Gabe first started to experience signs of psychosis when he was five years old. Dealing with hallucinations, he didn’t tell anyone about his difficulties until things reached breaking point when he was a teenager. In support of #IAMWHOLE Gabe shares his experiences with mental health difficulties and how he now uses his experience to help others.
“I think the first time I experienced anything mental health related was when I was five or six years old and I had a hallucination.
“I was playing on the landing with my dog and my action men and I heard something walking upstairs and I genuinely thought it was my dad. But he wasn’t in the house, he was next door. When I looked over there was no-one there, but I could hear footsteps getting louder as they came up. I looked at it and then there was this person and he was as tall as me and you, walking towards me and that scared me, because I didn’t know what to do. That was my first run-in with mental health, which scared the hell out of me.
“My parents always said I had an over active imagination. I was just imagining it and everything. But I thought this is real. But I never thought it was mental health related, until I was thirteen or fourteen years old.
“I was talking to a person next to me, but my friends couldn’t see that person. My friends were saying ‘oh what are you doing’ and I was saying I was talking to my friend and they were like ‘there’s no one there’ and that’s when it kind of clicked that this is not normal. It became quite scary for me. I had no clue what was going on.
“I never wanted to tell no-one, I disliked telling people, because I didn’t know how they were going to react.
“The breaking point for me was in my art class. My art teacher would let me sit in his class with music on and work on my art GCSEs and I started seeing the most startling hallucination. I just screamed and bolted under my teacher’s desk. My teacher came running in along with my other teacher and they found me shaking and crying and just having a complete and utter breakdown underneath the desk.
“That’s when they told my headmaster. It sparked a lot of bullying and rumours about me. When everyone found out, it was just hell it was. All the teachers were a bit nervous, so it got me bullied a lot because someone overheard the teachers talking about me and the episode. It was horrifying.
“I already got bullied immensely in primary school, but comp school was the beginning of the insults. I was called freak, retard, psycho. When I got outed, it turned to faggot, queer, fag. I remember someone said to me ‘don’t touch me, because you have HIV’.
“I think as soon as someone tells you, they have hallucinations, they instantly go and think of horror films, that I’m a psychopathic killer.
“I think it’s genuinely because people don’t understand and they just don’t know and it’s a shame really because you shouldn’t value someone just on their mental health.
“The reason I liked people who I know at YMCA is because some of the staff have dealt with mental health themselves, so they know, they understand.
“I came to YMCA because of the LGBT Youth Group, which now I help lead, advice and because I questioned my gender identity, I wanted to have friends who were like me, so I started volunteering.
“I started to speak out against transforming homophobic behaviour, I started becoming an activist in LGBT and mental health, started championing it. I started to realise that actually the more I do this, the more I realise I’m not alone.
“I do a lot of talks with the YMCA, I go to a lot of schools to do talks with LGBT+ and I’ve always told teachers that if someone comes to you and they question their sexuality or gender or opens up to you about that, the best thing and the most important thing you can do is listen. If someone just listened to me, I think everything would have been better. I just wanted someone to tell me that, I’m not crazy, but no-one told me that and that kind of stuck with me of being the odd one out.
“People with mental health difficulties are not dangerous, we’re just everyday simple human beings who just want to get coffee and do well in life.”
Determined to help others, Gabe now volunteers with YMCA Swansea’s Good Vibes project and campaigns for LGBT+, mental health and hate crime awareness, for which he was awarded the Young Person of the Year Award at the UK Youth Awards last year.