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YOUR VOICE: Ten Years Ago…

Ten years ago today, Aug 8th 2003, Daniel was considering taking his own life.  A decade on, he relives his experience and why he is still around today to tell his story…

In August 2003 I suffered from a mental illness. A combination of psychosis, anxiety and depression left me I wanting to kill myself, as I thought it was the only way I could make it stop.  I had lost my mind and was unable to distinguish between the real world and misguided thoughts and voices in my head.  There was a gradual build up to the day in August where I decided that the only way to end it all was suicide.

The illness began at the start of 2003 but it was not until April /May that even I realised I was ill. Over the first few months of that year I started to notice some of my thoughts and beliefs were shifting from reality – it all started subtlety, but by June I had a false narrative and voices in my head.

When I say voices,  it was not random personalities.  It was more like my subconscious talking to me and commenting against every thought I had. It was not something I was able to talk to anyone about and kept to myself, hoping that it would go away and I would feel sane again.  That did not happen – in fact it was the complete opposite.

The thoughts and voices got louder and I had a constant stream of noise in my head. This carried on for a few months and it all got darker – I was beginning to hallucinate, became depressed and held a constant belief that I was going to die.

My thoughts had created a twisted weave of despair in which the psychosis fed off the anxiety.  I was constantly questioning every single thought and having daily panic attacks. All the time this was my secret – no one else knew that was happening.

As the summer moved on I became fixated with death and the fact I was going to die.  It is impossible to put into words the kind of beliefs I had.  Everything was fantasy, I felt like I was in a film and writing my own script on a daily basis.  Looking back I can’t believe I held it all together as long as I did.  I managed to sustain a working week and on the whole function around friends and family.

It was at the end of July things got really bad.  I was listening to the radio and heard a story about someone who had psychosis, could not live with it anymore and jumped in front of a train to stop it.  I tried to fight it for weeks, but it got to the stage where I wanted to do the same; I researched ways to kill myself and thought about the effects it would have on my family and friends.  Even after that – it seemed like the only option I had.

I am not going to go into the details but my plan was not able to go ahead due to my brother changing his plans for the day and being at home when I returned from work. That night I broke down and told my brother what was going on in my head.  I still have no idea how he dealt with it all so well.

This was the first time I had told anyone about the thoughts and voices in my head, and the dark world I was trapped in.  Suddenly everything intensified.  The voices got stronger – the belief I was going to die grew and I struggled more than ever.

I told my brother on a Friday night and on the Saturday I met my parents to tell them.  They did not really understand what was going on – none of us knew how to deal with it from here.  I felt weird – I was starting to tell people my dark secret – the thing that I carried for the last 6 months.  In many ways this started to make things worse.

On the Sunday I went home and was unable to sleep – I had a panic attack and could not shift the belief that I would die during my sleep that night.  My brother took me up to the hospital and after hours of waiting I was eventually seen by a doctor, given a Valium and sent home.

The next morning I went back and spoke to a doctor in the mental health department who said something to me that actually helped – ‘we see 100s of people like you every year’.  I suddenly realised I was not unique, i was not alone in my experiences – but before I knew it, I lost reality again and slipped back into my dark thoughts and the belief I would die before the end of 2003.

The months that followed were horrible.  I continued to have panic attacks and my mind played tricks on me – there was still the gap between my world and reality, but at least people knew what was happening.

I tried to be as open and honest to people as I could be, but the whole time I was questioning everything and although I knew I had a mental illness – I believed I was cursed and I had to find a way to free myself. I guess in some ways I did eventually free myself, but it took a long time.

I described my mind and thoughts like a ball of wool that was full of knots, the knots were misguided and over a period of 8 months I had to unlearn things and rebuild my sanity.  It was hard – I was in hell and there were so many times that I just wanted to give in.

A network of friends and family helped me get through.  I realised there was progress when I had a day without any dark thoughts, but then the next day it all came back.  After a while the moments of clarity lasted longer –relapses happened and I was knocked down again.  After a long, long time the bad times faded away and became less frequent.

In all honesty – I think it took be a good couple of years to fully rebuild myself and be able to look back on it all as an illness that I was cured from.  Over that year I questioned everything – I tried to find every possible way out of the pain and confusion I was going through – but in the end it was time, counselling and support that helped me.

When I first started telling people about what was happening to me, all I wanted was for someone to say to me – ‘I have been through the same thing and it will get better’.

That never happened and one of the reasons I am writing this, is in part, to document what I see as a massive milestone for me, but more a way of helping others who are suffering from mental illness.

There is no shame in saying you are ill, sometimes it can seem like a dark secret, but it is nothing to be ashamed about. Getting better takes time and you will have a roller coaster of ups and down but when the dust settles you will be a stronger person for going through it all.

Daniel is a musician who goes under the name Amongst The Pigeons.  You can follow him on Twitter @atpmusic

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12 Responses to this article

  1. Thank you for sharing… my cousin has been going through something very similar since the end of last year…and my grandad was in hospital for 2 years due to manic depression. It is nice to know that things do get better … hope you’re happy now 🙂

    much love xxx

    tiny-pie 8th August 2013 at 12:42 pm
  2. I have been through the same thing and it will get better

    Ananymous 8th August 2013 at 7:39 pm
  3. I have,for 7 years, lived with someone who has bipolar. This gives a huge insight into the depressive phase. It’s brilliant you are well and thank you so much for having the courage to share this. I have passed it on to the girl I love.

    Scott 8th August 2013 at 7:40 pm
  4. hi daniel-
    i wish i knew you in 2003 so that i could tell you that i’ve also gone through something similar and that you can get through to the other side. i was always a sad kid, quiet, shy, no self-esteem, scared, etc and it just got worse when i hit puberty. we all know that changing hormones can make the most “sane” kid go crazy and for me, it just plunged me deeper into my long standing depression. i tend to get a bit obsessive as well, and since music was a big part of my life, i got a bit obsessive about a few bands, the cure being the worst. my voices were conversations that i had with robert smith and there were times when i actually thought they had happened in real life. it was very odd, since a bigger part of me knew it was a delusion, but it was still better than the life i was leading. which honestly, was pretty good. all my pain was self-inflected by my own brain and i often felt guilty for feeling to black. my worst period was around 16-18 and then it started getting better. my obsessions lessened and i didn’t feel so crazed (i was able to completely say good bye to robert smith when the cure released “pictures of you” it really was my story) i still suffered through pretty severe bouts of depression and it took me a long time to figure things out and get myself together. between medication, support & love from friends & family and growing up, i’m in a much better place. i don’t really like to think about those early years and i rarely talk about it.
    glad to hear that you have made out of your black hole. depression can make you feel like you are the only person in the world suffering but try to always remember that there are others out there holding a hand out to help you out and up.

    traci-ann 8th August 2013 at 7:51 pm
  5. Thank you for this! This is really great timing – I actually have a dark dark day today…
    I so know the feeling of it getting worse after first talking about it – I did in January and eversince that, every night I am scared to fall asleep because I just do not want to wake up in the morning anymore.
    I have to admit, I dont feel better when reading that there are others who have survived this, but at least it somehow feels like a sign that this is not the right day for everything to be over.

    L. 8th August 2013 at 8:00 pm
  6. Thank you for sharing. I find it helpful to journal how I feel. It is hard sometimes with the “noise” in my head. I am bipolar but choose not to disclose my illness. For me it is worse with people knowing. I am glad you have people in your life you can trust. It is nice to get online and find others who know what it is like to live this life. I like knowing I am not alone but must admit, I do not like being told what I feel is “normal”.
    That said, I am definitely in a better place than I was 8 years ago. I chose to get help and while it is not always an easy road, it has made all the difference in my life.

    Justme 8th August 2013 at 8:15 pm
  7. as i sit here my eyes are leaking…..thank you so much for posting this and frank turner for putting the link up…..my son gave in to those voices{in his head or those of his friends]and took his life 5 years ago….i still don’t understand…he never showed any signs and never spoke to any one about the pain he was in…on all account just a normal 19 year with friends and plans for his future….to get a peek into into what was going on in your head was eye opening….i wish he to had reached out….there is a way to cope..ask for help…the road may not be smooth and filled with bumps and detours along the way …but reach out…i talk about the power of one all the time…one bullet one rope one hand of pills to end a life.but one friend to make one call to save one friends life is the best power of one there is….today you are that one friend sharing …getting help…giving some one the understanding of reaching out and knowing there is a way …thank you..lil ray’s mom

    lil ray,s mom 8th August 2013 at 8:20 pm
  8. To L @ 8:00 pm,
    Its 9:40 pm here in Atlantic Canada and great timing on reading your post would be the understatement of the year. I’ve suffered from depression on and off again all my life. The last few years have been especially difficult for me because I drove through an intersection when someone ran a red light. I was busted up bad, really busted up and nearly died. I deal with the consequences of that day on a daily basis. Every day I wish that I hadn’t survived the accident, EVERY DAY. I can’t work for a few different reasons and am still waiting to settle so I can start life again.
    I didn’t have a girlfriend, house or family of my own at the time I was hit, which I am truly grateful for.
    My friends say that I’m not the same person I used to be. I’ve been trying to suffer in silence in some twisted effort to keep them from feeling bad about whats happened to me since there isn’t anything that they could do to help.
    I met a girl 2 years into my post accident life that I wanted to spend my life with so much(such as it is) but now its 8 plus years post accident. We aren’t together anymore (recent development) the last 6 years haven’t been easy for either of us and its taken its toll. She tried to wait it out with me for the “someday” when we could have a home and the means to start a life but its been too long and she can’t wait any longer. Now I’ve had to move home with my parents. Being 38 years old and having to move home with my parents after my girlfriend moved out and broke off the relationship is almost enough to make me pull the trigger…
    I break down in tears 5 or 8 times a day, depending on how busy I can keep myself and how many times I’m reminded of her.
    I’m not scared of falling asleep, not that its that easy, but every day I do wake up, it pisses me off that I woke up at all.
    Your right, reading that similar things happen to a lot of people doesn’t seem to help very much now but at least you can see that we’re not alone feeling this way.
    I hold on tight to the idea that I could have been so much more seriously injured or in a wheel chair or worse, my Doctors at the time used terms like miraculous and amazing to describe my recovery but now I’m “walking wounded” as my injuries aren’t visible to anyone that doesn’t know who I used to be and still aren’t visible to anyone that hasn’t lived with me.

    Cockroach

    (cause you can’t kill em)

    Aaron 9th August 2013 at 2:39 am
  9. hey Aaron,

    thank you for your words and a good morning from the other side of the world – woke up again…
    you are right falling asleep is bloody difficult and lying there and having the time to think is like war with myself.
    It is the same here – it has been like that all my life, sometimes really bad and sometimes not that serious but is has always been there.
    I am 27 now, have a son of 3 years, I should be happy, but I just do not have enough love for myself, I guess… Have the little one to hold on to but I know that it is also terrible for him to have a mother like me, always sad…
    well, have to get to work now and pretend that the world is great… it is just so tiring!

    L. 9th August 2013 at 7:04 am
  10. L. I am a mom of 3. What I have to believe is that I do my best. Maybe, their journey with me is teaching them compassion, understanding, openness and awareness. I do not disclose my illness for the most part but I am honest with my kids. It is because of them that I am here and because of them that I initially sought help. My oldest son, in high school, struggled and came to me for help. One of the most difficult things I have been through. But the thing is…he DID come to me and we got him help. If I hadn’t been here, I couldn’t have done that. It is not always obvious the difference we make in other people’s lives. Take care.

    Justme 10th August 2013 at 12:03 am
  11. Daniel thank you for using your blessing with music spread knowledge of this. I am twenty one and just found out I’m bi polar. Growing up I thought all the depression and questioning everything I did and my purpose in life were results of my home situation and what I have been through. I found myself in your same situation in which I had a date that I was going to finally escape these feelings permanently. like you something happened and it wasn’t my time to go. I’ve battled addiction myself and suffered the effects of watching loved ones do the same. Everytime I pick up my guitar all of it makes sense and I feel like there is a reason to get up everyday. Music helped keep me here. Use your music to help to do the same for others. Keep up the hard work.

    - 10th August 2013 at 6:53 am
  12. Hi again L, Woke up again today… dammit all. (lol bad joke). I’ve been trying drown my demons lately but I tend to do it alone and apart from friends or family. The best part is that I’m smart enough to know that this will only make things worse in the end but I feel a little better drinking at the bar sitting alone feeling like I’m anonymous. If nobody knows me or how much I’m suffering somehow it feels a bit better.
    Since I’m “retired” (its what I tell people that ask me what I do) I have way too much time to think, of how difficult my life is now with an acquired brain injury and chronic pain from having 13 or 14 bones fractured at once. Once I came out of the coma people flocked to my hospital room, there was a constant stream of friends, family, co-workers and even X girlfriends over the month I spent in the ICU. Having little or no idea how badly I was hurt, I did what I`ve always done and minimized as much as possible telling everyone that I was a lot harder to kill than this and that I`d be fine. But by now I`ve managed to alienate every one of the people I used to call friends, just not doing anything that they do or that I used to do, they`ve all tried to help me out inviting me to various functions over the the last few years but when you always have some reason that you can`t or won`t its not too long before they stop calling. So my loneliness and depression is made worse. Then I just don`t feel like I`m fit for anyone to be around and the circle perpetuates itself.
    I still love to be outside in nature either walking or riding my atv, although I always seem to go by myself. I`m spending way too much time alone but if I do go out with others it only seems to make the depression that much worse being around people that are happy and still have full use of their brain. To the point that their happy lives make me angry, not at them specifically but more that I can`t remember what it is to be happy or what kind of person I used to be.
    Have to stop thinking about it for a little while.

    Hugs

    Aaron.

    Aaron 10th August 2013 at 4:12 pm

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