By Joe Doyle
My father, Hugh Anthony Doyle, met Kathleen O’Meara, daughter of Joseph O’Meara, around 1974. My father moved to her home town, Newcastle, County Down, and married her on Sunday 12th September 1976. I was born Anthony Joseph Doyle on March 26th 1978. My mother died on April 8th 1978. Many years later, just before I received my Bipolar 1 diagnosis, my mother spoke to me through my thoughts.
Better heart first
My father met a lovely, caring woman Margaret Iris McGivern in 1982 at the Bannville House in Banbridge and married her on the 12th of September 1983. I grew up in the countryside of south County Down.
Teresa was Kathleen’s sister. During the many visits to her house in Newcastle, I could not help but look at the photos of my mother, Kathleen. When I asked my father about the reason for her death later in my mid-teens, he said pneumonia.
Writing my own poetry
The most memorable teachers and subjects at school are the ones that we think about fondly in our adult lives. Thoughts that we treated as facts in those early years led us towards or away from what we were meant to become.
I remember sitting at the top left desk beside the window during English class during my 3rd year at St. Colman’s in Newry. As I watched the wind blowing the across the road, I daydreamed about the insects crawling near the earth beneath. In that lesson Mr McDavid told us about rhyme, rhythm and much more. He set us a task to write a poem. I stared at the page, unable to write anything. I couldn’t translate the concepts and rules into something I believed others would want to hear, so I froze.
It took me until October 1997 to write my own poetry. I wrote from the heart but applied basic ‘form’. Sometimes I would abandon the rules. Lines could alternate between a few words and a free-flowing line that ended when it needed to.
A quiet desperation and loneliness grew inside me
Bullying at primary school and grammar school, as well as a difficult relationship with my father in my teens, led to the birth of my ‘inner critic’. Though there were great times at university, a quiet desperation and loneliness grew inside me. Two sets of friends I thought I was close to rejected me because one of the guys in each group did not want to share a house with me. Between then and February 1999 I descended into a deep depression, followed by a wild, delusional confidence. I believed I could do anything I wanted – learn any subject matter, sing like Pavarotti, etc.
I was sitting in my room in the darkness in mid February 1999 on a night when the guys I shared a house with were out or away. Although my AIWA double tape deck, with its 3 CD changeable unit, was on standby, I could hear ‘Sitting On Top Of The World’ by the Mississippi Sheiks. Surprised and frightened by this, I walked downstairs.
No matter how many times I’ve thought or written about what happened next, I’m not certain about the sequence of ‘events’ leading to the experience I had when my mother spoke to me through my thoughts.
My mother spoke to me through my thoughts
When I walked into the living room, I immediately felt unsettled. My eyes were transfixed by the snow falling, as I looked out through the living room window. In the distance on top of a chimney was a God-like figure. I felt an overpowering need to get down on my knees and pray towards ‘God’, and felt compelled outside so I could get closer. I still saw snow before my eyes but felt nothing on my skin.
Just as I opened the back gate, I felt an overpowering dark, evil presence behind me. Within seconds a God-like female presence overpowered the darkness. Frightened but comforted by the belief that God must be a woman, I rushed inside and sat down on the armchair in the living room. I saw a figure in the corner of the sofa nearest the corner, its silhouette matching the photo of my mother, Kathleen, at the side of the road beside my father’s old car. My mother spoke to me through my thoughts:
“Don’t be frightened…
I will always be with you…
Your father is a great man.”
When I woke at 12 noon the next day, I had slept for 11 hours. A few days later I was involuntarily sectioned and spent two periods in Windsor House psychiatric ward, where I was diagnosed Bipolar 1.