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When You've Experienced Voices in Your Head

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“Kill yourself. Just pick up that knife and you can make all the pain go away.”

“You’re worthless. No one will ever love you.”

“Just take that bottle of pills. The pain will end, you will just slip away, out of existence.”

• What is Bipolar disorder?

These were just some of the things the voices have told me. The words were accompanied by resounding fear that left me tense. Now that my bipolar is stable and I’m no longer hearing the voices, seeing things that aren’t really there and feeling so depressed that I want to die, or so manic that I can’t function, it feels off. Like, I suddenly didn’t know how to live anymore because these symptoms were a part of me for so long.

There is just one thing that keeps me going. I don’t want to go back to that place. No matter how good the highs are, and to be honest, they aren’t that great from my perspective, I know the lows are even more intense, crushing even. So no, I don’t want to go back there.

When I started hearing those voices it opened something in me that I didn’t know existed. It opened a deep fear of losing myself, of slowly drifting away. That scares me more than any of the voices did, because I want to be able to leave some sort of legacy. It brought out this desire in me to keep on fighting no matter how long it takes or how hard it is, because I refuse to let my mental health take away my identity anymore and I refuse to let it hinder my progression into becoming the woman that I want to become. Maybe the world won’t ever know me, maybe only a few people will know me, but I have made up my mind, not to let this terrifying symptom and debilitating illness take so much away from me that I slip away.

When psychosis came into my life, I didn’t understand what was going on. It had been triggered by a sexual assault, so I immediately felt like a sinner — I felt condemned for a sin I didn’t even commit. I couldn’t discuss it with church leaders or others because I literally blamed myself, felt like I was a bad person and undeserving of any kind of love. The paranoia and psychosis made things worse for me because I then felt broken and truly and deeply unlovable and undesirable on so many levels. How could anyone love someone like me? It’s not as if I did anything to deserve love. In fact, I was slowly slipping away — or so I felt.

When I became psychotic and started experiencing delusional paranoia for the first time, I didn’t have the support system I needed to even begin to understand what was going on, or that it was even a mental illness. Something was just wrong with me, I was broken, that was it. To my 16-year-old mind that was reality. When I finally received my diagnosis of bipolar I disorder, I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t understand it, and certainly did not know it could cause these feelings.

In essence, struggling with psychosis and delusional paranoia was something I never expected. I don’t think anyone really does. After all, I was told if I was aware of it and if it runs in my family I wouldn’t get it. Boy was that wrong. After several years of struggling with these symptoms, thoughts and feelings, I started hearing the voices more distinctly. Like I said, they were terrifying. So terrifying that I hid in my room, curled up in my bed and cried for hours, hoping beyond hope that they would just leave. It became so intense that I tried talking to the voices. I told them to leave, but that didn’t work. I tried reasoning with them and letting them know I understood the depth of pain I was really in, but to no avail. To some, I had become certifiably “crazy.”

I hate that word though. I am a young woman who struggles with severe mental illness among other chronic illnesses. I am not “crazy.” When the intense voices left me alone, I came to the realization of how much I needed to understand who I am. What is it inside of me that makes others love me? I knew deep down that I was loved, otherwise I would most likely be dead. So, what do they see in me or love about me?

When the voices came and left, I started to try and find myself again. I discovered things about myself that I didn’t even know existed. I discovered that I’m not truly unlovable or undesirable, no matter how much others will it to be. I was able to stand up and take back my identity and realize that doctors and others can call me bipolar all they want, but it will never be a name on my birth certificate. When the voices came, I started to fight with strength I didn’t even know existed within me. I learned to love and have compassion for those struggling with illness, to have the deep desire to share with others the heartache of my personal journey so they know there is someone out there they can lean on or talk with; to know that no matter how different everyone’s struggles with mental illness are, there are still so many thoughts or feelings that others can relate to.

In a way, the voices have taught me that I’m not really alone, that life is truly beautiful and despite what they may tell me, is still very much worth living.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Thinkstock photo via kevinhillillustration

Originally published: November 1, 2017
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