Posted in Emotions

What A Bad Day is Like Part 2

I think one of the hardest parts of following a path of wellness after descending into a well of madness is recognizing and acknowledging our humanity. We are inherently not perfect. We are inherently cursed with a frightening amount of insecurity, duality, and uncertainty. Our confidence is easier to lose than to gain. Our bodies are fragile, even in their strength. Our minds hide things from us, trick us, and their true biological workings will probably never be fully understood. Physical nature limits us because our true nature, our particle make-up, is unlimited. That power would be reckless and uncontrollable in our physical reality.

Everything starts to feel insignificant after our re-entrance into this reality. That’s how I felt. It’s how I still feel.

There’s a deep sense of loss that can follow acute psychosis which outsiders often have difficulty understanding. Many people are resistant to thinking anything so terrifying can have positive results. This is why psychiatry is in the state that it is: coercive, power-hungry, and rather daft. Much of modern Psychiatry seeks to eliminate the “problem” (psychosis, depression, anxiety) while presenting the “solution” as normalcy, as lack of the symptomolgy they define. This isn’t obtainable; for years I chased their vision of a crystal city. Sometimes I still catch myself crying for relief. What breaks me out of it? Reminding myself that relief isn’t in the form of an absence of experience, it’s in the form of walking alongside those experiences.

The voice which has been instructing I kill myself had affected my mood, as such a thing should. I learned that I obey my voices and the messages I receive more than I thought. My psychologist seems to see this as a problem. I did at first, as well, simply because I was so unaware of it. After a few days, however, I’ve realized that there is power in sitting with a demon. I obey some things and I don’t obey others and that’s kind of how a balanced life goes: you make some choices, you don’t make other choices, and you keep following a path until you are where you need to be. She considered this voice in particular a problem. I do not.

This gets labeled as “denial” in the world of psychiatry, and that may have been the first word that rang in your head as well. This is not denial–which, ironically, makes this sound more like denial.

Instead, being on solid ground with voices, feeling rocked by them, rocking them back, is no different than being in a relationship that requires excellent communication skills.

Back to loss. The loss I felt when I returned home from the hospital in 2017 with a couple prescriptions and a zombie walk is indescribable. I wanted the euphoria back. I wanted that sense I was special, that I had purpose and a place in life that was so important to humanity that entities from another realm had to attempt to strike me down. I put my sadness and aloofness into art projects that consisted of wood carving, sketching, and getting lost in music. I walked often as well, usually 6 hours or so, across town and back. I people-watched. None of them knew how tiny and worthless they were in the grand scheme of things, I thought.

That sounds depressing and it was.

Researchers have been fighting over whether or not antipsychotic medication causes intense apathy after acute psychosis. You can find publications in journals galore about this, and some of them are free on PMC. Without evidence, I can’t say for sure either way. I can hypothesize, though, that the sense of loss, confusion, and shock that results as you’re introduced back into the world everyone says is real, might just make us a little unexcitable.

You guys, I don’t know what the point of this post is. I have some good points in there about loss, about voices, but I can’t seem to gather them into an organized thought today. I am struggling, and I was going to keep this in drafts. I’m thinking this is a part two to What It’s Like on A Bad Day.

Connect with me:

Instagram: @written_in_the_photo

Twitter: @philopsychotic

If you liked this post, please share and follow The Philosophical Psychotic. I appreciate every reader and commentator. You give me more reason to encourage critical thinking about mental health.

Posted in advocacy, science, Supporting Friends/Family, Voices

Hearing Voices: Internal versus External

Something people who don’t hear voices misunderstand about hearing voices is that it’s not like sitting next to a party of five in a restaurant where you can generally tune out all the giggles and unrelated conversation and focus on the person in front of you. It’s more like that party of five arranged their chairs around you and take turns commenting on your posture, your date’s violent sexual thoughts, your wants you didn’t know you had, while also occasionally blurting a sentence that doesn’t make any sense, like “put that burrito on reservation.”

My point here is that ignoring it isn’t always the easiest or most necessary option. And to understand why this is a fact, we need to understand a little more about this.

Some people are really obvious about their inner experiences. They’ll be talking out loud or gesturing to no one. They might be laughing or crying or whispering. This is what scares people, both people, and what can make getting acquainted with our voices such a daunting experience; we’re aware (some of us) how we appear and that judgement is enough to warrant withdrawal. This tends to make things worse.

But let’s be clear: screaming at yourself at 3am probably isn’t the best way for your roommates to get to know you, nor is it a good way to get to know your voices.

It’s kind of a novel idea, to promote the “getting to know” process of things that don’t exist. But they do exist; they speak, they can have names, we can even have images to describe their non-existent physical features. They may not exist for your little brother or your mom or dad, but they exist for you and that’s still valid.

Psychiatrists and therapists aren’t trained in helping you with this process because school will tell them not to entertain delusions and to teach their clients how to cope with voices by ignoring them. This may be helpful for the clinician so they have a reason not to feel guilty when their client doesn’t remarkably improve, but it’s not always helpful for the client.

Ignoring needs to happen sometimes. But as a primary coping mechanism it sucks.

And so there’s something called “dialoging”, which I didn’t know about until attending a hearing voices workshop put on by the Hearing Voices Network. This is essentially someone on the outside speaking with your voices, getting to know them, their motives, their personality, and validating their existence. It’s for the voice hearer as well, so they can participate in a conversation instead of a shouting match. Because, again, what happens when you shout at someone? They shout back.

It’s also a common misconception, especially in clinical practice, that everyone who hears voices hears them externally.

I read a report of an experiment which examined this. They say that external voices have always been thought to represent more “severe” psychopathology, and to be more common, but that “empirical evidence has been equivocal”, meaning ambivalent. You can read for yourself at this link.

To summarize their study:

  • Some people experience only internal (coming from inside the head) voices
  • Some people experience only external( perceived as outside the head) voices .
  • Some people experience both.
  • In 1996 it was thought external voices were more severe. This project suggests, from observations, that internal ones can be more “disturbing, negative, persistent, involving, and commanding”.
  • Voices commenting and conversing observed (reported as) more internal.
  • “…no differences have been identified between internal vs. external hallucinators in other symptoms or levels of overall psychopathology.”
  • Another study, (cited Stephane et. al 2010) “found that schizophrenia patients with only internal hallucinations performed more poorly than those with only external hallucinations on an internal ‘say/think’ source memory task, suggesting that internal hallucinators may be less able to discriminate between internal versus externalized stimuli…”
  • Those with internal voices were observed to have more insight into the self-generated nature of their voices.

Why is any of this important? Well, it’s important for clinicians to read these kinds of findings and realize that experiences vary, and that one-shot generalized treatment WILL NOT work.

But it’s also important for those of us who do hear internal voices. First of all, it’s validation. Maybe you’ve been disregarded in the mental health system because your experience is perceived as “lesser”. Remember when we talked about the Soggy Boxes and the hierarchy of the mental health system? If you don’t, take a quick read at an older post of mine entitled The Soggy Boxes and The Variation of Us.

I’ve personally been reluctant to ever tell anyone about the internal half of me, because I knew the standard the system held. I also didn’t know they were voices. I did, but I didn’t.

So all this really does is remind us how different and similar we can be with each other. It also proves that the stale mental health system needs to readjust its understanding of life, of humanity, and experience in order to catch up with where we are. They’re behind US. It’s not the other way around.

If you are struggling with this currently, I’d encourage you to reach out to someone you can trust. If you trust no one, find the person you can trust the most. If you know someone who has been through similar things, reaching out to them may be the most helpful. If your options are limited, feel free to email me (info here). People seem to like connecting on Instagram better lately, so you can also reach me via my social media handles (info below).

People are fearful because they don’t understand. The nice thing is that there are many people who will make an effort to understand if you can have the patience to teach.

If you are a voice hearer and are comfortable with sharing your experience, pop it down in the comments below. If it’s a long story and you’d like a guest blog post spot, contact me! I’d love to feature your story on here.

Would you like to continue the conversations accompanied by beautiful photos? Great! Follow me:

Instagram: @written_in_the_photo

Twitter:@Philopsychotic

If you liked this article, please share it with the buttons below, give it a like, and follow ThePhilosophicalPsychotic. I appreciate every reader and commentator. You give me more reason to continue this joyous hobby.

Posted in Freedom, Peer Support, Therapy, Voices

A Different Way To Hear Voices: Tips and Tricks

We ask doctors what we’re supposed to do about them, how we’re supposed to manage them, how we can make them go away and often the doctors don’t have a very good answer not because they aren’t book-smart (because they’ve certainly proven time and time again they are VERY book-smart) but because they have no idea what they’re dealing with. That’s the truth.

Medication works for some of us—makes them fainter, or less intrusive at the least. But rarely will you hear someone comment their voices have gone away completely.

Couple that with fleeting thoughts that seem to come from that one area of your mind you never open the doors to, and your ability to focus is reduced to the attention span of a goldfish, literally.

What are some other ways we can deal with this?

Get Involved!

I hear that Support Groups can be helpful. You meet people who you can form (perhaps) life-long friendships with, people who understand where you are and meet you there rather than try and pull you where they are. I’ve personally never got much from group therapy or support groups. I find it difficult to be truly open with people, even after a year of acquaintanceship, and so I stray from this option.

But if it sounds like something which may be good for you, I suggest looking into your local NAMI chapter (if you’re in the United States). I would also suggest searching for alternative groups and using other language besides “mental illness” or “disorder” in your search engine. By doing that, I found a list of wellness groups 45 minutes from me with names like “Support group for those with voices and visions”. These kind of groups offer the same type of peer support, but through a different lens.

It can be transformative to engage with people who have different perspectives. Through them, you learn more about your beliefs and form a more solid understand of yourself. I find this to be pertinent in getting grounded because we lose part of our identity when falling through a crisis. We have people telling us what to do, when to do it, how do it it, how to get healthy, why we are aren’t healthy, and kind of become the property of those around us and the terror in our head.

We want to reclaim some of who we are. Sometimes that means discovering ourselves for the first time. Sometimes that means reinventing who we once were. In either scenario, solidifying your beliefs, your passions, and remembering what it feels like to be respected and give respect are all things which help us build ourselves outside of others expectations.

Explore the Unknown!

This is probably a less sought-after option because it doesn’t involve immediate relief. If anything, you’ll be in more pain for a while.

What I mean by explore the unknown is actually listen to the voices. Don’t abide by them or agree with them (all the time) or allow yourself to be convinced of something you know for a fact isn’t true. That sounds a lot easier and more practical than it actually is. But it’s worked in many ways for me.

Stop yelling back. What does yelling usually do? Make them louder, right? Your voices aren’t some shy kids on the playground who you can bully. Most of the time, they won’t submit. And maybe they don’t need to submit. Maybe they’re there to teach patience and understanding and resiliency. Maybe they’re there to teach you life lessons your parents couldn’t. Or maybe they’re just there to be assholes. I think most people you know could fall into one or all of these categories. The point is, you’ll never really know the correct category (for both people and voices) if you don’t listen.

I explained in my previous post, How Philosophy Helped Me Process Psychosis, that I lived under the impression that my voices were demons from a hell I didn’t believe in, here to prevent me from serving my one true purpose. I didn’t just snap out of this one day from medication or extra sleep or hospitalization. It took a couple years of exploring and pain and horror for me to come to any coherent realization.

Seeing how others dealt with their voices was helpful, which is why I recommended support groups at the beginning of this post. In giving myself a chance to hear others, I also gave myself a chance to hear myself. I heard that I was wanted dead. I heard that I was doomed. I also heard I was the light of the earth and I was protected. I got a lot of mixed messages.

What does listening to these messages do, besides cause you more distress?

Well, what does listening to your friend do when they’re stressed out? Sometimes, if you’re attentive and listening closely, it escalates their pain and they scream or cry and they get it all out. Then they’re quiet, they’re thankful, and they might even ask how you’re doing. This leads me into my next tip:

Start a Dialogue!

Let’s be clear here: when I say listen to them, I don’t mean ignore them. Let them vent, yes. Let them vent the commands, the violence, the sadness, the happiness, the grandiosity, whatever their M.O is, and then ask a question or two. Make a reflection. If they are telling you to kill yourself, ask them why. If they respond with an answer that sounds reasonable to you in the moment, something like “no one loves you” or “they all hate you,” consider a compassionate response like “you’re in pain; I am too. Can we figure this out together? I don’t really want to die.”

Why?

What I kept hearing over and over again was the importance of showing yourself compassion. It’s no different than what people with depression or anxiety are told: be kind to yourself.

And if you don’t believe your voices are apart of you, if you believe they are outside of yourself as I believed, remember that we’re all an extension of the universe, and that’s not some mystical hippie stuff, that’s science. We’re all made of the same material, within the same cosmos. We are all each other. Be kind to the earth because earth is an extension of you. Be kind to your children because your children are an extension of you. Be kind to your voices because your voices are an extension of you.

No therapist or friend has (hopefully) ever supported you by screaming back at you and swearing to end you, even if you yelled first or insulted them, or threatened them. And so don’t support yourself that way. Support yourself with compassion and patience and kindness, and remember that you are sharing a space with these things, these voices. You’re all in this body together. This brings up the final tip:

Create A Space for Them!

This is better illustrated with a quick story.

Last night a wave of confusion hit me. My thoughts circled around my impending death and nothing I read made sense. I could barely respond to text messages. I knew something was upsetting my system, and a familiar voice told me to go for a drive. So I did, for two hours.

I headed to some cliffs. I realized I was fighting a lot, fighting the confusion, fighting the voices telling me this drive would be my last, fighting the belief that they’d trigger a heart attack if I parked by the cliffs, and fighting the fact that none of my fighting reaped any benefits. And so I checked out.

I gave them some space. I stopped arguing with the thoughts. I also stopped being fearful of them, and I stopped feeding them with attention. I dissociated and only remember a few snippets of my drive. I did reach the cliffs, but didn’t park partly because of fear and partly because I didn’t want to sit near other cars.

While weaving down some roads I didn’t know very well, I realized my body felt a little lighter I wasn’t as stressed, and some of the thoughts of death had gone away because I’d faced my fear. One of my more familiar voices told me, “See? We know what’s best for you.”

Did they know what was best for me? I didn’t think so. I disagreed and asked why, then, do you keep telling me I’m going to die? Why do you keep feeding my anxiety? His answer?

“Pain is necessary.”

We all know that pain is unavoidable in life, but this struck me so deeply because of all the duality I mentioned in my previous post, that they were here to both lift me up and pull me down and that’s what makes them no better than me, no better than any human. That’s what makes us able to relate. That very duality is what makes us able to share this body and live with each other.

This took a few years of confusion and talking and different types of therapy and 8 years on and (finally) off medication. This took a lot of anger and frustration and fear and maybe some risks. But it’s possible.

And in The End…

There is no textbook on how to deal with your voices. There is no doctor or therapist or friend or family member or self-help stranger or medication or amazingly insightful philosophical blog that can tell you what the right path is. The hardship and pain and joy is in finding that yourself.

You do have to live with yourself for the rest of your life. Might as well figure out a way to do so peacefully.

Would you like to continue the conversation, see silly (and beautiful) photos, or nonsensical two second videos? Great! Follow me:

Instagram: @written_in_the_photo

*New* Twitter: @Philopsyhotic

Snapchat: @FabulousIRLtho

If you liked this article, please share it, hit the like button, and follow ThePhilosophicalPsychotic on WordPress or with email notifications. I appreciate every reader and commentator. You give me more reason to continue this joyous hobby.