Co-existing with Voices by Golya Mirderikvand

It was exactly four years ago when my voice hearing experience first started. Dazed, confused, and convinced that spiritual beings were communicating with me, I was taken to the psychiatric ward of our local hospital, where I was certified for about two weeks. If you were to tell me then that these voices would still be around a few years later, I probably would not have believed you. I always regarded this experience as temporary and something that will come to pass; a short-lived spiritual training as I thought of it then.

The magical reality and beliefs I had come to accept, came to an abrupt end when I was given a mental health diagnosis by the medical community. Trying hard to make sense of my new experiences solely based on the medical model was a harsh new reality. After several months of various pharmaceutical drug treatments, I became disillusioned that the medical model alone was going to “fix” me. The voices were always there, constantly, no matter what medication or dose I was on. Thankfully, I caught on with the Hearing Voices Movement at a fairly early stage on my journey of recovery. I reached out to my nurse and asked that she put me in touch with a support group where I would be able to connect with other voice hearers. I went to the Hearing Voices Study Club and felt extremely relieved to connect with other people who had similar lived experiences. This group is a safe and welcoming space for people to share their experiences and alternative strategies that work for them. It was learning about these alternative approaches that gave me new tools to work with and ultimately healed me.

 I came to realize that the content of my voices actually matter and that they cannot be just silenced with medication. It was extremely helpful to talk about the content of my voices with a therapist who helped me deconstruct them and get at the root of the underlying messages, which were often times linked to my insecurities and core beliefs. I learned to engage with my voices constructively and set clear boundaries. In short, I have learned to co-exist with my voices. I no longer reject the experience and by accepting it, I have managed to establish an amicable co-operative relationship where there’s mutual trust and respect. These days, rather than talking to me and distracting me all the time, my voices pick certain pre-established times of the day to chat with me. I welcome this and let them have their moment. I feel in complete control of the experience and can simply turn it off when I don’t want it around. Why might I still want this experience around, you might ask, if I can very well make it go away? Well, this brings me to another important point: this experience can be made into a positive one. There is a good percentage of people out there who hear voices and have come to see their experience as life enhancing and valuable.

 Thanks to these alternative approaches that I have learned from other experts by experience, I have been able to live a full, engaging, and meaningful life, which involves me working full time and being an active member of my community.

My Journey with the Hearing Voices Network by KC Pearcey

I first discovered The Hearing Voices Network after speaking with my sister about my voice hearing experiences in the autumn of 2012. She looked up resources and information for me as she wanted to help me.

Looking up the Intervoice website brought me to The Hearing Voices Network. Suddenly I became aware of the fact that I was not alone and many people have similar beliefs as I do regarding their voice hearing experiences. Every time I was told I have a mental illness I felt stigmatized and invalidated. The Hearing Voices Network website validated my beliefs and my right to have them.

Early in 2013, my mental health team pointed me to The Voices and Visions group at Grandview Woodlands Mental Health Team. I started attending that group and it was the first time I had met other voice hearers. The group is a Hearing Voices Network group and adheres to their guidelines and principles.

In 2016 I took Peer Group Facilitator training and in 2017 I took Peer Support Worker training. I had decided I would enquire about volunteering for The Voice and Visions group at Grandview Woodlands when my social worker sent me a job posting for a position being advertised for that group. I immediately applied and was called for an interview. My interview was successful and I was hired for the position of co-facilitator.

I have been co-facilitating for The Voices and Visions group at Grandview Woodlands for about a year and half. I also have and am co-facilitating other Voices and Visions groups. I find it tremendously rewarding to be of service to other folks with their voice hearing experiences. Providing a safe space to share their stories and beliefs is of the utmost importance to me. Highlighting the group guidelines during each session is so validating as we always remind people that their beliefs are right for them and that we make no assumption of illness. This may be the first time anyone has ever said that to them.

Often-times attendees express their gratitude about this. All in all my journey with The Hearing Voices Network has had an extremely positive impact on my life and a blessing that I wouldn’t change for anyone.