It’s believed that up to 10% of the UK population hear voices, sometimes those voices are comforting but often hearing voices can be distracting and controlling.
Sadly, I’m not in the 20% who find hearing voices comforting but it’s good to realise that some people do. Saying that, I am naturally an introvert, so I do like to be on my own for periods of time and I particularly love being distracted by running and listening to podcasts. But hearing voices isn’t the same as hearing noises from electronic items or other real sounds.
Apparently, not everyone who hears voices is classed as mentally ill either. But most people (around 70%) that hear voices have experienced some trauma in their past such as physical, emotional or sexual abuse.
These are just some of the things I learnt in the Hearing Voices self-help group I attended today (I am not breaking people’s confidence by sharing these facts, these were the figures that I read in a booklet at group).
Why I talk about mental health and hearing voices so openly
I know it’s not particularly sexy or brand-friendly to talk about taboo subjects like hearing voices, but those of you who read my blog know that I am passionate about discussing the reality of mental illness and mental health. I have made the difficult decision to open up about taboo subjects regarding my own mental health and mental illness, because if I don’t, who will? And anyway, we all have mental health… so why should we be embarrassed to talk about it?
That said, I am still nervous about declaring: “I hear voices.” It makes me think of the movie phrase from The Sixth Sense: “I see dead people.” I write this with a tongue-in-cheek because rationally I know hearing voices is not like we see in the horror movies but even I have to try and challenge the stereotypes that go on in my head.
Hearing voices in the Horror Movies
We are shown all these “mad” people in films which I don’t think helps our cause, because when we or a loved one actually experiences mentally ill health, it is seen as something to fear. When in fact, people with mental health problems are 10 times more likely to be attacked than they are to attack someone. (Sorry I’m firing all these statistics at you, but I’m a journalist by trade and I love a good figure).
And, FYI, I don’t see dead people. Sadly.
That said being a journalist, I also know how hard it is to illustrate mental illness because it is so complex and everyone experiences things differently. So I am not just blaming the media for simplifying mental health or being scared of something we don’t understand fully. But that’s why I feel I need to speak out as I look (fairly) normal and I come across smiley and personable and yet I have complex and severe mental health problems.
When I first started hearing voices
Anyhow, I first started hearing voices around four years ago, before that I’d say I had experienced periods of mania on an off since senior school.
The first time I remember hearing voices was when I was out shopping in my local supermarket. The voices were so loud and jumbled and I thought someone was following me, I had to stop myself from screaming but I just ran out of the store. But the voices didn’t go away. They kept coming back. I was pregnant at the time and thought someone was trying to attack my unborn baby.
That was a period of time where I was particularly poorly with Psychosis however.
Not all voices are scary
Not all of the voices I hear are as cruel and disturbing as they were then. It depends how I am coping or not coping. Whilst medication may dull some of the voices and quieten the volume for me, it doesn’t completely make them go away.
At the moment, after a summer in crisis, I am fairly stable and yet I still hear voices sometimes. But they are nowhere near as threatening or scary as they were over summer. I can rationalise that they are “voices” and they are not “real” in the sense that others cannot hear them. Apparently, medication doesn’t make them totally disappear but they are due to trauma (of which there has been a lot but I won’t go into that now). So it is the trauma that needs treating.
I thought I’d share another insight into my life after my discovery today that there are 10% of people who may experience some of what I do. You may, like me, be functioning or you may not. But something I want you to know is that you are not alone.
We can challenge the voices, we can dull the voices maybe with music but first we must accept that we hear voices.
I am on this journey with you too.
Call 116 123
CALM – for men
Call 0800 58 58 58
Papyrus – for people under 35
Call 0800 068 41 41 –
Text 07786 209697
Call 0800 1111
The Silver Line – for older people
Call 0800 4 70 80 90 pic.twitter.com/H6A53ichoG
— Mama Mei (@MamaMeiBlog) September 10, 2018
Much peace and love. You can also find out more about the Hearing Voices Network here.