Voices Forum front page //// articles //// personal stories //// site index


INTO THE LIGHT
By Paul Smith*


This is an account of my experience with Schizophrenia and recovery. It is not a full-scale story about my life, only how my illness affected me and how I attempted my recovery.

Typing and lay-out by Graham E, August 2004

INTO THE LIGHT

The beginning

“Put the kettle on mam, is the dinner nearly ready? There's never nothing ever on telly on a Sunday. Bloody hell Frank, I had a right night last night.”
“What did you do?” said Frank.
“I went to a concert and I got incredibly drunk.”
“Oh bugger this, I'll put the radio on. There is nothing ever on telly. I'll see if there is any decent music on.”

It was Sunday dinnertime, 1982, late February. It was just a normal average Sunday, nothing peculiar going on. Mum was making the Sunday dinner and the Jimmy Saville hour came on the radio. There was a troubled man talking to Jimmy, about a terrible experience he has had.

About three years ago, he was walking down the street and a couple of young girls were walking up behind him. They were both giggling (like young girls do), and this man thought they were laughing at him. He started getting worried about this, and then shortly after he began to get paranoid, then something awful came over him and later he developed a psychosis.

He began thinking that everywhere he went people were looking at him and talking about him.

He added to Jimmy, he got a lot worse and ultimately he thought that people were plotting to kill him and this carried on, and then eventually he thought that the whole world was secretly scheming to kill him.

That poor man ended up strangling his own mother because he thought that she was in on the plan to kill him.

I was listening to all this and I immediately found myself thinking that I thought about the giggly girls behind me once just like the man on the radio. I started to sweat and feel fearful, that thought raced through my mind. I was really scared indeed. I didn't like it at all, so I dismissed it to the back of my mind. So far back that I just forgot or ignored them. The rest of the day went as normal. I went for a few pints that night and had a good night's sleep.

I got up the next morning for work. I was working for a food-processing factory, washing food trays in a carousel. it was a very normal ordinary day about eleven o'clock. I remember lifting a tray out of the carousel, at that moment the thoughts of yesterday on the radio came flooding back into my mind. This worried me so intensely that this time, I couldn't get the thoughts to go away. I started to talk to myself and the fear of this begun racing through my mind at an incredible speed. I was thinking of about ten different things once.

As the minutes went by, the more intense the fear grew. Then all of a sudden, I looked up at a fire hydrant on the wall. Then a terrifying feeling came over me. I was in a terrible state, so I went to the toilet, shut the door and sat down and lit a cig.

Immediately, a paranoid feeling set in. I thought that my work mates were going to notice that something was wrong with me, because I thought that some kind of horrific look was on my face. I looked in the mirror and I actually saw the fear and panic, so terrible that people would look and say, “ God, what is wrong with him?” (So obsessive, it wasn't true). Nevertheless, that is how I remember it then and through the whole of my illness.

I managed to get through till dinnertime and then I left the building and went for a walk to try and fathom exactly what the hell was going on. I went to buy something from the shop and it was here where I started to put an act on because I thought everyone could see what was going on with me. The shop keeper was just being normal but I actually saw the expression on her face, saying, “What's wrong with him?” (It was so obvious it wasn't true).

As I was walked around a bit, I remember thinking that I wished that it hadn't happened to me, that I wanted my mam because I was in a terrible state.

Anyway, I got home and I remembered having to put an act on in front of my mam and I wouldn't have to say a word to anyone at all about what had happened to me. As the night went on the fear began to ease and I calmed down that little bit. At that time I wasn't aware of the nightmare that was about to descend on my whole being. The hell that was about to transform my character and devastate every single happy go lucky thought I ever had. To drive me into a world of darkness and any normal feeling that I once cherished.

This was the beginning of an illness known as SCHIZOPHRENIA. (Not known to me then).

I awoke the next morning and I was hoping that it might have all been a dream, but it wasn't, it was as real as the day. I looked towards the curtain drawn and it's funny but every time I looked at something I thought it seemed bad.

I got out of bed and I remember trying to say to my parents that I had the flu or something like that. I said this just to cover the way I looked whereas I didn't want to go to work because of the intense fear I was feeling.

Anyway I did go to work and as soon as I started, the feeling of being paranoid grew intense. I thought that what was happening to me showed awfully bad on my face and the way I was acting. I got to a point where I even asked a friend if I looked ok because I think I have flu or something. He turned to me with a bit of a strange look in his face and said, “No I think you look pretty ok.”

For the next few months things just went from bad to worse. The anxiety got worse. Being paranoid got worse, and the fear grew more and more intense and I started drinking a tot more to try and drown these feelings I had.

Everywhere I went, I thought people were looking at me and talking about me. Because of the way I felt I thought intensely that I looked like I had just been crying, with my eyes red and bloodshot. But some of it was more intense due my drinking habits.

I knew that something was obviously wrong but I didn't know what or why.

These feelings basically went on for the next 2 years, gradually becoming worse and worse as time went along. I got the sack from my job because I took too many days off, all due to the fact that I couldn't face going in.

Furthermore, after 2 years I became very ill and desperate, so with reluctance, I went to see my doctor with the hope that I could see a psychiatrist, to find out what the bloody hell was going on.

This was the beginning of what I thought and hoped would be a speedy recovery but in a way it wasn't to be. (YET)

The early years

I was born and grew up in a quiet little town near Leeds on the the 11th March 1964. I have 2 brothers and a sister. Phillip the oldest brother, Frank the youngest and Margaret the oldest of all of us. We wasn't very well off in those early days, both mum and dad had to work to bring us up.

By the way, my name is Paul, Geoffrey, Smith*. My middle name was added because my brother Phillip had the same initials as me (P.H.) So to be different, on the way to my baptism, my dad said “lets call him Paul, Geoffrey.”

I spent most of my childhood, from 3 upwards, in a big 4 bedroom white house with a large garden. I had a very happy childhood, with a very normal upbringing, but as I look back now, I remember that sometimes things were not just right.

I remember that the few times I had the flu badly, I had very bad nightmares in which I was screaming out all night long. Thinking I was being dragged and trapped into a black hole and awful things like that. I remember one thing that I was not really here and this really stressed me out but went as quickly as it came.

We all skimped and scraped to get by and I remember my mum telling me a little story about the early days. She went one lunchtime to my dad's mill where he used to work, with only a shilling in her purse, and she told him that they had 3 options. One, that they could put a bob into the electric meter or 2, buy a loaf of bread to feed the kids, or 3, let my dad buy 10 woodbines. My dad said, “Let's feed the kids on some porridge we have, then let's light a candle so we can see, so that I can buy 10 ciggies with my shilling and so that's what they did.

My school life was pretty normal. I used to be a bit of a clown at times, making people laugh all the time and I used to drift off to places and daydream.

My first girlfriend was at the young age of 5; a lovely blonde haired girl called Mandy. I had my first real kiss at the age of 7 and when I got to my secondary modern school, at 11 years old, I started to worry a bit and I became self conscious with strong feelings.

By the age of 15 there was a bit of a dispute with teachers, who didn't really like me and I hated them as well, so my dad transferred me to another school, where I was a hell of a lot better. Because with school, I just didn't want to know (I hated school). Anyway this in the last year (fifth year) is when I met my first real relationship with a girl called Debbie, whom I loved dearly, and still do to this day. We had a great 8 months of courting and we got on so well, probably because we were both the black sheep of the family.

By this time I was really into the punk rock movement. This meant going to gigs, playing music, dressing up and getting drunk all the time; this is probably where I started to go downhill.

I started to regularly get into trouble with the law and eventually ended up doing 3 months in a detention centre. Mainly, the crime I did was only stupid petty things. In a funny way I had my first experience of being imprisoned, which later, in my illness, was also a kind of imprisonment of the mind.

Anyway, all the trouble stopped after that and I basically went straight, but my drinking still carried on with the punk rock. I am not an alcoholic but I began drinking like one, simply because I really enjoyed it with the pubs and clubs and the like.

I had few jobs by now but nothing really permanent, the longest I ever worked is 9 months, but even that was hard going.

I remember this other girlfriend I had when I was 17 and I was very self-conscious with her, even sat talking to her and socialising became an effort. I remember having lots of anxiety about it and probably had my first attack of anxiety at the time.

It was about this time when I experimented with drugs, it was magic mushrooms, which were probably legal, and you could find them in low cut grass and fields. They made me very paranoid and gave me nightmares; it was twice a terrible experience. I never took them again, so I just stuck to the good old drink. This was one of my first few experiences with paranoia and terrible anxiety, which was later to become my reality for the next 22 years.

The First Breakdown

Now I got this food-processing job when my illness first started and like I said after this happened I didn't say a word to anyone for about 2 years. I went to my GP and told him all about it, so he made me an appointment with the psychiatrist outpatients at Stanley Royd Hospital.

By this time the paranoia had got worse and got to a point where I just couldn't even face my own family. I went along (drunk with a bottle) to the shrink and he wouldn't see me, one because I was drunk and two, because it was the wrong day. So I rang him in a couple of days and told him on the phone that I was in total agony and really needed to see him, so he made me an appointment for the next couple of days.

I went along and sat in a waiting room where some bloke was going on about the weather. I was very nervous, as I didn't really know what I was going to say to him (I couldn't put my thoughts into words). I didn't say much and after a while he said what had happened is very common, you have experienced a loss of confidence, bringing mild anxiety attacks. You have not to worry about it; I will get you started on some medication that is called Thioridizine and get you back to reality. The best thing that you can do, is try to get back into life, like getting a job and doing a bit of socialising to build your confidence up. This was easier said than done, as I was to find out later. So I left him, feeling a bit more hopeful and a little more at ease.

I stopped drinking and set off to find work, which was proving very difficult because as I went from interview to interview and rigorously socialising, I didn't realise the pressure I was putting on myself. You see, all they thought in the beginning was a loss of confidence, but it was to prove different from that next year when things just got worse again and it developed into Schizophrenia where I had my first schizophrenic breakdown when I was 21.

I was so desperate to get myself well that I eventually found a job. It was at a paper manufacturers with the use of industrial machines, which were incredibly loud. By this time my illness had rapidly deteriorated and I found myself very paranoid at work on my break time. I started thinking that the other workers were making fun of me and laughing at me. I was playing cards and I thought they were all thinking that I was a shark but over the next day I was in a terrible state. I thought that the workers were all practising voodoo and that some how, some way, I had got accidentally mixed up in all this, then eventually I thought that somehow I had told them, (in some kind of code), to bury me alive.

On the 3rd and last day night I had an awful experience that I was accidentally causing disasters in the world and it was all on television. Then I thought that the general public were going to bury me alive to stop me doing these things. To me this was all reality and I actually thought that I was on trial and on the telly with my friends for me and the prosecution against me. I thought that I was deliberately going against my defence with mind waves and the people who were for me wondered why I was going against them (my own friends) but I said to myself that I couldn't help it and that I couldn't control my mind doing all these disasters.

That night I was laid in bed thinking that I was a vampire and I ended up jumping from the bedroom window and running away because I thought that the workers at the job pulled up in a car with shovels to bury me alive.

I remember on the telly and in the general public that they thought I was a phenomenon. Some of them were controlling me by saying a few words (code words to set me off with the disasters) these were the evil people.

I thought that the bad inside of me had come out to be an actual person who was winning over me, such as becoming world tennis champion and other great achievements by false pretences and I had this great task trying to stop him but I couldn't. He was beating me all the time.

Anyway Sunday came and I got out of bed. I was in such a state that I thought that the devil had come to visit me. I had to see something or touch something real to get rid of him and stop him infiltrating my mind.

I literally thought that I had actually stopped time itself in some kind of warp and everyone knew that this was some kind of voodoo which I had accidentally got mixed up with in my mind. They didn't know why and neither did I.

I sat at the dining table and just started to utter the words Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, my shrink I had seen about a year ago. It was then when my mum and dad obviously realised something had gone wrong. So they rang for the duty psychiatrist to come and see me. After a short visit he knew what was wrong and he admitted me as a voluntary patient to Stanley Royd Hospital on a psychiatric ward, where the doctors explained to my mum that it was probably an episode of schizophrenia and that they had some good medication nowadays to cure it. Everyone seemed to be at ease except for me, at least we now knew what the hell was going on. I had totally broken down.

I was injected with some heavy medication and I remember bits about running away in the night, thinking that people were chasing me to try and kill me. I was caught by the police and put into a cell for my own protection. I awoke in the morning banging on the cell door to let me out and a doctor said to me I “would be let out if I behaved myself.”

The day before I remembered bits about thinking that they were going to amputate both my arms and legs, then bury me alive. This thought was so intense it was like a total nightmare and I thought I could hear them digging and preparing my grave and coffin up on a hill in the hospital grounds. All these thoughts were racing through my mind and also, when I was watching the telly I actually thought that I was giving secret intelligence codes and information messages to the Nazis to enable them to re-right and win the war.

I was in a desperate situation and I remember this bloke called Phil who took me under his wing and looked after me in the ward. It was an acute ward called Tuke Ward, and after about a week, I started to come round and started occupational therapy. Then I was moved to a less acute and more relaxing ward (Oak and Pine Ward) at the top of the hospital grounds.

There was about 2 acres of grounds with many wards, which were big old Victorian buildings with plenty of patients and staff nurses and doctors. I was prescribed an anti-psychotic called Largactil, (Chlorpromazine, as it was notoriously known as) which had a good effect on the illness but some of the side effects were unbearable.

I was warned to stay out of the sun because it burned my skin and actually made me feel a lot worse mentally with the illness. This was very uncomfortable.

At this time Phil was trying to make me laugh and used to tell me jokes and funny things to get my mind off what was happening to me. I remember once he said, “No one can help me, I have had 5 breakdowns but I am not mad.” He was certainly crazy, but after looking back on it I realised that he wasn't mad, he was just ill. He had told me a joke that had cheered me up a bit.

(I was walking in the graveyard late one night, and I ghost came out and killed me outright). This was the sort of chap he was, never once moaning about himself, whom I really admired and later wished I was more like him, how he coped under so much pressure.

Anyway, after a while of recovery, the tables began to turn; I ended up looking after him. My mum came to see me and she couldn't believe that Phil knew her name, he said he was psychic and I don't remember to this day of ever telling him her name. What a character he was.

I left hospital after about two weeks and recovered enough to cope with the outside world but I was still full of anxiety and a bit of depression that began to develop. That was the end of my first breakdown, but I still had no confidence and my self-esteem was pretty low at that time.

The Depression

I now had a new doctor who was a consultant, but then almost weeks after I came out of hospital, I remembered what the earlier doctor told me. “Get a job.” So I did, it was a suit and tie job in an electrical warehouse but I now know looking back, that it was too soon and things went horribly wrong.

On the 3rd day, I found that I couldn't handle it, so I left by the back door and got on a bus home. On the way something happened to me, an awful couldn't be bothered feeling came over me. It was like a heavy black cloud that blocked out my normal feelings, and this was on top of my already bad anxiety. I got home and my mum was mad with me for leaving my job. On the way to the dole office, I was in a right state, I just couldn't be bothered even to walk and later as I went to bed I couldn't even be bothered to go to sleep (it was such a big effort).

After a while this got worse and I remembered to this day that I thought it was all over, all the rehabilitation, and all my hopes and dreams of getting well were shattered and I just wanted to end it all. So I got two bottle of sleeping tablets and that same night I was going to take them. But obviously I didn't, I don't know why but I didn't really want to die, it was a cry for help.

By this time the drinking got even more, just to try and blot out what was going on in my head.

It was terrible, even getting out of bed was hard and having to wash and brush my teeth was horrendous. Remember all this was on top of what was already happening to me.

I remember that night I went for a drink with a few mates and I just couldn't talk to them. I couldn't find the words and I felt vulnerable. It grew so bad that I remember getting regular pains in my stomach and I didn't taste my food proper, it was awful.

As a few years went by I decided that I was going to stop drinking and really get myself well again. So I got a job and went on a rehabilitation spree.

The first two months went pretty okay, but then, one of the workers started to get on at me. He was taking the Mickey and slagging me down, things like that. He was fat, bald, wearing specks and ugly, no one really liked him. I was young, good looking, a nice hair style and slim. He hated this, he was so jealous of me he just had to keep saying things.

Anyway this got worse and the main thing was that I wasn't confident enough to say anything back, knowing normally that I could have said a few words to walk all over him, but I couldn't and this started to really get to me. I battled on because I thought it was the thing to do to get well. By this time in my life I was dedicated to getting myself well.

I even took all this home with me. I thought about him all the time and everything he said. Suddenly it ripped through me and eventually I started to deteriorate myself and the job, I just couldn't take it anymore. The anxiety grew worse but in a funny way, the job got rid of the intenseness of the depression.

As the months went by I just got worse and eventually I started to see faces in things. Thinking that some people with my illness see things and I thought that I was going to. These faces were demonic and sometimes I talked to them and inside me they talked back, but this was only me talking to myself.

I started thinking about voodoo again and all this was stressing me out so I started to have days off again. For the first time I prayed. I prayed to god to stop all this and get me well but he didn't answer, but nevertheless I plodded on regardless just with the hope that I was going to get well again.

I was working outside in this job and it was just approaching winter. I still wasn't drinking but I was going to pubs on my own in the city. My anxiety and paranoia grew worse and became absolute agony. Then once the snow came that was the last straw and I had to leave that job. I knew this was all over about getting well so I decided that there was nothing left to do now but end it with some tablets. But I didn't, all was lost, but somehow, someway I carried on regardless and found myself back in the city pubs drinking once more. I was in total despair with everything I had hope and dreamed for.

By this time I had lost all hope and I just couldn't find the words within me to talk at all, my whole nerves and feelings were crushed with anxiety.

Socialising was a complete nightmare. If I was sat around a table, I was thinking that everyone was looking at me and wondering what was wrong with me. They wasn't at all because it didn't show, I put an act on, but I thought that it did, that I had some kind of terrible look on my face, something like I have just had a bout of crying with all my eyes bloodshot.

I was thinking of different ways to kill myself all the time and the depression was worse and I just couldn't be bothered with anything anymore. I used to try and remember the happy days before I was ill, by going to the pictures on my own and playing old music that I used to listen to at the youth group when I was at school, but it didn't work. So somehow I just plodded on praying to god that this would all come to an end. Someone once said in a pub “Cheer up, it can't be that bad”. I felt like putting a bullet through is head because no matter what I did it was impossible to cheer up, it was on my mind all the time and it just didn't go away on holiday, you took it with you wherever you went. It destroys the very centre of your life; it isn't like a bad cold that goes away. Schizophrenia is an illness, which splits the personality from reality into fantasy; it is not, I repeat not like a Jekyll and Hyde, which the public thinks. It is something to do with a chemical imbalance in the brain, which only medication can correct but only to a certain extent. But there are ways that the sufferer can help ease the symptoms a little, like I have done with rehabilitation. But not yet because I wasn't put on the right medication.

Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I stopped drinking and decided to try again to get myself well. I was still going in pubs socialising but I was drinking orange and colas. I was even forcing myself to dance at parties, which was really painful thinking everyone was watching and laughing at me. This went on for the next few months, when I started to deteriorate again. I just went from bad to worse again and then came my second breakdown.

The Second Breakdown

Remember that I hadn't recovered from the first breakdown before I had the second one.

I remember going to the bus stop and getting on the bus and I thought that I was controlling the bus with my mind, and that I was all mixed up about it and that the bus was just missing everything and that it was soon going to crash. I got into town, I went into the betting shop and I saw on the screen that people were making bets that I don't get or see what was going on. It was as if it was in front of my very eyes but I wasn't acknowledging it. Then I was stood outside a notorious spot for prostitutes and I thought that people were thinking that I was posing as one.

When I got home, I remember laying on the settee and I thought that if I got to sleep I was dead, and they were saying “go to sleep Paul, it will be okay” but I didn't want to die so I stayed awake.

That night I was in bed and downstairs I thought that a woman (a voodoo priestess) was brought in to sort me out and that she was using a needle and thread to do this. I remember going to the doctors and in the waiting room I saw lots of black people with gold jewelry all over them. I thought they were all to do with voodoo in Africa. So the next day in June on a Sunday again, the same day and month as the first breakdown, a doctor came to the house and decided I had to go into hospital and I was to be there for four months this time.

While I was in there I thought I was the Second Coming (Jesus Christ) and that I was causing disasters again. I thought that the public wanted me dead but the SAS knew that I couldn't help it, so they were arranging to protect me. But at first they were going to shoot me but I wouldn't let them. One SAS soldier was arranged to do it and when he was about to, I remember thinking that he was crying because he knew that something good could come out of this and that I couldn't help it. I thought that an SAS sniper in the trees in the hospital grounds was ready to shoot me in the head.

I also remember when the Bradford fire disaster was on telly, I thought that I had caused it with my mind and I thought that the public was going to kill me again.

When a girl on the news was kidnapped, raped and murdered, I thought that I had done it and the public just needed to prove it and while I was in hospital I realised that I couldn't have done it because I was on holiday in America at the time. This was a great relief to me because I knew deep down that I really hadn't done it.

As the weeks went by I was thinking all sorts of stupid things and I remember thinking one night that I was Damien Thorne, the Anti-Christ, and I was in the bathroom in front of the mirror and I was literally looking for the tattoo 666 on my head.

The doctors and nurses were pretty good and my Consultant put me on better drugs called Stelazine and Procyclidine. They were an anti-psychotic drug especially for Schizophrenia. Gradually I started to come round a bit and I started to go home at weekends. A lot of which I learnt from care workers, was to face my fears. “Fight or Flight”, they called it and they kept saying “Do this, it will be good for you, do that and it will be good for you, and like an idiot, I started to do those things.

Slowly but surely I started getting better and after a month, at the age of 25, I left hospital.

I found out about Day Centres and I started my first one soon after I came out. It was a Drop-in Centre and I was scared at first because I had no self-confidence, but I soon settled in after a while. For the first time I met and spoke to people with the same illness as me and I befriended a man who, at the same time when no one else cared, took me to his home and friendship.

I was very nervous with people now and found it very difficult to talk to them. I always had to put an act on and I was still full of anxiety and a bit of depression. This Day Centre was great, it really saved my life. We played pool and things and went on trips out. It was ideal for someone like me with nowhere to go and no one to talk to. It gave me a bit of hope, which I have never lost to this day. But I was still getting drunk with my friend Barry.

I started a relationship with a young girl who lived in the same street as Barry. They called her Julie, who was really nice, I liked her a lot. But when the time came, I found that with the medication and my anxiety and depression I was rendered impotent. That part of the relationship was partly ok but not all of it. It was because of all that was going on in my mind and soon it came to an end.

My drinking got on top of me again. So one morning I got up at Barry's house and I said to him I think I have a drink problem”. He immediately said, “ I know you have, I was just waiting for you to come to me to admit it”. So that day he suggested that I come along to an A.A. meeting, (Alcoholics Anonymous), and I did it the same night. As I found out later on, they were just a bunch of religious, brainwashing fanatics and they almost ruined my life. But I had nowhere else to go and at least it stopped me drinking. In time I had a keyworker at the Day Centre and she told me that I was an alcoholic and that I hadn't got and illness and that I should come off the medication I was on, and that the doctors didn't know what they on about. This point is where I turned around and started on the rehabilitation road again.

The Rehabilitation Road

First of all I thought I would start my rehabilitation by going to the gym and getting my body in shape. After training it made me feel a bit better because exercise produces endorphins which makes you feel good. Then I decided to force myself to talk a bit and as this went on I started to feel a bit better.

At the day Day Centre I was trying to talk a lot because I was told once, that if I think of a couple of things to say, it would get me talking and so it did. If I know that I was trying, it made me feel that I was doing the right thing and I would get better, so I carried on doing these things. But I still had a lot of anxiety and depression and as it went on things started to get a bit easier. When I went to the gym, as I was working out, I still thought that people were looking at me and wondering what was wrong with me but obviously this wasn't true.

As the months went by I decided I wanted my own place to live but I wasn't ready to go so I just put my name down on the housing list for a flat.

I just plodded on for the next few years then I wanted to do more, so I enrolled at college because I knew it was a good move to make. It would rehabilitate my mind and also help me to socialise again. I was like a scared little mouse at first but I soon settled in.

After a while at college I started to make a few friends and my confidence was getting better and I found myself talking a lot more. I was doing a course called Selector-Course, which consisted of maths, English and a few other modules. My work was also coming on a bit and I was eventually able to write an essay.

Halfway through my second year at college I started to deteriorate because I started doing too much and as with all my attempts at rehabilitation, it went from bad to worse. The more I did, the worse it got, the worse it got the more I did. It became another vicious circle and every time this happens, I think I am getting better and that is why I carry on. Some how my illness tells me I am okay and I am getting better, but I am not, I am getting worse.

I started forcing myself to talk, and think of things to say, which wasn't being myself.

In my home life I was just living in my bedroom, I wasn't really going anywhere and eventually my bedroom became my prison and obviously I became my own jailer.

At this time I was still going to AA and they practically told me that the medication I was on was no good and I had to put the drink down and believe in God. They said I had to work a 12 step programme, which was contrary to everything I had ever believed in and they were ramming this down my throat all the time. I was treated like dirt and they tried to brainwash me, it was just a brainwashing religious cult.

A few more years went by and I was feeling a bit better. I was still at college and I was still going to the gym.

By this time all the breakdown symptoms were gone, but I still had terrible anxiety and a bit of depression.

I was 28 years old but I never gave up on myself, because somehow, some way, I knew that I was going to get myself well and I was still taking steps towards this.

My family were pretty close, my younger brother especially. I used to go and see him often and we got on pretty well. He influenced me a lot with my music, which was important to me. I used to play sad songs, which made me feel very emotional. I suppose I just wanted some comfort amongst all the chaos, which was going on in my head.

I still wasn't very confidant and I was so scared of everyone. Socialising was a complete nightmare as I just didn't know what to say to people. My medication was working very well up to a point, but I was still listening to that key worker at the day centre telling me to come off the tablets. So I started to reduce them, then I started to get worse again.

My feelings and emotions were crushed with anxiety and I was still forcing myself to talk to people. When I went to family functions getting up to dance was awful, as I thought people were looking and laughing at me.

I was 29 years old and as college was coming to an end I was on my last tablet. I started thinking about god and the devil again and all my anxieties got far worse and all this what with my illness and coming off the medication contributed to my third breakdown. My younger brother was leaving the country to backpack round Australia and I was going to miss him. One thing led to another and I broke down again.

The doctor came to see me at home and I was shouting at him and I thought that people could read my mind and all my thoughts were all mixed up again. I went into hospital and went on some heavy medication to slow me down from being hyper.

On the way to the hospital in the car I thought that the SAS were trying to kill me again and they found it difficult to get to me because of my strong mind. I thought that I was Jesus and that I was really important. When I arrived at the hospital the staff was really good to me and I felt a lot safer and they treated me like a king. This was my third.

My Third Breakdown

The same night I went into hospital I went a bit overboard and I started fighting with the staff. I have never been violent in my life before, so I think it was part of the medication they gave me. a nurse told me I was on a mega dose of Droperidol which they eventually took me off.

When the doctors injected me with heavy medication I slipped into some kind of nightmare. I thought I was travelling through space and time as I thought I was going into infinity. There was a poster on the wall, it had faces coloured purple and I thought I knew the meaning of life and that the doctors were feeding information from my mind into a computer.

That night I was laid on my bed with the curtains closed and the window slightly opened, with a breeze blowing in. I thought that a SAS soldier was coming towards me to put a bullet in my head. As he got closer, I thought I could hear him breathing through his gas mask. The wind was blowing the curtains and I thought it was the soldier trying to get through them. When I woke up the next morning, they took me to a lock up ward for my own protection because my thinking was all out of sync. I was very ill.

The same night I was transferred to this ward, I was fighting with the staff again and I thought that if I didn't get out I was going to die. So in my mind I was literally fighting for my life. The illness was absolutely awful.

I got up in the morning and felt a little better. I remember watching cricket. It was Ian Botham playing but I didn't take much notice. The tedium was difficult to cope with and meal times were like an oasis in amidst of all the chaos that was going on in my head. All these thoughts were racing through my mind like icicles piercing the crusted earth.

I remember sat in a chair thinking that I was beyond god and the devil and that they were having a truce to try and find out what this phenomenon was.

The medication that I was on caused my eyes to go up and I couldn't bring them down, so I had to have an injection of Procyclidine for the side effect I was experiencing. Also I had blurred vision and my muscles were stiffing but all this went after a time.

After a couple of weeks I started to come round a bit, so they put me back on the ward and it is there where I basically recovered.

There was a regular fight between patents and staff, which totally did my head in. It was scary in that ward where it was all going on.

I remember one afternoon that I actually thought that I could project my thoughts out into the public and people were laughing and watching it all on the screen. All this was very similar to that film starring Jim Carrie called The Truman Show where his whole life was watched and studied. Everywhere I went I thought that people were in on it and that they were speaking to each other in a special code. I was the only one who couldn't grasp it.

When I was approached for a chat I thought I was talking to the devil and that all the top consultants were there in a meeting to sort out this phenomenon.

Anyway the doctors tried me out on an injection instead of the Stelazine tablets. Because I couldn't cope with taking the tablets, I was either forgetting to take them or taking them at different times. So they said that the injection (Clopixol) was the better move. But later when I left hospital I slipped through the net and just carried on taking the tablets.

I recall talking to a doctor about my illness and my rehabilitation, mostly about facing fears, getting a job, socialising, talking to people, exercising and much much more. He told me that all this was unnecessary, that I was putting myself under pressure, and that I didn't have to do it. All these years I had been doing it all because I was vulnerable listening to care workers. So it was a great relief knowing all this was unnecessary. I couldn't stop thinking about having to do it, as I couldn't convince myself what the doctor had told me. So in many years to come I kept on doing it (I didn't know how to stop it, as I was so used to putting an act on). I didn't know how to be myself again.

So after this third breakdown everything to do with rehabilitation ended and that is where I started to really recover. But the relaxation didn't go on for long as I remember what the first psychiatrist said and also the care worker and I went at it once more. I didn't realise that I was harming myself rather than helping.

I was approaching 30 and into the 12th year of my illness. I began to take stock of my life and wondered what the hell I was going to do next, as I had just about tried everything I knew to get well.

When I was discharged from hospital I was very depressed and emotional as I was on my own again living in my bedroom.

The Turning Point

This is where I started on a mission to try and get back to working again, as I was desperate once more. I was just sleeping until dinner time and my sleep pattern was all to cock. I just couldn't sleep, I kept waking up every hour.

Anyway, at this point I decided to finish college and someone suggested voluntary work to try and get me back to a full time job, or so it seemed at the time.

I went for an interview at St. George's Crypt. It was a shelter for the homeless and people who were having difficult times in their lives. They were alcoholics, down and out, drug addicts and basically people who were regarded as hopeless by the general public.

I was sorting clothes out and making sandwiches for about three or four months and I started to feel a bit better. I then got promoted to working with the clients, sorting them out with food and clothes. I also made a few friends and I was regarded as the senior social worker's best voluntary worker.

Things were going on for the next few months, but then I decided to start reducing my medication, like a care worker once told me. Also I went to voluntary work two and a half days a week. This became a bit hectic, as I was trying to do too much.

I was on my last tablet and I started to deteriorate again, because I had been going down that rehabilitation road again. Like the doctor said, it was all unnecessary pressure. If I had just taken it easy in my life, I would have been a lot better, but again, I was taking notice of people saying “this will do you good, that will do you good”. I was all mixed up again and I just went from bad to worse.

I realised by this time that no job or socialising was going to get me well. It is an illness that needs medication. I had my fourth breakdown.

I went in a new hospital at St James Psychiatric Unit and when I was admitted, the same old thoughts started again about Voodoo and Jesus and the Devil. I thought that the doctors were plotting to kill me.

My Mum and Dad explained to the doctor that I couldn't take the tablets pretty well So they decided to put me on a course of injections which is the appropriate medication for my illness and within four weeks I was a lot better. All the nightmares were gone. I was only in about five weeks this time as the injection (Clopixol) got to work quickly and this was to be the turning point in my life.

I was 31 years old, all my adult youth and prime were gone. When all the rehabilitation was stopped, things and thoughts began to beckon in my mind. Like I had to get a job, socialise and do a lot of talking. I knew deep down that I didn't have to do it, but it preyed on my mind nevertheless.

I was on 200mg of Clopixol injection and it was working very well so I stayed on it knowing that I needed it or I would break down again. So I took no notice of anyone telling me to come off it.

I went to see a C.A.B. worker about my money (24 per week) and he soon got me on the right money. I was now financially secure. The doctors and the DHSS knew that I had tried to work in the past and that I couldn't work now so they put me on these benefits for life.

I had recovered quite a lot by now and I decided to try for a flat of my own. I went to see a mental health worker within the housing and she got me a flat within two weeks. It was grand, I had my own place and privacy. After a while I started to feel depressed again. I wasn't going anywhere and all I could think of was working and I went back on the drink. This time I was ok with it and for the first time in 6 years off it I had a great time. I was still poorly but I wasn't too bothered about is as I met a lot of friends and I was no more a recluse in my flat.

By now I was going pretty steady and I found a girlfriend who I didn't go for but I pushed myself into it because I really wanted to. So it went on for a couple of months, but then I realised that I didn't want it any more. I tried to finish it with her but she wouldn't have it so it went on for another 12 months trying to end it. Sex was ok because my impotence had gone and I was OK, but as far as a girlfriend was concerned, I just wanted to finish it. So after 2 years I did and that was that.

I still found it difficult amongst people, as I just didn't know what to say. I couldn't put my thoughts into words and the slightest thing made me so red in the face. I was still thinking that people were looking at me and wondering what was wrong.

By this time my drinking got a bit out of hand and I got desperate, so I had five weeks in hospital which they doubled my medication. While I was in l was determined to get well again and I decided that I was going to do anything to get there.

The Recovery

I was now on my last hurdle of recovery. I had recovered from four breakdowns in 22 years of schizophrenia. I had been to hell and back twice and things started to work out at last.

I started going in the local pubs to meet people. It was very difficult and nerve racking. I went to my older brother's local and at first I wasn't saying anything and I drank Coke and orange.

After a few months I started talking a bit and getting to know people. I stopped drinking for a while, just to get a bearing on my life. Then I started to moderate my drink and I was successful. It didn't bother my any more as I just began to let go and do what I wanted.

When I discussed my situation with a doctor (consultant), we both agreed that I was doing enough with my bits and bats. Going to a day centre, seeing people in my local pubs, seeing to my flat and myself, and more important taking my medication regularly.

I am now 39 years old and I am just starting to recover and get reasonably stable. My doctor has reduced my medication, which is a good sign. They want me on as little as possible. I am beginning to think more clearly and I have less anxiety and depression now.

Socialising is becoming easier as I am not really thinking that people are looking at me and wondering what is wrong. The more I get well and feel well, the less paranoid I feel. If you feel good you obviously think that you look good. Sometimes lately when I feel people are looking at me, I just simply think, so what, it doesn't really matter anymore.

When you suffer from this type of illness, you think that you are the only one, and everyone is ok, but as I went to the day centre I realised that there are others with this illness as well.

I wrote this booklet to see if it would help someone to recover from this type of illness. It is not a full scale novel or book. It is just my autobiography. More like a written documentary, mostly to do with my illness rather than my whole life.

So now I am just beginning to get my sanity and life in order and I hope to make a full recovery and lead a normal life as anyone else. Writing this booklet has released a lot of anxiety. It is amazing what getting it down on paper does for you. Whoever reads this who is surviving from their illness, I hope that they make a full recovery like I have done. I chose the title appropriately because, from the depths of despair I am now going into the light.

By Paul G Smith

August 2004

PH/GE 18.8.04

Voices Forum


* Paul's surname name has been adjusted to a pseudonym to give his family some peace!