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…


A modern approach to hearing voices

Rarely will you find a well researched, well written article on mental health in Australia, let alone one that focuses on hearing voices, so when an article on this topic appeared on The Conversation a couple of months ago I’ll admit to approaching it with apprehension and dread.

What clichés would they trot out? Would the word compassion be as foreign to the writer as it is to most who write on this topic? How angry would I become from reading it? And more importantly, how angry would my voices become?

To my surprise, I needn’t have worried, for it was one of the rare occasions when mental health (and hearing voices) was reported with empathy, compassion and understanding.

It even received a thumbs up from two of my people, which is almost the greatest accolade you can receive! :p

Beyond madness: a modern approach to hearing voices

livingwithvoicesFour years ago, a woman came to speak to my third year psychology class at the University of Auckland. Her story completely changed the way I thought about voice-hearing. Like most people, I associated “hearing things” with being very unwell psychologically; with madness. Yet here was an articulate, hilarious and confident woman – a mental health educator – who was very much in touch with reality.

The first voice she heard was a supportive, maternal voice which didn’t cause her any distress. Later, she heard a group of demonic-like voices who threatened to harm her or those she cared about. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia and institutionalised for many years.

Her turning point came when she asked her voices to show her some of their power by doing the dishes. When they didn’t, their hold over her started to loosen. Slowly, she learnt how to deal with her voices, built relationships with others and finally gained employment helping other voice-hearers. Hers is one of the stories of recovery recorded in Living with voices: 50 stories of recovery.

What struck me most about her story was how easy it was to draw an analogy between her voices and internal “self-talk”. Immediately, the experience of voice-hearing seemed less foreign and incomprehensible and more akin to what most people experience. This “inner-speech” theory is in fact the most well-known neuropsychological theory about what causes voices.

Apart from making voice-hearing seem less foreign, her story challenged several assumptions I held. First, it seemed that she was able to live a functional, productive and meaningful life while still hearing voices. Second, a diagnosis of schizophrenia is thought to carry with it a very poor prognosis, with little hope of recovery.

So, is her experience unique? It seems not. There is evidence of long-term recovery for around half of people distressed by their voices, enabling them to live meaningful lives and function to a degree considered normal by most people.

Continue reading ‘Beyond madness: a modern approach to hearing voices’



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Working with Voices: Victim to Victor

Over the last several weeks I’ve been mentioning a Hearing Voices book that I’ve been working through. This book is called Working with Voices: Victim to Victor (by Ron Coleman and Mike Smith) and its goal is to help a voice hearer better understand the relationships they have with their voices. By examining a voice hearer’s history, including the power and influence their voices have on their life, a voice hearer can develop new coping skills, foster better relationships and use this knowledge to work towards a brighter, safer, future.

Although relatively short in length, the various exercises throughout the book can be quite confronting for a voice hearer. As such, it is recommended that you complete the workbook with the support of understanding individuals. In my life, this means you! ;)

So, over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing each of the exercises so that you – and I – can build a better understanding of my life and people. This way, if I have some form of meltdown brought on by one or more of my responses, you guys can either giggle smugly or offer words of support (whatever you feel like doing at the time!) :p



The book begins with a foreword from Professor Marius Romme and Sandra Escher, who are credited as creating the Hearing Voices Movement in 1987. This movement regards itself as being a post-psychiatric organisation,positioning itself outside of the mental health world in recognition that voices, in their view, are an aspect of human differentness, rather than a mental health problem and that, as with homosexuality (also regarded by psychiatry in historical times as an illness), one of the main issues is about human rights. As with homosexuality, members of the movement intend to change the way society perceives the experience, and psychiatry’s attitude will follow.

This book is for voice hearers and the people they select to support them. It will enable people who have difficulties to cope with their voices and to discover different sides to their voices. Following a systematic approach it will unfold their relationship with the voices and by doing so will stimulate them to acquire more effective ways of coping. Most important in this process, and well stimulated in this workbook, is to take ownership of the experience from writing one’s own life history in relation to ones voices.

In social fields and in medial care hearing voices is seen as the consequence of mental illness. Voices are felt only to be very negative, and must be controlled by professionals. Voices are hardly ever interpreted as the messengers of the person’s life history.

This book however helps  a person to overcome three handicaps:

1) The idea that hearing voices is the consequence of an existing illness within the person, most likely being schizophrenia, an illness of unknown origin.
2) The idea that schizophrenia is a diagnosis of an illness not related in an understandable manner with the life history of that person.
3) The idea that the person as the consequence of the illness concept is powerless against the voices, that the voices are not owned by the person, whilst in fact the voices are a persons own experience understandable from the personal trauma’s or overpowering problems with life.

~from the foreward to ‘Working with Voices: Victim to Victor’

Ground Rules

At the beginning of the book is a series of ground rules. As I will be sharing each exercise with you, I feel it pertinent to make you aware of these rules.

  1. Voices are real, pointless arguments about whom they are real for are, by definition, pointless!
  2. Voices in themselves may not be the problem rather relationships with them, the power they have and their influence in a persons’ life may be the problem.
  3. This book belongs to the voice hearer, it should be a record of their experience, their coping and their plans for the future.
  4. It is all right for new coping strategies to be slow to work.
  5. Many people try different ways of dealing with voices. It is better to try to partially succeed than to never to try at all. You are in charge as long as you try. You are no longer the victim you are now the victor.
  6. Take your time, there are no prizes for finishing quickly.

The Process

The following is the process that the book works through.

  • Identifying your experiences
    Identifying your experiences in your own words and as you see them.
  • Exploring your experiences
    Looking in-depth at your experiences and looking beyond yourself to others and their reactions.
  • Understanding your experiences
    This is for you, and with your permission a chosen person, to begin to understand and to put into context your experiences.
  • Moving on
    This phase is about accepting if you want to, and making choices about how you want to cope and live with your voices. It is also about developing strategies for you to take control in your life and for some getting back your life as you want it.
  • What do you want from this workbook?
    Having dreams and objectives at the beginning of the process gives us a much greater incentive to move forward.
  • Creating your future
    Where you want to be in your life, how you will get there, what you need to get their, who you need to help you get there and what the pitfalls on your journey might be.

As I share more of the exercises – beginning with goals, moving through my voices life history and ending with planning for the future – this process (and the ideals behind the Hearing Voices Movement) will become more apparent. If you have any questions about my voices and experiences, either now or as we proceed, don’t be afraid to ask. If I can answer them, I shall. If I can’t, then perhaps one of my people will! ;)

~ Next time: Dreams ~


Teaser Tuesday: Strange Places, A Memoir of Mental Illness

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Anyone can play along with Teaser Tuesdays! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• Be careful not to include spoilers!
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


Strange Places: A Memoir of Mental Illness
by Will Elliot

Strange Places (Will Elliot)

“In 2006 Will Elliott had his first novel The Pilo Family Circus published. It won five literary awards and great acclaim, nationally and internationally. What nobody knew was that the young author of that work of terrifying fantasy had just recovered from a psychotic episode and been diagnosed as a schizophrenic. This is his memoir of that harrowing — and enlightening — time.”


So, what’s everyone else reading at the moment? Go on, give us a tease…