This weeks guest post is from Pete at Rolling Jovi where you can check out his photography. Pete has written about his experiences with paranoid schizophrenia, as well as coming to terms with his own sexuality amidst his specific mental illness and treatment from others.
Some readers may find the content of this post upsetting at times.
I grew up with two older siblings, with me being the youngest of them. I would also be the only one of the three to come out as gay. I came from a quiet family; our parents nurtured us with love and respect which would be passed on through us, as we were brought up to love everyone and accept everyone, especially those people that came from a background that wasn’t considered part of the wider population in the 1980s and beyond.
I knew from a very young age that I was slightly different in some ways to other students at school and those around me, but at that very young age I just wasn’t sure how at that point. My first experience of dealing with mental health was directly in my own family as my father had suffered for a number of years before my birth and still continues to do so. He would go on to have several admissions into a mental hospital and a few of those break down moments lingered in my mind, but didn’t seem quite so clear to me as I was always kept away from those things. I do remember my Dad being very upset once and what seemed like his whole world crashing down in a few split seconds. I don’t remember much of that if I’m honest.
I would later find out from my father that he used to hear voices, something that I would begin to experience from a very young age of eight years old. I mean I didn’t realise that what was going on was part of a mental health issue as it seemed so normal to me and my world. I was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes in December 1993 and shortly after the diagnosis it become more apparent that the voice that I was hearing was a running commentary of my ongoing life. The voice would comment on what I was doing all the time and even tell me to do things and not to do other things. It was purely random at times and sometimes it would shock me as the voice would say something out of the ordinary and I wouldn’t know what to do with that information. The voice carried on for many years, all through my teenage years and into my young adult life, up until I was about twenty-six years old.
I’d started a few years before this age experimenting with other guys and trying to figure out my sexuality and who I was. It was a very big struggle everyday as often I would wake up in the morning and convince myself that I was a straight man that would end up with a wife and family, which would make my family proud as well as myself. But this would be an inner turmoil of emotions that would go from one end of the spectrum to the other on the sexuality scale.
Often, I would consider my thoughts of gay feelings and emotions as being foreign to me and I didn’t like it at all. I hated that part of me and I wanted so desperately to cut it out of my life and terminate it quickly in the hope it would never return. To leave me in peace and let me live in a world where I wasn’t classed as different, one that I didn’t have to “out” myself to my family and friends. Where it had the feeling of me having to prove to others that I was just as normal as they were, but I was just a gay man.
At the age of about 26 years old the inner voice would end up multiplying and let loose a whole torment of abuse on me in a wave of rage and despair. Everything that I despised of myself would be told to me by these voices and they would not release me from that moment on. I would try to reason with them and make them come to an agreement that they would leave me alone if I did the things they asked me to do. I would try to open up a dialogue between me and the voices, but it would always break down in them telling me to end my life and how much better the world would be if I wasn’t around anymore.
They would tell me that my parents wouldn’t miss me and I was a failure to them, and they would be happier if they would just reject me and leave me to rot in hell where the voices said I would end up when I took my own life. I would try to find out more information from the voices, and after a bit of time they would reveal snippets of information that led me to believe that they were demonic beings that had been sent from God via Satan to punish me for all the wrongs they said I had done against people, for my thoughts of homosexuality, and what they called an immortal sin in God’s eyes.
The fact I was gay didn’t sit well with the demons and also, I thought, God. They would and still do play this argument to manipulate me into submission. They effectively want me to submit to them, and give up and let them determine my fate which would be the end of it, and then a trip to hell where I would suffer for eternity. That is the whole aim of the demonic beings – to send me directly to hell where they said I belong. I was brought up Christian, Church of England and would go into church from time to time and often ask God for help. He never seemed to answer my questions and he seemed to make sure I wasn’t listening if he did.
Even though as a Christian you would think I would be immediately against being gay, but my family brought me up to love and respect others that didn’t fit into the wider community, so I had no idea where this idea of hating on gay people and myself for being gay, came from. It all just didn’t sit right with me. I had researched about homosexuality and the Bible, the thoughts of religious leaders, the wider thinking of society when I was growing up. I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, and back then society would often frown upon people who were different. Being called “gay” at school was a nasty word, one that meant you were inferior in every way to your classmates. By being called gay it opened it up to be someone that was immediately submissive to society, you didn’t have any values, you didn’t have any “normal” beliefs and you sure weren’t considered “normal” if you WERE gay.
I kept my sexuality a secret from friends and family for many years, although I didn’t really have friends in secondary school or beyond. I was bullied in school and then when I joined the work force I was bullied again with the same ideas of being gay. I couldn’t work it out and I began to wonder if what I was doing or how I was acting was giving off an impression that I was gay and that everyone could figure it out for themselves. I went through many years again of bullying from my colleagues, and towards the end of my working life, which ended in November 2009, I was hearing more of the demonic voices outside and inside my head. It literally feels as if it is coming from every direction with nowhere to escape.
Towards the end of October 2009, leading on to my resignation from work and being signed off sick in November 2009, I suffered a few blows to my confidence and this hit me pretty hard. First, I lost my dog that I had raised from a young age, she had to be euthanised as she was suffering from a brain tumour.
Secondly, my demonic voices were getting me to overspend on credit cards and take out loans. I was spending all the time and it led to me just losing all of my financial security in a rather short time. Third, which is the last thing, as well as the bullying at work I suffered a loss of my long term partner and he ended up leaving me. This seemed to happen all at once, and the initial outcome of all these events was me being very paranoid and very confused with work, family, and social life.
It would ultimately end up me seeking help from my GP after the first intervention being hindered by the fact I wasn’t honest about what I was hearing and prescribed antidepressants for low mood. This increased my voices tenfold and it all broke down in a pretty rapid motion on the 15th November 2009. I woke up that morning and began to cry uncontrollably, I knew if I walked out the door that day and boarded the train to work that I would not come home that same day alive. I made a conscious decision to terminate my working life as of that day. The pressures had grown too much, and I was fighting a losing battle from every corner.
It was time to seek help again, this time with the help of my family. I visited the GP with my mother and I began to tell the doctor that I was experiencing some really unnerving things that I had been trying to deal with myself. He referred me on to secondary care services where I was then in contact with mental health services and trying to seek help and respite from the demonic voices I was hearing on a constant daily basis. I’m still interacting with mental health services to this day and require regular follow ups from a psychiatrist and a mental health care coordinator.
My point in all of this is never be afraid to be who you are; and I mean who you really are! Don’t feel ashamed to seek help and never feel bad for being someone you are naturally. I made those mistakes and still suffer on many levels nowadays. I’ve still got a long way to go with trying to calm the voices down, along with intrusive thoughts and thought broadcasting, mixed in with extreme paranoia and sleep deprivation.