Everybody has a book in them, or so it's said. But it's something else again getting it onto the page and to a place where it might be shared.

I have been writing since I was a young child. Always, my dream was to see my name on the spine of a book. Books gave me life, a dream to live by. Through their portals I could escape so easily into other worlds. Books also saved my life ... yes, really!

This is the story of my books and my journey as an author, including a very personal view of my journey through Life. I hope it will inspire and give hope to writers and readers young and old.

Getting published can be a waiting game. It's hard .. and getting harder. But then sometimes it can happen in an unexpected way and suddenly, we truly are living our dream. And we realise that it isn't after all the winning that is important, but the journey that is ours along the way.

I would love to hear from anyone who connects with what is written here. A signed copy of any of my books is available. You have only to write and ask:

Friday 20 January 2017


'Nightmare', copyright: Janine Harrington
A soldier walking along the roadside in Afghanistan witnesses the death of his colleague and friend. Years later, spending Christmas with his family, they switch on the TV at the end of a day, chatting and laughing, relaxed in the easy atmosphere around them. Suddenly, a shot is fired on a film. The young man instinctively ducks, body crouched, eyes alert, furtively looking for signs of the enemy. He's reaching for a gun which is not there. His head whips this way, then that, seeking out the rest of his battalion. Why can't I see them? Are they safe? When was the last time I saw Tim? Trapped in the hell of his past, his actions are ragged, taut, emotions stretched to breaking point. He hears nothing of what is going on around him as slowly, he withdraws to a place deep within himself. Finally, he drops to the floor, folding and hunched like a fetus in the womb, unable to stop his emotions breaking free, sobbing, hysterical, frustrated, anguished, despairing. Nothing makes sense. His sister has never seen her brother like this. She doesn't understand. Concerned for his welfare, immediately she switches off the television and draws to his side, kneeling beside him on the floor, drawing him into her close, hugging and holding, speaking soft in his ear that he is safe, protected, loved. That's all that matters now.

A lady is driving her Citroen down a road she's travelled many times before. She's heading home on a normal weekday, humming along to a tune on the radio. Unexpectedly, from around a corner, a car veers to her side of the road ... slamming into her with such force metal buckles, the windscreen shatters, her body, like a rag doll, is thrown against the steering wheel, held from going further by the seat belt straining tight across her body. Years later, she is still reliving those moments, regurgitating the past, repeatedly feeling the violent thrust of the car careering into her ... seeing the road ahead fragmented through the shattered windscreen ... hearing the crunch of metal ... the smell of burning ... while her chest remains restricted, unable to move, Time held on 'Pause'. Her confidence is so shaken she cannot drive. Even getting into a car or any moving vehicle is tortuous as the crash replays over and over in her mind. She can't switch it off. It's stuck on a loop, while she remains lost in moments from the past.

A girl is taunted in the school playground. She knows the bullies, but doesn't understand why it's happening to her. They take her satchel, tearing her books, ripping up carefully-written homework, removing vital pens, throwing them from one to the other, all the time chanting stupid rhymes about her, calling her names. Once the bell rings and they're inside a classroom, still they target, pulling her hair, tormenting whenever the teacher's back is turned, dragging her chair from under her. At playtime, she hides in the toilets. They know where she is and they bide their time. While she sits, contemplating the dynamics of taking off her tights, looping them around the pipework above, inserting her head in a noose and jumping from the toilet seat in an effort to end her hopeless life filled with despair. Tens of years on, in the workplace, she's still trying to identify the bully. There's always one. She feels weak, vulnerable, helpless in stopping petty acts carried out against her. While at night she hears again the taunts in the playground, seeing faces glaring, spitting, provoking her into a reaction that doesn't come ... other than running away. Her spirit was broken long ago. She supports and helps others, knowing and understanding their need, but inside feels a complete wreck, a nobody, someone who counts for nothing at all.

A small child is sexually abused by a specialist at a hospital she attends three times a week for treatment. Abuse started at the age of four years old. By the time she returns home with her mother a long bus ride away, she remembers nothing of her ordeal. It is blocked somewhere deep within her mind, where bad secrets gather. All she recalls is the donkey ride at Kennards, and the drink and cake in a cafe. Otherwise, there are no words to describe what happened, or a way of making sense of her ordeal on the couch behind the dark green curtains of the cubicle. By the time she reaches home, she remembers nothing about it - a safety mechanism which helps her survive, although something prompts her to wear dungarees and five pairs of knickers each time her hospital appointment comes round. In teenage years, she is sexually abused by a music teacher both at his home and at school. The feelings she experiences are somehow familiar. Meanwhile, she has no idea how to stop her abuser, much less who to tell, adopting the belief it's all she is worth, and who will believe her anyway? She becomes withdrawn, depressed, enveloped in a tsunami of emotion including panic attacks, unaccountable fear, deep depression and dread. She feels so bad inside, she self-harms. It's a way of externalising her pain. Only in later life do puzzle-pieces of memory return, finally making sense of secrets hidden somewhere dark and deep inside which only now begin to surface. Today, she remembers it all. But despite years of therapy, she continues to carry a lead weight in the pit of her stomach, unable to shake free from past pain and fear. Like a rabbit caught in a car's headlights, she can unexpectedly become frozen in Time, her mind filled with swirling images, taking her back to the room where it happened, unable to break free of her abuser and his control over her life, still feeling the pain, the shame, wondering who she might have been had it never happened to her.


Each experience different, yet in the aftermath, filled with the same gamete of emotions.

However long or short the trauma, its effects can last a lifetime.

This is known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It can happen to anyone at any point in their life - any age, sex, creed, colour, affecting that person forever. Trauma can come from:
  • natural disasters - such as a tsunami, a flood, a landslip
  • car crashes
  • sexual or physical assaults, by someone known or who is a stranger
  • torture and enforced confinement
  • witness or involvement in an horrific event
  • terrorist attacks
  • combat during wartime
It represents a cauldron of extreme anxiety and fear, which, when triggered usually by what other people would consider everyday experiences; bubbles over, leaving its victim petrified, confused, disorientated, afraid, helpless, so caught up in their past experience it is as if they are actually there, living it over again. In turn, they dis-associate from present day activities, entering what is referred to as a 'Fugue State'.

Everyone dis-associates to a certain extent. An obvious example is when driving a car on a motorway. Driving mile after mile after mile, it becomes monotonous and, without realising, you go on automatic pilot. Thoughts trickle through your mind ... what to have for tea, how to spend the evening, or puzzle over a thorny problem at work. Suddenly, you're jolted back to reality with no idea how much time has passed, or where you are. A 'Fugue State' is similar. It can be triggered by an everyday event linking back to that past historic trauma, drawing that person back in time, feeling as if it's happening again, until something jogs them back to the present and they're left with residual feelings that linger.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was first realised during the Civil War when it was known as 'Soldier's Heart'. During the First World War, the horror of fighting in the trenches, seeing friends blown up, lives shattered, families gone, sitting in the dark waiting for the enemy to strike, understandably took its toll. It became recognised as 'Shell Shock'. Later, during the Second World War, it adopted the label 'Combat Fatigue'. However, for those unfortunates labelled 'LMF' as it became known: 'Lack of Moral Fibre'; it became a living hell as they were bullied for being cowards, 'less-than', showing what everyone else was feeling but keeping hidden for fear of being treated the same. The condition may have been around for thousands of years, yet still it remains difficult to diagnose, controversial, and those experiencing it misunderstood ... which only makes their condition worse.

Living with PTSD means:
  • recurrent nightmares
  • acting or feeling as though the trauma is happening again, known as 'flashbacks'
  • having physical symptoms - a surge in heart rate, sweating, shivering and shaking, lack of concentration, disorientation, memory loss, inability to easily speak or share, an incredible fear and gut-wrenching sadness, panic attacks, hysteria, paranoia, a desperate need to feel safe
  • difficulty sleeping
  • high levels of anxiety
  • irritability or outbursts of anger
  • feeling constantly 'on guard', as if danger lurks around every corner
  • loss of interest in important, once positive activities
  • isolating oneself, avoiding public places and people, yet at the same time needing company, but not knowing who to trust, who might listen and care
  • seeing the world around losing its colour, seeming flat and empty
  • loss of positive feelings such as happiness and love
Many people try to dull the pain they carry caused by trauma by taking drugs or alcohol. It's the reason they can't be helped because drugs and alcohol are not the real issue. It's the trauma that lies beneath. No-one can help or truly be effective until or unless they reach a point when they need to help themselves. It has to be in their own time.

There are no remedies. No cure. Nothing that can become a quick fix, or take away the memory of what happened, no matter how many years ago.

All it really takes is for someone to be there no matter what, someone to care and support, willing to simply listen and learn. Even if they don't understand, it's vital to offer a hug, to sit and just be. Whatever actions they display, it's important to realise it isn't their fault. They are not to blame. It was the trauma which put them in the dark place they are today. More than anything else, they need understanding and love. Building trust is key to finding a way through the memories which continue to haunt. The phrase 'You should be ... this, or that or the other' doesn't have a place. Nor should people judge. There are many quotations on this theme:

'Never judge someone without knowing the whole story. You may think you understand, but you don't.'

'Walk a mile in my shoes, see what I see, hear what I hear, feel what I feel, THEN maybe you'll understand why I do what I do, 'till then, don't judge me.'

'Not everyone thinks what you think, knows the things you know, believes the things you believe, nor acts the way you would act. Remember this and you will go a long way in getting along with people.'

What is important to anyone living with PTSD is identifying the triggers which cause reactions, taking you back to a place you don't want to be, reviving memories, and with them the reliving of the trauma over and over and over again. Once you know what your triggers are ... and there may be many ... then be prepared. Know what to do when they come if you can't remove or avoid them. Triggers can be diverse, including all of our five senses.

For me, my main triggers are:
  • the colour green ... the kind of green which was left over from the Second World War and many places ended up in the early 1950s being painted that particular shade, including the hospital where I was abused.
I never wear the colour green for this reason, and inadvertently, without me even realising I'm doing it, as I enter a room, I'm glancing around, on the look out for that particular colour. If it's there, then I divert to a different room if that's possible, or else turn my back, putting the memory of it behind me.
  •  hospitals and dentists
It's a known fact that survivors of abuse particularly are phobic in the extreme about both. It has never been explained as to why dentists, apart from being invasive.
  • someone delving unexpectedly into my past, questioning, pushing, judging, without respecting my wishes to stop, or to change the subject
Exploring someone's trauma to know what happened is one thing. Examining it in detail is something else. Wanting to satisfy one's curiosity, or worse, preparing to disbelieve or challenge what happened when someone has had to live with the effects of that trauma most of their life is tantamount to secondary abuse. The person who experienced the trauma has to be the one in control, the one who chooses to share ... and that in itself is an incredible privilege because it means they are giving you the gift of trust.
  •  the dark
I always have lights on when I go to bed at night. Always. Memories of what happened in the past comes alive in darkness ... especially so if unexpectedly there's a powercut. It means I freeze like the rabbit caught in a car's headlights. I can't move. Even to reach the torch under the stairs.
  •  raised voices, arguments
I never argue. People can call it 'a discussion', but when it gets heated, then that's me ... gone! Again, it evokes scenes from the past, drilling through feelings from another time, other people, different places, and walking away is about protecting myself ... and I have that Right!
  •  someone drinking, becoming loud, or being around when people come out of pubs/clubs
I don't drink alcohol. I have never taken drugs, other than prescription-based from the doctor. I have worked with addicts of both and earned their respect through listening to the pain behind what has become their crutch to get through life. I don't know why I never followed this path. I just feel it would have given me a completely new set of problems when I already had more than enough to cope with. Now I avoid any situation which might take me where someone has drunk too much.
  •  living alone
There's something called 'The Domino Effect'. Living alone, cocooned with my problems and daily stresses of life, it's easy for one thing to trigger  reactions from the past  ... until they're all lined up like soldiers on parade, and once one falls, it brings down the rest, leaving me in a very dark, deep and lonely place, locked inside with only past memories for company. Feeling isolated, vulnerable, fearful, helpless, are feelings which I live with on a day-by-day basis. It's harder because there is no-one to talk with or share. I can go days without seeing anyone. My instinct is to pull up the drawbridge, withdraw, snuggle into my womb-like existence. But the longer that happens, the harder it is to open the door and step back out into the world. So I set myself targets, small challenges, living on a dot-to-dot basis, ensuring I know where that next essential 'dot' will be, looking no farther than the day ahead. I have a Lunch Club I can attend on a Monday to get my only home-cooked meal of the week, and other points of contact to which I go to be among people. This is vital to a survivor. It is then you can hold your head high, and say with conviction:

'Before you start to judge me ... step into my shoes and live the life I am living and if you get as far as I am ... just maybe you will see how strong I really am.'

There are many many triggers, everyday triggers, the trauma doesn't go away, but lives on in memory, its effects known and lived with daily. I have worked as a Counsellor with countless people who have experienced trauma, and continue to live and manage their trauma and its effects today. Sharing with someone who has experienced the same is the best way forward, realising you're not alone, learning from them in the sharing how they manage their life today, in the aftermath of trauma. It is possible to share without words because you already know ... you've been there, you understand the emotion as your own. Sharing is a powerful force. It breaks the control that trauma has over you. It allows you to realise you can take back your life. It doesn't mean you won't ever be affected again. But be prepared. Understand your triggers. Know what to do when they come. Have a safe place to go, a safe person you trust to talk to. Don't build walls around yourself. In the end, instead of a protective shield, it will become your prison. You need to break free.

Don't be afraid to be yourself. Your true self. Have the confidence to smile, to live, to laugh, as well as to cry oceans of tears. After all, you survived. That in itself is cause for Celebration!

'Never forget that walking away from something unhealthy is brave ... even if you stumble a little on your way out the door.'

'Sometimes walking away has nothing to do with weakness, and everything to do with strength. We walk away, not because we want others to realise our worth and value, but because we finally realise our own.'

Guardian Angel, copyright: Janine Harrington

Monday 9 January 2017


Fragmented Life
At first sight, the room appears bare. Spiders lurk in the shadows, spinning lacy orb webs, stretching them across wooden table and chairs, bringing specters of art to an otherwise blank canvas. Dust chokes this isolated world. Time stands still. It remains a fractious kingdom, elements of ill-temper and pique producing knots in its atmosphere, creating a restless silence and broody gloom.

Out of the shadows hovers a figure. Wraith-like, it weaves around the room, following a familiar pattern. Bare feet lightly touch floor boards, an arm dangling down each side of its body as, slowly, it edges to a window covered in grime. Outside, Common Chickenweed, Shepherd's Purse and Thistle remain snagged by Galium aparine. They create a live tapestry of intertwined threads in variegated greens and browns, spiralling up towards the light, reaching for freedom, gripped by the ties that bind. The garden is rampant. Small white trumpets of bindweed provide the only smudges of colour in an otherwise monotone display of common shades of grey, ranging between black and white. A gate hangs from its hinges. While beyond stretches a footpath leading to a world raked with colour, sights, sounds, memories caught in a whisper of wind ... and people.

She's been alone too long.

Yet this day is somehow different to all which have gone before. Even the spiders cease their endless spinning and cautiously wait to see what might come.

The girl dressed in long shapeless attire folds back into the shadows. But then, her foot appears on the edge, half-lit by an unexpected beam of sunshine, shafting through a gap in the grime on the window. Another foot follows, An air of expectancy fills the room. It is so unexpected she gasps, audibly, elevating a spiral of dust. Her gaze turns to the window, eyes feverishly roaming through the wilderness outside, seeking, searching for she knows not what. The path, the gateway leading to another world ... someone is coming!

Someone is coming ... soon!

Quickly, she reaches for the farthest corner of the room. Once there, her head falls, fearful of gazing into a cracked mirror hanging there. Caught in the moment between then and now, again she steps to the window ... before circling back to the mirror on the wall.

It's been so long ... too long. Who is it who's coming? What will they think? How will they react?

At first, she doesn't realise she's spoken the words aloud. But the sudden sound of her voice makes her jump. She yearns for human company. To feel again the pleasure of sharing. To know she isn't alone ... not any more ... not for as long as that person stays. Yet another part of her remains nervous, on edge. Why? For so many, she realises it's the most natural thing in the world to hear someone at your door, to drink tea with a friend, to chatter and laugh easily. For her, however, it creates a crack in her world, as if something has been undone. She is reminded of words echoing through Time ...

'Beware, the walls of protection can too easily become your prison, entrapped, ensnared.'

Is that how it feels now?

Looking up releases an image in her mind of what she once was like once upon a time.

Now, gazing intently into the mirror ... she seeks out that same image, knowing realistically it would have changed. But then again, unprepared for the sight before her.

She stands for a long time. Looking, searching, willing for what is meant to be there to show.

The looking glass gazes back at her, as if challenging her concept of what she might expect. But now the thread of thought again summons up courage, and she responds to the challenge, eager now to see her reflection in the glass.

But ... there is nothing there.

Through the glass of the mirror, no image gazes back at her. There is only the smudged mirror. The glass. An image internalised. It is as if she is lost forever. Forgotten, abandoned, a figure unknown.

I first had this dream when my daughter was a teenager. I remember sharing it with her, looking for reasons why my image would not have shown in the mirror. Was I a ghost? Had I died? If I died, how did that happen? What was I doing in this cottage? It fitted no memory of a past life. How might that feel? Where was everyone else in my life? Why was I so alone? Was it a premonition? In turn, my daughter used my dream to forge a story which helped gain her a GCSE. While the same dream has returned to me many times over the years.

Today, often it feels as if I am now living that dream.

Okay, my garden isn't quite the jungle portrayed, and my home is better equipped than that of the girl. Otherwise, I can empathise with her feelings. I know what it is to be that alone, that afraid, off the radar to the extent that it's as if nobody knows I'm here. Left alone long enough, it's something which puts you on automatic pilot. Days pass. You have no idea any more of the date or the time. Everything slots into place the way it should, because it happened that way yesterday and the day before, and all the days before that. Loneliness can be like a death. And I'm talking now about being totally alone ... without having anyone come to visit, with no family or friends in the area, and the onus being on you to go out for everyday needs, or do without. It's so easy to feel like the wraith in my dream. And then, if you go out, to feel invisible. The longer you are alone, the more it settles in you, affecting you inside out to the extent that, to be with people can actually feel frightening, and you hurry back to your burrow, to the comfort of at least a place you know well. Any change is startling. It throws you off balance. And when you don't have happy memories to look back on, you live in the here and now. A moment by moment existence. 

Oh, don't get me wrong! It isn't that we don't want to be a living part of the world. It isn't we don't want to feel wanted, needed, loved. It's just that we exist in a fragile world. A fragmented world. We dread something going wrong with the TV because it's our lifeline to what is happening outside. Little worries and frustrations get blown out of all proportion. 

No-one can understand this way of living unless they have shared the experience!

At night, as darkness falls, we gather all shreds of comfort around us, threading them together like one huge comfort blanket, trying to identify something to hang on to through the long hours which lie ahead. Sleep can be bliss when it comes. Switching off from thoughts, nagging doubts, living in isolation. During sleep, our souls break free, reaching for the stars and visiting. While we wake to another morning early, ensnared in panic attacks grinding deep in the pit of our stomach which forces us out of bed ... or if we're disabled, pain forces us to go in search of the 'Pill Party' to enable us through another day.

'I'm so lonely I don't even want to be with myself any more.'

'Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.'

'We sometimes think that all we want is to disappear, when all we really want is to be found.'

'I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It's not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.' Robin Williams

'If you don't understand my silence, how will you understand my words?'

'The biggest disease known to mankind is loneliness.'

There are so many ways of describing loneliness. But words don't even break the surface. It's all about emotion and what's going on inside. If you haven't been there ... you can never know. You can't really know unless you have no-one living with you or expected through your front door. You can't know until you spend days, weeks, months, deeply affected by the isolation of living alone, crying oceans of tears, swimming through layer upon layer of unspoken words, unshared feelings, and you switch on the TV to bring life, light, colour and sound into your home. No, it's not about pushing people away as someone once suggested. We don't push people away. But we do have the right to protect ourselves if we're being ridiculed, and/or abused verbally, mentally or physically, by drawing a definitive line under those who would do us wrong.

We have enough to cope with living on a day-by-day, moment-by-moment basis, without adding to our pain. 

Inevitably, in living alone, we have to accept that Life isn't going to come to us ... we have to force ourselves out, to forge sustainable relationships with people outside if we are to remain part of the community as a whole. It's the reason I sought out the very welcome and friendly Lunch Club on a Monday for my only home-cooked meal courtesy of the Salvation Army, where firm friendships are built and sustain us through long hours between. A friendly little bus of locals collects me for a trip to Morrisons on Tuesday afternoon where we spend an hour shopping, especially beneficial for heavy items such as milk and orange juice carried right to the front door by a courteous driver who started this service, using his bus for those who live alone. Ladies meet on a Wednesday afternoon for a Talk, followed by tea and biscuits. If I hadn't located these groups and got involved, I would still be utterly alone, as I was the first year and more after Tony left me. It isn't the life I intended. Nor is it one I would wish. But this is the reality of everyday existence. And if it wasn't for my writing, my Family at the Salvation Army, and my Kindred Spirit veterans and their families, I would truly have gone out of my mind, contemplating ending it completely.

Everyone has a gift.

Everyone should feel connected.

Everyone should have someone who supports, and helps them feel needed, valued, loved.

Everyone should have love flowing through their hearts and mind, in the firm knowledge that they are not really alone, and that they only have to reach out to find a friend.

Copyright: Janine Harrington