All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…

Metaphorically speaking

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My counselor recently suggested that I should consider writing a blog post about all of the achievements I’ve made throughout the last twelve months, for in comparison to recent years the forward-movement I’ve made this year has been substantial.

Now, given that I take every suggestion my counselor and support workers make, I will be writing this post in a few weeks, most probably to celebrate the end of the year, but I wanted to write a little today about the part of me in which I have made the most headway over the last twelve months; my voice hearing experiences.

Twelve months ago I was still locked in the perpetual argument of do I talk about them or don’t I? Rarely were my voices mentioned on my blog and never by name or content. They were something that I believed I needed to hide in case people thought I was completely insane or beyond recovery. It has only been through my contact with the Hearing Voices Support Group, Intervoice and the work I’ve done with my support worker that I’ve found the confidence to publicly speak about my voices and my interactions with them.

In that time there has been a number of conversations about where my voices came from and what they may represent, for although they ascertain (and feel to me) that they are unique individuals, they communicate with me for a reason.

One of the theories behind voice hearing is that the voices one hears are metaphors for something. Whether it is a traumatic experience, emotional upheaval or something else entirely, it is only through identifying what these metaphors may be that we can hope to find the meaning behind the voices.

Take, as a first example, Vanessa. When she began talking to me in July 2007 I immediately recognized her as my abusive ex-girlfriend. She had the same voice, the same mannerisms and the same likes and dislikes. She even spoke to me in the same disrespectful, arrogant (and at times downright sociopathic) way. So, for as long as she’s been talking to me, I believed her existence to be simply as a result of the trauma the real-Vanessa’s abuse caused me.

But through undertaking the Maastricht Interview with my support worker, and several conversations with Emilia, a friend who works extensively in the Hearing Voices field, it was put forward that – in addition to being a response to trauma – Vanessa was also representative of my negative self-opinion.

She is the vocal component of my lack of self-esteem, non-existent self-confidence and general hatred of self. When I feel out of my depth, anxious or unsure if I should challenge myself, Vanessa pops up to ensure that I keep the status-quo; that I never do anything different because doing so may cause further pain and distress to my already overloaded soul.

In essence, she is in fact a protective element, only she tries to protect me through abuse rather than nurture because this is the only way she knows how.

Audrey is a similar story. When she began talking to me in October 2007, her voice – her persona – was a match to an (at the time) close and admired friend. For years she spoke to me in an abusive, derogatory manner that caused me tremendous pain and distress. She encouraged suicide and self-harm, demeaned me whenever she could and generally prevented me from making any positive change to my life.

So she too, could have been trying to protect me rather than simply abusing me.

But given Audrey was born out of the grief and guilt of a lost friendship, there may be more to her than meets the eye. Based on her personality, based on how she communicates, there is the possibility that she is representative of the type of friend I’ve always been drawn to; intelligent, cultured, dry sense of humour and a playfulness that balances the fine line between maturity and immaturity.

The problem with the metaphorical approach to voices becomes more difficult when it comes to my other primary voices, Meadhbh and Shay, for unlike Audrey and Vanessa, they are not people I’ve known, but completely born from my mind and life experience.

Until this year I had no theories as to where Meadhbh and Shay came from. I flirted with the idea that Meadhbh was representative of my sister, for she began talking to me at the time my sister’s mental illness was peaking and, as a result, I began losing her from my life. But Meadhbh’s age (late teens), country of origin (Scotland) and general personality were all as far removed from my sister as could be.

So where did she come from and what – if anything – is she representative of?

It was only after my support worker put forward a theory behind Shay that I began to formulate my own opinion of who Meadhbh is.

Shay, as I have mentioned in the past, is a bit of a bastard. The principal words that could be used to describe him – arrogant, dominant, misogynistic, sexist, a bit of a cock – are all words that I would never use to describe myself (whether other people would is something I can’t comment on!) so find it difficult to accept that there is any of Shay in me. But, my support worker theorized that he could be a representation of my deepest, darkest, most carnal masculine desires. In essence, he is the man I would be sans-inhibitions, sans-decency, sans-social acceptability. He is the darkness to my light, the yang to my yin, the alter-ego I ultimately become when I lose control (i.e. manic episodes) of my senses.

But how does this metaphorical interpretation help me work out the mystery of Meadhbh?

Although I rarely admit it, for a large portion of my life I’ve believed that I was born the wrong gender and wish, in fact, that I was a woman. The way I think, the way I act, the way I feel and the way I fantasize are all far more feminine than they are masculine. I rarely have anything in common with other men and, for most of my life, I’ve connected more to women than I have men, mostly because I crave an emotional connection above everything else.

When Meadhbh began communicating with me when I was thirteen, it was at a time in my life when my was I born the wrong gender questioning was first beginning to plague my mind; so where Shay is who I would be if I were an alpha-alpha-male, Meadhbh could easily be a representation of who I would be if I were a woman? Not a representation of my female side, but the female version of Addy.

She certainly mirrors a lot of my likes (fantasy realms, video games, books, movies, camping, kinks), dislikes (listening to other people eat, impoliteness, coffee) and seems to be an almost dreamlike representation of who I would love to be: Scottish, beautiful, able to wear corsets without people looking at me funny and extroverted to the point of making friends with everyone on earth.

In fact, I can’t think of a woman I’d rather be more like than Meadhbh.

Obviously, like everything within the realm of my voice hearing experiences, these theories are all hypothetical and subject to change at any moment, but the more I think about them, the more I believe I am closer to understanding sides of me that have baffled and confused me for over twenty years of my life.

And that’s certainly multiple steps forward to where I was this time last year!

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