I suffer from psychosis. I have auditory hallucinations, so I hear voices, either when I’m manic or depressed. It took me a long time, over a decade in fact, to face up to this reality. I was in denial that I heard voices, and convinced myself it was something everyone experienced. Now, I’m open about my experiences. I’ll talk to family and friends about it, and I can even joke about some of the stranger sounds and voices I’ve heard. I have shared my story online, notably here on my blog. You can read more about how ‘I thought the voices were normal.’ Realising I had Psychosis and Doubting Myself – Hearing Voices
It’s not an easy subject to talk about. Even starting a conversation about it can seem unbearably daunting at times. It can feel jarring to suddenly start talking about it, as it can seem like such a alien topic for people who haven’t experienced it. I have to judge the atmosphere and the mood of the person I’m talking to. I shouldn’t have to, but that is the reality. If striking up a conversation about psychosis is badly timed it can shock and jolt a person and yes, unfortunately, distance them from you. Sometimes the reaction is simply silence. Sometimes you can see the fear of what to say next in a persons eyes. Sometimes they ignore what you’ve said and start on another topic.
It’s all about really, truthfully communicating and educating others. If I can sense how uncomfortable someone is, I’ll ask them,
“What is it about psychosis that scares you?” Or,
“Why does this conversation make you feel uncomfortable?”
If I didn’t ask, and just let it slide and quickly moved the conversation on, I’d never know the answer. People need to understand that having psychosis doesn’t make you an insane, crazed killer. It doesn’t change you as a person. I’m still the same person as before anyone realised I heard voices. Most of the time confronting someone with these questions is positive. They know me, and want to hear me out. I’ll explain when it happens and what it means for me. For instance, once when I was manic I could hear voices coming from my phone. They were speaking loudly and animatedly, like they were at a party. Initially I thought somehow I had rung someone by accident, but looking at my phone, there was no call in place. It went on for hours whilst I tried to distract myself by watching tv. Every time I turned the volume up the voices matched it. I was already feeling irritable and this added to my frustration. I remember being beyond relieved when the voices finally stopped.
I’ll be completely honest here; it’s not a relatable subject. It can be a curiosity for others, or they can try and sympathise, but unless they have experienced it, they will never completely understand. The best I can do is to keep talking and sharing my experiences. I want to try and normalise it as a subject, so people no longer feel afraid to talk about it. I know that not as many people will read this than if it was a post about depression or anxiety, but that’s ok. Like I’ve said, it’s just not as relatable. People don’t have a frame of reference for it.
Educating others is key. The stigma attached to psychosis left me paralysed with fear and terrified for over a decade before I sought out help and support. I’m not afraid anymore and will continue to spread awareness.