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Why I Wasn't Relieved After My Hallucinations Went Away

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Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

As someone with a psychotic disorder, I lived in a noisy mind for quite some time. At 16, I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorderbipolar type while in the midst of my first big psychotic episode. I experienced audio, visual and physical hallucinations along with a whole world of delusions. Silence was not something I ever experienced during this time; regardless of what I was doing, there were always voices. I was never alone and never without constant sound through my entire day and night. It quickly became my normal and there was some comfort in never being alone, despite the often disturbing nature of my hallucinations.

The worst night of my life came when I first took my antipsychotic. The people I was sharing my mind with felt betrayed because I was trying to make them disappear and they screamed the entire night. But, the next day I woke up to silence. Not every person with a psychotic disorder has the same experience with medication as I did, but turned out, I was very sensitive to these medications and my audible hallucinations went away literally overnight. Many people around me assumed this would bring me comfort and relief, but I panicked. Suddenly, I was alone and my mind was silent.

Four years later, I still feel the disturbance of a silent mind and have never truly adjusted to the quiet and loneliness. So, the silence so many people crave is my nightmare. I try to fill every second of my day with the sound of people talking in some format. When not talking to people, I play audiobooks on repeat so I can tune in and out throughout the story; music with lyrics is also a form of soothing sound I often rely on throughout the day. Even when walking to my car or showering, I need to have my audiobooks or music playing. I sleep with stories playing loudly in my headphones, along with the sound of my boyfriend talking to his friends in our studio apartment. Without this, I simply cannot sleep.

In college, I met a dear friend who had the same mental illness diagnosis as me and we quickly bonded. We often sat together in one of our dorm rooms and constantly had the TV on or played shows on my computer. It wouldn’t even matter what we played, and we didn’t pay attention to it much of the time. Sometimes, we would forget and sit there in an anxious state until one of us noticed the problem. To us, silence was the enemy. A banner promoting The Mighty's new Chat Space group on The Mighty mobile app. The banner reads, Want to talk and connect with others? Join Chat Space to check in with others or have a conversation that's not related to health (because we all need a break sometimes). Click to join.

For me, silence often triggers my paranoia from delusions that are constant regardless of any amount of medication. Paranoia is a lengthy conversation itself, but I can say it is completely different from typical fear or anxiety and is certainly not a state I want to sit in. I need the soothing sound of people talking just to get through my day. This may sound counterintuitive, but a noisy mind was my normal and my comfortable state. I take medication to alter my natural state of mind, and the loss of voices is something I still grapple with.

It is a misconception every person who experiences psychosis is happy with the newfound silence. Some people, like me, never fully adjust and must adapt their lives to cope with the silence of a non-psychotic mind. I am grateful my medications give me the opportunity to lead a more typical life, but I will never feel at home in a silent mind.

Unsplash image by Keenan Constance

Originally published: January 6, 2021
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