I’ve written before about hearing voices here. This post is an update and a chance for me to express my feelings surrounding the voice I hear. Please be trigger aware when reading this piece.
“I hear a voice in my head” are the words I wish I could say more easily but unfortunately the fear of stigma has stopped me from being honest with so many people. These people include my family. They don’t know I hear a voice which is frustrating and sad. It is also often isolating. Why cant I tell them? That’s what you may be asking and the answer is I’m scared. I’m scared that they’ll see me as a freak or as dangerous and I don’t have the words to reassure them that I’m not those things. My voice scares me so why wouldn’t it scare other people? This is where my own self stigma plays a role.
Recently I have had an appointment with a psychologist who couldn’t treat me due to my voice. I was too ill for his service. This again scared me and led to more fear and isolation related to the voice. This was the first time I had actually had the word “psychotic” used to describe my illness. It really shook me up and has taken me weeks to admit to myself that what I have is a psychotic illness (this is how it was described in a letter from the psychologist to the psychiatrist) even though I’ve been on anti-psychotic medication for a couple of years now. I know I must sound silly but I had always felt that as the voice was in my head it wasn’t “that bad” but the phrasing of the letter made me realise how serious what I experience is.
My voice is a very negative voice and although I ignore its suggestions it does bring my mood down very low. My voice is very much in my head but it can drag me back to some of the worst times of my life. It makes living hard and an ongoing battle. It is not something that I can just push to the back of my mind.
My voice is currently being treated with an anti-psychotic medication. This gives me brief respite but does not take the voice away completely. In fact there are days for me where it does not seem to touch the voice at all. On these days the battle in my head is immense and exhausting. But I know I am still at the beginning of my journey of finding a medication or treatment that can help me quieten down the voice. This keeps me going.
Overall the hearing of a voice has been a truly negative experience for me. It is isolating and fear inducing. But if you hear a voice please know you are not alone. You are not the only person to hear a voice or voices. Don’t give up as there is help. Together we can get through this and hopefully by talking about it we will break down the stigma.
This post is a personal piece about some of the things you don’t see with mental illness. Please be trigger aware when reading this piece.
Mental illnesses are, unsurprisingly, not always easy to see. This can be down to a number of reasons. This piece is to look at some of the things people may not realise are linked to mental illness. These are based on my personal experience so they may not cover everything.
- What you don’t see is the loneliness and isolation that mental illness can cause. For me loneliness goes hand in hand with having a mental illness. I have written about it before here. You can be surrounded by people but still feel incredibly lonely. Having a mental illness can exacerbate this as you feel cut off from those closest to you especially if you feel they just don’t understand.
- What you don’t see is the fear of being rejected by those you love. I think this fear can be huge and can also feed into the loneliness. It isn’t always easy to live with someone with a mental illness and we are aware of this. For this reason we can become fearful that those we love might not be able to cope (especially as we don’t always feel able to cope with ourselves so why should we expect others to?) and might leave us. Mostly we are worrying needlessly but sometimes you do lose people due to your mental illnesses so fear of losing more people is real.
- What you don’t see is the tiredness that overwhelms us. Each day is a battle. Some days are easier than others. But battling your brain everyday is exhausting. Mixed together with some of the medications we may have to take this can lead to an overwhelming tiredness. We may have little energy to do everyday activities which may become frustrating for both loved ones and the person suffering. Patience is key here, as well as understanding. We don’t want to be so tired.
- What you don’t see is the voice in our head telling us how awful we are. This may be an actual voice or it could just be overwhelming thoughts. Whichever, it makes life harder having to deal with this negativity on what can be a daily basis. It can feed into the tiredness, loneliness and fears. It can be so isolating to be told how awful you are on a constant loop. This is why we need other people to big us up especially when we feel at our lowest. But it is hard as this can be when we feel like we should be on our own. What we really need is the total opposite. We need people, not necessarily to tell us we can get through this, but just to be there.
This list is nowhere near complete and different people will tell you different things that you cant see but for me these are the main issues. Fear, loneliness and tiredness are all fed by mental illness and are things that are not immediately obvious. Please be aware when talking to someone with a mental illness that what you see might only be the tip of the iceberg. Deep down may be many things you cant see. Please feel free to leave other ideas of things you cant see in the comments.
Please be trigger aware when reading this piece.
The 3rd October 2016 marked me being free from self harm for a whole year. Yes, I managed a whole year without harming myself, something I never thought I’d see. This post is here to look back at that year and to mark this achievement that I never thought could happen.
I realise so far I may sound smug or be making a huge deal over something that is a small achievement to most people. I’m not, I promise, feeling smug in the slightest. Nor am I really making a huge deal over a small achievement, because to me this is huge. I have already said I never thought I could make it this far and this last year has been so hard to achieve.
In the last year I have fought my hardest against my demons. To say I’m free from self harm is a misleading phrase. Indeed I have not self harmed (in ways that I see as self harm, others may beg to differ) but self harm has always been with me in the form of urges to harm and also visions of me harming myself. It has in fact taken over a lot of my mind. So to say I’m free of it is definitely not quite the right saying but its all I have at the moment.
I believe self harm will always be a part of my life in some way. Even if (or when, if we’re thinking positively) the urges and visions subside, I will always be left with the scars on my body. I will always have it in my past, and at the moment I feel it will always raise its head as an option when I am feeling low or am struggling with something. It may not be the first option/choice but I think it will always be there. Sorry if that sounds negative but it is my opinion that something that was such a huge part of me for so long will never be entirely gone.
I must however say it has got easier the more time that has past. The urges and visions still come but maybe less frequently (this could be me being optimistic). The “wanting to be free” feeling has won through more now than the urges. I have achieved a year. That’s a lot of days and a lot of bad anniversaries where harming used to be my only way to cope. I could not of done it alone and I have a lot of people to thank for it, which I will do personally.
If you self harm and are trying to be free I have just this message for you: It takes time and support and many slip ups. I may still slip up and go back to day one. But each time you go an hour or a day longer you are winning. Keep strong. I have faith in you.