Hearing Voices is not an Illness
If you are someone who hears voices that others cannot, you have likely heard some of the following said to you:
“You are hearing things. Those voices are not real. You have a mental illness. These medications will need to be taken for the rest of your life.” Or perhaps, “Oh my God! I am so sorry!”
Hearing voices can be confusing and that is an understatement. But there is a vast difference between being confused and having an illness. Yet, the latter description is the one our communities most often turn to as an explanation.
Why is that so?
Most everyone falls into two categories. Those who experience hearing voices and are confused, or people who have not experienced them and do not know what to believe.
Both of them defer to the medical community. To no surprise, an illness is how a doctor views something within their framework. When they see negative reactions, they do their best to mitigate them. And often, understanding the underlying cause is not important to treatment. The situation really has a predictable outcome.
But there is a third group of people that has a perspective that allows them to see things differently. Those who hear voices and are not confused by them. People such as myself.
While our lives are different and we each have unique ways of looking at our condition; we have created our own relationship with the voices that we hear.
Considering that commonality means that we are dealing with a relationship challenge rather than an illness. If we can simply communicate effectively with the voices that we hear; is there really an illness involved?
As someone who hears voices, it took me a few years to discover that poor relationships were the underlying cause to my confusion, delusions, and emotional instability. Relationships within myself. Because of that, no amount of medication or counseling from people who do not understand what is actually happening could make any lasting impact on my life. And I tried that path. Along the way, I was an inpatient in mental health facilities for a total of six times and fifty-four days. Countless hours as an outpatient provided counseling. Endless visits to a psychiatrist enlisted me as a guinea pig for dozens and dozens of combinations of brutal drug therapies. And I listened to the advice that told me that everything I was experiencing was a delusion. That my voices were not real.
After years of that experience I could take no more. I quit taking the medications. But the greatest leap forward was made when I stopped believing the doctors and started believing my own mind.
It is important to realize that our voices are every bit as real as any physical person in the world. Is it any surprise that relationships are worse when we try to pretend that each of us do not exist? Find ways to build relationships with them.
I have my own reasons for no longer taking medications, but you have to make the decisions that are best for you. My opinion is that when we are given medications designed to break down our communication, it breaks down our ability to form meaningful relationships. You cannot improve the situation between two people by destroying the communication between them. That is the bottom line. Building honest and open friendships with our voices is the answer to creating a better life. When you begin to talk and treat each other like family members, is it any surprise that things will begin to get better?
Let me suggest a helpful idea. Rather than using the words ‘real’ or ‘imaginary’ when thinking about your voices; try using ‘physical’ and ‘ethereal’ to differentiate between talking about people in the physical world and our voices who share the same mind.
Next, open a discussion with your voices. Make certain to listen as well as talking. And you don’t need to worry about explaining the content of this article to them. They are reading this right as you are. And creating a good relationship is just as important to them.
Another suggestion is to reach out to your peers in your community. There is an international Hearing Voices Network that allows us to find and meet with others who share the experience of hearing voices, seeing visions, or having other sensory perception experiences. They have the following goals to:
- Raise awareness of the diversity of voices, visions and similar experiences
- Challenge negative stereotypes, stigma and discrimination
- Help create more spaces for people of all ages and backgrounds to talk freely about voice-hearing, visions and similar sensory experiences
- Raise awareness of a range of different ways to manage distressing, confusing or difficult voices
- Encourage a more positive response to voice-hearing and related experiences in healthcare settings and wider society
Most of all, remember to stay positive. Understand that whatever your challenges, there is always a way forward. You can lead an amazing and fulfilling life together. Keep listening and believe. If it gets difficult, then seek relationship counseling! Learn how to live together with others who share the same life with you. I know that you can do it and by ‘you’ I mean ALL of you!