Dean blogs about his experience of hearing voices and how, with the right support, he’s learned to manage It as part of his life.
“Surely what was happening to me was real; something / someone around me was trying to make me go crazy – playing nasty tricks and games”. That’s what I told myself back then.
This was just two and a half years ago. I couldn’t imagine that everything that was happening could be my own mind making me hear the voices and feel intimidated in my own home. “Why would one part of my brain try to destroy all the other parts?" That’s what baffled me about the whole experience. The voices were so realistic. It was impossible to push them away.
"At the start, I thought I was overhearing someone within the same building or the block of flats opposite mine who must have been talking loudly."
Non voice hearers can try to empathise with those of us who do hear voices but no matter how much they try, there will always be something missing in their understanding that prevents them from being able to put themselves totally in our place. I initially thought they were not trying hard enough. It caused friction. I wanted people close to me to ‘get me’ and to still feel accepted by them, yet I was also scared that the more I involved them, the more it was putting a strain on our relationship. However if I didn’t open up and express myself then I would feel frustrated. Even though I would speak daily on the phone to Mum, I often felt alone in my struggles.
When my voices first started, it was two people, ladies in my case. One of them would become a regular presence in my life... her Scottish accent is what stood out the most to me. These unseen people would talk about things I was doing but in the third person so never mentioning my name or addressing me directly. At the start, I thought I was overhearing someone within the same building or the block of flats opposite mine who must have been talking loudly. I only ever heard voices when in my flat... never when I was outside or in the street or at the supermarket nor at anyone else's homes.
"Housework would be left unfinished, I wouldn’t shower and some days the voices would keep me awake all night."
Try to imagine you are in your home and there seems to be a radio or TV playing next door – a bit muffled but certain words were very clear. When I came to the conclusion that the voices were commenting on me I panicked. At the same time, I didn't want to show or feel that fear so I would try doing the opposite of what I had been doing in order to confuse the voices.
It was my way of fighting back by trying to stay one step ahead of them. Initially it worked a little but the voices soon caught up to me and I spent hours doing things that I actually didn’t want or need to do just to stay ahead.
This meant that important tasks were not getting done. Housework would be left unfinished, I wouldn’t shower and some days the voices would keep me awake all night. It was a terrible feeling.
"I thought my flat had been bugged with secret cameras and microphones and I was being observed."
At one point I thought my flat had been bugged with secret cameras and microphones and I was being observed like on The Truman Show or Big Brother. All logic leaves you and you just feel the intimidation, the confusion and, as time went on, the depression.
I tried so many coping mechanisms from listening to music, singing, writing.
One thing that really helped was singing a song that you know the words to with your inner voice. Don't sing it out loud though or people around will stare and judge you. Instead, simultaneously humm the music. It doesn't have to be loud but it has to make an actual outbound sound.
I found that was enough to block the voices and for once, I had more control and more power than they did. Sadly this is not a long term solution because it becomes exhausting to be humming and internally singing all the time but it worked for me in some really stressful moments.
Other things did help in the long term – not least selling my flat and moving away from the place where I had gone through all this.
But the most important thing was seeking professional help.
I felt scared of going to the GP initially. I thought I may be sectioned. I went to a few centres that I saw advertised on the internet, but I felt like I was being passed around, having to tell my story over and over again. On one such occasion, I broke down in tears in front of one of the centre-managers and she promised that she would help by talking with my GP.
"I had cognitive behavioural therapy for almost a year. It helped that I was very involved in my care and did my own research about psychosis."
I was seen by the GP and then referred on to a Community Mental Health Team, and the doctor explained that I was experiencing psychosis. I was assigned a psychologist, who gave me cognitive behavioral therapy for almost a year. It helped that I was very involved in my care and did my own research about psychosis to try to understand things better. My psychologist would set me homework exercises on themes we were discussing. I owe so much to her.
The voice hearing started June 2016 and was at its peak until January 2017. But last year, through the whole of 2018 I think I heard voices five times – a huge improvement compared to daily voices. At the start, voice hearing is bewildering, frightening, and cripples your confidence. However, every day I learned something new about myself on this journey, and that knowledge has made me manage the voices better.
Ultimately my overall advice is you need to speak out to someone you trust and to get help. Thankfully mental health is not as taboo as it used to be and asking for help is not a weakness. I wish you all the best.
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