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World Hearing Voices Day: What it’s like to hear voices…

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Rainbow Ocean © *Thelma1 (Image chosen by Meadhbh)

“If over 280 million people hear voices…why don’t we talk about it more?”

Tomorrow is World Hearing Voices Day; a day to celebrate hearing voices as part of the diversity of human experience. It challenges the negative attitudes towards people who hear voices and the incorrect assumption that hearing voices, in itself, is a sign of illness.

In the past I have ‘come out’ via this blog that I’m a voice hearer. Back in February I introduced you to the five main people who make up my ‘menagerie’; Meadhbh (pronounced as Marie), Audrey, Vanessa, Shay and Jessica, as well as at numerous times shared my adventures within a Hearing Voices Support Group and several posts looking at the whys and wherefores of my various voices. But at no stage have I explored what it’s like to be a voice hearer.

So, in celebration of World Hearing Voices Day, I wanted to spend a little time beginning a conversation about what my voice hearing experience is like.

My voices are real people

The one thing people need to understand about my menagerie is that they feel like they are real people. They are not simply omnipresent noise, but individual beings that have their own emotional spectrum. Sometimes they are happy, sometimes they are sad, sometimes they are acting as if it’s their time of the month and sometimes they’re acting as if they’ve had red cordial streamlined into their blood stream.

Each of my people have their own likes, loathes, loves and hatreds. They are all passionate about different things and each has their own opinions of me, and of the things I’m doing/should be doing.

My people are as real to me as your friends and family are to you

The easiest way I can think of to describe what it’s like for me to hear my voices is to ask you to imagine yourselves talking to one of your family and friends. They’re sitting beside you, mindlessly chatting about things that have happened to them, things they want to happen, disasters that have befallen their lives or the hotness of their latest celebrity crush. Sometimes their voice will rise or fall depending on their levels of emotion; sometimes they’ll shout, scream or cry, other times they will become all coy and shyly quiet.

Now imagine you are sitting around the table with three or four of your friends and/or family members. Sometimes there will be people talking to each other and not to you, but you can still hear them whilst you’re carrying on a conversation with someone else. Voices will become a din, questions will fly and sounds will overlap so that you may not catch everything that is said.

This is what hearing my voices is like.

Sometimes there is just one carrying on a conversation with me. Other times, three or four will be talking to me at the same time or, more often than not, three or four will be talking to themselves and to me at the same time.

But unlike your family and friends, my people have no respect for what I’m doing when they’re talking to me. I might be undertaking a job interview, or using the lavatory, or trying to sleep, or trying to have a conversation with a support worker or psychiatrist. And there my voices will be, nattering away, offering their opinions and advising me what I should do with no regard to my feelings or current activity.

Can you imagine how confusing (and frustrating) such a constant stream of voices could become?

My voices are a layer of support people often forget about

And can you imagine how beautifully supportive such a constant stream of voices could be for someone who is so isolated and alone?

Over the last several years I’ve not had the same level of support that most people take for granted. I haven’t had best friends, acquaintances, partners, girlfriends or random human beings to speak to about all that’s been happening in my life.

Virtually all of the chaotic crises I’ve experienced have been dealt with on my own with little to no advice offered by people who love and care about me. Likewise, I’ve had no-one to share the beautiful and happy times I’ve experienced; except my menagerie, who have been with me through it all.

Granted, for a large portion of the last seven years my people have been deeply abusive and critical of both myself and my actions. To them, I was doing nothing right. To them, for a large portion of the last seven years, I should have just toddled off and ended my pointless life.

However, since I began to explore the Hearing Voices Movement approach, there has been a distinct change in the time I’ve spent with some of my people. Certainly, Vanessa and Shay have been as frustrating and abusive as usual, but Meadhbh and Audrey have become much valued confidants and ‘friends’ in my ongoing journey.

At various points they have made me laugh when I’ve felt sad, supported me through difficult anniversaries by taking my mind off events and helped inspire me when I’ve felt most lost.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I would dead without the support these people have given me this year, but I certainly wouldn’t have been able to deal with my recent relapse as effectively had they not been so supportive and friendly.

Something that I know I’m deeply thankful for.

I have no idea what the future holds for me and my voices. However, I do know that Meadhbh and Audrey are both deeply excited to be celebrating our first World Hearing Voices Day together. To them, it’s the equivalent of Mother’s day; a day where we can celebrate their existence and all they’ve done.

So to celebrate, we are helping run a BBQ that my Hearing Voices Support Group is running in our local town and have a couple of themed posts coming that they would like to share with you all.

So wherever you are and whatever you may be doing tomorrow, remember that over 280 million people hear voices…so maybe it’s about time we all started talking about it a bit more! :)

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~ For more information on World Hearing Voices Day, visit Intervoice: the International Hearing Voices Network  ~

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5 thoughts on “World Hearing Voices Day: What it’s like to hear voices…

  1. I love this post I think I shall write my own similar version and link back to your for another perspective, if that is alright with you?
    Some of my voices are constant as well and I have a very similar relationship with those that you mentioned… they talk to me, at me, to each other, as a group- when I’m in class, at appointment, by myself, etc.. Mine use to be very suspicious of other people and didn’t want me to talk about them or specific things the feedback and advice back then did more harm than good now this set seem to have my best interests in mind offering more helpful and appropriate feedback and support. They still like to goof off and mess around as well. I have the meaner voices too but they aren’t constant… this will be elaborated on in my post. thanks for the inspiration.

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    • Thank you so much for your kind words. It’s still very difficult for me to write about my voice hearing experiences, so your words mean the world to me! :)

      I don’t really understand why, but there seems to be far more societal and psychiactric stigma around this aspect of mental health/human experience than other forms of mental ill health. I wish it weren’t the case, but sadly, it is.

      I would love to read a post about your relationships with your voices and have no problem with you linking back to my post. The way I see it, the more people that talk about voice hearing, the more we will normalise it in the eyes of the general public.

      Happy World Hearing Voices Day! :)

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  2. I have continual conversations with several ‘voices’ (they prefer to call themselves people, just like in your case). I mostly talk to Alexandria, though occasionally I would hear Renee or Patricia come through. There’s also others that I do meet, but only once per month in the Parliament of Mind meetings. They’re overall friendly to me, which I find quite good, despite their occasional grating advice, which turns out to be useful in retrospect. It’s only recently that I have found the courage to talk to any other flesh-and-blood humans over these experiences. But still, I do feel ambivalent over revealing too much material, lest I lose my personal boundaries or the specialness of such things.

    Likewise, these people have been of great emotional support to me and to each other. I had to come into grip with negative feelings which I think our society considers to be a taboo issue. We’re been pushed to normality (whatever that means!) at a great personal and social cost.

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  3. Pingback: World Hearing Voices Day: What it’s like to hear voices… | Marci, Mental Health, & More

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