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Creeper's Ian Miles wants to normalise conversations about mental health

It’s been a little over two years since Ian Miles, guitarist of punk rock band Creeper, had a psychotic break. The events of which he has only begun to remember over the last six months. Ian believes the more we talk about our mental health issues, the more others will seek help for theirs. So he chatted to us about his hospitalisation, how he copes when things are a bit crap, and why organisations like CALM are so important.

Creeper started in 2014 after Ian Miles and his best mate Will Gould’s first band ‘Our Time Down Here’ ended. They’ve just released their sixth album ‘Sex, Death & The Infinite Void’, which got to number five in the charts. An amazing achievement given it was the most challenging album to make - some of which was written while he was in the hospital: “They let my wife bring a guitar in. And as soon as Will knew that, he would FaceTime me and he'd be like “Ian - I've got this melody that I want to put it in this part of the song but I can't find the right chord”. And it was strange because as soon as he said that, I just kind of snapped back into band mode”.

The day Ian was hospitalised has come back to him in fragments and he’s slowly pieced together what happened and he can recount the events of that day so candidly because he now thinks about it like a movie he watched. “Stuff started coming back in fragments, kind of like a dream. Like when you have really vivid dreams that feel super real. And then you wake up and you're like, ‘Oh, actually, was that real?’ But I'm so disconnected from it so I can talk about it without feeling bad.”

During a particularly pressurising period, when Creeper was writing their latest album, Ian stopped feeling the need to sleep and suddenly became obsessed with religion, believing that the police, government and the Mi5 were plotting to wipe out the population. And voices in his mind led him to believe he was on a mission to kill these people:

“I thought I was selected by this sort of revolutionary, underground cult. And I was sent for the Southampton regiment to go out and do my bit like a foot soldier. In my head, we were called ‘the soldiers of the apocalypse’. They could contact me via messages that I could see in front of me and they kept sending messages saying “good luck, you're doing really, well keep going”. And they gave me the power to kill people by blinking at them.”

After shouting at people in the street, threatening to burn down churches, and trying to enlist Will into the fold, Ian was eventually found and held down by friends as his wife called for an ambulance: “There was a really poignant moment before the ambulance arrived when I was pinned down and loads of people on the street walking past, were pointing and laughing and shouting stuff. This guy that came down from his flat and he had a towel that he had folded up. And he just put it under my head and said: "there you go mate” even though I was just screaming. In hindsight, that one little gesture was just such a monumental thing. I'll never forget that”.

Ian spent five weeks on a psychiatric ward, and it was only after three of those that he began to come around. Looking back now he laughs at some of the things he encountered: “We could stay up all night in the lounge area and I would stay up talking to the guys. And my mind was blown because one guy was talking about advanced computer science and another was talking to me about physics - like really in-depth stuff, and I was like "God, these guys are geniuses, how they end up in here?" but it turns out when I started coming around, I realised that they were actually just talking gibberish and my mind had made me believe something completely different.”

He went on to have therapy and attended “recovery college” where he has been able to learn about his triggers and coping mechanisms, but he really believes that it was his wife that got him through such a difficult experience: “My wife was the be-all and end-all of my entire recovery process. She was incredible. When I started coming round, she was my target, I was working my way towards her.”

Ian’s wife works in mental health services and had previously supported him when he had planned to take his own life. That was when he was originally diagnosed with bipolar, a condition that, at that time, he wasn’t convinced applied to him: “I was going to go to my happy place, a camping park in Cornwall I used to go to when I was younger, for some reason it made sense for it to happen there. So my wife went to work and I got up and packed all my stuff and I wrote a note. I walked down to the train station because to get down there I'd have to get a train to Southampton and then get on a coach to Somewhere in Devon and then another coach. Just before I got on the train I realised I didn't think a note would be enough. And I remember having a phone conversation with my wife, and she was really good - she managed to talk me down and then she came to get me.

"And the doctors said they believed I had bipolar. But I just didn’t believe it and decided I would just carry on. I was a bit of a sceptic. I didn’t want to admit it and I didn’t feel like I fit the stereotypical box for bipolar. But then a turning point for me was in recovery college where loads of people who had come through psychosis all had different stories and they all had different kinds of episodes. And it was like a little army sort of tackling the same demon. And then I realised that loads of people suffer from this and the fact that I had been diagnosed and I still hadn't realised how common it was, proved to me that more conversations need to be happening”.

Mental illness looks different for everyone. With such a broad spectrum, it can often be difficult to know what support someone needs. Ian wants to be part of these conversations, and with Creeper having a platform and following, Ian thinks it’s important to use it to do good. He’s received loads of messages from people thanking him for helping to normalise conversations about psychosis:

“The more it's talked about, the more it’s in the public eye, the easier it will be for people to understand it and feel comfortable enough to talk about. And I'm not just talking about people who suffer from mental health issues themselves. I'm talking about people who don't - people who don't necessarily have the understanding.”

"And that’s why organisations like CALM are so important because you’re there to normalise talking about mental health, but there's also the support that you offer. So it's the best of both worlds because you're there for people in their time of need. And you're helping destigmatise it for those same people. I first heard of CALM five years ago through a friend who was in a band. They were a band that had split up, and they got back together to put on a charity gig for CALM. You're helping people in more than one way. And I feel like that's really, really important”.

As well as surrounding himself with friends and family, who were vital to helping him get through his hospitalisation and recovery, Ian has found some great things to help him when he’s feeling a bit low, from walking the dog with his wife to playing video games. And the advice he’d give to others?

“When I can’t sleep because I have so much going through my mind or I’m thinking about something that happened ten years ago, I’ve got a notebook and pen and I just write it all down. It’s like plugging a USB into your brain, dragging all the information onto it and then leaving it for another day.

"But if you can build up the courage, or you're brave enough to talk to somebody about this stuff, chances are they'll be able to help you by either talking you through or talking you down. Or maybe they'll help you gain enough confidence to go and see a doctor because that first step is the most difficult”.

Get support

Need support? Worried about someone? CALM’s helpline and webchat are open daily 5pm-midnight. Get access here.

Have you been affected by suicide? The Support After Suicide Partnership is a hub for anyone bereaved or affected by suicide, where you can find emotional and practical support.