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  • Writer's pictureFintan Davies

How Mental Illness saved my life

Updated: 7 days ago


My unconsious mind always knew that living in the world of The Last of Us was harming my mental health.

CONTENT WARNING:


Schizophrenia is discussed from the very beginning of this blog.


This blog will go into detail about video game and porn addiction.


There will details about what happened inside my mind during my psychotic episodes in 2019 and 2021.


Delusions and hallucinations are discussed in detail.


Misogyny is discussed in this blog concerning the Reddit forums, Men Going Thier Own Way and Incel.


There will also be major spoilers for The Last of Us and The Last of Us: Part II.


A video version of this blog is on YouTube: https://youtu.be/JpyvFV-BdT8


While mental illness is not something I want anyone to ever experience, Schizophrenia has, at least for me, saved my life. Schizophrenia has helped and encouraged me to love in a deeper way than I ever did before I experienced my first mental health crisis in 2019.


Back in 2019, I knew that something was not right when I was experiencing delusions and hallucinations.


What led to this was multiple addictions over decades and negative worldviews that came through repeated and never-ending adversity.


I had been addicted to video games for 20 years, especially violent video games like The Last of Us which came out in 2013. I played and played to escape the chronic difficulty of living with Autism. I was diagnosed when I was 4 and, for the longest time, struggled to understand the social skills that are natural for neurotypical people.


This chronic difficulty in connecting with people in a deeper way was so uncomfortable that I relied on video games to cope. I would rarely go out to see my friends on weekends. I did this because I wanted my world to be easier to deal with. I didn't want to invest in the delayed gratification of building strong friendships with multiple people because I struggled to truly listen to people.


Since I was 12, I had struggled with porn addiction as well. It got to the point where I would watch it every night for over a decade. I was addicted because porn showed what seemed to me at the time to be the ultimate goal that society always propagated... that romance and especially sex is what will make me happy and fullfilled.


This expection of something outside of myself making me happy and fullfilled is key here because, during my teenage years, I never heard of meditation and was never taught it.


From what I recently learnt from the book, A Monk's Guide to Happiness by Gelong Thubten, I have grasped at video games, porn and sugar because it makes me temporarily happy. I never took the time or the space to just let my darkest thoughts sit for a moment. I never knew that thoughts are only temporary and that they will pass. I would consistently escape my mind using these vices.


Society and the expectations that are placed on all of us does affect, and can even hurt our mental health.


Looking back on Porn, I have to admit that, until very recently, I have felt like a seriously deficient human being when it comes to my complete lack of romance and dating.


The way that society has made me feel lesser for being single is two things. I was never taught or told by anyone that being willingly single is a valuable and positive way of living. School never discussed the lifestyle of a single person and the media always presented romance as THE way to make your life better and worthwhile.


During my deep plunge into Video Game and Porn addiction when I was 20 in 2016, my unconcious mind was making it very clear to me that there is more to life than addiction. The Last of Us wasn't fun to play. Porn wasn't fun to consume. My conscious mind was always feeling guilty and unfullfiled when I engaged with these addictions.


Why? Because I experienced something better and I lost it at University.


Before I graduated from secondary school in 2015, I found my passion in Theatre Sound in 2011 and, not just that, I made friendships with multiple neurotypical people within the theatre company. This factor is important because I used to only make friends with other autistic people. These new and strong friendships made me truly happy.


This happiness filled me with confidence that University would be a happy time because it is seen by society as the time where you make lifelong friends. This unfortunately wasn't the case.


The culture at University centered on connecting exclusively at loud parties and bars. This was very debilitating because a part of my autism is that I'm very sensitive to loud noises where I have to leave to a quiet place. It is THAT hard for me to fit in a party culture.


All I wanted to do at University was connect and be curious about a person but I couldn't even do that outside of lectures! I wanted to explore the possibilty of a romantic relationship but I was so burned out that I simply couldn't.


I felt like a failure and that the real world was simply not designed for me.


It got even worse when I lived in student halls again in the second year. Unfortunately my flatmates held parties in our kitchen for what felt like every single night until 3AM.


Being in a chronic state of sleep deprivation and being deprived of both new friendships and romance made playing video game like The Last of Us more appealing than reality.


The Last of Us was more exciting and thrilling in that it gave me what I was lacking. I wanted to connect and love people and I felt seen by Joel, the main character. He lost his daughter Sarah and was broken for over 20 years in a post-apocalyptic world. He finds happiness outside of himself through protecting Ellie, who he sees as his daughter, throughout the game. Ellie is immune to the zombie virus and Joel chooses to save her at the end of the game while damning the world of a vaccine.

Saving Ellie as Joel gave me purpose that I was chronically deprived of.

The Last of Us having the perfect combination of a story that is both about love being important and that hurt people hurt people spoke to me. I felt hurt by the world and by deciding to invest in this violent video game every day for hours on end, I would unfortunately hurt people.


Before I continue however, I have to discuss my history of consuming graphically violent fiction. Before I turned 18, I would watch The Walking Dead A LOT through a pirate streaming website and would eventually watch Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal A LOT as well when I turned 18. I also repeatedly watched the games and deaths of the Saw movies and various movie werewolf transformations on YouTube.


I mention this now because, for the longest time, I simply wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. I’ve chronically used violent fiction for over a decade to feel something, anything to make me feel alive and excited. I was gradually losing myself to all the gore and violence I was exposing myself to and The Last of Us would become the tip of the iceberg.


In the deepest depths of my video game addiction, I wanted to understand why the world was against me having any kind of happiness. I felt bitter and hard done by.


This would lead me to Reddit and the insidious forums such as Men Going Their Own Way, Incel, Anti-Work, and Anti-Natalism (The belief that pro-creation is morally wrong).


Looking at these forums every day, even in the same room as my family, would gradually lead me to hating humanity and not trusting anyone.


What narratives did these forums propagate?


I discovered Men Going Thier Own Way during #MeToo in 2017. This misogynistic forum focused on the narrative that every accusation made by women was false and that they all had malicious intent to destroy men’s lives and put them all in prison. The forum’s narrative was that all women couldn’t be trusted and that men should avoid them at all costs.


The hate that emanated from this forum was so toxic that, for over a year, I became scared of being around women. There was one time on a train where a woman wanted to sit next to me and in a state of fear and anger, I left as fast as I could.


The Incel forum focused on the narrative that having romance is not worth it because no woman is romantically interested in you nor will they ever care for you in the way that you want. The perspective that kept being brought up by the users on this forum was that they believed that they were entitled to romance no matter how shitty they are to themselves and to the people around them.


While I thankfully don’t remember most of the arguments that were made on the Anti-Work forum, the one I do know is the perspective that work drains our energy to the point where we don’t want to do anything. The users of this forum were justifying to themselves that since thier body clock was weak and that they were always tired, work is worthless as it makes things worse.


After graduating from university, I believed the narrative in this forum to the point where I became lazy, chronically tired and felt that work wasn’t worth it… only video games were worth living for.


The worst thing about the Anti-Natalism forum is that it makes the argument that the world is truly terrible and therefore we should be angry and bitter at our parents for creating us without our consent. This narrative deeply affected how I interacted with my parents where, for a while, our relationship was strained.


So… looking at all these factors that deeply negativly affected me for most of my life, I’ve come to accept that it set the stage for my psychosis to take place in 2019.


What did my mind experience during psychosis? It felt like a switch had flipped. Out of nowhere, I would have delusions and auditory hallucinations related to The Last of Us.


The context behind these delusions concerns the video game convention, E3. E3 is a convention that takes place during the summer and shows previews of upcoming video games. People who are in the video game industry also get an opportunity to play these games behind closed doors.


In 2019, The Last of Us: Part II (which would come out in 2020) was expected to be at E3 that year.

The Creative Director (Neil Druckmann) and the two leads (Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker) of The Last of Us were the foundations of my delusions.

My delusions would start with me being afraid that people from Naughty Dog (The Video Game Developer of The Last of Us: Part II) were going to come to my house in a van at midnight to seak into my house and install a demo of The Last of Us: Part II into my PlayStation 4.


This delusion felt so real that I sneaked out of my bedroom at midnight to check if my PlayStation 4 had this demo. I felt freaked out.


I was also wearing Joel and Ellie's clothes all the time and would also speak like them and copy thier body lanuage.


There came a point where I experienced an auditory hallucination. I heard Troy Baker (who played Joel from The Last of Us) and Ashley Johnson (who played Ellie from The Last of Us) talking about me in my house. I thought they were really in my house, it was that scary.


What I will say is that I was aware that something was very wrong. The only thing I could comprehend is that I felt sad and depressed. It was 3AM one time and I needed to talk to my friend.


I called one of my friends that I met at my secondary school theatre company and told her I was both depressed and didn’t know what to do. She told me that I would be able to get through this. I belived her and it helped me get through my hospitalisation at Springfield Hospital a few days after that phone call.


My psychosis reached breaking point when I believed that Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson were going to kidnap me, adopt me and take me with them to Seattle. Seattle is the main setting of The Last of Us: Part II. I believed they were going to take me to a mansion there to play The Last of Us: Part II with all of the developers of the game being there including the Creative Director, Neil Druckmann.


I lost it and destroyed my bedroom because I was so scared that this was going to happen. I thankfully didn’t injure myself and my parents got me to hospital.


Being sectioned under the mental health act at Springfield Hospital in 2019 during my 23rd birthday set the stage for my recovery in many ways. I was surrounded by loving doctors and nurses but also with patients who were really struggling.


This is important because it was like I was seeing two mirrors. In the patients, I saw myself in them in that I had nowhere to hide from the trauma my brain went through. I wanted to continue being like Joel and Ellie from The Last of Us but I learnt that this wasn't sustainable. We were all trying to hold on to our vices but it was our vices that made us unable to fuction.


We had to feel what we were feeling in order to get to a place where we understood why we were here. That was the only way we could go home.


The other mirror was the loving doctors and nurses because they were heroes. When I was looking at my mental health section documents in my bedroom, I knew that to get to a place where I did something truly meaningful with my life just like those doctors and nurses, I had to become truly curious about my mind and life itself for the first time.


What really helped me get through those dark days was being mindful in the ward's garden. There, I was away from the traumatic sceaming from the patients and could take the time to just be myself without the addictions I relied on to function.


A few weeks into my stay, a nurse took me out of the ward and we walked around the hospital to get tea. She asked me what I was looking forward to after I would be discharged. I said that I was looking forward to being with my family and friends again. Video games and porn were never mentioned in this conversation.


My unconcious mind was telling me that part of my recovery would be to let go of all the vices I used to cope with the stresses in my life. My mental health crisis would set in me a goal and a passion to overcome my addictions and to truly love and respect myself.


While it would take five years for me to change into the person I am proud of today, it is clear to me that Schizophrenia and the love from my family and friends would motivate me to pursue recovery.


The first step of that change occured when, after I was discharged, I asked my family to block Reddit from all my devices. This also meant I wouldn't have access to The Last of Us Reddit forum ever again.


I made this big step in my recovery because the love and kindness I received from the Doctors and Nurses at Springfield Hospital contradicted my negative worldviews. The world didn't seem as dark as I thought it was leading up to my crisis.


Now that I wasn't part of The Last of Us community anymore, I began my first steps in quitting playing video games for good.


It wasn't a smooth process and there were trails and errors along the way.


Around this time, the Early Intervention Team came to my house and said that I had to stop playing violent video games.


This was difficult for me to accept because The Last of Us: Part II would come out a year later in 2020 and for years, anticipating this game was one of my only motivations in getting up every day.


During this next year, I would have sessions with Family Therapists. While we were discussing what psychosis meant as a family and how we can heal from it, I played the long game of manipulating the therapists to allow me to play The Last of Us: Part II.


While I wasn't ready to quit playing violent video games yet, I was wanting to learn how to live a happier life and understand my mind better. I would attend Recovery College courses about ways to have a happier life, understand stress and what leads to a crisis.


When The Last of Us: Part II eventually came out in June 2020, everything changed.

Seeing Joel die a slow painful death was overwhelmingly gut-wrenching.

When Joel died, I felt physically sick. A character that I wanted to emulate and be like more than anything was gone. I did not enjoy playing The Last of Us: Part II because I, for the very first time, was so disturbed by the gratuitous violence.


The Last of Us: Part II was the catalyst for me to stop playing violent video games because I simply could not take it anymore.


But, the pandamic came.


Without any Theatre Sound Jobs in the UK, my only other expertise was Video Games. I would make a YouTube Channel called Games Without Music. It explored the nuances of sound design and voice acting through turning the music off in a game's settings.


I would also do a Masters in Game Design at Kingston University where I would primarily focus on designing non-violent video games.


During this time, I was taking Olanzapine to stop the symptoms of psychosis. In 2021, I was doing so well mentally that my medical team decided to lower my dosage of Olanzapine to see if my psychotic episode was a one-off.


Unfortunately, when the dosage got to it's lowest, I experienced psychosis again. I was thankfully lucid enough to voluntarily go back to Springfield Hospital to recieve treatment.

At Springfield Hospital, I would continuously recite this scene between Ellie and Joel's Brother, Tommy from The Last of Us: Part II.

I remember isolating myself and being more withdrawn this time around. I was barely able to engage in coversation with anyone at the hospital and mainly relied on my memories of scenes from The Last of Us: Part II to cope with the stress.

I got so bitter and angry over Joel's death to the point where I thought Neil Druckmann, Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson were watching me on the Hospital's CCTV cameras. I would be seething at the cameras and coldly swear at them.


Looking back, relying on something outside of myself with The Last of Us to cope with the emotional pain I had been dealing with most of my life led me to complete, utter darkness. I didn't work on myself and my unconcious mind was clearly telling me here right in the middle of my second mental health crisis to STOP PLAYING VIDEO GAMES.


When I left Springfield Hospital, my medical team diagnosed me with Schizophrenia and that I would have to take Olanzapine every day for the rest of my life. I also could never have Alcohol again.


I found this oddly freeing because I finally knew what my brain experienced in 2019 and 2021. As for Alcohol, I thankfully never got addicted to it anyway so I easily left it behind and now I love water and tea! I thoroughly researched and explored mental health topics and felt free to choose my own path.


For the next three years, I would see a Therapist and a Life Coach to help with my video game addiction, porn addiction, sugar addiction and explore how to live my life to the fullest.


I invest my time in exploring what my blind spots are in terms of knowledge and seek out non-fiction books such as The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck for Spiritual Growth and Ultra-Processed People by Chris van Tulleken for Sugar Addiction.


I think the key to a happy life is to follow this quote from Fleabag, "People are all we've got.". I practice curousity when taking to people because it makes our connection stronger and we enjoy our company. There is nothing better than that.


It hasn't always been easy choosing this path of recovery.


When the pandemic lifted, getting back into theatre was hard because I was also facing clinical anxiety which is a side effect of Schizophrenia. But the key is that I never gave up on both working and developing humility. I would constantly apply and work at any theatre that needed a sound techncian and just get to know people.


I would also stop playing video games entirely in December 2022 with Mario Kart 8 being my final video game. I would also graduate from my Game Design Masters in January 2023. It felt that I closed a chapter in my life. I truly wouldn't have ended this chapter in any other way.

This would be my first West End show as a Sound No. 1 and it changed my life in so many positive ways.

Accidental Death of an Anarchist at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in Summer 2023 would change everything. It was always my dream to work in the West End as a Sound No. 1 and yet, in spite of having Schizophrenia and two mental health crisises, I DID IT!


During this show, I took all the lessons I learnt from therapy and took the time to get to know everyone involved because they all mattered. We all made this show together and they were so lovely to work with!


If there is one thing I learnt from mental illness, it is that anything is possible.


It is my responsibility to learn from it. It is my responsibility to listen to my unconcious mind and let go of the addictions that got me to my dark place. It is my responsibilty to listen and love people for it's own sake... nothing more... nothing less.


I can happily say that, at the time of writing, I haven't played or engaged in video games for 1 year, 4 months and 27 days. I have also not watched Porn in 5 months and 23 days. I have also not engaged in Social Media on my phone for 5 months and 25 days.


Where am I now? I'm back at the Theatre Royal Haymarket as an Usher and I AM LOVING IT! Being with my peers has been the most amazing experience and I'll be ushering A View From the Bridge later this month!


I'm also starting at UCL as an Associate Visiting Lecturer for the Post-Grad CBT for Severe Mental Health Problems Course!


My life is in such a good place right now and mental illness set the stage for me to live a life worth living.


BUT!


I also wouldn't be where I am now without the love and support of my family, friends and colleagues! They have given me the time and space to rest from my crisises, pause, reflect, and help me live with dignity and integrity.


They have all helped me get to a place where I'm ready to share my story of mental illness with the world and I cannot thank them enough for getting me there!


Thank you for everything!


If this blog helps someone feel that they are not alone and that there is hope for them to achieve thier dreams, then this blog was worth it!


Photo of Neil Druckmann, Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker from Dexerto






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