Something I wrote for mental health charity – Time to Change …
My name is Lifford Shillingford, I’m 35 and from London, married with 2 children.
I’m self employed as a singer songwriter which I have been most of my life. I’ve had some chart success in the year 2000 with a group called Artful Dodger singing their chart hit “Please Don’t Turn Me On” reaching no. 4 in national charts in the U.K. I also teach students, sharing my knowledge for singing and my experiences in the music business.
I got diagnosed with depression and anxiety over 10 years ago after finally reaching out for help. Many attempts to take my own life made me realise that I couldn’t get through this alone and that maybe after years of fighting this illness and self medicating I didn’t have the strength to do it anymore.
The overwhelming feeling of being alone crippled me, spending days on end in bed getting up only to use the toilet. The countless day I spent just crying, crying all day wishing for someone to save me. Sufferers from the outside can seem very self absorbed, selfish and inconsiderate but trust me, when you feel so much emotional pain that it becomes physical, that your heart at any moment feels like it could fall into the pit of your stomach, there is no time for anyone else.
I’d try and sleep as much as possible because at least id get a break from it, I’d wake up and know that I’d have killed a few more hours.
When I did manage to go out it was about getting what I needed as quickly as possible with little eye contact, no care for what I looked like. I had turned into that mad person I used to see as a kid, hair un combed clothes dirty and ruffled.. that was me.
People who are different are often scary, people like to put things in boxes so they can have an organised view about life, but that’s exactly what mental illness isn’t. It isn’t organised and box like, one condition alone can have so many layers and complications which can change from day to day.
I learnt quite quickly that getting better is a gradual thing and there is no quick fix though some things were immediately alright again. Like knowing that I wasn’t alone, knowing that there were people out there like me, lots of them. Mostly knowing that I had someone to talk to and help me understand what was going on with me. And that was a huge step in the right direction.
Once I began to understand more about my condition, I then felt I had to try and educate others around me which at times was truly frustrating and at disappointing. I felt and still feel at times that folk would rather me not talk about it, often changing the subject at the first opportunity. I again began to feel alone and frustrated at peoples reaction to my honesty about what I’ve been through, friends fell away leaving just a handful and even family members stopped communicating with me and turned their attention to my wife who I suppose in their eyes was still “normal”.
It takes time patience and perseverance to take those steps that make change. It’s taken me a long time to get where I am today but I’m working again and feel really good about my achievements, I don’t smoke cigarettes or weed anymore and have cut down a lot on the alcohol. I found that the doing has to come from within, only you can take those steps to heal yourself and even though at the time they seem minute and pointless steps eventually, eventually you will walk again.
I think discrimination stems from a lack of knowledge and understanding of mental illness, I think a lot of people who have had no knowledgeable contact with anyone suffering from depression or other mental illnesses are genuinely scared. We all knew someone growing up who was labelled mad or different and we were always told to keep away from them, as if they were likely to freak out at any moment and bite off your ear off. Truth is most people who are ill are more likely to hurt themselves than anyone else and they are a lot more scared of you than you are them.
I’ve finally achieved a life long goal of mine, to make a record, songs about my life and experiences.. It’s taken me a while but it’s here now, I’m here now. There’s a song called Sinking Swimming which is about that helpless feeling I describe, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIcYJ_FGdeg
with some help of friends I’ve made a video.. and is due for release soon. 5 years ago I wouldn’t have dreamt of successfully co ordinating a project like this, stretching my mind to organise and multitask, so please listen… I hope you enjoy.. and thanks for reading my story.
Please visit my website for live dates and releases.