In full: The moving statement from speedway star Danny Ayres’ partner after his inquest
PUBLISHED: 15:54 27 July 2020 | UPDATED: 10:16 28 July 2020
Danny Ayres’ partner has spoken about his struggles off the track after an inquest was opened into the speedway star’s death.
In an emotional statement released after the inquest, Jodie Pledge paid tribute to her “soul mate” Danny, who died at his home in February.
She said: “It’s not about naming names, or anything like that, although it’s taken me time to let my anger go.
“I feel our mental health system let Danny down time and time again. Mental health is not only about being depressed or suffering with anxiety - it’s much more complex than that.
“Danny suffered with neither and he massively slipped through the net. He asked doctors for help, as he just wanted to feel normal. He told them how he couldn’t relax and that his mind or body don’t ever switch off.
“He asked to be assessed for ADHD as he recognised symptoms of his own overactive state.
“For me, it literally jumped out of the page at you that Danny suffered with something like that. To anyone that knew Danny personally he couldn’t keep still, he was so hyperactive, impulsive and full on. Everything was just full-throttle and that’s what I absolutely adored and love about him, as did everyone else.
“It made him exceptionally talented on a bike. It was his strength with his career as a speedway rider but his weakness off the track and devastatingly mixed with a cocktail of alcohol and drugs his undoing.
“After asking a doctor to be assessed for ADHD, he was told that there was no such thing as ADHD in adults and he was examined as normal insight with no depression.
“His diagnosis was given as drug dependence and he was told to go to a Turning Point.
“He was also told, being a lorry driver out of season, that he should inform the DVLA of his misuse, or they would have responsibility to do so.
“This was due to him telling them he used drugs recreationally. Sadly, this just fuelled Danny into a rage and he would then frustratingly say in anger ‘even the doctors are telling me that I’m just an addict, there’s no such thing as ADHD when you’re an adult and I’m going to lose my job’.
“This was soul destroying. It took me so long to get Danny to go through that door and ask for a bit of help. Not only did he not receive the correct help, it gave him more ammunition and fuelled the negative way he felt about himself, not to mention threatening his livelihood.
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“He then just beat himself up saying he wasn’t worthy of his fans, his speedway career, being a dad and that he had just let everyone down.
“It was devastating to watch the man I loved rip himself to shreds with guilt because he had so much love and support in his life.
“I just want to be clear - Danny wasn’t an addict. He didn’t go near anything when he could focus his mind in season on his career. “Whereas, if he was an addict, he would struggle every day without drugs and this most definitely was not the case.
“He didn’t depend on them, he just struggled with normal life. By this I mean when he was out of season and being a dad and partner out of the limelight. It was a hard lifestyle adjustment for him.
“If he had received help with his off track when the season ended and offered medication or therapy to help him, accept himself and the way his brain works, I’m sure he would still be with us today. “When his bum wasn’t on that seat it was a struggle, and sometimes, if he couldn’t relax or feel normal, it would lead to him self-medicating. “This is when the other person in his head would take over. Danny spoke to me about hearing voices in his head when he took a mixture of drugs and alcohol. This is when Danny was a completely different person.
“I’m not going to talk about this person inside Danny’s head, as he hated him and so did I. He was horrible and the only peace after losing Danny is that he doesn’t have to fight that person anymore and neither do I.
“He absolutely thrived and love speedway, and for me it saved his life more than once. When he was on a bike he literally felt normal and had a sense of belonging. When he was in the speedway season you would struggle to find a more dedicated person.
“He was an absolute machine and anyone that saw him on a bike or in his training sessions would agree. Speedway was our life together as a family and I will always hold the speedway family very close to my heart. “Positively, this whole experience has pushed me towards wanting to become a life coach involved specifically within speedway. I’m hoping to help people in similar situations to Danny. “As unique as he was, I’m sure there are others out there within the sport that can relate to Danny’s struggles and it’s them I intend to help.
“I sadly can’t change that I’ve lost my soul mate and my daughters have lost their daddy. I’m not opening up my life with Danny to blame anyone. I just feel I can now be honest and move on through life without Danny.
“At the same time, I don’t want people relating to Danny with the negative stigma of drugs and alcohol as the doctors did.
“I would like people to see past all that because he was just a man suffering and trying to do his best he could to get by.
“I want him to be remembered as the charismatic, loving and entertaining man that he was. This is the only way I remember and love him. I will never have a single ounce of anger towards Danny.
“We are all left broken-hearted and a huge hole is left in all our lives forever, and as his partner I will always feel I couldn’t save him from the demons in his head.
“It wasn’t Danny who made that decision to end his life - it was the demons in his head. It would have been impulsive and not sound of mind, a decision he would never have made if he had been sober. “I feel knowledge is key but sadly there wasn’t enough out there to save Danny. I just wish that our medical professionals have more information and time to put into mental health, then maybe, just maybe, it might save somebody else’s life.”
■ If you need help and support, call Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust’s First Response helpline 0808 196 3494 or the Samaritans on 116 123. Both services are available 24 hours, seven days a week. You can also download the Stay Alive app on Apple and Android.
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