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What It's Like to Be Someone Who Hears Voices

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Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

I think when someone hears someone else say, “I hear voices in my head” their immediate assumption is that they’re out of some kind of horror film, that demons possess them and whisper bad things to them. Sure, it gets bad, and some people experience absolutely horrific effects from hearing voices. I’ve never been too open about this part of my mental health. This is the part I’ve locked away, and for what feels like a good reason. I didn’t want people to think I was “crazy!” The idea of someone hearing voices in their head that isn’t just themselves talking like an inner monologue confuses many. What is it like? What do they sound like? Do they have a body to match the voice? How much do they talk? Well, rest assured I will do my best to answer such questions.

My voices started as one voice. A male — a very strong and persuasive male. I know some people who hear voices know what they look like and see them, which must be terrifying. I’ve never seen who belongs to my voices. At least not properly. Sometimes I think I see them, then when I look again, there’s nothing there. They hide in the dark and behind me where I can’t see them. They breathe down my neck and make my hairs stand up. They know it’s what scares me because they told me.

What exactly do they say? Well, that’s a long story. They criticize every move I make, from the way I walk to the things I say. They often try appeal to me and get me to be on their side. They tell me my friends don’t like me, they just hang around me to see my boyfriend and I use our house. They tell me my boyfriend is only with me for my family, he only uses me for his own benefit and one day when he’s bored, he’ll leave me with nothing and only my voices will be there for me. They remind me they’ll never leave me like everyone else will. They also threaten me too. They threaten to make me hurt myself and endanger my life. Long story short, they’ve hurt me before. They’ve made me experience dissociative periods when I’ve self-harmed and attempted suicide. Now that I’m on medication, it doesn’t happen anymore. I might find myself in parts of the house with no recollection of how I got there, but I’ve not unknowingly harmed myself since I was started on medication.

My voices are incredibly persuasive. At the beginning when it was the one male voice, he would tell me he’d take away my chronic pain if I injured myself and performed tasks he told me to do. I never listened, but it was still scary. The second voice appeared a while after, this one belonged to a woman. She’s a very well spoken woman and always has a way with words. She’s the kind a woman I’d expect to see at a bar seducing a man while holding a martini. She’s calm, gentle, but incredibly clever. She says things my mind would never think of. She often tells me to do what she says instead of what the male says, and if I do follow what she says, she’ll get rid of the other voice and take away my suffering.

Now this has been an ongoing debate between the two for just over a year now. Occasionally they both agree and pick on me together. They don’t have the power over me they once had. I can control what I do more easily now, and can block out what they say. But sometimes they cause terrible night terrors, mostly of which include them standing over my bed, and I can’t move. I can’t see them properly, they’re just a blurry outline, and they begin to hurt my arms but no blood comes out, just black tar smelling liquid — and this is why I can end up self-harming.

I self-harm because it’s a reminder I’m here, I’m alive and not in some dream where my body is filled with black heavy tar. I self-harm sometimes to remind me I’m still human, to see red blood not tar. I think a lot of people need to be made aware of these kinds of situations.

These things are happening all over. People are hearing voices, fighting debilitating depression and anxiety, fighting their own demons and all the while, do their best to hold up a “normal” life. In an ideal world, no one would be mentally unwell — we would all be on a fluffy rainbow covered cloud, smiling all the time and blasting our happy moods across the world. But unfortunately, this isn’t an ideal world. People are fighting wars in their own minds.

My voices are bad, they control a lot of aspects of my life, they impact my self-image and confidence, they scare me and worry me, but I’m alive. I’m alive through multiple suicide attempts my voices tried to put me through. They made me cut all my hair off, they scarred me for life. But I’m strong. I’m stronger than they are, they don’t define who I am. They don’t make me Sophie, I make me Sophie — my bright hair, terrible jokes and bright outlook on life is what makes me who I am. And I’ll be damned if I let this beat me. There won’t be a day that goes by when I don’t fight these terrible voices.

Please remember that just because someone says they hear voices or has schizophrenia, it absolutely doesn’t make them “crazy,” and it’s incredibly upsetting and disappointing to hear someone say it. Remember, our voices can usually hear, and you can fuel them. We fight our own fights, but adding fuel to the fire can be exhausting. These voices have power I can’t even put into words and it’s a daily struggle suppressing that power and pushing them back. It’s a constant struggle that makes life a very dark place, and it’s up to friends and family to be our supporters, to wave our flag and clap when we triumph over our demons. There’s an unlimited amount of spaces in the cheering support section, so pick up a flag and give us a wave, and we’ll do the same for you when we get out of our dark place, I guarantee it!

I hope in reading this it’s given you a little idea as to what hearing voices can be like, but I will never be able to put into words the true feeling of fear they can give. And no one is the same, my stories and experiences are going to be different to others, but I hope it has helped.

We’re not “crazy.” We’re just like you.

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 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Photo via contributor.

Originally published: June 8, 2017
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