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Dublin: 15 °C Wednesday 18 September, 2019
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'The hallucinations were 100% real to me. But people were telling me there was nothing there'

At times it felt like there was no hope of recovery at all, writes Brian Scallan

Brian Scallan

THIS YEAR’S DARKNESS Into Light walk takes place on Saturday May 6th in aid of Pieta House, supported by Electric Ireland. Participants in more than 150 locations, on four continents, will walk the 5km route to raise funds and awareness.

All throughout this week, people around Ireland are sharing their own Darkness Into Light journeys. Here, Brian Scallan, 24, from Wexford, tells his story.

My diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia came in 2012, along with my first hospitalisation. I was 18 at the time.

I had been studying in Waterford, but a traumatic event the previous year caused my mental health to deteriorate. I became extremely paranoid and began suffering delusions, thinking people all over the country knew my face, that even people in England knew my face and were directing certain words purposefully at me.

Hearing voices

Over the next three years my paranoia and delusions continued, and after an incident of cyber-bullying in December 2014, things started to get worse. I began hearing voices and hallucinating, something I had never experienced before. Over the next couple of months I lost interest in different parts of my life. I dropped out of college, I stopped playing soccer, I didn’t go back to hurling training, and I wasn’t sleeping. I was stuck in my bedroom for two months. I couldn’t cope with the voices and hallucinations, and became severely depressed as a result.

By the end of February 2015, the voices had become very vicious. One of the main problems with paranoid schizophrenia is that you can’t tell what’s real and what’s not. The hallucinations were 100% real to me, but everyone was telling me that there was nothing there. I started to believe that people could read my mind and that everyone on live TV broadcasts knew I was looking at them.

Suicide attempt

On February 27th, 2015, I attempted suicide after hearing voices telling me to kill myself, and ended up in hospital. I was there for almost a month. Then, on March 31st 2015, eleven days after being discharged from hospital, I attempted suicide again.

Later that summer I ended up back in hospital for a third time, and spent from late July to early October in Tus Nua Crisis Rehabilitation Unit in Wexford. Overall that year I spent 11 weeks in Waterford hospital, and another 11 in rehab.

Over time things improved. Even while I was still in rehab I started playing with my local soccer club, Carne FC, again, and attending matches on weekends. I found that listening to music helped to drown out the voices I was hearing, and I still use music and long walks as ways to help relax me.

New job

The month after I left rehab, I started attending HSE training services in Wexford, something which I certainly wouldn’t have felt able to do eight months previously. Last summer I started work in my local deli. A full-time job has always been the aim for me so it was great to be doing work of my own.

In general my mental health has been okay of late, aside from a three or four week period last year when I was admitted to hospital again. I still have paranoia and delusions as before, and these have gotten worse in some ways, but I don’t hallucinate at all now.

Opening up is the hardest part

I attend a psychiatrist every six months, but know I can check in earlier than that if I need to. At my most recent appointment I asked if I could start learning to drive, and after six years of hearing “no” to that question, I finally got a “yes.” I’m delighted to say I’m currently studying for my theory test.

If anyone out there is struggling, I’d advise them to simply speak up to someone. Talking makes it far easier to cope. During my own hospital stays I met other people going through similar things to me, and just knowing on both sides that we understood each other was hugely helpful. Making that step of opening up is sometimes the hardest part but it gets simpler the more you do it.

Join the thousands walking from Darkness Into Light on May 6th to raise funds and awareness for Pieta House. You’ll find more information online here and here.

Helplines:

  • Pieta House 1800 247 247 or email mary@pieta.ie (suicide, self-harm)
  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

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About the author:

Brian Scallan

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