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What If Hearing Voices Doesn’t Mean I’m Broken?

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There is stigma surrounding mental illness, but I think there is a greater stigma around “hearing voices.” Whether you call it “voices” or a “psychotic episode,” it’s all the same.

When I tell people I have been hearing voices, I see this worried look flicker across their eyes. They can understand anxiety, and maybe even bipolar disorder. But when I mention voices and hallucinations, suddenly I become “the other.” I become someone strange they can’t comprehend.

I’m studying to be a counselor and my professor often tells us how serious and problematic “voices” are.  She says, “If someone is hearing voices, you need to write the code down, and maybe circle it in their chart. And always ask them, ‘What are the voices saying? If the voices are telling them to do things, that’s a problem. If the voices are telling them to hurt themselves or others, that’s a serious problem.’”

I wanted to speak up and say, “I hear voices sometimes, and I’m not dangerous.”

Occasionally I do hear voices. When I am under a lot of stress, or while manic. Yes, sometimes a voice tells me to do things, but I don’t listen. I ignore them and eventually they go away.

I have been told if you take a certain medication, the voices will vanish, and you will be “cured.” I’ve actually tried that medication, and it didn’t work. I’m not ready to try another.

Instead, I ask, what if hearing voices doesn’t mean I’m broken? I’m trying to make peace with the voices. I don’t want medication that drowns them out and clouds my mind at the same time.

There is a common stereotype of a “crazy person” who hears voices telling them to do things and act bizarrely. There is a common stereotype that a person who hears voices does not understand reality and is unable to connect with people. These stereotypes are wrong.

I hear voices sometimes and I know they are just voices in my head. I am still able to interact with and relate to people in a way that is considered “normal.” No one can actually tell I am hearing voices unless I say something.

I only hear voices during manic episodes or in times of extreme anxiety. I don’t hear them very often, but it is part of my experience with mental illness. It is simply a part of my bipolar disorder and dissociative disorder.

I want to break the stigma and tell people hearing voices doesn’t make me “crazy.” Hearing voices doesn’t mean I need to be fixed with medication so that the voices disappear. Hearing voices doesn’t mean I am dangerous.

Hearing voices is a symptom of my mental illness. In my experience, it’s simply a sign that I am manic or dealing with extreme anxiety. People that hear voices are honestly not much different from you.

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Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure

Originally published: July 11, 2017
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