On Mental Health

Focusing on “the voices,” and attempting to make sense of the nonsensible

I’ve lived with voices for so many years now, it’s really hard for me to think back to the time in my life when I didn’t hear them. I can’t really remember how it feels to think without my thought process being interrupted and distracted by “voices.” It’s like I am aware of the constant potential for distraction; like having a mobile phone in your mind, but one which gives you no option to ignore the call. Voices just fall into my head and affect my train of thought, often in ways which are bizarre or counter-intuitive.

I don’t remember how it felt to know, categorically, and with no sense of conflict or uncertainty, that my mind was my own, and not subject to periodic invasions from influences apparently distinct and separate from me. I’m fairly used to it by now, though this doesn’t mean that I like or accept it. Every day I work to cement the certainty that my mind is my own and only my own, and every day I dream of the time they’ll fade out for good. 

Although i’m also aware that for this to happen a degree of acceptance will be neccesary.

It occurred to me though, as I started to write this, that actually calling the voices, voices, is an untruth. Technically they are not voices, as the definition of a voice is “the sound produced in a person’s larynx and uttered through the mouth, as speech or song.” The “voices” I hear only occur within my own mind; they are not produced in a person’s larynx but rather by my chemicals which exist in my brain. It’s mind-boggling to consider this; if I don’t hear voices, then what do I hear? And do I even hear them, as, again, technically I do not use my ears to sense and perceive them?

So I say “voices,” despite the fact that they are not really voices, and despite the fact that 90% of the time it is only one voice I hear, speaking as though there are others there as well; “we think this, we believe this, you should be worried about what so and so’s saying about you..” Others do chime in from time to time (which is always very exciting), and those voices usually sound like whoever I am with at the time, which always keeps me on my toes.

Despite the fact that the main voice I hear is my dad’s I have always fought the urge to connect it to him in any way, or connect any of the voices to the people they sound like. With regards to the main one I hear, I have always thought, this isn’t my dad’s voice, it is a voice which sounds like my dad. When it’s being particularly obnoxious it’s harder to keep a cool head and resist the urge to start to assign blame to this unruly section of my own mind, but generally, I know to hold onto the mantra- the voices are in no way connected to the people they sound like.

My entire illness was preluded by a voice, and it was definitely one of the strangest incidents of my life thus far. I was sitting with my house-mate from uni, watching tv and smoking a spliff, when his voice chimed out in my head and started telling me a series of facts about myself; “your name is Alexandra Sarll, you are 20 years old, your family live in Surrey, you are doing an English lang and lit course,” and so on. It was so unbelievably strange I was struck dumb, I couldn’t believe how real it sounded, and yet my friend hadn’t shifted an inch next to me.

I remember that after recounting this list of facts, the voice then said “You and me? We wouldn’t work, we’re a contradiction of ages.” This has always stuck with me because it was the first time the illness intrigued me, and the first time the ‘voices’ said something which baffled me for its randomness. I had never had romantic feelings for this guy, and he was in a relationship with a good friend of mine at the time. 

After that initial instance, the voices snowballed and eventually morphed into the subsequent horror of psychosis.

When I moved into hospital for the first time, I would hear the “voices” of all the other people on the ward, as well as all my friends and family. After about 6 months most of them faded out in regularity, and only two remained in my mind and “spoke to me” every minute of every day. They were my dad’s, and my friend Beckys. Now my dad’s I could partially understand- he was my dad, and was a fairly significant influence on me as I grew up. It would make sense that if I was going to hear any ‘persons’ voice it would be one of my parents, as they were both pretty authoritative figures for me when i was young.

But I could never work out why the other one I heard was Becky! She was a good friend of mine, and we were definitely close, but not especially so. So I could never work out why her’s was the one which stuck, over all potential others. I remember I had endless theories about it though, which were fed by my psychotic mindset. Now i jst figure it was pure chance; hers was simply the voice that got picked at random out of a multitude of possibilities.

(To be continued..) 


2 thoughts on “Focusing on “the voices,” and attempting to make sense of the nonsensible

  1. “hers was simply the voice that got picked at random out of a multitude of possibilities” Nothing, NOTHING is random in the mind. Her voice will have chimed with your psychosis in a way that gave it the strength to become one of your voices.

    But let’s backtrack on this for a moment: my friend Hendrik has no voices. I’m not quite sure what is going on in his head, but to all intensome purposes, there is nothing going on in his head. I’ve written about people like him, who think nothing until they are told what to do – the kind of person who will forget anything they did and will only remember it if it’s written down on paper…

    even if it’s totally different from what they said at the time…

    You have the imaginative capacity to be able to imagine this desertification of the mind. They do not: now imagine them in your position and imagine them without the conscious ability to think to themselves “this sounds like my father, only it isn’t him.” Such people haven’t a chance: they would be swallowed by their psychosis in one gulp and it wouldn’t even burp.

    You are, at least, aware of the rules. You now know that even in your perilous state, you have vastly more than most people you meet.

    Liked by 1 person

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