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The Unforgettable Echoes of Northern Ireland - My Path to Psychology

Growing up, I was the ultimate ‘Good Girl’. I tried hard at school, did my homework and tried my best to be normal.

My earliest memories of school in Northern Ireland were not particularly positive. I was most definitely ‘othered’ - an English girl in Northern Ireland, my dad in the army.

I was different too. I clearly learnt to keep my mouth shut. I’ve been told about one incident - but I couldn't say I remember it. I was probably 7 or 8, and I must have been annoying the crap out of my teacher. She hit me. My parents never hit me. So I was probably fairly shocked by this. And I scared the crap out of my mum by randomly turning up on the doorstep during school. Walking out of school during the day and walking the ½ mile home alone. During the 80’s.

In addition to fire alarm drills at school, we had bomb alerts too. We had to go much further in the playground for bomb alert drills.

I’ve also got a scar on my forehead. A boy in my class was teasing me about being English and then slammed a door in my face. I can remember walking back to class, leaving drops of blood behind me like a macabre Hansel & Gretal.

We lived in Lisburn, the same place where we attended a fun run in the summer of 1988. The IRA planted a car bomb in a van and murdered 6 British Army Soldiers who (along with my dad!) were running a half marathon/fun run to raise money for disabled people. They also injured 11 civilian bystanders, including a two-year-old child and an 80-year-old man. Luckily we were all safely home by the time this happened, as my dad was really good at running.

By watching the news, we saw bodies piling up on both sides. Car bombs, stabbings, people in balaclavas going into people’s houses and murdering families. Children. At least 186 children were killed between 1969 and 2006, according to the book Children of the Troubles by Joe Duffy and Freya McClements. A book I can’t bring myself to read as I fear that it would open a can of worms.

My recurring childhood dream featured all my family being murdered in the night by men in balaclavas. Before we got into our car, our parents used mirrors to check under the cars for bombs. This was normal. I never felt safe.

It’s absolutely no wonder that when I grew up, I wanted to be a criminal psychologist who worked with the police to catch ‘bad guys’. (Until I learned that was a made-up job!)

Still, is it any wonder that I chose the psychology field? To understand why people do the things they do. Good and bad.

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