If you have ever heard or currently hear voices, what do you consider them to be? Nuisances? Annoyances? Assholes? Friends? Companions? Have you been tormented by them or complimented by them, or both?
I am of the fairly small percentage of people (9%) who hears voices without a clinical diagnosis. Kind of feels good to say that.
I consider myself lucky. I’ll explain why.
If you’re a research savvy person, if you have faith in that system, then you may be glad to hear there is research on this topic. Not a lot, and certainly not enough considering how much time and money is put into making new anti-psychotics that all have the same chemical basis as Haldol or Thorazine damn near. Research was done by a woman named Sandra Escher years ago on children aged around 8-19 who heard voices. She followed them over a course of three to four years. The children who were taught to handle their emotions, who were taught to heal, to cope, and to understand–well, for some their voices disappeared. For others, they were simply less of a nuisance.
For the children who were introduced to diagnosis (i.e, Psychosis NOS, Schizophrenia), who were clinically screened, who were placed under psychiatric care . . . well, you can surely guess their voices grew more malevolent, more violent, and I can only assume so did their vision of themselves.
I believe she and her colleagues also found that the adding of psychiatric medication only suppressed the emotions needed to heal.
Another study: you can read the abstract here, and the actual paper if you have access to PubMed. Essentially, there were two groups: non-patient and patient. The patient group consisted of people diagnosed with either a dissociative disorder or the infamous Schizophrenia. Everyone in both groups heard voices, both internally (and no, not the voice you’re using reading this, or the voice you hear when you think, it’s legitimately hearing another voice inside of your head), and externally.
The conclusion? Those who were non-patients, meaning they had never been diagnosed, regarded their voices a positive experience, or at the very least, felt more in control of themselves. Those who were patients obviously didn’t. You may be thinking: well, what about people who hear voices but also have cognition issues, delusions, e.t.c, e.t.c?
There is a message behind the voices, the delusions, regardless of what they are, even aliens, radiation, government control. I’ve experienced this first hand both in myself and at my job.
For someone who comes from a rather decent childhood and suddenly experiences that mindset, do you know what that is? That’s a trauma. And do you know what you never ever do to someone who has been traumatized? Take away their power. You never disable that belief in themselves that they are in control, you never invalidate them.
And that’s exactly what our system has done. If you are lugged into a psychiatric hospital in the midst of this mind state they call psychosis, you are given drugs and a diagnosis–for emergency situations, I understand why it’s done. However, to then ignore the terror, the voices, the delusions, and simply pretend it’s wholly biological and physical and nothing else-that’s a mistake. A rather large mistake.
I’ve just recently come out that I hear these things. There are a lot of other things I believe and experience that I prefer not to talk about with professionals in fear of diagnosis. Who has ever walked out of a psychiatrists’ office who hears voices without a diagnosis like schizophrenia?
I’ve been this way since I was a child. I kept quiet since I was a child. I kept quiet until I was an adult, until I kept seeing peers and strangers experiencing what I experienced . . . but they kept calling themselves sick and disabled and worthless. And I kept wondering why I never called myself that.
I told my psychologist today some of the things I hear. It’s a mixture really: either I’m being mocked or I’m being fed “grandiose” ideals (that I don’t necessarily disagree with). I was speaking with a man in class the other day and he is a new psych major. He’s learning a bunch of new things and he’s loving it, so he had a lot to say. In the midst of the entire class speaking, and him, I heard “you’re more evolved than him. You are. Stop listening to him. You’re better than him . . .” e.t.c.
I did stop listening, kind of because I got lost and distracted; I certainly didn’t mean him any disrespect. The mumbles in my head gave me a bit of a break from all the mind numbing conversation around me.
And yet at the same time I can come home, pick up my kitty, hug her, and hear “kill her; snap her neck, strangle her” e.t.c.
And as a non-patient, while distressed at times, I too often feel I have a higher level of control in how I react to voices and hallucinations of all types. I always have. And I won’t let something like diagnosis take that power away from me.
The paranoia is a different story, and the visual hallucinations of huge ass spiders and people following me down the road, well, that can get out of control a little. I’m working on it. It’s rooted somewhere in my mistrust.
Voices are heightened when my anxiety is through the roof, when I haven’t gotten enough sleep, when something stressful happens, and today my psychologist offered the idea that they were my brains’ coping mechanisms: they serve as a distraction from the reality I have never been able to face. I fully believe they’re the product of my childhood, my present reality, and the dam of feelings, thoughts, and pains kept in the back of my mind, the one that’s going to burst sooner or later.
Eleanor Longden is another advocate of this. She came from a rather average childhood and decent family. She started hearing voices in college, told her college counselor, and in the end suffered through the whirlwind of psychiatric diagnosis, drugs, and degradation. When she too learned the mechanisms to view the voices and her paranoia and everything else that developed after her diagnosis in a different light, her voices’ malevolence disappeared. They began complimenting her and giving her answers on her tests–right answers.
My first instinct is aliens, but I won’t go there.
What’s my point, you may be wondering. Is it that the medical model is all cocky bullshit written and paid for by big pharma, the APA, and insurance companies? Is it that psychiatric medication is the devil? Is it that the idea of mental illness doesn’t exist?
It’s none of that.
My point is that the experiences we have as humans aren’t just things to ignore. They’re not things to label and toss away like a dead cat carcass. They’re reactions to our reactions to our world. They won’t go away not because your medication is wrong, but because as long as we’re alive, we’re always reacting to something: our surroundings, our families, news, stress, trauma; the list could go on for ages. Your brain might react with voices, someone else’s might shut down, or pick up in speed. It’s your participatory awareness that matters.
You raise your hand in class, you talk at meetings, and if you don’t do those two things, you at least comment on blogs like this. So why not participate in your own health? It’s okay to focus on these things. It’s okay to listen and be aware of yourself. And it’s okay because nothing in life is as simple as popping a pill or typing in a diagnostic code.
In case anyone was wondering, before the DSM 3, these “disorders”, these “illnesses”, were called reactions. Curious, eh?