Submission: “Hearing Voices: What I Experience,” by Tom

Today I have been hearing voices, and my mind is still, even after all my research and self-reflection, coming up with theories as to where the voices may be coming from and who may be causing them, in a desperate attempt to find the source of the voices and make them stop. No matter how unrealistic or ridiculous I think the theories I come up with are I still believe them to be true. I have to remind myself that there is no evidence or logical reasoning to back these theories up, and that I am just hearing voices again; that there will eventually be an answer as to why I hear them. This whole cycle of becoming distracted and feeling harassed by voices, then having to reject my mind’s theories as to where they are coming from and just accept that I hear them, every single day, becomes exhausting. I find that sharing my experiences with others, whether it be online on a voice hearing website or with people close to me I can trust, helps me both emotionally and psychologically. I hope that writing this essay, and sharing how I hear voices, helps someone who is going through a similar situation.

–“Hearing Voices: What I Experience,” by Tom (excerpt)

Those of us who hear voices often struggle to make sense of the experience. Beyond the fear and confusion we may feel from the voices themselves, it can be difficult to figure out the “right” way of thinking about the experience. Sometimes, we feel torn between competing explanations – or unable to find any satisfactory explanation at all. In this submission, Tom describes his own process of reflection and how he’s forged an understanding of his voices. Tom considers (and dismisses) many different possibilities with care and curiosity, ultimately building a tentative case for the root causes of his experiences. As Tom reminds us in this thorough and insightful essay, having the space to fully explore the personal significance of our experiences is invaluable.

Continue reading “Submission: “Hearing Voices: What I Experience,” by Tom”

Submission: “Experiences Hearing Voices,” by Tom

In this submission, Tom writes in to share some of his personal experiences with hearing voices, as well as the strategies that help him to cope with and challenge the voices. Knowing that others have gone through similar things – and found ways to live well with their experiences – can be a powerful source of hope. As Tom puts it,

I hope what I shared about my experience hearing voices will help someone, as it helps me to share my experience with others, and hopefully someone else who is struggling with hearing voices everyday can relate to what I’m going through.

Read on for Tom’s personal story of living with voices, the struggles he’s encountered, and techniques that have helped him to take back control.

Continue reading “Submission: “Experiences Hearing Voices,” by Tom”

Submission: “Genesis of a Mad Person,” by Sankofa Backwards-Looking Prophetess

No matter what authority one exercises, one can never fully take possession of another’s story, as long as one knows one’s power (and is not physically contained, or rather detained), one can thwart narrative containment – grab the pen and throw in a plot twist.

In this lyric essay, author Sankofa Backwards-Looking Prophetess weaves together poetry, prose, and prophecy to reflect on the nature of shared and created realities for survivors of trauma. Sankofa writes from the intersection of the Mad, 2SLGBTQA+, and Black liberation movements, punctuating wry observation with cascades of magic and metaphor for a read that is as much disquieting dreamscape as it is social commentary.

The following piece was written on traditional, ancestral and unceded ʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō, Stz’uminus and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) territories, where the author resides.

Content warning: includes references to trauma; incarceration; sexuality; Christianity and Christian imperialism; child abuse, including childhood sexual abuse

Continue reading “Submission: “Genesis of a Mad Person,” by Sankofa Backwards-Looking Prophetess”

Call for submissions: Art, poetry, essays, and more

Do you have an article, work of art, poem, autobiographical essay, or other work related to your experience of hearing voices that you’d like us to share on the BC Hearing Voices Network blog? We’d love to hear from you! Anyone who self-identifies as having experienced voices, visions, unique beliefs, other unusual sensory experiences or extreme states, and/or psychosis is invited to submit art, short written works (approximately 1000 words), or other visual, audio, or videographic works. Please note that submissions will be reviewed by the blog administrator, and we may choose not to publish a submission if the content is excessively graphic, hateful or discriminatory (for example, if it contains racist or homophobic comments), contains identifying/private information about other people, or is otherwise inappropriate.

Works can be submitted via email to admin@bchvn.ca with the subject line “Blog Submission”. Please also include the following information:

  • How would you like to be credited for your work? You can choose to provide your full name, first name, a pseudonym, or to remain anonymous.
  • In a few words, how would you describe your work? For example, “autobiographical essay,” “abstract painting,” “mixed media,” “experimental,” “humorous,” “non-fiction,” or “short story” are possible ways you might describe your submission.
  • Is there anything you would like people to know about you? If you like, you can provide a short bio. For example, “Tom is a visual artist living in Vancouver with his two cats. Most of his work is in acrylic, but recently he has been experimenting with collage.”

For any other questions, please contact admin@bchvn.ca. Please note that it may take several days to respond to your email.

Hearing Voices: Art & Storytelling Workshop, in Vancouver

Rory's story telling workshop flyer

Individuals who identify as hearing voices, seeing visions, having other unusual perceptions or beliefs, and/or living with psychosis are invited to participate in a six week program where they will create and discuss stories told through art and writing. The program will explore how lived experience can inspire works of fiction, as well as how creative self-expression and the art of storytelling can help us to make sense of our experiences. Participants will have the opportunity to experiment with a variety of processes and mediums, as well as to discuss the creative process in a safe, supportive group of peers, and encouraged to build their own creative practice outside of sessions. 

The program will incorporate principles from the Hearing Voices movement, namely, that we are all experts on our own lives, and that our individual stories and interpretations of our experiences are valuable. The program takes the stance that everyone has something valuable to contribute to the world of the arts, and that this is rooted in our uniqueness as people – including experiences such as hearing voices or seeing visions. 

All art supplies will be provided, including a sketchbook, but participants are welcome to bring any additional materials they would like to use. You do not need to be a client of mental health services. 

For more information, email hearingvoicesworkshop@outlook.com or call Rory Higgs at 778-689-1626. To register online, visit: https://forms.gle/12z9FDHFHfB3Zh2H8

 

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.

Psychosis and Personal Mythology by Rory Neirin Higgs

fashion woman notebook pen
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

Following the rise of the biogenetic model of psychosis, psychiatric doctrine has held that the cluster of experiences so-encompassed – voices, visions, unusual beliefs, and other non-standard modes of perception – are little more than chemical noise, devoid of any real meaning or relationship to a person’s life. Many clinicians maintain that encouraging patients to talk or even think about the content of their psychosis feeds an illness that should be starved, constructing psychosis as a kind of malignancy that invades and cannibalizes the afflicted’s senses.1,2 But this explanation doesn’t always fit comfortably to the contours of lived experience. Since my own diagnosis, I have come to think of my psychosis (or, as I have sometimes preferred, “personal mythology”) not as a disease that hollowed out my capacity for self-knowledge, but as a strange and lovely cipher.

For me, the grain from which voices, visions, and unusual beliefs take root is typically an inner impulse that I am not yet able to address directly. I am confronted with a reality that is too threatening or confusing to assimilate into my conventional belief system, and the thematic kernel of it finds other ways to communicate itself. For instance, while reflecting on an instance of childhood abuse, I recently found myself wondering whether there was something inherently wrong with me that could have provoked it. Unable to sit still with the possibility that others chose to harm me of their own volition, my thoughts paced towards alternative explanations: perhaps, as a child, some kind of mind control beacon was implanted in my brain that caused people to mistreat me despite their best efforts? On its face, this is an impossible contortion of logic. But in that moment, it was the only way I could translate my feelings of self-blame and denial about the cruelty of other people into a tolerable narrative about my life. Once I calmed down, I was able to reassess this belief – but made note of the autobiographical information woven into it, in the threads of insecurity, shame, and betrayal.

Traumatologists maintain that a central characteristic of traumatic memory is that it is incompletely processed and integrated – more of a gallery of disjointed images than a coherent narrative.3 Accordingly, research suggests that traumatized people are less able to articulate our experiences verbally.4 If ordinary life events are remembered, it may be more appropriate to say that traumatic ones are dismembered. To draw again from personal experience: some months ago, I decided to start talking to others about an abusive relationship I had been in, spanning several years. I was stymied by the realization that I didn’t know where to start. There was no beginning or end to what I could remember, no backbone of “and this is why it all happened” to bind the story together. I found myself with only scattered vignettes that I struggled to gather into a legible shape, like crushed glass rendered from what must have once been an ornate cathedral window.

It wasn’t long before peculiar beliefs began their restless turning over in my skull. In the past, these beliefs – or delusions – had grown rampantly where they sprouted, elaborating into something vast and sprawling faster than I could prune them. This time, they merely flashed through me, like the spark of some secret metabolism. I’ve learned that this reflex to mythologize is how I come to tell my formless stories. Literary trauma theory has investigated the idea that both autobiographical and fictionalized life-writing are a way of synthesizing meaning from traumatic debris,5,6 and psychiatry itself has employed related clinical practices, particularly during its psychoanalytic heyday.7 Delusion, I would argue, behaves similarly. It pulls symbolic and exaggerated elements into the orbit of an essential truth in order to describe its gravity. In storytelling about my life – even or perhaps especially in this abstract, subconscious form – I am drawing maps between memories, across the black and foaming gulf that would strand them.

The emerging field of narrative therapy has similarly embraced the power of storytelling. Narrative therapy holds that the stories we internalize about ourselves inform how we interact with the world, and that exploring the origin and significance of these stories can guide us in establishing new ways of thinking.8 Likewise, cognitive psychology has suggested that memory is not a photographic but a constructive process, involving the incorporation of our preexisting ideas – or narratives – about the world, and that recounting events to others helps us to recall information about them later on.9 To me, this again demonstrates the importance of storytelling in organizing memory. Perhaps, for those of us who have never had the opportunity to tell our stories in our own words, who have become accustomed to the grisly work of dis-membering, the personal mythology of delusion offers a sanctuary: a domain in which we are free to speak about our injuries without the intrusion of outside perspectives. Society cannot or will not follow us into this magical-metaphoric thicket. Here, we are free to imagine and reimagine our experiences in ways that would otherwise be forbidden to us.

I think of the stories I told, glossolalic, through my psychosis. I think of how documenting this mythopoetic otherworld was, for me, a kind of testimony, laying claim to my role as author and narrator of my past. And I think of how psychiatry’s response of enforced silence and forgetting only intensified my need for meaning-making – how urgent it became to excavate the things I had interred. Psychologists have observed that the content of an individual’s psychosis is often related to past experiences,10 but I would take this conclusion a step further. My voices, visions and beliefs have been not only a distorted reflection of life, but their own vital truth, running parallel and symbiotic to my “sane” understanding of the world. I am re-membering the past, now, returning the red and beating soul to the sterile, lifeless history I had cleaved from it. I no longer hold the beliefs that characterized my psychosis as literal truth. But I have great respect for the stories I have told, and will continue to tell.

References

  1. McCabe, R., Heath, C., Burns, T., & Priebe, S. (2002). Engagement of patients with psychosis in the consultation: conversation analytic study. BMJ (Clinical research ed.)325(7373), 1148–1151. doi:10.1136/bmj.325.7373.1148
  2. Wang, E. W. (2015, October 1). Toward a Pathology of the Possessed. Retrieved from https://believermag.com/toward-a-pathology-of-the-possessed/
  3. Bessel A. van der Kolk, James W. Hopper & Janet E. Osterman (2001) Exploring the nature of traumatic memory. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 4:2, 9-31. doi: 10.1300/J146v04n02_02
  4. Miragoli, S., Camisasca, E., & Di Blasio, P. (2017). Narrative fragmentation in child sexual abuse: The role of age and post-traumatic stress disorder. Child Abuse & Neglect,73, 106-114. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2017.09.028
  5. Caruth, C. (1996). Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  6. Henke, S. A. (2008). Shattered Subjects: Trauma and Testimony in Women’s Life-Writing. New York, NY: St. Martins Press.
  7. Polkinghorne, D. E. (1988). SUNY series in philosophy of the social sciences. Narrative knowing and the human sciences.Albany, NY, US: State University of New York Press.
  8. Morgan, A. (2002). What Is Narrative Therapy?: An Easy-to-Read Introduction. Adelaide, Australia: Dulwich Centre Publications.
  9. Pezdek, K. (2003). Event memory and autobiographical memory for the events of September 11, 2001. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 17(9), 1033–1045.doi:10.1002/acp.984
  10. McCarthy-Jones, S., & Longden, E. (2015). Auditory verbal hallucinations in schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder: common phenomenology, common cause, common interventions?. Frontiers in psychology6, 1071. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01071

A Luxury of Difference by Bradley Aldridge

 

You wake up one day, the world is different. That’s a lie, the world has always been different. Something is wrong, something is always wrong, and you don’t know what. You are eager to find out, ready to leap off the cliff that stands before you if only you could find its edges. You can’t find its edges. Maybe this cliff doesn’t have edges. Maybe you are wandering a desert in a planet with no oceans and no forests. Maybe you are lost for good.

The world moves slowly and you move fast, jumping through traffic with no intention of dying and this time the world respects your intentions. This time you get away with it. No scars or broken bones to show for it, only horns honked and insults hurled and shouted by the people in the cars who just don’t understand, do they? They don’t understand that you’re special, you have powers of which no one can dare to speak. You are special, you feel it in the music in your ears even when your iPod breaks.

You try to tell a teacher at school about the coffee machine plotting with the stapler to kill you, you laugh it off. Everything, once laughed off, becomes sane and normal and no one has to know just yet. They will all know soon enough, and so why does it matter if you’re still pretending to be sane? Maybe you are sane, really sane, the last sane person alive.

You dreamt of earthquakes as a child, disasters to kill your enemies and bring you new life. You always were a prophet of Biblical proportions, you could always hear God, you just forgot how briefly. And when you remembered, well, that’s when the world really fell apart.

Go to school in Ontario. Go to school on an airplane. Bring your voices with you free of charge, and feel them buzzing in the air as no stranger tries to talk to you. You don’t need people, you will realize, as you lie in the Ontario snow until your fingers turn purple and stare at the shapes forming in the sky. The psychiatrist you see through the school tells you this is mania. You decide you like being manic.

There is depression, outlined and mapped by your classmates and awareness campaigns and the antidepressants that everyone seems to be taking but you. You take antipsychotics, a luxury of difference. You go off your antipsychotics, because you are unhappy. Unhappy isn’t quite right. You are empty, numb, devoid of all human emotion and feeling. Being human is only one pill left not-swallowed away.

You receive clonazepam, you are told to bring ID to the pharmacy because some people abuse this drug. You decide you will be one of the people who abuses this drug. You google how to get high off it and you take a few extra pills on top just to be safe. You draw pictures, because isn’t that what people do when they’re high? And then you fall asleep, closing your eyes for just one second to awaken the next day in the afternoon.

The voices would like it if you burned your rather long fingernails. You get out your lighter and hold the flame to a single fingernail, which burns in such a painful way, but you do not mind. You do not mind when Satan tells you to cut the words, I AM FREE into your arm, and you do not mind wrapping a towel around your bleeding arm so you can go into the snow and the trees and light your meds on fire, a symbol of your new freedom. You bring your can of spray paint, and your lighter, and of course, the burnt offering: your medication. But this time the world does not allow it; the wind curls and hisses and kills the flame, all you end up with are flecks of red paint on the altar you constructed out of twigs lining the trails.

You tell your psychiatrist. This too is mania, this too is forbidden. This too is illness, and illnesses are to be cured. You don’t believe you have bipolar disorder. You go back to your dorm room and sob incessantly. It is true, then, you decide. You are sad and you are happy and both reach to unfathomable depths, both must be made smaller and safer and easier for others to digest.

You write a song about concrete and coloured glass in your first stay in a psych ward. Concrete is what you are to be, strong, sturdy, boring, bland. Coloured glass is how you imagine yourself at the height of your powers, fragile and dangerous if broken, but beautiful, spiritual even.

You tell everyone in group therapy about your disease, your mania. The leader of the group asks why you want to be manic so badly, when you are not, have not been, and will not be. You are confused as to why stating the diagnosis your psychiatrist gave you counts as pretending to be something you are not for some unstated nefarious purpose, but don’t worry, you are about to get a lot more confused.

You stop reading. The words do not dance, but lie dead on the page. You cannot discern their meaning. They are not meant for you anymore. You learn how to speak the language of angels, to see numbers on a hunk of metal and transform them into prophecy. You are good at picking dates. You are exceptional at deciding what will happen on these dates. The only small glitch in your self-made matrix is that nothing ever goes as you predict it, but small matter. Nothing ever goes how the doctors predict, either.

You return to Vancouver. You leave for Toronto. This time the voices include a newer, far more prominent member: God. You have remembered how to hear God, and the voice sounds like rainbows and raindrops and metal and mental symphonies, and you try to put the sacred words into the mere ordinary words of your tongue and you fail, because the language of humans cannot contain the language of God.

At the new university in Toronto, things are different from the last time you were in Ontario. Things are brighter, like you’re living in heaven already. Your fourth and fifth hospitalizations happen over the course of one month in Toronto, and when you’re not busy attempting suicide by overdosing on loxapine, you are talking to God on park benches and composing songs to express your devotion. You are not supposed to eat pork, God himself tells you. You tell the hospital. They tell the cafeteria and you wind up with a piece of paper that in large bolded letters says NO PORK next to a rather bland slice of pork on your plastic tray.

You ask to speak to a chaplain. You are told it would make your illness worse. You write down the words of God. A nurse asks to photocopy them, and you comply. You fly back to Vancouver, and you feel boxed in by this city. You felt boxed in by Toronto, no ocean to run to in times of trouble. But there is something more sinister about being boxed in by your home, about rather than being unable to run instead realizing the futility of running. But there is consolation still in the way the trees meet the sky where God must live.

Things could’ve continued like this forever if it weren’t for entropy. There was a time when you went to the forest to talk to God, there was a time when you jotted down prophetic wisdom on your cellphone. There was a time when you were a prophet and the world did not say you could not be, a time when you had hope for the future.

There was a time when you walked in Eden and spoke directly to God. The time passes, as all times do, but it feels more bitter and harsh than the passing of anything else.

You refuse to take your medication, you feel suicidal. The police come, the security guards come, the nurses come, the doctors come, the hospital comes directly to you, to the chair in which you are sobbing, and strips you naked, locks you in a concrete windowless room with no sky and no God.

There are no poetic words for trying to kill yourself, you are surprised to find. You go to kill yourself, and your iPod dies, the earbuds won’t work just right, and you are left alone. You always seem to be alone. You thought there would be music when you killed yourself, but there is none.

After gulping down the pills you gulp down charcoal, feeling a disgust that sticks to your bones. You wish to be dead. Someone asks how you are feeling. You say, Disappointed I’m not dead. You mean it.

That makes for your sixth and seventh hospitalizations. There are more to come. There is always more pain on the horizon. You are a wounded animal that knows when it is about to die. You have your intuition. You have your magic. You have your voices. You cannot scream without risking a seclusion room, and so the voices scream for you.

God comes back wrong, behind a dumpster behind a Chinese restaurant standing next to a truck unloading boxes of locally made tofu. You have a vision, your feet leave the Earth and you travel to another planet where God fronts a band of Mormon missionaries singing Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. It is the least incomprehensible thing that happens to you while you are up in the sky.

The new God tells you every single person on Earth will die horrific, violent deaths unless you obey him. You make a blood pact with God to kill.

You are not a violent person, you think. You insist on keeping around containers to carry spiders away unharmed. You were nearly brought to tears by a high school debate over whether or not dropping a nuclear bomb could be justified.

You couldn’t stop thinking about all those bodies, all those lives, all those people on fire, burning and shrieking in pain as someone else’s cruelty kills them.

You can’t stop thinking about it now, for it is, after all, what you see in your continued visions. Piles of bodies. Piles of suffering impossible for any one human to ever fully comprehend.

And only you can stop it. With violence, with blood, with the perpetuation of the very same atrocity you strive to stop.

You never actually kill someone. You tell yourself you will do what God commands. But no matter the threat, no matter the cost, no matter how high the stakes of your disobedience, you cannot bring yourself to carry out an act of violence.

In compensatory obedience, you go for walks clutching sticks. Sometimes you swing the stick around, feel your power. You do not know who you are. The voices do.

You go for walks in the middle of the night in your pajamas and slippers, winding up in New Westminster. You shatter a glass on the floor to cut out the eyes infesting your muscles. You do crazy things. You are a crazy person.

Healing isn’t found anywhere you might expect it, you begin to suspect you won’t find healing at all. You confess the secrets of your traumas at the prompting of kind and gentle voices, you sob in Mental Health Team bathrooms.

You go back and forth. You are a prophet. You hear the voice of God. It is the highest blessing. You are a visionary. You have seen God. It is the deepest curse. You are traumatized. You have cut off parts of yourself that manifest themselves as voices. It is a way of surviving. You are ill. You hallucinate. You need medication.

With every new theory it always seems clearer and clearer. It is biological, it is psychological, it is spiritual. You are always right, to the exclusion of every previous version of yourself, until you are wrong, and then you are perfectly right to the exclusion of that previous version, and on and on spins your mind and its theories.

You keep searching for answers, there are none. You identify strongly with the Book of Job. You live, you suffer tremendously, your friends tell you that you deserve it, you cry out to God, God shows up in a whirlwind only to say, I Am All Powerful And Cannot Be Questioned, you are granted relief. You miss the whirlwind, and so you start scratching your skin again in the hopes the sores will regrow so that you can summon God back to Earth. But God is not summoned, and there are no more visions and you walk the sidewalks at night with only the neon light of gas stations against sunsets and storm clouds to guide you home, and you are hardly a prophet these days, and something inside you is starting to heal.

You awaken one day, not from a nightmare but from a dream, a true rarity of experience. The voices are a still calm as the day begins, and you are grateful, you are bitter, you are whole.

Negotiating Space by Golya Mirderikvand

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By Golya Mirderikvand

The topic for this article came to me while I was confronted with various everyday decisions and dilemmas, some with small and others larger implications. In trying to think of the bigger picture and how this topic relates to my mental health, I found myself in a larger abstract philosophical realm of what ‘negotiating space’ really means.

We human beings are in a constant state of negotiation; whether this be with regards to our living space, work space, personal space, relationships, etc. And in essence we can also conclude that this notion also applies to all living beings on this planet. Different communities of living beings, down to the cells and proteins in our bodies are constantly in a state of communication, interaction, and negotiation with their surroundings and their neighbours.

One can think of the brand new interaction that takes place between two foreign parties, as a dance between them. As a result of this constant negotiation and renegotiation, a newly formed space is created. What manifests from this dance in this space is sometimes complete domination by one; at times by the other; and at times mutual agreements are made. Until over time this gives rise to the formation of a new entity, which marked by constant absence and presence of one or the other, has a new identity; permanently altered and constantly changing.

I became really fascinated with the notion of absence and presence and really started thinking about what it really meant when I listened to a lecture by Vancouver-based artist Geoffrey Farmer, at the Vancouver Art Gallery. He illustrated his point by sharing one of his childhood memories of how he was fascinated by the imprint that a leaf, covered with paint, left behind on a piece of paper: how the leaf “appeared” to be on the paper, but physically it was no longer there. The leaf was absent yet present through its permanent imprint on the paper.

In fact, we humans are constantly affected and altered by our environments and interactions with others, and through these interactions we are scarred and imprinted by the experiences that we acquire. These experiences, indeed move us to a new space where we now have a slightly altered identity.

We can liken this dance or constant give and take that takes place in life, to our continuous strive for achieving equilibrium.

We might even call these negotiations social contracts when referring to our many diverse societies. We see this at the level of political interactions that take place amongst various communities, states, and nations. Or on a much simpler level, these social contracts could be between two friends as a relationship or a friendship develops.

…or in my case when my voice hearing experience started and a forced relationship was forged between my voices and I.

Hearing voices that are not perceived by others, has permanently altered me. I literally woke up one morning to constant invaders, criticizing every aspect of my being. It does not matter what activity I am engaged in; my visitors infiltrate everything that I do and never run out of clever comments.

Through time, I came to realize that the only way to move forward on my path of recovery was through negotiating and establishing relationships with my voices. These invisible interactions have reshaped and altered me in numerous ways, and as a result I have learned how to be more assertive, compassionate, and investigative.

I become entangled in the drama of an inner world when dealing with my voices. And that is in fact exactly what my voices want: constant attention and inner turmoil. Gone are the  days when I would be able to have a meditative moment to myself, contemplating on the wonders and mysteries of the world without constant interruption and critique.

I find both my inner and external worlds constantly competing for my attention, and I’m left to explore whatever space is left for negotiation between these two worlds.

Mental Health Matters – Hearing Voices video pick

In honor of mental health week, here’s another hearing voices video pick. This video is one of the one’s we’ve discussed in the Hearing Voices Network Study Club.

Hearing voices can be a scary thing, but did you know it can also provide comfort to some? In this video, from peerstv, host Shannon Eliot chats with Adrian Bernard about the concept of hearing voices – the good, the bad, and what most people don’t know.

Video Pick: Eleanor Longden TED Talk

Hi all,

We thought we’d start featuring video picks related to the international hearing voices network. Below, you’ll find a TED Talk featuring voice hearer Eleanor Longden. It’s a video we have discussed at our local Hearing Voices Network Study Club. Check out the Vancouver Groups section of this webpage for information on the Study Club. Eleanor is living proof of something many of us have learned through our own experience: that although voices can be difficult for some of us, we can still move forward, experience success and live well. Enjoy 🙂