In the winter of 2000, within an acute psychiatric ward, a girl lies curled up in among the side rooms, dirty blonde hair coiling across the ground. This girl is whatever it is that’s left, or me.
I’m hearing voices. The voices, dear god. They’re without restraint, without mercy, without limits. The worst one is a male voice. The others are frightened of him; his slightest utterance can quell them all. In the next months, the despair to rid myself of these phantom tormentors will grow so frenzied and feverish that I intend to drill a hole within my head in order to “get them out.”
Voice-hearing is an absorbing issue in its own right, but it holds a unique fascination for me personally because for almost half my life I’ve heard voices myself. As anyone who has made a fairly good living from being tagged with mental health difficulties (a buddy of mine refers to this as being “a professional psychotic” — thanks, pal!), it might appear eccentric to say I don’t consider myself mentally ill. I truly don’t. Maddened, yes — driven insane. But not ailing. To me, biology is implied by illness. It’s indicative of random aberrance, an arbitrary, ruinous misfiring of neurons. I believe very firmly that what occurred to me was not a bit of bad luck that is biological. Rather, it turned out to be a sane and clear response to strange and intensely crazy situation.
The origins of a set of answers, many years later, would be almost 4 years old and continued for over three years. It’s organized, sustained: a narrative that begins in the most bleak and gruesome way, and sadistic sexual abuse from several people who fed on successive groups of children. One of those kids was me. It was a blasphemy, a desecration beyond expression; and it left behind a tiny kid whose mind broke and shattered into a million tiny pieces. What exactly does a kid’s brain do to process this unendurable, overwhelming event?
As one of these mistreated children. I ended up cringing and rocking on a psychiatric ward with a diagnosis of “schizophrenia.” The fear and anguish connected with the voices as of this time in my life was extreme, but in a few ways what was equally distressing — if not more so, at times — was the poisonous, tormenting sense of hopelessness, humiliation, and despair about myself and my prospects in life.
Someone to Believe I Could Fix
Into this dreary scenario came a singularly creative and empathic shrink, with whom I worked for only a short period of time, but from the start impressed both myself and my family with the belief — shared by his excellent team — that recovery was not only possible but inevitable. Finally, the bravery to handle the seemingly intolerable was also inspired by them: After all those years that were agonized, it was time to make sense of the voices. I have been given a leaflet produced by the Hearing Voices Network and was electrified by the emphasis it made on voices as substantive responses to pressure instead of arbitrary outward indications of disorder.
Lots of people heard voices, for many people voices might be linked to debilitating mental conflicts that need to be concluded, although they not learned, and troubled me. I dredged up the original experience of the first voice I’d ever heard and remembered that back then, it had embodied feelings I hadn’t been able to express. Could it be that the same thing was happening now?
Automatically, I had started to understand that this procedure had not been going to work unless the ancient conflict for ability with the voices might be reversed. As an alternative to utilizing a “me from the voices” approach, all people would have to learn to communicate and collaborate in negotiating that coiled, meandering road that will finally lead back to myself. I recall saying as much to them one day, throughout a period of comparative and peace silence.
“It is going to be all right,” I told them, with a sudden rush of hope, “I guarantee it is. We’re planning to find out the best way to live again.”
From Psychotic Patient to Student of Psychology
The voyage I required to get from that psychiatric ward to where I am now was exhausting and torturous. It was likewise long. But it was ultimately transformative, also it led to undreamt vistas of comprehension and opportunity. The journey was begun by a broken, haunted person, but the one who emerged from the wreckage and despair was a survivor and would eventually grow to the man I was destined to be.
These voices have transformed, multiplied, terrorized, inspired, and supported, since I first heard them at aged 18. Now they’re an intrinsic and valued element of my identity. Ten years after the voices came. I graduated with the highest classification score the university had given. One year after I got the maximum M.Sc. score, and I’m now in the last year of my Ph.D. program (which, as I constantly say, is not terrible for a mad woman). In fact, one of my voices dictated the answers during an exam, which technically, possibly counts as cheating.
From being a individual who desired to die rather than live with all the voices, I am now able to say with true sincerity that I am proud to be a voice hearer.