When I was a child, I heard voices that weren’t there. I was convinced it was the devil or demonic forces. They would say hurtful things and I would spend a lot of my time praying to god that he would keep my soul safe. When my grandparents died, I gave my soul to them every evening, so that they would protect it from the voices when they infiltrated my dreams. I never told anyone this. I felt ashamed.
When I was fourteen I became obsessed with thinking about thinking. I was fixated on each thought and felt that every thought that was negative reflected badly upon me. I still heard the voices but they were less frequent than when I was a child. It started with an idea I had heard at Sunday School, about every thought being equivalent to an action. I find this teaching and many others to not only be damaging but cruel. I drove myself mad thinking about each thought, breaking it down, weighing up my morality, questioning everything about me. My parents tried to understand but they thought it was just a quirk of my teenage years.
When I was 19 the thoughts became too much and I decided to kill myself. I had one single thought: what if I couldn’t stop thinking about the horrors of man? And then I couldn’t. I had a mental breakdown and couldn’t leave the house for six months. I dropped out of university. In that time, I barely slept and played Nintendo games all day, as they were the only thing that could stop the thoughts.
I tried to drown myself in the sea when I was on holiday. I was drunk and had decided that I had suffered enough. Every moment I was awake I was obsessing over my thoughts; I couldn’t stop. It is hard to explain how debilitating it is to always be conscious of your own thoughts and to not interpret those thoughts in a negative way. I felt I could find no peace. The tide was strong and I got knocked against the rocks, cutting all my sides. I thought about my mum and dad and couldn’t do it. My parents just thought I was being a drunken idiot. I eventually got medication, and this helped a little. I went back to university and completed my studies. I still heard the voices and they became increasingly worse.
It wasn’t until I was 25 that I was diagnosed with OCD, thanks to my girlfriend who encouraged and supported me through the entire process. I now have the right medication for both the OCD and the voices, which I recently admitted to a therapist. I find the days are sometimes a struggle, but generally I am coping and see as much beauty in life, mainly due to my girlfriend, my mum and dad, my friends and of course poetry, as I do the horrors. It is vital that anyone feeling depressed gets the help they need. I would simply not be here if I didn’t have the support I have had along the way.
I am now thirty, a teacher and a published poet. I am alive and trying to see the beauty in as much things as I can. I still have dark times and I know this is a lifelong illness but that doesn’t mean that there is no hope or joy to be found, even if I sometimes must sieve through the shit to find it.
A Silent Trip Down a Dark Lane
There is no silence as that of an absence,
Another argument and a twisted smile
Thoughts tear free in kaleidoscopic terror
And not even routine is free from the insanity
Of whispering leaves.
It’s like my mental breakdown has learnt to breathe again,
It’s always making sickly promises of return
As yet unfulfilled.
Insatiable little shadow
Your existence I tell him, for it is a him,
A fractured self, born not of womb
But of a teenage scream,
Is as common as jam on toast and an empty orgasm.
He just laughs
He’s seen me naked and knows
Every unwanted thought,
Thoughts that would land me in prison if he told
But he won’t, it’s too much fun
And he has too much time on his hands –
He only has my misery for entertainment. Sad fuck.
A lifetime is only a heartbeat of a star, he barks.
David Hay is an English Teacher in the Northwest of England. He has written poetry and prose since the age of 18, when he discovered Virginia Woolf’s The Waves and the poetry of John Keats. These and other artists encouraged him to seek his own poetic voice. Recently he has been published in Dreich, Abridged, Acumen, The Dawntreader, Versification, The Stone of Madness Press, The Fortnightly Review, Nine Muses Poetry, and The New River Press 2020 Anthology.
For further information and support, please visit https://www.firstfortnight.ie/resources/find-help