero? Do you have a favourite superhero? If you could be anyone who would it be?

Maybe it’s your parents or a celebrity figure who inspires you, maybe your biggest hero is your beat friend or a musician and maybe your favourite superhero is Captain America. Gratitude may even hold the gift for allowing you to inspire other people.

Here is my list!

My biggest inspirations are my Sisters. They are all incredible in their own individual ways, showing devoted love, laughter, strength and commitment. The 05 (Siblings and I call ourselves this) and are closely knitted and led by truth, security, compassion and overwhelming love.

I have three awesome friends, all Australian and we all met in Cambodia.

1) Jason, a pen pal from Perth who moved to Cambodia after a volunteer stint at a local NGO called Volunteer Building Cambodia (VBC). He loved his volunteering experience that much, he moved out to Cambodia and started working for the organisation. His loyalty, personality and his kind soul made me want to meet him all the more after years of writing. I have travelled out twice, spent four birthdays together and he became of my best friends. He is still in Cambodia and has took a journey starting his own NGO helping the LGBTQ+ community. He inspires me in many ways and I look up to him for inspiration.

2) Marjorie – Jason’s Mum who I met during my visit whilst she was visiting Jason in Cambodia. We hit it off instantly, by goodness I have never laughed as much in all my life until this beautiful woman came into my life. Her soul is gentle and her amazing attitude inspires me every day to be more like her and life outlook as a mum, grandmother and friend is something incredible.

3) Alana – we met whilst volunteering at VBC and again we hit it off instantly. If I wasn’t married at the time and confused over my sexuality, this girl would be my wife. Her outlook, kindness and overwhelming caring personality speaks a million words, through her actions alone. Her smile makes me smile, her laugh makes me laugh, her stories makes me want to tell stories. A beautiful soul inside and out. Alan came to Belfast and surprised me just before New Year in 2016 and it meant so much she made her way across the world and stopped by for a few days proved how special she is.

Who is my hero? It’s got to be the one man who has shown me the world by simply existing in mine. My dearest Andrew, a man I love and adore so much, a boyfriend, a companion, a best friend and my entire future. Andrew came to Belfast on a work project and we met over social media as friends and we met up and hit it off straight away. Andrew helped me identify who I really was and most of all, who I wanted to be. I am proud and overjoyed to have Andrew in my life. He saved me in so many ways and I am forever grateful for his love, care, support and loyalty. I found happiness when I met him, I feel complete. He’s my life. He’s my all.

Andrew & I

I’m thankful for the kindness of these powerful women who sit closely in my heart for the work they carried out, the love, care and positivity they showed to each person who crossed their path. Gratitude and kindness at its truest…

1) St. Mother Teresa a lady gifted with positivity, a person who gave hope to those suffering in poverty. An individual who prayed with the lonely and held the sick as she whispered prayers into their ears. I truly believe if Mother Teresa was alive today, the world would be a better please with her powerful words of wisdom. She’s now more well known since being canonized as a saint in 2016 and her famous quotes are echoed across the world. Mother Teresa a woman who I’d chose first to be a friend.

2) Princess Lady Diana, once a member of the Royal Family being the first wife to Charles, the Prince of Wales and a Mother to Prince William and Prince Harry. Lady Diana became the people’s Princess and was a lady who wore her heart on her sleeve. Her soul was beautiful and her generosity, her positivity and kindness was never overlooked. The Princess was well known for her charity work in the UK and abroad covering Mental Health, Cancer and those who battled with HIV/AIDS. She helped raise funds, spread awareness and reached out to those who admired her, needed her prayers and more importantly she stop and listened, spoke the truth and was admired for her honesty and dedication to our society.

3) Sir Richard Branson, a man I’ll forever look up-to for inspiration, advice and guidance as an a business man or in a role of management. He is a man with a heart, someone who respects his employees and his attitude towards life is simply magical. His businesses and enterprises, his private life and working life, his long heard stories and quotes simply make me smile. I hope to open my own coffee shop and travel the world. If Sir Richard Brandon can do it, then so can I, what a legend!!

What about my superhero? Who is my favourite? I have loads I love, but it has to be the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, I mean come on, who wants to climb buildings, study on the ceiling of your bedroom and swing across the city from building to lampposts? Ah, me?? A legend, a great superhero and a fantastic watch as well as read.

Finally, let’s talk about me? All these persons above, friends, family, partner, famous faces and superhero are all awesome but do you know who inspired me the most, who I think is the real superhero, who I show gratitude towards, who is my hero? It’s got to be myself.

I’ve had some rough journeys throughout my life, some moments I wouldn’t want to relive, however i’m a firm believer that my past doesn’t define who I am and I will stick by that, but it has proven strength, courage and hope. I’m proud of me, I inspire myself and if I can face up to the demons of mental health, then surely that makes me a superhero? Well let’s pretend for now.

Stay awesome guys, reflection is good!

– James Keenan

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

My life from start to present; Beauty & the Beast!!

Beauty being life, the beast being the darkness.

Tied up, hands across my neck and a pillow pushes against my face, my ability to fight back doesn’t seem possible. My sight fades before me, my lungs are closing and my heart aching with fear, i’m anchored as a weight and dropped into the wild ocean, my lungs tighten and fill up with water and my body struggles to breathe. I’m drowning quickly and my future becomes more and more distant. Every second passed, my life comes to a close, i’m now counting my breaths wondering what will be my last… This is my story!

The trauma has never disappeared and my doubts have only ever heightened with now the smallest of things becoming the biggest struggles to deal with. It’s immediately became harder than what I ever expected survival to be and now i’m tired. I’ve lost the fight, strength and courage to overcome a past so dark, demons would run from it.

I don’t feel ordinary, I have never felt normal. I’m embarrassed, I lost my dignity and a childhood that should have been filled with joy and cherished memories, but that was stolen from me and replaced with horror that I only but wish was an actual nightmare.

I find myself in the same place day, it’s a destroyer. I feel as if i’m chained to my past, the darkness is darker than ever before and it has become unbearable. I feel as if i’m an explosive ready to self detonate.

Everyday I wake up to reminders, smells, words, the media and television and it leaves me frightened for the next 24 hours. I may not show it but I’m living it.

My life was cruelly stolen from me. I struggled to pretend. I struggled to move on and forget, but it all seemed impossible.

Ive kept this horrendous feeling, these thoughts and the reasons I want to end my life. I have tried to talk and I seem to remain to hide it still, but in reality I am not coping, it plays in my head, it’s always in the back ground. I can’t concentrate, I can’t sorely think of my future as I feel trapped. I still feel i’m drowning only this time not in water, but in despair.

I’m afraid of losing the people I love the most, my mum, my sisters, nephews and partner, they are my only light, however a question I ask myself repeatedly, without telling them. Does my family know that I’m failing to be the best version of myself? Do they know how dark my mind gets? but the most repeated question I bury deep within my mind. Do they deserve to live on the edge and wonder what day will be the day?

I’ve felt invisible my whole entire life and the only time i’m noticed is when i’m needed to help with something. The feeling of being used, just isn’t enough. I don’t want to be used or relied on, I want to be seen for the person I truly am, but if I can’t identify that, I can’t expect others to see it either. I guess that’s the skill of a good actor, i’ve a skill I never thought I had. I just want to be held, loved and reassured.

It’s question after question now, each day being the same. Is the world out to get me? Am I being punished for other people’s actions? What did I ever do to deserve this punishment? My biggest fear now lies beneath my fragile skin fearing that eventually people will see me as the way I see myself.

My anxiety is a curse, unfortunately aiding a lack of control in my work, social and personal life and a past of trauma controlling my future? My mental health dictating the now and the fear allowing death to be more inviting than life itself. I don’t want people recognising the same beliefs I hold being a failure.

I could be a millionaire, a film star and have the world at my feet. I could have the biggest family and social circle of friends, married, children, my own home and the best cars, yet I would still feel lonely. I’m easy to satisfy, I don’t believe in wealth and having the best, but I still feel saddened and frightened, I still feel lost and I’m hurting. I wish I had that one person who can understand me, that would be my wealth.

You know torment when you realise the saddest kind of sad is when your tears can’t even drop and you feel nothing. You have no emotion. No feeling. No sense, it’s like the world has just ended. You cry but nothing leaks, you don’t hear, you don’t see, you just freeze and then for a second, the heart stops and you see death as clear as if you already lived it before.

Living with trauma and battling mental ill health is like a war, you either win or die trying, you lose or surrender. I argue that without darkness there would be no stars, but what happens when it’s dark and no stars are in sight? Your faced with the debate, is there light or not?

It can be difficult for someone who has never experienced mental ill health or to know how you feel deep inside. I wouldn’t expect any person too, but someone who wants to understand and know how you’re feeling is precious. They don’t come often and sometime not enough or none at all.

My struggles are real, the stigma alone is hurtful and the events causing the trauma and the diagnosis of mental health is a challenge on its own. I wish it was all nonsense and made up, I wish it didn’t exist.

Depressive disorder, agoraphobia, PTSD and emotionally unstable personality disorder, survivor of sexual abuse, neglect, bullying and mental and emotional abuse and a survivor of suicide. The list goes on but the desire to want to be normal is overwhelming. The search for perfection becomes more difficult than accepting my inner emotions, yet the desire for normality pulsates around my damaged mind even though I know they don’t exist?

I was at primary school when I noticed something was up, I somehow felt different to others, it was noticed in the classroom, in the playground and in the area I lived. I know I was no adorable child or smart. I was that child teachers felt sorry for and invited me into detention for a little company during break times. I was the teachers pet, the boy who had the special jobs. I had learning difficulties and required special needs right up until my last years of secondary school. I struggled to read, write and take in information, follow instructions and understand numbers, yet give me a clock I could estimate time and distance, read a map and remember directions. I was organised and very creative, yet I still felt like a spare tyre that was too small to fit.

I would sit in class, thinking of what I will face on lunch break from the bullies in the playground, will the Belfast troubles keep me awake tonight and how will my dad be today, good form or bad. I felt somedays I would just cry in class for no apparent reason and then pretending to be sick in hope to get home just to have a cuddle, but who was I kidding? I never had a cuddle or felt any sort of emotion like that from either of my parents.

As I grew older I learnt what mental I’ll health was and things began to make sense. It was the events that caused me horrific trauma and physiological issues that triggered my rawness, the hurt, the physical pain and the mental abuse.

My father’s behaviour was abnormal, he was a completely different person when at home than the person he was when in company of others. His friends thought there was no one like him and his family thought he was an angel. He was out of control, his behaviour as a partner and parent was just too cruel. He took all his frustrations out on his children and my mum and sometimes I thought he hit out for no reason just to see those who loved him most, hurt.

Itwas clear since my early childhood that my dad didn’t like me, he told me often enough in anger and in generalised conversations. All that I ever wanted was to grow up and have a brother and a dad who I could turn too for a chat or on a Friday after work to meet up for a game of pool over a pint, but this was never going to be reality.

Dad had a drinking problem, he drank most days if not every day, but the older I got I began to identify his drug habits too, which then began to make sense of his behavioural pattern.

He was an abusive father who took his anger and frustrations out in way possible, yet my siblings and I still loved him. He was abuse to his partners too, verbally, mentally and whether they knew it or not he was a cheat right up to his death.

My parents separated and we moved to woman’s aid for safety. We moved from hostel to hostel and were deemed homeless. The embarrassment alone was raw.

Years passed and my mother moved to the countryside and my father remained in Belfast and due to secondary education my sister and stayed in Belfast in Dads care. It was obvious Dad and I never got on. He would leave early morning, head to work and when he came home, his dinner had to be ready and waiting on him prepared by my younger sibling, otherwise he would kick off. No thank you, no nothing but a few slabs and verbal abuse.

I was often the son who was called queer, faggot, hated against for visiting my grandmother, his mother every night threatening not to tell any of his business. I loved my Dads parents, my grandparents, I doted on them. His brother and sisters I loved dearly, but wasn’t allowed to share anything with them. It was sad.

Most nights after dinner he would shower, shave and head to his local pub where all his friends thought he was God’s gift, but really and truly he was an arsehole. He’d return home late, some nights I would be in and other nights I would still be at my grandparents house. The nights in, he would bring in a kebab and be all over me as if I was his blue eyed boy, the. He would question where my sibling is. I’d explain she’s in bed sleeping g, it’s 2am and has school leave her be. He would scream to her to get up. He’d smell her for aftershave, ask to look through her phone and then beaten for no reason. Nights I was in my Grandparents, he wouldn’t let me in on my return and leave me standing outside for hours.

Dads behaviour became very suspicious and he began accusing my sibling of her stealing his clothes when I was the guy of the household and never was I accused once.

The screams of my mum twenty plus years ago I can still hear clear; begging dad to stop beating her. I can still still hear the wallops from upstairs and the fear and hurt on mums face and later the same I can still hear and see the same fear and hurt on my sisters face. Horrific!!

I can justify my dads behaviour towards me when he used the buckle end of his belt to wallop me hard causing bruising and sometimes drawing blood, but to hurt my mum and sister, I could never justify and never will.

I stood up to my dad many of time and sometimes you could see the fear in him and although all I did was stand up to him, it was a great joy to see him scared, but usually I would would be spoke down too telling me I was nothing, I wasn’t his son, calling me a queer, a blue eye and ending with the word spastic!!

I always wondered why mum stuck it for so long, but it was soon apparent she was scared, but what was her turning point?

Our family home was targeted in an arson attack with petrol bombs as my siblings and I lay asleep in our beds. My grandfather and mum who were the room that was targeted seem the attack from afar and they helped my siblings and I out of the house and placed in a safe house in the same street. That night we ended up homeless and had to live from hostel to hostel, but on the night of the arson attack we had to stay at a neighbours house and mum rang our dad to tell him to come home and explained what happened. He did come home with a friend, said nothing he could do and then pissed off back out to the pub. That was mums turning point. He didn’t care, so why should she, so after hosteling for some months, we ended up in a safe house through women aid.

School was a struggle too, though I had to embrace the fear and face the issues alone when I was bullied for the way I appeared. The anxiety alone at home was horrible, let alone the same feelings when walking to school and even in school itself .

The bullying I experienced wasn’t physical, but verbal and emotional which soon affected my learning and education. I lost my confidence all together as Childhood was no walk in the park, it was a real struggle and watching life fall apart soon became the reality of my life. I rarely seen a future for myself.

my family began to drift, Mum moved to the countryside, my dad remained in Belfast with one of my siblings and I moved to Ardglass with my mum. I met up with sister every weekend, we where best friends. I noticed my father’s behaviour continued and several times I asked my sibling a question, which she always denied.

It turned out my father was a paedophile after sexually my sibling after a number of years, which broke her mentally and emotionally.

I alerted police and social services who began to investigate simply because one, my baby sister was betrayed by her father and two I didn’t want anything to occur between his son, niece and stepdaughter, if not already.

My mothers health deteriated physically and soon began to self inflict by becoming an alcoholic. Throughout the pregnancy there was complications, due to age and alcohol, but afterwards postnatal depression was diagnosis which was difficult.

I had to remain strong despite battling my own demons, I had to fake smile and pretend to my siblings was okay. I trusted my I stinks that I will be good acting the responsible adult being the eldest to filled the shoes of being Mummy and Daddy. I’ll never be able to top their shoes, but only ever hoped I would grow to inspire my sisters, I only did best for them and only want the greatest of opportunities to arise for them.

Social Services became involved at this point and mums real love was for her drink and that was all. My siblings and I were put on the Child Protection Register and my youngest sibling was put into care. The heartbreak of that alone was heartwrenching, but we won her back through many case management meetings.

I was still tramatised by the past events and still today I find it difficult to cope with the actions of history. I eneded up meeting a girl and we got married and things felt great, but soon that began to fall apart too. I was trapped for years and couldn’t explore my childhood due to the control and responsibilties I had to take on, but it turned out that the marriage was heading down the same path.

I’m not comparing my marriage to my past, by all means. I can’t, but a sense of control was occurring and I became the victim. It was rammed into my head that my mental Health was in my head and I needed to get over the past which is one of the most hurtful and hardest things to be told.

We miscarried a baby girl and never spoke of our loss together and soon we went separate ways.

It was 2016 I could my first breakdown, I didn’t know how, why or when. I had very little memory of the event. I was then referred to the services, seen by GP and was deemed unfit for work purposes. i found myself growing into self neglect, I felt weird and creepy, I didn’t understand who I was or why. I felt worthless and all I wanted to do was take my life. I took a few months of work and then had to push myself before I was pulled for my attendance. I was still ill when I joined back to work but I was frightened to open up in case I was deemed on fit for work.

My life changed forever after being contacted over social media. I was told I had a nice smile and didn’t I fancy a coffee. I took the opportunity to meet friends and I met a beautiful Scotsman who has listened, cared and supported me since the very beginning.

I ended up taking another breakdown having needed up in two secure wards, one voluntary and the other sectioned under the mental health act. I took two years of work and felt my life was falling apart after attempting to self harm, suicide and neglect. I hated myself and became paranoid convincing myself I was being watched and I started hearing voices.

Intense treatment, medication and education has helped me loads. Education saved my life, medication helped my nerves and feelings and my therapies changed my way of thinking.

Life isn’t easy and every day isn’t the same although, the bad and negativities energies are no longer present in my life. I still have depression and suffer from anxiety and I do have relapsed episodes, but that is my life now. I’ll always be in recovery. Self-management is key!

Opportunities are endless and only we as people know where our own happiness lies: your universe is destined, only you can create your own pathway to happiness and it can be more difficult than others, but keep trying and don’t ever give up fighting.

Be yourself, have fun, enjoy life, laugh and smile throughout it, love you, make memories and more importantly live your life to the full the way you want it. You’re you, like I am me, be unique, be big, be powerful and show the world how beautiful you are. No one is perfect, but we’re all good enough.

– James Keenan

LOVE IS LOVE!

“LOVE IS LOVE” is a story about exploring my sexuality and coming out to the world! 🏳️‍🌈

It takes a lot of courage and bravery to open up and be yourself, however my experience has been harder than what I originally hoped for.

I’ve felt as if a chain has been tied around my neck and it has been dragging behind me for so long, stopping me from being the person who I truly want to be. A person I truly need to be!

It has been an uphill battle, but indulging in courage, allowed me to be more brave accepting who I am as a person.

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I have my reasons for publishing this piece of writing, it’s on a personal level however I need this platform to express my true self.

It may come as a shock to some, but not many. I don’t feel the need to inform each individual of my identity and I don’t need to show my identity off, but what I do need is not only to tell those important to me, but telling the world seems to be my release of self expression and exploring my own emotions and sexuality. I need to do this for me!

Yes, I’M GAY!!

I have been in a few relationships with girls, one teenage sweetheart, another couple of girls which started of as relationships and soon turned out to be casual hook ups.

I matured, started working and soon met a girl who I fell for. We travelled, had our own home, got engaged and married. We were together for eleven years, married for three and unfortunately we miscarried our first baby.

I always found girls attractive and shared about my experimenting antics growing up, experimenting with both male and female, but I was accepted from the beginning of my relationship and later marriage.

I came out to my family as bisexual in 2015, which wasn’t of any surprise to them. I felt like I was that tiny bit lighter, but not completely.

My marriage ended due to personal problems away from the truth of my sexuality, but soon after I did find love and this time it was more powerful than any other.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

I thought I knew what true love was before, but it was soon clear it was to be felt for the very first time.

I met a guy online, who contacted me complimenting my smile and asked if I fancied a coffee. He was Scottish and over in Belfast on a work project and was looking for some friendships.

I had lost a great deal of my friends growing up due to different reasons, so I thought why the hell not.

It was as if this Scottish bloke was sent for a reason, it was love at first sight. I felt completely different to anything I have experienced before and instantly I knew. Everything changed, it was like fate.

Today, I’m very happy with my Scotsman Andrew and it’s safe to say we’re madly and deeply in love.

It just feels right, my life feels complete and the man who walked into my life is the most beautiful, caring and sweetest man with the biggest soul. It’s Andrew and I from now on, he is my future.

I have had time to reflect about life, me and my sexuality. I know being gay doesn’t difine me as a person and being sexually attracted to the same sex doesn’t make me any less of a man. I’ll love whoever I want, it’s an emotion I can’t go against. I’ll grown to accept love is love.

I will forever to continue to follow my heart and explore this beautiful feeling of love. I’m being true to myself and from now on I no longer need to hide. I am what I am, i’m only human.

“To be courageous enough to the best version of yourself is the biggest success you will ever succeed” – James Keenan