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…


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The day has finally arrived!

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Well, the day has finally arrived. In just a short few hours my support worker will be picking me up to drive me to the train station, where I will board a train that departs for Melbourne, and then…I will be on holiday! For one whole week I will be able to gallivant around Melbourne doing all sorts of exciting, bizarre and wacky things. Art galleries, museums, aquariums…they will all be my oyster! I will get to take random photographs of street art, architecture, the hustle bustle of city life and (of course) the occasional selfie! For seven days I can do whatever I like – or rather, I can do whatever my anxiety and extremely strict budget ($15 a day) allows!

Meadhbh is super excited about the trip. She’s been squealing and babbling for days about all the things we can do in Melbourne. She doesn’t understand the budget may interfere with some of our plans, so there may be a chance she’ll be let down throughout the trip, but it’s nice to have her happy and excited. Audrey, too, is longing to walk the galleries of the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) and check out the numerous laneways that mark Melbourne as the place to be. It’s rare for Audrey to be so excited about something, so it’s nice to know she can get giddy and overwhelmed, instead of being the staunchly stoic person she usually is. Shay, meanwhile, is gagging at the mouth over the sheer number of “quality totty” (his words) that he’ll get to check out (read: perve on) throughout our adventure. Despite his misogyny, it’s wonderful to have him focused on something positive, rather than endlessly pointing out the negatives which is his standard.

Vanessa, however, has been in overdrive. Over the last few days, in the lead up to our holiday, her abuse has been escalating. She’s been quick to point out all the bad things that happened to me in Melbourne, bad things that I will be reminded of as I roam the city and revisit locations from my past. These triggers are things I know she will seize upon; they will cause her to abuse me, to bombard me with critical comments and hurtful words, but I’m hoping my anticipation of her abuse will allow me the strength to ignore it. After all, I’m determined not to have anything (especially Vanessa) ruin my holiday.

Because I don’t have a laptop or smartphone capable of accessing the internet (abject poverty, remember!) it’s doubtful I will be online much over the next several days. I may visit an internet cafe if time (and money) allow, but don’t go expecting many updates or photographs over the next seven days. Know that I will be okay. Know that I will be having a good time. And I promise I’ll update you all on my adventures upon my return. And yes, you can expect a plethora of photographs to decorate your screens when I do have internet access again!

I have a few finishing touches to add to my packing, so will sign off now. Suffice to say, I am exceedingly excited, and can’t wait to board the train!

Wishing you all a happy, safe and healthy week. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do! ;)


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Hearing Voices Q&A: What do you want to know?

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A few days ago I had a conversation with someone about my hearing voices. The person I was speaking to is not a voice hearer, and they were explaining their difficulty in understanding this aspect of my mental health. It got me thinking that there are probably many people around the world who have trouble understanding the voice hearing experience. It is, after all, not something many people can get their head around.

Over the years I have tried to explain, to the best of my ability, my own experiences with hearing voices, for example:

But I probably haven’t covered all of the questions that you may have about this aspect of my mental health. Which is why I’ve decided to open it up to you. In this brand spanking new blog series, I’m giving you the opportunity to ask any question you may have in regards to voice hearing and my experience of it. Perhaps you want to know how I handle multiple voices talking to me twenty-four hours a day. Perhaps you’ve been burning to ask when all this started in my life, but were too afraid to do so. Whatever question you may have, I will answer it as honestly and openly as I can.

But this Q&A isn’t just for me. My voices have also agreed to answer any questions you may have of them. So if you’re keen to find out what gets Meadhbh all excited, or what books are Audrey’s favourite, now’s your chance. All you have to do is ask, and they will answer, as honestly as they can.

In order to make it user-friendly I’ve decided to offer several ways that you can ask questions:

If you’re happy for your question to be viewed publicly, you can;

But if you’d rather the question be kept private, you can;

Just remember to direct your question to who you’d like to answer it. Either myself, Addy, or my voices, Meadhbh, Audrey, Vanessa or Shay. This will prevent any confusion and/or avoid everyone offering their opinion when it isn’t wanted.

We’re happy to answer any question you may have, and look forward to opening up a conversation about the voice hearing experience.

So, let’s get the questions rolling! :)

 


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In which I go on a date…

Until 2pm my day followed the same boring, monotonous routine that it has followed for the last several months; wake up, turn on talk radio, surf the internet whilst listening to talk radio, shower at 12pm, mosey down the road, do my grocery shopping, return home. Etc. Etc. And yes. I’ve awarded myself bonus points for use of the word ‘mosey’! But at 2pm my routine was thrown well and truly out the window…and it was wonderful.

the banquet of cleopatra

The Banquet of Cleopatra; one of Audrey’s favourite paintings.

Now, about two years ago, when I threw myself into trying to understand my voices and build a better relationship with them, I stumbled upon a technique that I found worked wonders. My people like being paid attention to. They get off on it. When they talk to me they relish having my full and undivided attention. But if I didn’t show them my full and undivided attention, they grew grouchy, and attacked me verbally for neglecting them. In an effort to stop this. In an effort to make our ‘friendships’ more secure and loving, I started organizing “dates” with them. A special period of time that I would spend with only them, doing what they wanted to do, talking about what they wanted to talk about. For that allotted period of time I was theirs. Completely.

Now each of my voices like doing different things. They are, after all, their own unique personality. Meadhbh loves colouring in. She loves dragons and fantasy creatures. She loves playing Zelda; especially Twilight Princess, as she imagines herself to be Midna. Audrey, meanwhile, loves books and literature. She loves being read to. She loves painting. She loves Batman and anything Gotham City related; especially Harley Quinn, who she has a girl-crush on. Vanessa, on the other hand, loves musicals. She loves criticizing and abusing me. She loves Harry Potter, much to my annoyance. Shay, for his part, loves women; everything and anything to do with them. He’s misogynistic like that. So when I have a “date” with a voice, they often want to do something related to their interests. Don’t we all, when we go on a date? It is, after all, about having fun whilst getting to know someone.

In the past my dates have revolved around many things. I’ve read The Broom of the System to Audrey. I’ve journeyed through Hyrule with Meadhbh. I’ve had a karaoke session with Vanessa. And I’ve embarked on a quest with Shay to discover as many naked female posteriors as possible. All had their moments. All were, in their own way, entertaining. But each date allowed me the opportunity to get to know each of my voices better. Like I said; they love the attention!

So at 2pm today, after many months of neglect and avoidance courtesy of my depressive episode and physical ailments, I had a date with Audrey. The last date we had involved watching Jane Eyre whilst sand-painting an Aboriginal image of a platypus. She loved the movie, as the story is one of her favourites, and she loved painting, as the texture of the sand thrilled her. So I didn’t know what to expect this afternoon until I sat down and waited for her to tell me what she wanted to do. After a few moments, she screamed two words at me: “Lego! Batman!

So I warmed up the Wii, inserted the disc and waited for Danny Elfman’s moody score to overwhelm us. When I brought the Wii back in 2013, courtesy of a friendly second-hand store, we purchased Lego Batman at Audrey’s request. Being a lover of all things Gotham, as well as all things Lego (you should hear her and Meadhbh when The Lego Movie is on; the excitement in their voices if palpable!) it was the perfect fit for Audrey. And we have played it many times in the past, usually at her request, and usually the levels that Harley Quinn features in. Today was no different. After loading up the game I was forced to choose Harley’s level and away we went; battling our way through Lego Gotham’s fun park on the way to a showdown with The Joker’s psychotic companion.

As we played, we talked. Open. Honest. And raw. We talked about Vanessa and her ongoing battle with Meadhbh (“I like Vanessa. But sometimes she can be a conniving bitch!“) We talked about whether or not I should return to the UK (“Ultimately it’s up to you. But I wouldn’t mind seeing Scotland again, I kinda liked it the last time we were there. All moody, icy and cold. Lovely.“) We talked about my kink (“When are you going to make it happen?“) And we talked about why I haven’t been reading much lately (“I miss it when you read to me. You haven’t done it for sooooooo long!“) In fact, we spent nearly an hour this afternoon reminiscing about books and reading, and debating why I haven’t been able to read fiction for over a year. The debate got so real, so honest, that it actually made me a little teary. Ultimately, during a pause in the game, I agreed to try to read fiction again. She could choose the book (“A Fringe of Leaves!“, she said immediately) and I would start reading it to her whenever she wished (“Tonight!” She barked.) Meadhbh didn’t take too kindly to this as she felt Audrey was unfairly monopolizing my time, but I placated her by agreeing to a date with her tomorrow afternoon, something she jumped at the chance to do!

All in all I felt the afternoon went well. It was lovely spending some time with Audrey again. Just chatting and being with each other. She helped me understand a number of problems that I’m currently having (“It’s not your fault you’re depressed. It’s the bipolar monster that’s causing it. So try not to blame yourself too much,“) and shared her opinion on topics as varied as ISIS (“Wankers!“) , my dreamed-of trip to Melbourne (“Promise me we’ll go to the NGV,“) and spaghetti on toast “Vom inducing.”) In fact, it had been so long since I last spent any time with Audrey without Meadhbh and Vanessa present, that I’d forgotten how witty, intelligent and down-to-earth she can be.

So if you hear voices, and they are amenable to it, I highly suggest organizing a date with them. It works wonders for me to keep them under control and dampen any abusive tendency they may have. I know that if I don’t have regular dates with them – as I have discovered with Audrey – they can act up and make life a living hell. Paying them attention, allowing their desires to be sated, is a wonderful way to keep everyone happy and contented. I know that I will be aiming to make my time with Audrey take place on a monthly basis (“YES, please,” she said when I suggested this today) and am already looking forward to our next date together.

It was also a wonderful way to break up my regular routine. Normally I would have watched a movie before listening to talk radio whilst surfing the internet. But this afternoon I had intelligent conversation and minion-spanking action to entertain myself with. Easily a far preferable option to the usual, boring, monotonous routine I have fallen into. Even now, as I type this, there is a song in my soul that has been missing of late. I think anything that shakes up my routine is a good thing, and I am more determined than ever to challenge my routine at every opportunity.

So all that is left is for me to begin cooking dinner (Agnolotti pasta with pesto and veggies tonight) before retiring to read A Fringe of Leaves with Audrey, and I’m sure Meadhbh, who never misses the chance to be read to. Wishing you all a wonderful, productive and peaceful day! :)

Note I: As Vanessa and Meadhbh had the chance last week, I’ve let Audrey choose the playlist for today. She hopes you enjoy!
Note II: All text highlighted orange are actual quotes from Audrey, republished with her kind permission.

 


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Torturous small talk and tumultuous big talk

My anxiety was challenged quite profoundly this morning. Last Thursday I received a phone call from a painter that had been commissioned by my real estate agent to re-paint the ceilings of my unit. For the three years that I’ve been living here they’ve been mottled, peeling and flaking quite spectacularly due to there being no exhaust fan in the bathroom, so the hot water from the shower has been creating condensation that has slowly destroyed the paintwork on the ceilings. So they really needed to be done. The phone call I received was to inform me he’d be coming today; bright and early at 7:30am.

Normally I wake up around 9am. I don’t feel bad about this. I have depression, so I like being in bed, and I’ve suffered from insomnia in the past, so I like being able to sleep for a decent time again. But this morning my sleep pattern was interrupted by a shrill alarm at 7am, so I could get myself up in time for the painter. Three snoozes later and I finally hauled my lazy ass from bed minutes before he knocked loudly on my unit’s door. But waking up earlier than usual is not what challenged my anxiety.

What challenged my anxiety was this; I don’t do small talk. I’ve never liked small talk. For as long as I can remember I’ve considered it a major and profound form of torture. I like speaking when I have something to say. I like speaking when it’s important. When it’s life altering. When it’s necessary. I don’t like speaking in order to fill time. When you feel you should say something because it would be impolite to not say anything. And having a painter in the house, I found myself in the precarious position of making small talk.

Initially, it wasn’t too bad. We just didn’t say anything to each other. I fiddled with my computer, he set about doing the job he was paid to do. But after half an hour or so my anxiety was raging; it wanted me to talk, to fill the silence, to end the awkward silence in the room. I didn’t want to. I wanted to run away. I wanted to kick him out my house and paint the damn ceilings myself. Anything to get out of small talk. Anything to allow my day to return to the usual, boring, safety net of monotonous routine. But I couldn’t do any of that, because it would be impolite to do so, and I am anything but impolite. So I started the conversation with the only thing I could reasonable think to say: “so, it’s pretty cold today?”

This precipitated a dribble of conversation. Yes, it was cold. No, I didn’t mind. Yes, at least it’s not raining. My anxiety raged every time my mouth opened. Hating every syllable of the smallest of small talk we were mustering. Eventually we started commenting on the radio that was playing in the background. Eventually we started talking about things that weren’t meteorological in nature. But at no point did my anxiety wane. My pulse was racing. My palms were sweaty. I was smoking something rotten to calm the nerves. But the conversation continued in dribs and drabs all the same. It had to; it would be impolite not to talk to someone who was kindly donating their time to paint my ceilings.

All up it took nearly six hours for him to finish. My unit isn’t that big. But painting the ceilings of three different rooms with two coats of enamel paint takes time. When he finally left, with a quick thank you and goodbye, I collapsed onto the floor of my unit and breathed a sigh of relief. I had survived the torture that is small talk. I had survived the invasion of my privacy. And I had the pungent aroma of drying paint to soothe my troubled soul.

Other than this, my day has been somewhat uneventful and dare I say, boring. In order to ‘come down’ from my overly anxious morning I allowed the safety net of my routine to take over. I strolled down the road, visited the library, rented some DVDs and acquired my dinner from the local supermarket. Upon returning home I watched a movie double bill (Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings and Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines; because of the OCD like need that grips me until I have watched every film in a franchise, no matter how crap they may be!) before turning my attention to the internet, and replying to the comments that had been left on my blog. This too, caused my anxiety to ripple. I’ve never been good at commenting. Not on other people’s blogs. Not on my blog. But I have been pushing myself hard lately to comment more. I’ve been pushing myself to respond to every comment that is left. And I’ve been pushing myself hard to comment on other people’s hard worked-on blog posts. In a way, it was another minor victory in a day that had already seen one minor victory!

For those of you who wish to know (and who wouldn’t?) the war between Meadhbh and Vanessa hasn’t abated one iota since it kicked off last week. They are still at it. Still hurling taunts and abuse at each other. Still driving me insane with their incessant bickering and endless bogus capitulations. I’ve tried to explain to Meadhbh as clearly and concisely as possible how pointless it is to challenge Vanessa. How antagonizing her is just adding fuel to her fire. But she won’t listen. She won’t back down. She’s obsessed with getting Vanessa to stop her continual abuse of me and I don’t think anything I say is going to change that. Sure, their ongoing battles may see the end of what little sanity I have left, but at least I would be losing my sanity knowing that Meadhbh has my best interests at heart.

With all of this raging, my other voices, Shay and Audrey, have had little time to voice their own opinions of late. Shay piped up today at the sight of two women out exercising (he’s as misogynistic and annoying as always) whilst Audrey has remained relatively silent. I think she’s stepping back whilst Meadhbh and Vanessa go at it; determined not to interfere or take sides. It’s a little annoying. I miss Audrey. I miss her unique outlook on life and the various conversations we have on literature, culture and arts, her favourite topics. It got me thinking that I should organise a play-date with her; some time where it is just her and I, doing something she enjoys. We’ve done it several times in the past, and I’ve found it a useful tool to keep her on-side, to keep our relationship productive and civil rather than abusive and combative.

I know that my talking about voice-hearing may put some of you off my blog. It’s a hard subject to get your head around. And I’ve thought long and hard about not talking about my people or their actions, but whenever I do, I realise how important it is for me to talk about them. It helps destigmatise the voice hearing experience. It allows people to realise how commonplace this experience is. And that it is not something to fear or look down on. It is a perfectly acceptable experience. That’s why I talk about my voice hearing; that’s why I allow my voices access to my blog; that’s why I share my day-to-day interactions with you all. The more people who talk about it, the better. And from my own personal experience, there really aren’t that many bloggers talking about voice hearing. In fact, I know of only a handful of blogs that talk about voice-hearing, so any you’ve come across would be wonderful to hear about.

I’m feeling a lot less anxious after typing this post. The anxiety followed me today, after the gruesome forced small talk of this morning, bleeding into every action and activity I undertook. It’s nice to feel less anxious. To know that writing has the power to relax me again. Or maybe it’s the paint fumes that have relaxed me! ;) Either way I’m glad I won’t be entering this evening with heightened anxiety. I’ve had enough of it today. But it taught me a valuable lesson: however anxious you are, however debilitating you think something is going to be, it won’t last forever. You will survive. And live to fight another day.


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It’s hard for people to understand what it’s like to hear voices

Vanessa has been raging hard today. There’s barely been a minute that she hasn’t been assaulting me with her unique brand of vicious abuse. One moment I’m the most useless human being to have ever lived, the next, I’m the most pointless human being to have ever lived. I should kill myself. I should carve wanker, evil fiend and bumder into my flesh. I’m weak. Pathetic. Worthless. I’m insignificant. Mediocre. Wretched. On an on, over an over, her abuse has slowly been driving me to despair.

She gets like this from time to time. And when she is like this there is nothing I can do to counteract it. There’s no amount of ignoring, there’s no amount of distraction, that will make a difference. I just have to put up with her. I just have to listen to her. On and on, over and over, her relentless, unending abuse slowly driving me to complete insanity.

It’s hard for people to understand what it’s like to hear voices. It’s hard for people to grasp the endless, ongoing quest for a tiny scrap of peace. I have four people, four unique voices, four virtual human beings, talking to me twenty-four hours a day. They never stop. They never give up. They just keep endlessly prattling on, vying for attention, vying for prominence, vying for affection. And when they’re like this, it is devastating.

Deep down I know I’m not useless, I know I’m not worthless, weak, pathetic, mediocre or wretched. I know that I’m not an evil fiend. But when they’re like this. When Vanessa is this loud, this repetitive, I have to stop and question her validity. I have to question whether or not she is right, because it’s all I’m being told. Usually I have Meadhbh to help me fight her, usually I have Meadhbh on my side, but today, Vanessa has been too dominant. She has eclipsed all other voices and subjected me to an endless, ongoing stream of continuous, vicious, abuse.

It has affected everything I’ve done today. Listened to the radio; I can barely hear it she’s so loud. I went for a walk; but that only triggered her more. When I watched a movie; she just interrupted at every opportunity, unrelenting in her quest to destroy me, to make me question everything I believe about myself. Everything I’ve done, from housework to prattling about the unit, has been scored by this incessant, ongoing soundtrack of hateful words, abusive outbursts and vicious attacks. Even now, as I valiantly try to type these words, she keeps hurling insults in my general direction. Attacking everything from the way I type to the words I choose to use. Everything analysed. Everything critiqued. Not a moment missed to abuse me. It’s just who she is. It’s just what I have to put up with, day-in, day-out.

And it’s on days like these that make me hate my voices. That makes me want to medicate them into oblivion. It’s pointless to talk to Vanessa, to reason and rationalize with her, because she never gives any leeway, she never wants to stop abusing. Meadhbh is different. She is conducive to change. She listens to me. Takes into account how I’m feeling. She is able to communicate with me in ways that Vanessa isn’t. Vanessa just attacks. That’s all she does. Whenever she talks to me it’s just insult after attack after abuse after criticism. When Meadhbh talks to me it’s different. It’s a two-way conversation. That’s how I wish it was with Vanessa. I wish we were able to communicate, to move past the abuse, to have some form of dialogue and discussion. But she doesn’t want to. She chooses not to.

I know deep down that Vanessa is linked to my PTSD. She is, after all, the voice of my abuser. She speaks to me in the way my abuser used to speak to me. With that same condescending, superior tone. She believes she’s better than me, that she knows the real me; exactly as my abuser used to think. I know that when my PTSD is triggered, Vanessa is too. The two go hand in hand together. They live off each other. Grow stronger off each other. But there’s little I can do with this knowledge; there’s no answer, no easy option to sever the connection between the two. Either one of PTSD or Vanessa is bad enough, but both together is destructive, potentially mortally so. When Vanessa is in full swing, as she’s been today, it would be all too easy to slash my wrists on her command. Just to get her to shut up. Just to get that sliver of peace I so desire.

But I don’t. I don’t slash my wrists. I don’t carve words into my flesh. I just put up with her. I just try to get on with my day, to concentrate on the next activity, whilst listening to this endless stream of abusive content being hurled in my direction. If people knew what I put up with. If they knew what it was like to hear voices, how loud they can be, how ceaseless in their efforts to undermine me, they would be astounded. They would realise just how strong I am. But they don’t. Instead they look at me as if I’m mad, as if I’m insane. He hears voices, they say, he’s a fucking nutcase, they say. But I’m not. I just hear voices, an experience that 4-10% of the population share. It doesn’t make me insane; it just makes me human.

So with Vanessa being as prominent as she has been, my day has been wasted. All I’ve done is listen to her whilst trying to ignore her. The movie I watched slipped away from me, the radio has blathered to itself and my housework errands were given up on. It’s just been Vanessa and me today. The double act of abuser-victim; of victim-abuser. And it’s been exhausting. Hopefully tomorrow she will calm down. Hopefully tomorrow she will realise that this incessant critiquing of my life, of my being, is utterly pointless and will lead to nothing but ruin. But deep down I know that’s what she wants; to ruin me. To destroy me. So all I can hope for is that if it continues, if this repeats itself tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, I will be strong enough to counteract her commands. That I will find the strength to keep on fighting as best as I can.

Note: all songs featured in this post were chosen by Vanessa. My valiant attempt to placate her; to give me one moment of peace.


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Hearing Voices: What triggers Meadhbh (in her own words)

Back in 2013 I did a lot of work to understand my voices on a number of fronts, including: the hearing voices support group (which I haven’t attended for over a year)  answering the Maastricht Interview with a support worker, writing blog posts about them and working through a Voices Work Book provided by the aforementioned group. In all four scenarios the subject of ‘triggers’ arose, and although I’m acutely aware of the vast majority of my anxiety/mood/PTSD triggers, I’ve long had little idea over my voices’ triggers. So when it came to tackling this subject I had little idea where to start. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t come up with anything other than ‘exhaustion’, ‘stress’ and ‘weakness’.

Now, more desperate than ever to understand my voice triggers, I’ve decided the only option is to ask them directly, commencing with my primary (and most helpful) voice, Meadhbh. So here – in her own words – are what Meadhbh considers to be the triggers that bring her forth.

Meadhbh

Moon

~ Triggers marked with a ‘‘ are shared with my other voices ~
~ All text written in purple font are direct quotes from Meadhbh ~

  • Camping
    Meadhbh took great pains to remind me how angry she was when I signed the lease of my unit in March 2012, as it meant we would have to move out of the tent we’d been staying in. For as long as I can remember Meadhbh has loved camping and will always come a calling when a tent is involved.
  • Exhaustion ♥
    With a guilty look on her face, Meadhbh told me: “When you’re exhausted, you’re weak. When you’re weak, you have to listen to me. Why wouldn’t I babble?”
  • Anything involving fantasy
    “When you were being bullied at school, I knew I had to find ways to take your mind off things. So I tried to focus on the things you liked, the things that made you laugh and smile and feel all wonderfully gooey. You know? Like Natalie, your desires, Doctor Who. But more than any of them, I loved it when you read me fantasy novels, as I could imagine myself as one of those sexyashell faeries! I guess that’s why I chose the Dragon Slayer [Note: Monster Hunter Tri] game for us to play. I like dragons, you like dragons, we can slay dragons together and be happy. You know, unless you kill the rhinocuties, in which case it’s the woodshed for you!”
  • When I’m stressed/anxious/upset/nervous etc.
    “When you’re stressed, I can either down-stress you or up-stress you, depending on how naughty I feel.
    When you’re anxious, I can either wind you up or wind you down, depending on how naughty I feel.
    When you’re upset, I can either make you smile or make you cut, depending on how naughty I feel.
    When you’re nervous, I can either make you worse or make you better, depending on how naughty I feel.
    You have no idea how powerful that much control over someone’s life can make you feel!
    It’s impossible to resist!”

  • Scotland (especially anything involving Skye, the country’s folklore and the SLWTCB)
    Meadhbh becomes aggravated whenever the SLWTCB comes up in conversation. For those who aren’t aware, the SLWTCB was a woman I met in the second week of my Scottish backpacking adventure. After chatting for a while in a hostel in Portree (Skye), we took ourselves to a local pub for a few alcoholic beverages before returning to the hostel where – in her doorway – I had a bit of a panic attack and wished her goodnight. The following morning, I left ludicrously early so as not to risk bumping into her. Meadhbh has long believed (since about 15 seconds after I closed my bedroom door that night) that I was a complete moronic wanker to have turned down such an obvious ‘sure thing’ and has never stopped reminding me of my anxiety-led stupidity. The other aspect of this incident that frustrates her is it that it happened on her home island and thus she believes my meeting the SLWTCB was ‘fate’.
    Thus, in addition to this cute bottomed lassie, Meadhbh is frequently rumbled by talk and/or memories of her homeland as she absolutely loves reminiscing of her time there.
  • Hearing Voices Support Group
    Ever since coming to the group for the first time – in order to see for herself what it was all about – Meadhbh has become a staunch supporter of the HVSG and will accompany me to the group. “It pisses me off we haven’t played with the ball for months!” she complained.
  • Not being believed (including victim blame mentality)
  • Boredom
    “Someone has to give you something to do. Better me than Vanessa!”
  • Going to bed
    “Firstly, you look cute in pyjamas. Secondly, beds are cool. Thirdly, who wants to go to bed alone? Fourthly, who really needs sleep? Fifthly, you’re a captive audience. Sixthly…” Audrey cut her off here, but Meadhbh stubbornly finished her sentence. “..I look cute in pyjamas!”
  • Sex (including actual sexual relations, fantasies and advances/situations)
  • Suicidal ideation and/or planning and/or actual attempts
    “Sometimes I feel guilty as shit for pushing you toward it. Other times I just want you to kill yourself because you’re a wothless cunt. Does that make me a bad person?”
  • BIG groups of people (i.e. anything over 6)
  • Music
    The following are some of the songs that invite Meadhbh:
    There She Goes My Beautiful World (Nick Cave)
    – Have You Ever Seen The Rain (Bonnie Tyler)
    – Defying Gravity (from the musical ‘Wicked’)
    – Girl & The Ghost (KT Tunstall)
    – The Love ‘A the Isles (Jenna Reid)
  • (Certain) beautiful women
    There are two reasons why Meadhbh explained (certain) beautiful women are an invitation for her:
    1) Her declaration that she is going to “find me a girlfriend” means she needs to assess each and every woman I encounter, even strangers on the street.
    2) Her love of clothing, which she becomes quite obsessive over.
  • Cute animals (especially possums, wombats and squeeorthy baby animals)
    At this point in the conversation all Meadhbh did was squeal incredibly loudly. Hence ‘squeeorthy’! :p
  • Anniversaries
    Although her presence on certain days isn’t as bad as some of my other people (notably Vanessa, who sees the 26th February as “her day”) Meadhbh will generally make her presence known on my ‘bad days’ and other occasions throughout the year; especially 7 May and 22 December.
  • When she’s being talked about
    “No way I’m letting you talk about me behind my back. You think I’m nits?” [sic]
  • Loneliness
    As she would go on to point out a few hours after our conversation, Meadhbh has become greatly saddened by my continual loneliness and isolation. She is aware (and thus I believe an element of guilt is involved) of the part she has played in this; as since her return in 2007, until 2013, her communications with me was exceedingly abusive and negative – fuelling my insecurities and perpetuating my self-hate. In order to redeem herself, Meadhbh has decided that when I get lonely, she needs to ‘keep me company‘.


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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!