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hearing voices

hearing voices

My curious friend asked about my voices.  He wants to know what they sound like, are they nice or mean, genders, languages.  I searched my own blog for hearing voices and came up with some cool posts, but nothing giving a real overview.

I’m crazy and disabled, love and accept myself unconditionally, and have a mostly good life.  Here I will tell you all about my voices.

earliest memories

I’ve heard voices all my life.  But I didn’t know that was a big deal.  As a young child I would lie in bed listening to my voices.  Also sometimes the ceiling seemed to move in and out a lot.  I would lie in bed in the dark, watching the ceiling move.

I’d also pray to my mom’s mom, in the night.  I thought she was in heaven, with God, so she was pretty close to being God.  Praying to her comforted me.

Many things about me were different, and I tried to hide them as well as I could.  I needed to hide my feelings, needs, truth, sexuality, beliefs, and really most of who I was, in order to get by.  Home, school, church–my reality wasn’t welcome anywhere.

My caregivers were not skilled at accepting me as I was.  In fact, I would be threatened, neglected, and violenced upon, for what I emoted and who I was.  So I developed a huge disconnect between my inner life and my outer life.  I got very quiet and hid out as much as possible.  Other people had no access to my inner life, from when I was around age 2.

My voices were a normal part of my life.  I didn’t know what happened in other people’s heads–I just thought heads were voice-y.  How would I know?

later

Then by the time I was a teenager and in my 20s, I’d realized other people mostly didn’t hear voices.  Hearing voices was one of the things that was weird about me, that I pretended I didn’t do.

But I mentioned it one time, hearing voices specifically when I was going to bed.  My best friend researched it and told me that was a normal thing–hypnagogic voices.  Like in Rainbow Connection by Kermit the Frog–“Have you been half asleep, and have you heard voice?  I’ve heard them calling my name.”

So it was like–oh, false alarm.  Laura-Marie’s not crazy!  She just hears hypnagogic voices.

I didn’t explain much–I was hearing voices at other times, and I just let people believe whatever.

manic

Then when I started having manic episodes in my late 20s, my voices got worse.  They had been mostly neutral and not a problem.  But when I stopped sleeping, my language use changed, I had poor impulse control, my executive function suffered, I became more sex motivated, and my life started feeling out of control, my voices changed also.

My voices would mostly talk to each other.  There were no set personalities–just random.  Well, it’s changed over the years.  I did some transcribing of my voices.  Sometimes they are funny.  In fact, I’ve giggled at things they’ve said.

Sometimes they would do just the connecting parts of sentences, and sometimes they would get agitated and fighting with each other.  Rarely did they address me or comment on my life.

layers

Often it was a layer of chatter in the background.  Most of my mind was doing its regular thing, but then the voices would be going also.

My mind is like this often even now–if I’m making art or chopping veg in the kitchen, I’ll be 60% doing what I’m actually doing, 10% planning or observing, and a dream from the night before might start playing in my head about 30%.  I’ll notice the dream playing and usually feel annoyed and try to ignore it, like, “Go away, pesky dream.  I don’t need you anymore.”

I might fight it, like push the dream down, and try to get it to 90% doing what I’m doing or whatever.  Ming says this happens to him too.  He has narcolepsy, so for him it can be a half-asleep thing.  But I’m fully awake.

voices

They are always in English or Spanish.  Well, they can say nonsense.  They can be any gender.  The worst thing is when they get screamy.  Yes, during times of mania, they start screaming sometimes.  Ask me if I like that.  No, I do not.

I also don’t like when I’m trying to sleep but can’t because my voices are too loud.  I might lie there for an hour or so, then say, “Fuck this,” and get back up, really tired of the voices chattering and chattering away.

The screaming can be scary.  It doesn’t happen often.  That’s when I feel trapped in my own head and my own life.  It’s a sad feeling like, “Get me out of here,” but there’s nowhere to go.

diagnoses

Back when I lived in Sacramento, having manic episodes in my late 20s, I was getting scared because people were telling me I needed help.  So I called the county mental health, and I had a phone appointment with someone to evaluate me.

A therapist a year before had told me I had bipolar, but I thought she was wrong.  I wouldn’t accept the idea, believing that of course I had cycles and moods, but so does everyone, and there was nothing wrong with me.

When I called the county mental health line, I mentioned that a therapist had said I had bipolar.  The worker wanted to know the name of the therapist, and I didn’t know her name.  A moment later, I mentioned hearing voices, and then it didn’t matter what therapist said I had bipolar–hearing voices was enough to get me an appointment.

The system only took people with severe, chronic mental illness.  So the worker was telling me I would not qualify since I sounded fine.  But once I mentioned voices, she no longer thought I was fine.

schizoaffective disorder bipolar type

I was diagnosed with anxiety and bipolar 1 with psychotic features.  Years later my diagnosis was changed to schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type.

My voices are considered hallucinations, and hallucinations are psychosis.  Because I hear voices all the time, not just during a certain type of mood or episode, some doctors wanted to put me under a schizophrenia umbrella, not a mood disorder umbrella.

Whatevs.  They threw the same pills at me.  Doesn’t really matter what we call it.  I know my mind and life better than anyone.  The c-ptsd, autism, and agoraphobia I experience are mostly not medically documented.

valid

Hearing voices is a valid part of the human experience.  They’re part of my life, and they don’t need to be a problem.  If I keep my stress low and do a lot of self-care and interdependence, they’re ok, more of a feature or quirk of my mind than a problem.  I also hear sirens sometimes or sounds in fans that are not real.

I love myself unconditionally and have no problem with me.  Ming and I have a good life, and my brain is not defective.  Every day I do amazing things, just not standard things.

I don’t have a brain disease.  I’m wildly ok and enjoy being who I am.  The world’s inappropriate demands are the problem, not me.  It says everyone should work paying jobs full-time and want to buy things and have a certain type of family–that’s not me and not many people.

The world not set up for my well-being as a disabled person.  Society fails to protect its most vulnerable.  We do the best we can to avoid harm and enjoy the world’s beauty.

I’m working on making a world where we all get what we need.  Doing radical mental health is about making room for diverse needs and building a culture of care.  Difference is ok, and let’s support everyone.  Not just super normal, straight, cis, white, rich people getting what they need, and the rest of us suffering.

thank you

Thank you to Ming, our communities, and everyone who loves and believes in me.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

5 replies on “hearing voices”

I really loved this post.
Obviously I can only imagine what you actually experience on a daily basis. When I was much younger I had my share of weird nightmares and feelings of being different, but of course they have nothing to do with your voices.
What I like the most about your story is that you managed not to be crushed by the system but were able to build your own world by believing in yourself and through good connections with like-minded people.
As you said, if there is something that should be fixed, that’s not us but the world around us.

[…] Are my voices real?  Good question.  They’re as real as anything I experience.  Most people have a big distinction between what’s real and not-real, but I find the distinction is unnecessary.  It happens all the time, that people remember what never happened, believe common knowledge that isn’t true at all, and everyone hallucinates every night in the form of dreams as we sleep. […]

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