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Dominic

Age at interview: 24
Age at diagnosis: 21
Brief Outline: Dominic experienced commanding voices and visual hallucinations with strong violent urges during his teenage years. Although he has gone through many ups and downs he manages his psychosis better now and is volunteering to help others.
Background: Dominic is White British.

More about me...

When Dominic was aged 5, he and his sister were the first children in their county to be diagnosed with ADHD. Dominic remembers feeling angry a lot as a child and was teased at school for being different. When he was involved in a physical fight for the first time at school the other children cheered and congratulated him, and this was the first time he felt good. He wished it had never happened because it started a long habit of fighting. At the age of 13 he was regularly drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis and by 15 he was part of a local gang involved in group fighting and drugs. His involvement with the gang ended suddenly when he was 16 and a very close friend died during a gang fight. 

Dominic began to change as a person after that and became virtually a “recluse” for nine months. However, during this period - without violence or drugs and spending days mostly at home - the voices became very dominant. He was in a relationship with a young woman who, he later realised was abusive towards him. It was a “crazy time” and when the relationship ended he was in a worse place than when it began. He tried to get away from his past life, but was constantly pursued by gangs in the neighbourhood and had to move home several times, as did his family. When they finally moved to a new area together things started to “settle down”. Dominic got a job doing scaffolding. But the voices were joined by images and turned into violent “orders”, telling him to hurt others. This got worse and until one day he attacked a co-worker and that was when he began to get help.

The first time he felt he was gaining some control over his voices was his first CBT session. The man who ran it was “spectacular” and made him think about why he might have feelings of hatred towards himself. He later had group CBT sessions and found that hearing the coping strategies of his peers helped towards the “control” he has now. There have been ups, and big downs, but he now has many tools which he finds helpful. For example, mindfulness, checking in from moment to moment with himself, helps him on a day to day basis to stop feelings of anger from escalating, and stop the build-up of voices. Another technique that he uses a lot, is putting his feet flat on the ground and tensing up all his muscles, then relaxing them. This helps him to re-focus on what is happening. 

He finds it helpful to make sure the voices are acknowledged and dealt with, and not to ignore them. He will put aside time in the day to hear them and respond to them in a measured way. Sometimes managing them means showing compromise but ultimately he is in charge and not the voices. He has a relationship with his voices, and he’s learnt to have “fun with that in a way” because he doesn’t want to be an angry person - taking the voices, and himself, seriously all the time. 

He received support from Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP) Team from age 19 and also had help from his GP. He only received a diagnosis, of schizophrenia, two years after he started seeing the EIP team. That was a “big weight off” and he thinks it might have helped him to have had a diagnosis earlier.

He has had support from a few charities. Mind and Employment Support (previously City Limits) have helped him with his finances and getting back into work and generally been there for him. He also attended a residential camp run by the Prince’s Trust which had a huge positive impact on him.

Dominic has a loving family who are there for him. He feels very protective over them and doesn’t like to burden them with his own problems, although they don’t see it that way. Because of his family support he was never sectioned but instead had periods under “house arrest”. With support from the charity Mind, he will soon be moving out of his family home, which will be a big change for him.

Dominic takes quetiapine which he finds suits him. 

He will soon be starting volunteering for a local Mind centre as a peer support worker and is positive about the future. He says “the future is happy”.
 

Dominic was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 5 and could lose his temper easily.

Dominic was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 5 and could lose his temper easily.

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I had a very rough childhood. I was one of the, me and my sister were the first two kids in [the city where I live] diagnosed with ADHD. We went to a place called, [name of place] which houses young children to test medication on them and see what medication works which was horrible, it really was. I don't blame my parents for it, because they had to do it. 

Do you know how old you were then?

I was five. 

Five, my gosh.

Five and I was away from home for two weeks doing this. It was like a prison, it was. You had to go to your room at certain times and you was fed really horrible food. It was, it wasn't very nice. 

Did they explain to you what was happening?

Yeah, they did. But I was hyperactive little kid. I didn't really listen. I was just, why am I away from home? Why am I not at home watching my TV and playing with my sister. What's going on?

Five is very young as well to understand. 

Yeah, exactly. And it, after that I had a psychiatrist from the age of five onwards, which made me think I was, something wrong with me, that I was different to other kids, 'cause I was asking my friends, do you have a psychiatrist. Do you go somewhere? No, I don't know what a psychiatrist is—okay and so then I felt really different as it was. And I was a ginger kid in a young chavvy school. 

I hadn't even thought that until you said it. 

No, no, no, but I, I embrace it now. Now, I am ginger and proud if you will, you know? But back then, I didn't know that you could be ginger and proud, because everyone I met was just so hate, hateful towards me. 

Really?

Yeah. Which led me to be like I was. I was bullied from a very young age. And one day I’d had enough of that bullying and I put a portable whiteboard round two kid's heads. And that was the start of my anger. And, I wish it'd never happened, because that was the worst thing that ever happened to me.
 

Dominic ignored his voices for some time, but then they began telling him to hurt others. He describes a time when he acted on this and felt “broken” afterwards.

Dominic ignored his voices for some time, but then they began telling him to hurt others. He describes a time when he acted on this and felt “broken” afterwards.

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I started experiencing voices at 16. Didn't do anything about it. Tried to keep living life. Tried to keep moving. And, it got worse. And I started convincing myself that everyone heard voices like it was a normal thing and that if everyone else deals with them, why can't I deal with them. So I kept ignoring them and kept ignoring them and eventually the things they were saying, I started doing. So, for ages, while I was ignoring them they kept asking me to hurt people and do things I didn't wanna do – push that old lady over. And walking past a group of lads to punch one and stuff like that. And I ignored them. And, that worked until it didn't. And, one day, I lost my temper and I was walking through town and I walking past a group of uni kids, I think it was and they laughed and, as I was going passed them. The voices said, that was at you, go, now. And I just turned round and grabbed one and pinned him to the tree that was next to them. I just started shouting in his face, ''Why you laughing at me? Why you fucking laughing at me?'' He was like, ''I wasn't laughing at you, mate. I really wasn't laughing at you and I got so angry with him and his friends were trying to pull me off of him and I'm getting angry at them. And then one of them said, ''He's fucking crazy.'' And that was horrible 'cause I was, I've already met, I've already met that word, that crazy word. I that’s what I was afraid of all those years. I was avoiding it. It was like a crazy word. And when they said that, it broke me out, but it sent me in a weird place. I apologised to the lads and said, ''I'm so sorry. I don't know what that was. I didn't mean it. I'm really sorry.'' I just ran away. I ran to a friend's house at the time and sort of cried and broke down. I still chose to ignore it at this point. I was 19 at this point.
 

Dominic would have liked to have had a full diagnosis earlier on and thinks being told you have experienced “psychosis” makes it harder to get help. However, he understands why doctors didn’t want to give him a label initially.

Dominic would have liked to have had a full diagnosis earlier on and thinks being told you have experienced “psychosis” makes it harder to get help. However, he understands why doctors didn’t want to give him a label initially.

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For a long, for a long time, I knew it was schizophrenia. There was no doubt in my mind any more. I've made a post on I don't know if you've ever heard of ‘Read it’?

Oh yeah, yeah. 

Yeah, I made a post on the self help part of ‘Read it’ describing what I was going through. And, there's doctors on there and there's actual professional doctors on there. And they said, yeah, we, I agree with you. It is schizophrenia and after that I was telling people I was schizophrenic, 'cause I was, which helped a lot, in a way. 'Cause I was no longer this weirdo with a psychosis label. I was, I was a schizophrenic. For some reason, when it's just psychosis, there is a, I don't wanna say you get taken less seriously. But, I think it's like a third of the population experience mental health. And only a small percent of that actually turns into a mental health condition. A lot of that just becomes- stays psychosis. It lasts for five or six months and then goes away and it can even last for three or four years. But, when it's [indicates speech marks] “just psychosis” it's so much harder to get the help you need as well, because like I say, there's so many other people trying to get out of psychosis. It, it's so hard to just go right, I'm schizophrenic, now I know this, I can start building on something. 

When it's psychosis, when it's just a generic term, psychosis is such a big broad term that there's nothing to work off of. It's like you, you are being told to build a shed on a hill that has no foundation at all and you are just left with this big problem. And there's nothing definable about it. And I get why it happens. I understand why the psychosis is a label that is given. But, I think also there needs to be something in place that can help differentiate between somebody going through psychosis and somebody going through actual mental health condition, because the earlier your aware of this, the earlier you can start building on something. The earlier you could actually right, okay, finally I know what it is, let's start looking at other people's stories. Let's start looking at research papers and thesis about schizophrenia and schizo types and different archetypes of schizophrenia and the length it can go to, the severity, the nice side of it, the bad side of it. I was able to learn about it. To actually know what I'm reading is about me. So I think there's a big, big problem with people being labelled as psychosis rather than bipolar or schizophrenia or whatever.
 

Dominic had visions of hurting people and heard commanding voices. He didn’t leave the house for three years after his diagnosis because he was afraid he might hurt people.

Dominic had visions of hurting people and heard commanding voices. He didn’t leave the house for three years after his diagnosis because he was afraid he might hurt people.

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One of the worst symptoms is my rage. I get images of hurting people way too often. But it's not just hurting them, it's murdering them. It's torturing and I can look at a random person walking by and my mind will flip from that person's face to that person's face in the torture chair and me really hurting them and that sort of thing. And I also get similar, along that same line these bursts of just fury where I, everything inside of me wants to punch the person in front of me. And those are the ones that scare me the most. Those are the ones that affect me the most. It's not the voices telling me I'm a worthless piece of shit all day. I can deal with that. I handle that. It's when I'm just sat in town, with a friend and all of a sudden I just wanna cave their face in. I don't, I don't know why. I don't know that came from. But that's the one that really affects me. That's the one that keeps me indoors, sometimes. 

Is there a kind of build up to it. Do you know what's happening. 

No, no, I, it, there is warnings signs. But they're just the same warning signs I get on a day to day basis where my voices don’t want to leave the house. My voices make me, if I—every time I, every time I leave the house, I'll get images of what could happen. The voices say, voices say, if you leave the house this is gonna happen. And if this happens then this is gonna go wrong and your whole life's gonna end. And it happens every single time. And they're the same warning signs for when I'm gonna be having those angry days. So I can't, I don't let them. I could let them keep me indoors and hide away forever. But I don't, I—for a very long time, don't get me wrong. For three years after I was diagnosed, I didn't leave the house because I was just terrified of hurting people. I'm a lovely person. I don't like to hurt, I like to help people. I don't like hurting people. That was the old me, you know. And… every time I left the house I was convinced I was gonna kill someone that day or I was convinced that was the day that I was gonna lose control and really, really kill someone and it crippled me for three years where I used gaming as a big coping mechanism. 
 

Dominic hears clearly identifiable voices. At one point he heard seven voices. The constant “chit chat” was “intense” and made him angry. The loudest voice would give him commands telling him to hurt others.

Dominic hears clearly identifiable voices. At one point he heard seven voices. The constant “chit chat” was “intense” and made him angry. The loudest voice would give him commands telling him to hurt others.

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It was one voice and then it became two voices and then it became three and then it became four. And at one point, I had seven voices going on. This was before medication. 

And they were sort of identifiable and separate. 

Different, different tones of voice. I can't pinpoint, 'cause voices are supposed to represent a person you know or a voice you've heard. Sometimes it's your own voice in different tones. Like one of mine is, younger me. He's a very temperamental little twat. One of them is my dad's voice. One of them is my very good friend, [her] voice. And when it was seven, there wasn't any chance to identify them, because it was just constant flow of talking in my head. Do you know, I don't know if you've seen Bruce Almighty. You know he's in the restaurant and he's hearing all that. It's literally, it was like that, constantly over and over again. And I had no breaks. For once, because I wasn't smoking weed at the time. I wasn't doing anything. I wasn't drinking or I wasn't smoking weed. I was just living and it was just constant and it was exhausting to say the least. And it was so intense that it would get me angry, throughout the day while I was working, it would get me angrier and angrier and I'm trying to find a break and trying to have just a few seconds of peace and there was none of it, ever. And, that made me very angry. Made me a very angry person, in general. I didn't, I didn't need any more anger. I wasn't short on anger I had plenty of it. And I was getting increasingly angry. And, then the orders became the loudest voice, so I had all the chit chatter, and all the chit chat, every now and again, ‘Go and hurt that person. Go and put his head on that fucking pavement’ or whatever and it would be very oh, no, very loud and very [moves hands from head to demonstrate angst], you know. 
 

Dominic describes how paranoia, visions, voices and delusions can come together when he is walking down a street. He has learnt to manage them and says how important it is to celebrate the small triumphs.

Dominic describes how paranoia, visions, voices and delusions can come together when he is walking down a street. He has learnt to manage them and says how important it is to celebrate the small triumphs.

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There's a lot of things your brain can do. A lot of ways it can trick, trick you and trip you up. But, you have to learn yourself that not everything that happens in your head is real. It's called, confirmation bias. When something happens, if you're powered by something and you're constantly looking for evidence that that backs up that paranoia, rather than looking at the broader picture. So a lot of my paranoia is based around people. And, what I do is, if I'm walking down, walking down the street towards a group of lads in hoodies, it rushes and it goes crazy and it's, they're gonna look at you and they're gonna see you and they're gonna think you are a big guy. 'Cause I'm a big guy, I'm a big looking guy. They're gonna see me as an intimidation. They are gonna follow me, and if they do start following me then it gets even worse and they start, it starts racing and the voices start racing and then I get heart races and I start to get the images of them actually beating me up. And I used to get images of people laughing at me, because I'm on the floor beaten up - and all that happens. But what ‘I’ do is simply turn around, which is the hardest thing to do by the way. It is so hard to, to take all that and go, ‘I’m just gonna turn round look at 'em. If I, if I turn round and look at them and they're not following me, there's no power left’. And I do that. And I… [looks around him]… nothing. 

So you look to see that actually what's there right now isn't 

Isn’t what's happening in my head? Exactly. And, and I confirm that nothing's happening. And then I gather evidence around me - there's no-one there [indicates different directions]. There's no-one there and no-one there and no-one there, 'cause I start getting really ridiculous things: ‘If they aint following you, they rung their friend whose right on the corner there and then the other friend's right around that corner. They were gonna coral round’. So I just take simple steps, rather than… okay, well if they're gonna do that that that, I'll walk that way. Then what?

Simplifying it. 

Yeah. And that alone, they fizzle out a little bit. You know, they'll carry on talking but they're not so ‘Dom, Dom, seriously, they're round that corner there. They're round that corner there, there's one behind you and they're everywhere’. It's not that any more. It's ‘Didn't really work out did it. You're you're a fat fuck, Dom’. That sort of thing happens and they sort of give in a little bit. And then I feel so powerful. I feel so yeah, now what? What can you do to me for the rest of this day? You have nothing, you have nothing left for the rest of the day. And tomorrow it's a different day, yes. Tomorrow, I can wake up feeling completely shit again. But it doesn't matter. 'Cause then I can think yesterday they didn't win. So why would they win today? And it's really about being cognitive about that stuff. It's really about taking note of everything that you, every little battle you win. 'Cause there are so many throughout the day. There's so many battles that- you’re gonna lose, you're gonna win. But the ones you win feed off of it. Don't just okay, well, I won that and I'm gonna lose this next one now. Feed off of it and say, yeah, I won that. I'm gonna eat this and I'm gonna, I wanna build myself up with it. 
 

After six months of feeling real “happiness” Dominic describes the moment when he realised everything he had been experiencing had been a false memory.

After six months of feeling real “happiness” Dominic describes the moment when he realised everything he had been experiencing had been a false memory.

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I really started living at this point. But the problem with that was all good things come to an end. And it turned out that I wasn't actually experiencing happiness. I was going through an episode. A very very long episode about six months. 

What does that mean?

For me, that means all of the experiences I had during those six months weren't real. The person I thought I was portraying wasn't the person I was portraying. I would experience a whole day and walk away from it not knowing what happened. I thought that was normal. I thought that was just a way of processing it. And then I go back and I'd say, ‘that was awesome yesterday, we did this thing didn't we?’ They'd go, ‘no. What? We didn't do that yesterday’. ‘But we fucking did. I know we did, because I remember it. I can remember us going to there and doing it. I don't’, ‘that was like three weeks ago’.

So time was kind of lost.

It was all a bit freaky, yeah, yeah. And I started thinking—

So this was after the sort of CBT work.

It was after the CBT work. After that I wasn't as high. I was on this really high. And I was going through life thinking I was, I was in control and this is brilliant. I'm in this head space where I've got, I'm doing things and nothing's really, nothing's really going wrong. And it was all bullshit. It was all a figment of my, my imagination, it was—

What made you get to that point so people were saying to you, that wasn't yesterday. You started thinking well, what was that then?

Yeah. Yeah.

Why do I think it was yesterday?

Exactly. I started thinking ‘okay, they’re just fucking with me’ and I started excusing it. I think that's what, what happened a lot of the time, because there was a lot of, a lot of times in that six months where I'm looking at things and I'm going, ‘okay, that definitely shouldn't be there. This is, don’t worry’, because I was so happy and it was the first happiness I'd felt in three years, three years. And it was just like, it’s ma…it's literally like I was stuck at the bottom of a well, a shout went up and all of a sudden this massive floodlight shone down it and I could see. And it was, it wasn't a floodlight. It was a bit of sunlight reflecting off a mirror or something, it was fake. And I kept on, every time something was like ‘uh? No, Dom, you're happy. You're happy right now. Don't question it. Just don't question it, because if you question it, you're going to start crashing again. I don't wanna crash. So we're happy. We're happy that didn't happen and it was fine’. And, all of a sudden I me and my friends were quite messy. We were really heavy into our drugs. We were doing MDMA a lot, smoking ridiculous amounts of weed. And one day we had this “party” and I say “party” because we found an abandoned warehouse, had a fire, some shitty music. And we “partied”. And, after that, I had a big come down from the MDMA. During that comedown, I was awake. And I was, ‘what the fuck's happened. Where am I and how did I get here?’ And I ran. I just got up and ran from the warehouse and I went and I just went under—because by the warehouse was like a big bridge and I went underneath the bridge and I just sat there and just sort of started going through, going through the past six months and I was ‘this doesn't make sense, what is this?’, and that happiness that started to not be happiness, because I was, I was starting to realise that none of this was actually real. I was going through my phone and going through my texts to try and piece together some sort of memory of what's been going on. And I was reading through conversations with some of my friends and so many times in those conversations I've said something and they've gone, ‘that didn't happen’. And I've gone, ‘yeah it did, don't fucking say that’. And I've completely, just completely ignored them. I was reading through these conversations and-it was almost like someone had just shattered my glass on my, on my beautiful little window that I had and reality started pouring in. And it was like, oh shit. I actually haven't been doing these things. 
 

Dominic has been seeing images, hearing voices and experiencing other hallucinations since he was 16. He now has a positive “relationship” with his voices, and says “it can be fun”.

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Dominic has been seeing images, hearing voices and experiencing other hallucinations since he was 16. He now has a positive “relationship” with his voices, and says “it can be fun”.

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I suffer with schizophrenia depression my schizophrenia involves sensory, I get visual, audio smells, senses and it happens constantly, all the time the images can be funny. They can be horrible. They can be as simple as seeing dirt on my shirt that isn't there and obsessing about it when, in this sort of environment or while I'm doing group settings stuff. Start seeing things that aren't there. The voices are fun. They have different impacts day to day. Most of the time, it's negative that comes from them. But sometimes it's also funny and positive and like my thoughts taken in different lights, if you know what I mean. It's like an example was I can be, I've had it before, I've been in a new group setting where I've been with other people with mental health and someone says something and I've I've been a little bit either upset or annoyed by it or something like that. And they can turn that into something more positive, sometimes. It's strange. So a guy once said that, his voices control his life in a serious way and that triggered me a little bit and made me a little bit, ah, what, what do you mean? And then the, my voice has turned round and said, yeah, I'm gonna be the, I'm gonna be the boss now. And I'm like that it's not actually gonna work. So it be, it can be fun, it can be—

They are almost interacting with the outside world. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I have a relationship with my voices. Not many people do. Some people just try to avoid them. I did that for a long time where I didn't wanna accept that I had voices and I didn't wanna, I didn't wanna have schizophrenia. I wanted to let make them go away.
 

Dominic says it’s important to find what works for you. When he purposefully “listens” and responds to what the voices say, the “power shifts” and they have less effect on him.

Dominic says it’s important to find what works for you. When he purposefully “listens” and responds to what the voices say, the “power shifts” and they have less effect on him.

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You can't win every battle. You will exhaust yourself trying to respond to everything they say. The way I deal with it is I compromise, with the voices. I talk to them and so if I'm in an environment where I can't be doing psycho things right now, I say, look, guys, I hear your concerns. I can, I can feel the anger you want me to feel. But right now, I need time to do this and I will talk to you later. And I have to follow up on those, on those promises as well. I can't just say, ‘I'll talk to you later’ and then later on be like ‘I'll talk to you later’ [laughs] can't just do that. 'Cause that's when they'll really start to - but with me, I will then put aside ten minutes later on in the day where I'm alone and I'm in peace and I'll say, ‘Right, [inhales] what do you wanna say to me?’ And we'll talk it out in a strange way it is strange, because I say some things out loud, I say some things in my head. That's why I do it alone. But if, for example, one of the concerns was a lot of my concerns are based around men behind me or men giving me a weird look. If one of their concerns was, that guy needs a beating because he looked at me that way. Then I say, ‘Look, look, look, I know that, I know that he looked at me that way. But, what happened from it? What evidence have you got that proved what you were saying is right? Nothing happened. You, you were trying to do what you always do and create something that wasn't there. And because I didn't react to it, you are angry, but that's fine, because I understand. I understand why you're angry. But I'm not going to act on it on everything you want me to do.’ And they don't like it sometimes. But, even if they don't like it, the power shifts and that's what's important, the power shift shifts slightly over to my side. And then what they're saying has a lot less effect. 

And it's, the advice I'd give is it's finding what works for you. But don't be afraid to try. There's a lot of things your brain can do. A lot of ways it can trick, trick you and trip you up. But, you have to learn yourself that not everything that happens in your head is real. It's called, confirmation bias. When something happens, if you're powered by something and you're constantly looking for evidence that that backs up that paranoia, rather than looking at the broader picture. 
 

Dominic called 999 after he had a psychotic experience and was taken to see his GP. When he told her about the “voices that everyone hears” she explained that not everyone hears voices.

Dominic called 999 after he had a psychotic experience and was taken to see his GP. When he told her about the “voices that everyone hears” she explained that not everyone hears voices.

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​I rung up the emergency services, rung up the ambulance and I said, I was trying to talk to them about what's happening. And I'm, I'm saying one thing and then skipping to another thing that I'm trying to say and going back. And it was so incoherent. They ended up coming out, helping me and taking me to my GP who was amazing. She was brilliant. She helped me, calmed me down. She spoke to me about everything and I said, ''Look, these voices that everyone hears.'' And she goes, ''I'm gonna stop you there. Not everybody hears voices, Dom.'' I'm like, ''What? What do you mean?'' She said, ''You know, we're gonna get you all the help you need. Calm down. It will be fine.'' And the next day I had my first, then I had an appointment. And that's how everything started off.
 

Dominic thinks people who work in mental health should be passionate about it.

Dominic thinks people who work in mental health should be passionate about it.

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But I think, there's a lot right with the way mental health is handled in England. But there's a fair bit wrong with it as well. I do believe that. 

I think the people, the people in the field need to be vetted a bit more. You can't have, [expressionless face] ‘Yeah, I'm the psychiatrist, uh hum, tell me your problems, uh hum, uh hum’. It can't, you can't have that sort of people working with mental health in my opinion. You need somebody like me, I've got fire in my belly about it. I'm passionate about mental health. I really believe in helping people with mental health and how severe, it can really change someone's life. I've got that fire in my belly about it and I think you really need to have a little bit of a flame about it to really be able to help someone properly.
 

In the past when Dominic has felt unwell or worried that he might hurt someone the police have come to collect him or walk him home. He’s come across

In the past when Dominic has felt unwell or worried that he might hurt someone the police have come to collect him or walk him home. He’s come across

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You get a few, there's a few police, police officers—I've dealt with ones that have been amazing. I've dealt with ones that have put all of their officer duties aside and been a person with me, which I can't thank that person enough for. But, I've had a fair few which they don't see a broken man with mental health condition. They see the big image that I am and they think I'm kinda be a big man trying to intimidate and they take it as a threat. Not my intention, of course. And instead of helping me with what I'm going through they’all, ‘no, you need to go in the cell, mate. You're are too angry right now mate. Too aggressive. 

It doesn't matter what you're going through, go to your cell’ and you don't need that. You need someone to just go, what's going on with you, mate. You know, I've, I'm lucky because I'm a very confident person in some ways. If I'm in the middle of the town and I could feel my anger starting or I can feel like I'm gonna have a panic attack, any time I'm vulnerable, any time it's fight or flight it's always fight with me. I don't think I even know what the word flight means. So any time that I feel like there's gonna be that vulnerability, I, I ring up the police or ring up the emergency services and I'll say, ‘I'm gonna hurt someone if I don't get help. Can an officer just come and see me and come and walk me home or something, 'cause I'm gonna hurt someone’. And they have done that before. 
 

Dominic said one medication he took made his arm stick in an uncomfortable position above his head and another made him feel suicidal.

Dominic said one medication he took made his arm stick in an uncomfortable position above his head and another made him feel suicidal.

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Did you have any medications that you remember were particularly good or bad?

Yeah, I've had Abilifi, Abilify (aripiprazole) was, was horrendous. I, I think for two weeks, just two weeks and I, it had to be the medication, 'cause it couldn't be anything else. I'd be sitting here like this [looking forward] and all of a sudden I'd be doing this (head turned abruptly to right). So my neck would just completely cramp. And I wouldn't be able to move my neck back for about an hour, that's just how I’d be. 

Crickey!

There was another one, olanzapine made me so, first it made me really fat. It made me put on so much weight, but it increased my suicidal thoughts a lot. 

Wow.

To the point where I started planning out my suicide. Because there's a lot of different steps to suicide. There's, I'm gonna kill myself. There's I'm gonna kill myself with this. And then you've got, okay, I'm gonna kill myself today. Then you get- there’s planning and then there's actually going out to a bridge and thinking about doing it. There's a lot of different stages. And, with the olanzapine I was, I was planning it out. I was ordering stuff online to help with it. And I was really going for it. And I luckily I had a meeting with my therapist just before I was planning on doing this and I said, look, you've been great. You've been amazing. What's happening next? Is it about you? What's happening next about me? And she knew, straight away what I meant. And she put me on house arrest 
 

Before Dominic took quetiapine (anti-psychotic) sleep was “a myth” and he had panic attacks at night because his voices would “kick off”.

Before Dominic took quetiapine (anti-psychotic) sleep was “a myth” and he had panic attacks at night because his voices would “kick off”.

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Quetiapine (anti-psychotic), it's also called, Seroquel. And it works for me. It… before it, I had insomnia every night, around eleven o'clock I started with panic attacks, because I knew I wasn't gonna sleep. 

That was the side effect of something else.

No, that was just in general. After I got diagnosed, sleep was a myth for me. As soon as I, as soon as I, because I, I there it was a symptom of a lot of different things. I was avoiding the voices all day and then going to bed, the moment you went to bed, there then more sounds and so the voices happen. So I was getting really panicky about going to bed, 'cause I knew that's when it was gonna start kicking off. So I ended up not going to bed. If I fell asleep on my computer chair, brilliant. If I didn't I was up all night. Then she put me on quetiapine which stopped my sleepwalking, 'cause I would sleep walk sometimes and I'd do crazy things. In my sleep walking state, I've put a knife to my, to my brother's throat. I've gone downstairs, locked the front door and got duct tape and completely covered the letter box with it [laughs] I've walked into my mum and dad's room and just gone over their bed like that [demonstrates leaving over]. I've done a lot of crazy things. And this quetiapine helps with that a lot. I don't have problems sleeping any more, which is just great. But what it does for me is it reduces the amount of voices I have. I no longer have seven voices.
 

Dominic describes how one really good CBT therapist worked intensely with him to understand the self-hatred and anger that feeds into his psychosis and give him tools to cope.

Dominic describes how one really good CBT therapist worked intensely with him to understand the self-hatred and anger that feeds into his psychosis and give him tools to cope.

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'Cause I really have this bad self-image and that's what fuels a lot of it. I hate myself. I don't know why I hate myself, because I'm a lovely person. Like I said, I'm a really nice guy. But I have this deep hatred for myself more than I hate anybody else in the world. And I don't know why that is. We were speaking about that for so long. And I was crying and I am blub, I’m a blubby mess at this point, and I'm like, I don't know why I'm like this. I just don't know. And he's just there and he's totally, ‘I understand. I understand what it's like to not be a fan of you. And, we can stop now’. I'm like,’ no, no, no’, I really, 'cause it was such a beneficial experience. I'd walk away from there completely drained. I would walk away from there. Get a taxi home and just, bed, ugh. But the next day, I would be, I was, I'd be revitalised, I’d be rejuvenated, I'd just be this [1 like someone had taken one of the big dumbbells I carry on my shoulders often. And, that was my moment where I was like, this hasn't got to be everything.

I haven't gotta be this, the bitch to my symptoms. I can be the, I can be the boss. And, that's when I really really started getting help and I started to look for other avenues where I can get the help and started to really make steps and he, we had a really funny moment when I almost hurt him. We were talking about one of my traumatic experiences I had as a child, which was the death of my friend. And I hadn’t really spoken about it at that point to the point, 'cause there's a lot more layers to his death than I said. But then I really spoke about it and that sadness that I was crying and it so quickly flipped into rage and I was up and I was in his face and I'm going mad and I'm punching the wall. And I'm really getting angry at him. I'm like, ''You don't understand what it's like.'' And he just looked at me and he said, ''I'm sorry.'' I started crying I don't—but after him, 'cause my sessions, we had 16 sessions after him he taught me so many really amazing coping strategies. One I use most is it's a mindful technique. And there's a lot of different ways of doing mindfulness. All of them, amazing. It really, mindfulness is the key, I think, learning which one works for you is really important too. But I think mindfulness is one of the best ways to break yourself in those crazy moments.
 

Dominic had two therapists who he didn’t get on with. Eventually he was referred to a psychologist who “invested” in his story.

Dominic had two therapists who he didn’t get on with. Eventually he was referred to a psychologist who “invested” in his story.

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I went through two therapists before I found one I actually could work with. One of them laughed at me and that was a very bad move. I ended up punching the wall next to her and really hard and getting angry with her, so I had to leave the room. I had to go to the next therapist who, he wasn't a passionate person. And, I think you need to have that passion if you're going to be working with mental health people. I think you need to have that, that want to help them rather than I'm getting paid for this. I'm gonna be taking, you know, that, that sort of stuff. He was very yes, and I hate that. I really hate that. And I just couldn't relate to him at all. And that was the second, third, second therapist. And that's another week that went by that I wasn’t getting help. I was trying to Google my symptoms and trying to get any idea of what's happening and it made me ten times worse than I was. And then I found this lovely lady, [name] who was just amazing. She listened. She could really, could really see that she cared about what I was saying. Rather than just sort of felt like the rest of them weren't believing what I was saying. It felt like I was sort of just talking for the fun of it. [The lady] really listened to me and there was two people at the first meeting, [a man] and [this lady] and they both really cared. 

The identifiable point in which I started gaining some sort of control was my first CBT session. My first CBT session was three years ago now or two years ago. The guy that ran it was spectacular. He was just one of the most caring people that I've ever met. He really really invested himself into me. It wasn't him just there doing the job. He was really really invested in my story. And I related to that so much. I really believed what he was saying, rather than, a lot of the times when you're going through all that craziness. It's very easy to take something a nurse, a mental health nurse says as okay, she's reading off the script. And it's very hard to take some of that seriously. But he was so different. He was everything he was saying was tailored to me. It wasn't a generic statement, it was tailored to what I was saying and what I was told.

So that was one to one. 

One to one, yeah, yeah. And, he was just amazing. He was, he was terrifying at the same time, because he, although he cared a lot about me that meant he had to do the hard part which was breaking down my symptoms and really taking apart everything that I was going through. He started off with the anger I feel and we went into it and we started speaking about my childhood and what parts of my childhood I'm still guilty about and whether that guilt has something to do with why I'm so angry now. And we really broke it down that it was some of the most intense times of my whole experience of schizophrenia because, it's one thing experiencing it and there's one thing trying to, okay, you're talking to me and I'm trying to move on. And there's another thing really speaking about the depths of it.
 

A local charity has provided Dominic with support. He can ring his Mind worker and “just rant” if he can’t see a therapist.

A local charity has provided Dominic with support. He can ring his Mind worker and “just rant” if he can’t see a therapist.

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But they do so much for me. I mean, I can even, if I can’t go to a therapist, I can ring my [local] Mind worker and just rant at 'em. I can just, ‘have you got half hour? Yeah. Right my day [laughs], has been right shit’ and they listen to it the whole time. They're fantastic. They really are fantastic. And, I cannot thank them enough, ‘cos a lot of my housing worries were ridiculous. They were ridiculous things. But they didn't even make me feel ridiculous about them. Every one I felt ridiculous about they said, ‘Why is that ridiculous? You're worried about a real thing, why is that ridiculous? Why is that ridiculous?’ And even that recognition is big, it's a big thing. And yeah, they've provided so much support for me. I mean, they’re only supposed to be my housing, my housing support, but they've been a friend as well. 
 

Dominic’s family would do anything for him. But having such a close loving relationship with his family is both his “crutch and symptom”.

Dominic’s family would do anything for him. But having such a close loving relationship with his family is both his “crutch and symptom”.

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My family are both my crutch and my symptom, strangely enough. If I went home today, crying, because I needed five thousand pound to move out, my mum would tell my sister and brother and my dad and everyone, the money would be there in a week. At the same time, they loved me too much. They love me to the point where I love them back and it drove me crazy, because [exhales] I have, have to, I don't have to be but I'm their protector, especially in my own mind and this is one of the things, you know, you have to, you have to lose some battles. This is the battle I constantly lose and I'm okay with it as well. This is the battle I can, I don't fight any more. I, when their voices start talking about this, I just let 'em go, because I can't, I've tried everything. I can't battle it. But being that, being their protector, it had a lot of consequences [coughs]. Whenever something happens, they call me. If someone, someone's outside getting aggressive, I'm there, 'cause I'm that person, I'm the big one, you know. But, at the same time, if I leave the house all the images- and this is like upsetting my images, is of them dying in horrific ways. Absolutely horrific ways. Most of the, the ones that gets me the most is these, the ones where I walk back home - I get images of this -where, I get the bus back and walk up home as normal. And outside my door, there's blood covered everywhere. My brother is on, my brother is on the floor, dying and he says, why weren’t you here. And that, it just kills me, really kills me [whispers]. 
 

For Dominic, who was working during a bad psychotic experience, going back to work is daunting. He plans to do some peer work as a volunteer to gain confidence again.

For Dominic, who was working during a bad psychotic experience, going back to work is daunting. He plans to do some peer work as a volunteer to gain confidence again.

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Obviously I was at work when it all went wrong. I was actually at work at the time. And because of that, I have a massive stigma around work. Luckily, I'm actually not allowed to work, I wasn't allowed to work for a while, because I was just too dangerous. 

I was a volatile person. But now there's like a big stigma around it in my head, where if I go to work-, because if I go to work it's gonna, it's gonna be into something I wanna do and what if I fail? But it's not just a basic, what if I fail it's imagining every possibility of failure. And each one seems more likely than the last and it's terrifying. But the way I'm handling that is volunteering. I’m starting very soon when I'm gonna be helping other mental health experiences with just day to day life, getting out and socialising and helping them become a bit more productive and more confident. I am so excited about that. Also, also very scared, because even that I could fail at, and this is sort of my test run. If I can do this, all the pressures is just gonna be- then maybe work is, isn’t an impossibility any more, you know. But what I would say in terms of how it affects, how psychosis affects me, it's okay.
 

Dominic receives help from his council’s Employment Support team and describes what they are able to do.

Dominic receives help from his council’s Employment Support team and describes what they are able to do.

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I also get help from Employment Support which is, it used to be called City Limits, which was like an, it's basically for people like me who are terrified of the working world. Don't know what to say, what to do. They'll sit [mic crackles] down with you and they'll break down every fear you have about working, every fear you have about that, whatever aspect of work you are trying to get into. And then say, right, now, I've heard this before. Not your exact story, but I've heard something similar to this. This worked for these people so why don't we try that one. I'll come with ya and we'll go together, we'll do it together. If you don't like it, we'll stop. We'll find something else to do. And they, they are the ones that convinced me to do the volunteering, which I'm gonna be doing soon. They, they went with me to the volunteering place to actually be signed up and they did the application form with me. They, they were just there the whole step and when I, when I finished my volunteering, when I'm doing volunteering, they're gonna be there the whole time if I want to take it to the next step, they'll help with that. They, they're willing to help me find a career. I mean, sometimes they can even find funding for your training and stuff, which is a spectacular.
 

Dominic spent money on things he didn’t need, and his anxieties and voices made this worse. Getting advice, and gathering information helped him to “find a balance”.

Dominic spent money on things he didn’t need, and his anxieties and voices made this worse. Getting advice, and gathering information helped him to “find a balance”.

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In terms of actual like finances and all of that, it took me a while to stop feeling sorry for myself. That was the biggest part, because I felt so sorry for myself that I was going through this that every time I had money, oh well, you're like the most suffering person in the world, Dom. Go and treat yourself. I did that every week without fail. I felt so guilty about what I was going through that I would just buy myself things I didn't need. Most of the time it was weed at the time. But these days it's, it would be clothes or a game or something like productive I could get a benefit from, you know. But even those small decisions, the voices have an effect on even putting money in savings, my voices have an effect on. 

Every time I get a money struggle, everything inside me wants me to go to my savings. Your dinner isn’t cooked by five o'clock Dom, it's time to get £20 out for a pizza. No it isn't is it. It's just ridiculous. And they try and impact every decision I make, every financial decision, every step towards moving out – everything. But the way I combat that is by gathering as much information as I can, knowing every answer to the things they're gonna throw at me. So, I come to this place [local Mind centre]. And, I get housing advice. I get help. I've asked them so many questions they've been brilliant the whole time. And at home, it's all written up, every answer to every question they may ask is there. So if I get confused, if they throw a curve ball at me, I know it's there, so I just go and read it. Again, it’s, for me that evidence is the most powerful thing, because I can obsess about something that would never happen, but I can obsess about it to a point where I believe 100% that it will. And I have to go and- ‘well, okay, let's say that it was going to happen, you've got this much in savings. You've got this going on. You know you're gonna get this help. So is that a possibility really’ and the severity of it drops. Maybe ever so slightly, but it drops. Every, every time that drops, I think, right, it can drop. The severity of the situation can be lessened. And I use that to ‘okay, right, if I can lessen, if I can lessen the severity of this how else can I do that?’ More evidence. More, more planning, get more things in place. More money and savings. More this and then every eventuality is almost covered, you know. That's how I deal with it. It's a bit obsessive sometimes or I get ‘what if that isn't covered for’, I find a balance in that, in my own way. But yeah, I, if I have all the information that I need and nothing can throw me off, nothing can give the voices an opportunity, because that's what it's all about, it's about if they have an opportunity. If I feel an anxiety that I haven't felt yet, they will blow it up. They will inflate that that anxiety to new heights. And I can't prepare for every eventuality no. 
 

Dominic loves gaming as a hobby. It keeps his voices at bay, but he does have to make a point of stopping every hour to see if there is “anything going on” with his voices.

Dominic loves gaming as a hobby. It keeps his voices at bay, but he does have to make a point of stopping every hour to see if there is “anything going on” with his voices.

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Yeah, I mean, it’s, it's very very very easy to think of a hobby as this bad thing when you're mentally ill, because again, for most people, leaving the house is the biggest thing. Let alone going out and doing something with that time. My hobbies still rely heavily around gaming. But, my mindset is different now. The way that I process it is different. I don't, I used to do something on Warcraft and then be like ’right, that's happened, I am now spending the next three days doing nothing else but playing this game to achieve that goal’. And that's how bad it was. And now, the pull it has on me doesn't really exist any more. I play it as much as I need to play it. If I need to, if I'm luckily enough to be able to identify my signs really early. So if I'm playing World of Warcraft the thing about for me the thing about gaming is, you're so immersed. It's so immersive. You can really get involved in the world and you can really become your character. But it can become too much at the same time and I was becoming too immersed and I wouldn't be in my mind, I would be in the game. 

And then something like a loading screen would happen when you've got to wait as little as ten to twenty seconds. But that seems like the longest time, because that brief period of anything happening is when it floods ya. It really wow, guess what, we ‘rah, rah, rah you’re a dick head, why aren’t you speaking to us?’ and you sort of ‘ok, music please music’. That's how I handle it. But now, I'm able to go ‘right, I'm playing World of Warcraft. I'm gonna play for an hour and after an hour, see how I am’ and I'll break the cycle, because I get into cycles where I will sit for hours and hours and hours and then after these hours, I’ve got ‘this’ [indicates his voices] to deal with, because I haven't spoken to them for six hours [laughs]. I'm like, okay, right. How I combat that is each hour, I'll take a break. 

And I'll go right, [indicates listening to his mind] ‘I've done that, right. No music. What's going on? Anything going on? Okay. That image is, yeah, yeah. Okay, right, so you are just- general pissed offness- nothing new, really. You are just really angry people as always. Okay, fine, brilliant. Is there anything you want addressed? No? Okay, cool’ and then I carry on playing. And if I have that moment where I take that break and they're like, you've got to do something right now, 'cause we are getting and I start feeling angry and stuff. 'Cause once they, once they get angry I get angry as well. And once, because again, it's in my head. But their emotions are my emotions in some way.
 

Dominic experiences paranoia and voices that affect him worse when he leaves the house. Although it is difficult, he goes to the gym and says its his biggest ‘go to’.

Dominic experiences paranoia and voices that affect him worse when he leaves the house. Although it is difficult, he goes to the gym and says its his biggest ‘go to’.

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Get to the gym. If you can't do the gym, get running. Go walking. Do something with yourself. Seriously, I cannot put into words how impactful it is. Just going for a five minute run. If you're somebody that sits in all day scared of that scared of this, go for a five minute run. But don't leave it at that. After the five minute run, come back and get a laptop, get some paper, and write down how you feel afterwards. Write down what you were thinking about during the run and how you feel about it afterwards. How those fears you had before the run never came true. That means next time, maybe go for a six minute run. Keep making that progress. When I went to my, when I started going to the gym, I was 25 stone, something like that. I was fat. I was big. And I was spending all my time in my Warcraft gaming. And then I stepped foot in the gym and it fucking hurts, it hurts. Don't, make no mistake, it is not a comfortable thing. But the physical, the physical discomfort disappears once you start feeling that mental boost. 

That big yeah, that was hard. But I've achieved something today. I've done this thing that I've been afraid of for so long and I feel great. Physical exercise was is still my biggest ‘go to’. If I wake up, 'cause even with all this control I have now, all this power I have now, there's a lot of days where I wake up and they're winning and I wake up losing. And I have to try to really push against it. And the gym does that for me. It just, it just fixes it. Go in there, working my ass off and getting angry at myself and pushing myself even harder. I walk away from that on, on the winning end. The tug of war is going the other way now. That's every time, without fail. I cannot recommend it enough. 
 

Recovery for Dominic can mean many different things and can be something simple like leaving the house. He says it’s very important to recognise and celebrate those achievements.

Recovery for Dominic can mean many different things and can be something simple like leaving the house. He says it’s very important to recognise and celebrate those achievements.

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No, absolutely, absolutely. But, what I would say to those people is if you think that there's not a recovery phase, at least of mental illness, then you haven't experienced it properly. 

Your experience of mental health hasn't been on the severe end of it. Because unless you've been, I've had weeks where I've not even left my bed. I've literally just lost time in bed, because they cripple me, sometimes. If you haven't experienced that, if you don't think I need to recover from that then I'm afraid you're wrong. Because if, if that was just a normal thing, then I would be doing it every day and it wouldn’t be a big deal. But when I'm, when I'm in those, when I was in that bed for two weeks, all I wanted to do was get a knife and put it through my throat. That's all I wanted to do. There was nothing more in my head. I have bounced back from that. You have to bounce back from that. In order to be able to go out and do the challenges that you face every day, with a smile on your face, you have to be able to recover. But recovery comes in many many many different shapes. Recovery can be as little as, you went to the shop on your own today. How, how big that is depends on you. Don't let anybody else, anybody else, not even your GP, not even your therapist tell you that your steps aren't big, because every single step you make is fucking massive. It is gigantic. 

It's as big as you let it be. And you've gotta let it be big, 'cause otherwise those sad, those sad, horrible things will just beat you down all day every single day. I know from experience. You have to let some light in or the darkness just consumes you. There's, there's no other way around it. If you don't, nobody else is gonna commend you for walking to the shop. No, your parents may say, well done for doing that. But nobody else can give you the power you can from going ‘yes, I went to the shop today. All on my own and I didn't just walk in and walk out; I actually did some shopping’. Take that, blow it up, feed off of it. Use that as your oxygen, 'cause it is the biggest thing you could ever have in your recovery process is those wins. Tiny, massive, whatever a win is a bloody win in this situation. And you cannot always have 'em. But when you do, get it and hold onto it, because they are what matters. You're not gonna get 'em a lot and when you do, hold onto 'em please, because there is nothing else you can do. 
 

Dominic recommends that people keep a very frank diary because it can help to get things out of your head. He found it useful reading back what he’d written and being able to get some perspective on it.

Dominic recommends that people keep a very frank diary because it can help to get things out of your head. He found it useful reading back what he’d written and being able to get some perspective on it.

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Make a diary. Whether it's electronic, whether it's physical, make a diary. In that diary, write everything that happens. Everything. I first started using my diary as a measure of a bad day. So on my really bad days, that's the only time I write in it. My really bad days I would write, today, I've considered suicide at least this much more than I did last time. I've considered doing this this much more than last time. I've almost given into the voices and gone and killed this guy. I went to the shop anyway. But while I was doing that, I had a panic attack. I wrote in all my bad days at first. And then when I had another bad day, refer to it. There is a bad day? Not really. So what's that mean. Can I do something with this, with this information can I actually go out maybe? Or should I just take it as a bad day, right it down and learn from it next time. But, the diary is what I use so much, because [one second pause] the way I feel about mental health is up here. It's not a hole in your head. It's not a gash in your face. It's up here [indicates head]. And what's up here will go round and round and round over and over and over again. There will be no end to it, I promise you. Writing it down makes it so much easier. 

Because one, you can hear writing crap sometimes, you write down things that are just ridiculous, like, oh, this ridiculousness. Why were you even thinking about this? Other times you write down something that was going through your head at the time and that's just enlightening that you go, wow, I thought of that. I, I said that. Why would I say that unless it's true? There's other things that you write down that you're gonna hate about yourself. But writing 'em down gets out of here, even if it's just for a second. Get it out of here and you can read it and when you read it you can just take it from a different perspective and go, okay, this doesn't actually sound so bad now. And that's what I would say is, get a diary and take every win. Write that win in the biggest letters you can find. Get a billboard if you have to. Write your wins down and take 'em as much as you can, because that's what I do. And I have this power over my voices now that I don't think I'd ever have. I thought I'll always gonna be the scared kid in the corner, crying my eyes out every day. That's what I thought my life was gonna be from now on. I went and did stuff and now I'm this person who I'm gonna be helping people soon. Actually helping people soon.
 

Dominic says that the best thing you can do if a loved one isn’t talking about what they are going through is just give them a hug and let them know you love them unconditionally.

Dominic says that the best thing you can do if a loved one isn’t talking about what they are going through is just give them a hug and let them know you love them unconditionally.

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If you feel like you can talk to your family then do it. But for the family members, the best thing you can do for somebody that isn't talking to you about it is give them a hug. Touch them on the shoulder every now and again, make them know that they're loved. Because them talking to you, them not talking to you about it isn't that they don't trust you. It isn’t that they don't, they don't feel like you don’t respond well. It isn't nothing like that. It's so many different aspects that makes them not wanna talk about it to you. But, you loving them unconditionally regardless of the fact that they don't talk to you about it is just such a big boost. When I, when I walk in for my therapy session and my sister and brother is there and I look like [exhales] everyone comes over and hugs me, individually and all together and they say, we love you, Dom. Just we'll sort out the dinner and whatever or whatever. 
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