The following piece by former republican prisoner Seamus Kearney is doing the rounds on social media. It offers an experiential insight  from his days as a H Blocks blanketman on coping strategies which others might find helpful during the current lockdown in a regime without precedent. 

The recent "Lock Down" as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic has generated a mixture of fear, frustration and deep anxiety among a lot of people, which is understandable.

The global pandemic has restricted the freedom of movement and curtailed peoples' lives to such an extent that they are now virtually prisoners in their own homes, which is an unprecedented phenomena. It is now the worst disaster since the "Spanish Flu" , which swept through Europe in 1918.

Without sounding condescending, I can fully understand those fears that people have, but would like to offer some helpful advice to all those who are feeling the strain during this difficult time of uncertainty. Having spent almost 10 years in prison, including over 4 years on the Blanket Protest, some of it in solitary confinement, I feel that I already have an insight into what we all are about to experience.

The following list of measures are not exhaustive, but may offer some guidance on how to cope and eventually overcome the current situation on a personal level. They were employed by myself during the period of the Blanket Protest and certainly helped me to overcome my surroundings at that particular time. They have been tried and tested, so may be useful to those who are about to be tried and tested in this new situation of the pandemic.


The Steps Are As Follows


Step 1: "I am not in this cell, this cell is within me". 

To avoid being overwhelmed and feeling "cabin fever", which a lot are now suffering from in Italy, we have to take control of our confined space, whether in a house, a cell or a room. The only way to do this is to mentally become stronger and not create a sense of panic within ourselves.

Step 2: "Being physically fit is being mentally fit". 

We do not have to be super fit.  But it is important that we all remain or become reasonably fit during this period of confinement. For example, stretching exercises, sit ups, crunches etc are easy ways to remain mobile and to avoid the body seizing up.

Step 3: "Mental Stimulus is vital to Mental Health". 

Keeping the mind active by reading fact or fiction is vital, as it prevents the mind from going into shut down. In my case, we had no books to read, so we improvised by telling stories or recounting films that we had seen earlier. This is a great source for mental stimulus,, but also raises morale within the group or family.

Step 4: "Take one day at a time". 

This is important as it reduces panic and anxiety, allowing the brain to pace itself and not get overwhelmed. We should not dwell too much on the news or media reports, as they can raise expectations, but at the same time lower expectations.

Step 5: "Hope for the best, while expecting the worst". 

Without undue panic, by taking deep breaths in the morning and at night, it allows us to level out and put things in perspective. The situation may get worse, or equally it may improve, but in any event, we have dealt with it before hand.

Step 6: "The food of Life". 

Don't be tempted to over-indulge in food and drink during this period of confinement, as being overweight will not help your mental or physical health. I never had that problem within the H Blocks because we were starved almost to death, but too much consumption of food and drink only adds to the lowering of morale and mental well being, leading to depression.

Step 7: "Be kind to others". 

If you can find within yourself a sense of comradeship or community spirit, then that is invaluable because it allows you to put others first before yourself. However, this can only be realised after a prolonged period and usually not after a short stint locked up, if it is to have a lasting effect.

Step 8: "Seeking out opportunities in times of limitations". 

By turning a negative into a positive, you will enhance your own life and the life of others around you. During this difficult period for all of us, you have the opportunity to tap into your reserves, reserves that you thought you never possessed, revealing your true character and changing the lives of those around you in a meaningful way, remembering that the true character of a person can never be revealed in times of normality, but only in times of strife.

Step 9: "Light at the end of the tunnel". 

There will always be light at the end of the tunnel if you have hope, so never give up, never despair, never lose hope. By believing in yourself and believing that people inherently are good, then you have nothing to fear in the long run. If you believe in God, which I do, then the power of prayer is immense and a comfort to the soul. In the morning, offer up your day for the greater good and put others in need before your own needs.

Step 10: "Plan for a brighter future". 

Don't squander the time spent in confinement. Instead, make use of it and plan ahead for the day when this period finally ends, which it will. If you have been selfish then cease being selfish and instead become selfless, it isn't that hard to do. When my comrade, Bobby Sands, was on the Blanket Protest and in the cell with a man from Derry City, he noticed that this man slept most of his day in the cell, only getting up to eat his meals. Bearing in mind that they were both locked in the cell 24 hours a day, Bobby didn't squander his precious time, but would be doing his exercises in the morning, taking Irish language classes and writing poetry. When he asked his cell mate;" What do you do all day ?", the man replied; "I sleep all day ". Bobby said, "Do you not think that it's such a waste of your opportunities, isn't it?".

I hope the above has been of some use to those who are feeling distressed, lonely and anxious. I am here if any of you need me, so do not be afraid.

Stay Safe.

Seamus Kearney, a former H Block blanketman, spent four years locked in a cell 24/7. Deprived of every physical and mental stimulation, he and his comrades survived by creating their own.

How To Survive Self - Isolation, Solitary Confinement And Restricted Movement - A Blanketman's View

The following piece by former republican prisoner Seamus Kearney is doing the rounds on social media. It offers an experiential insight  from his days as a H Blocks blanketman on coping strategies which others might find helpful during the current lockdown in a regime without precedent. 

The recent "Lock Down" as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic has generated a mixture of fear, frustration and deep anxiety among a lot of people, which is understandable.

The global pandemic has restricted the freedom of movement and curtailed peoples' lives to such an extent that they are now virtually prisoners in their own homes, which is an unprecedented phenomena. It is now the worst disaster since the "Spanish Flu" , which swept through Europe in 1918.

Without sounding condescending, I can fully understand those fears that people have, but would like to offer some helpful advice to all those who are feeling the strain during this difficult time of uncertainty. Having spent almost 10 years in prison, including over 4 years on the Blanket Protest, some of it in solitary confinement, I feel that I already have an insight into what we all are about to experience.

The following list of measures are not exhaustive, but may offer some guidance on how to cope and eventually overcome the current situation on a personal level. They were employed by myself during the period of the Blanket Protest and certainly helped me to overcome my surroundings at that particular time. They have been tried and tested, so may be useful to those who are about to be tried and tested in this new situation of the pandemic.


The Steps Are As Follows


Step 1: "I am not in this cell, this cell is within me". 

To avoid being overwhelmed and feeling "cabin fever", which a lot are now suffering from in Italy, we have to take control of our confined space, whether in a house, a cell or a room. The only way to do this is to mentally become stronger and not create a sense of panic within ourselves.

Step 2: "Being physically fit is being mentally fit". 

We do not have to be super fit.  But it is important that we all remain or become reasonably fit during this period of confinement. For example, stretching exercises, sit ups, crunches etc are easy ways to remain mobile and to avoid the body seizing up.

Step 3: "Mental Stimulus is vital to Mental Health". 

Keeping the mind active by reading fact or fiction is vital, as it prevents the mind from going into shut down. In my case, we had no books to read, so we improvised by telling stories or recounting films that we had seen earlier. This is a great source for mental stimulus,, but also raises morale within the group or family.

Step 4: "Take one day at a time". 

This is important as it reduces panic and anxiety, allowing the brain to pace itself and not get overwhelmed. We should not dwell too much on the news or media reports, as they can raise expectations, but at the same time lower expectations.

Step 5: "Hope for the best, while expecting the worst". 

Without undue panic, by taking deep breaths in the morning and at night, it allows us to level out and put things in perspective. The situation may get worse, or equally it may improve, but in any event, we have dealt with it before hand.

Step 6: "The food of Life". 

Don't be tempted to over-indulge in food and drink during this period of confinement, as being overweight will not help your mental or physical health. I never had that problem within the H Blocks because we were starved almost to death, but too much consumption of food and drink only adds to the lowering of morale and mental well being, leading to depression.

Step 7: "Be kind to others". 

If you can find within yourself a sense of comradeship or community spirit, then that is invaluable because it allows you to put others first before yourself. However, this can only be realised after a prolonged period and usually not after a short stint locked up, if it is to have a lasting effect.

Step 8: "Seeking out opportunities in times of limitations". 

By turning a negative into a positive, you will enhance your own life and the life of others around you. During this difficult period for all of us, you have the opportunity to tap into your reserves, reserves that you thought you never possessed, revealing your true character and changing the lives of those around you in a meaningful way, remembering that the true character of a person can never be revealed in times of normality, but only in times of strife.

Step 9: "Light at the end of the tunnel". 

There will always be light at the end of the tunnel if you have hope, so never give up, never despair, never lose hope. By believing in yourself and believing that people inherently are good, then you have nothing to fear in the long run. If you believe in God, which I do, then the power of prayer is immense and a comfort to the soul. In the morning, offer up your day for the greater good and put others in need before your own needs.

Step 10: "Plan for a brighter future". 

Don't squander the time spent in confinement. Instead, make use of it and plan ahead for the day when this period finally ends, which it will. If you have been selfish then cease being selfish and instead become selfless, it isn't that hard to do. When my comrade, Bobby Sands, was on the Blanket Protest and in the cell with a man from Derry City, he noticed that this man slept most of his day in the cell, only getting up to eat his meals. Bearing in mind that they were both locked in the cell 24 hours a day, Bobby didn't squander his precious time, but would be doing his exercises in the morning, taking Irish language classes and writing poetry. When he asked his cell mate;" What do you do all day ?", the man replied; "I sleep all day ". Bobby said, "Do you not think that it's such a waste of your opportunities, isn't it?".

I hope the above has been of some use to those who are feeling distressed, lonely and anxious. I am here if any of you need me, so do not be afraid.

Stay Safe.

Seamus Kearney, a former H Block blanketman, spent four years locked in a cell 24/7. Deprived of every physical and mental stimulation, he and his comrades survived by creating their own.

7 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  2. good man Seamy - putting this out there. If people get something out of it that gets them through the dark night, it will have been worth the effort.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Useful advice , but also an awful reminder of what was inflicted on you guys.

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  4. Go raibh maith agat Seamus.

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  5. Mackers - As always the case with yerself, when you produce a good article from someone inside, it's more often than not well written from the belly and not a wish to be an intellect. I find comfort in this man's words, we are going to need comfort and advice in the days ahead. A bit like the advice men such as yerself and Seamy offered to youngsters when the hard work was done and we were lost in despair of what now.

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  6. Some perspective needs to taken with this 'crisis': https://www.nisra.gov.uk/sites/nisra.gov.uk/files/publications/Weekly_Deaths_23.xls

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  7. Excellent gift to us from a dark place. What an example of mental strength.

    ReplyDelete