In the twelfth edition of our ‘Just Checking In’ series, we spoke to mental health blogger and poet Daniel Halliday. Check out our conversation below.
How are you feeling about your mental health currently?
Currently I am doing pretty well. I still have bad days where I can be suicidally depressed or I may have multiple panic attacks but with my diagnosis of diabetes I have come a long way.
I used to be a complete agoraphobe. I was scared of pretty much everything, even my own shadow. My diagnosis is CPTSD so I can dissociate a lot and it can make me question reality. That includes derealisation and depersonalisation at times of high anxiety. It really isn’t fun. The key for me is to not live in fear of it. Acceptance of my own condition has become key and exercise and good diet have propelled me into a much better place mentally.
When was the first time you became aware of your own mental health and realised that it wasn’t just physical pain you experienced?
I know this is a bit graphic but when I was 17, I took a knife and used it to try and take my own life. I’m so glad that I was not successful in that attempt or any subsequent attempts on my life. The last attempt on my life was in 2013 and I plan on it being the last one.
What mental health conditions do you have (if any) and how long have you lived with them for?
Suicidal Depression, Severe Anxiety, Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), Panic Disorder Dissociative Disorder. All have been diagnosed. I might also possibly have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) too but my doctors can’t seem to pin down what is wrong with me other than its untreatable.
If you had to describe how your mental health conditions affect you in your day-to-day life, what would you say?
It’s absolutely brutally exhausting but it makes me want to strive to help other people who are suffering too.
I try my best to live with a smile on my face and help as many people as possible as I know what they are going through more often than not.
Mental illness is not a competition and I do not see myself as the ‘king of suffering’. I see all mental illnesses as the same. We are stronger together.
You’re a poet in your own right and run your own poetry blog, ‘Poetic Justice’. When did you first realise you wanted to write about mental health?
I realised I wanted to write about mental health when I hit rock bottom myself. I started putting my pain down on paper and people identified with it and liked it.
Even if it’s a bit dark it’s a snapshot of how I feel at that moment in time and hopefully that shows to other people.
I did it at first to help other people not take the same path as I did and to leave a legacy. I wanted to make other people who were in a similar position not make the same mistakes that I did. I kind of fell into writing about mental health just as I did with writing about gaming too.
I was always an avid reader up until my CPTSD diagnosis. I also experienced a mugging attack which hindered my reading ability. The PTSD it left me with robbed me of my ability to relax and concentrate.
I’m trying my best to rectify this but my attention span is still very poor to say the least. I have always been good at English Literature though. During my English GCSEs I was off school for half a year and had no idea which piece of writing we had been learning about when I returned.
I’m proud to say I picked one in the anthology I had never read before, wrote about that and passed anyway.
Without sounding arrogant, I like to think I’m a good writer.
What topics on the mental health spectrum do you cover?
I try to cover all topics on mental health if possible. I’m also willing to learn about more esoteric mental health disorders that are currently more misunderstood.
I’ll write about Eating Disorders, anxiety, depression, CPTSD and BPD i.e. all the things I suffer from but also things like self-harm.
I’ve never self-harmed myself but being empathetic I can understand why people do it and as always, I’m always willing to learn.
What effect does writing poetry have on your mental health?
It can completely pull me out of a dark hole. If I pour all these things onto paper it’s like I’m removing the negative thoughts from my head. Hopefully people can identify with that and it helps them as well as me too. It’s like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.
What other topics do you cover in your blog?
I cover things like social injustice, politics, racism, basically things that are relevant. It’s not all mental health based it can be purely observational.
Amongst other things I write about sobriety, gambling, all kinds of addictions but also things like holidays like Christmas and New Year. I enjoy exploring the psychology of others and what touches people’s hearts.
I’m desperately trying to make a difference in this world. I’m trying to make more people smile every day and I hope that shows.
How have you found the reaction to your poetry in your own community or social groups?
It’s been massively well-received online and my blog is really successful. Some of my more personal pieces, particularly the dark ones are not to friends’ tastes as it seems like I’m saying goodbye. In a way, at the time I was but hopefully I am past that now.
Have you told anyone close to you about your mental health issues like your friends or family and have you asked for support for them?
I have told all my family and friends. Unlike others, my mental health issues are quite noticeable but unfortunately, they’ve not always been as supportive as they could have been. However, I think that’s just because they just don’t understand and I accept that wholeheartedly.
I put myself in their shoes and think how I’d feel if they said they felt suicidal. I would be there for them though that’s for sure.
What tools and methods do you find useful in helping you manage your mental health or mental health issues?
Mindfulness, meditation grounding techniques and CBT techniques. Journaling is a massive thing for me as is keeping in a routine. If I don’t stick to a routine, I just fall to pieces so I try to keep a regimen of what I do otherwise I get confused and disorientated.
I also utilise the resources that mental health charity Mind offer the public. I’m thinking of volunteering for them as well.
Exercise is another tool that helps me and I’m starting to play football again too.
If you could say, what do you think have been your lowest and highest points in your mental health journey so far?
The lowest point I think was going to sleep at night and praying to die or one of my many suicide attempts. My high point recently was singing sober (I used to be a singer but always drank) in a pub with no inclination to drink whatsoever.
Alcohol was always my coping method and I was so proud of myself for doing that.
Do you think the conversation around mental health is changing and if so, in what way?
I think a lot still needs to be done if I’m honest. A lot of people who don’t suffer with a mental Illness don’t get it or maybe don’t want to get it and education is needed.
Awareness is a big thing online but many people in real life might turn a blind eye to what someone’s going through or even worse, contribute to that person’s pain. That person might then go and take their own life and then people react shocked.
People need to listen to what people are saying. The stigma will end one day but it’ll take a long time.
What more do you think needs to be done to ensure everyone, but especially men and boys who have mental health issues get the support they need?
I think it needs to be taught in schools and taught early. I also think that addiction and mental illness are intrinsically combined and more needs to be done to not just label people as addicts but ask why they are the way they are. Everyone is different.
In sports and entertainment, more people need to come out about their struggles as I believe the more famous people come out of the dark, other people will too. Recovery is possible.
Never ever give up. Men and boys need to learn to communicate and not bottle their feelings up inside and this needs to be taught from a young age. The ‘man up’ brigade needs to be shut down.
Thanks for the interview Vent. Stay beautiful and stay positive everyone!
You can read Daniel’s Poetry blog here.
If you want to read more of Daniel’s work on Vent, check out his poem ‘The Hole’ here.
Read more ‘Just Checking In’ conversations here.