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Hearing Voices and Cortisone Shots November 18, 2009

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Hearing Voices, mental illness.
Tags: , , ,

What do you get when you cross a mentally ill woman with a cortisone shot?  Voices!

Yesterday, I saw a rheumatologist for the first time in my life. Not to bore anyone with the details, but suffice it to say that my arthritis is getting worse. My new doctor recommended trying a cortisone shot in my hip to see if it reduced or eliminated the pain. The pain is in both hips, and sometimes cortisone shots work for people, and sometimes they don’t. So we decided to try a shot in my left hip, never considering for a moment the possible effect of a cortisone shot on my mental health.

I noticed a significant reduction or actually elimination of the pain within a few hours. It felt better than it had in years, in fact. I was thrilled. Until this afternoon, when I started hearing voices again.

At first they sound like an echo of thoughts. I’ll think something, like “I need to take out the garbage”. Normally, that thought would just be a flash, not even verbalized in any way. But that changes when the voices kick in.  I’ll hear a voice in my head say “I need to take out the garbage”, as if I’m talking to myself out loud. But it’s not out loud. Then, about ½ a second later, there will be an echo voice. “I need to take out the garbage”, then a pause, and then “I need to take out the garbage” again. Always in my own voice, and never out loud.   It’s annoying, but not scary.

From there, it escalated to what I like to call “the commentary”.  That’s when the commentator starts.  Say I’m listening to someone talk to me (in real time) about something. Suddenly, a voice (not mine) inside my head talks over the real person sitting in front of me talking. That voice tells me to ask the person sitting in front of me a certain question, or to tell them a certain thing.

For example, today a dear friend took me to lunch. As we sat in the restaurant, she told me about her recent trip on a Mediterranean cruise.  It was fascinating listening to her stories. But every so often a voice(not mine)  popped into my head as she was talking. It talked over her voice (in my mind) as she continued talking, saying “Ask her what the temperature was like, Kathy”, and then a little later in the conversation it said “Kathy, ask her if the desserts were good on the ship”.  A little while later, it told me to tell her something about my son. But the voice telling me what to do isn’t my own. It speaks to me in the 3rd person, as if I”m standing right in front of it or on the phone with it. I have a choice of whether to obey the voice, and sometimes I don’t. But the voice is not my own.  It’s not me.

These voices (the echo is different from the commentator) differ from the voices I heard when I was psychotic (before my hospitalization). First of all, I have no misconception that the voices are somehow coming to me via ESP. Second, there are not a whole bunch of voices. There are only two: the echo and the commentator.  Thirdly, the voices aren’t those of friends, co-workers, and family members like they were when I was psychotic. I know the voices aren’t me, but as bizarre as it sounds,  the voices are never scary.

I waited a few hours before calling my psychiatrist, Dr. K, hoping that they would go away on their own. That’s the mistake I’ve made before.  I kept thinking they’d go away on their own if I waited long enough.  But I’ve learned my lesson there.  So when the voices didn’t go away on their own by 6 pm, I decided that I had to tell Dr. K  about the voices.  I called his office number, but they told me he was gone for the day. So even though I hate bothering him on his emergency phone, I knew he would want to hear about the voices. So I took a deep breath and called  Dr. K on his emergency number, just in case it was an emergency. I didn’t think it was, but you never know with these sort of things. As usual, he answered the phone just like he always does.  For that I am always eternally grateful.

As usual, he was very reassuring. When I explained about hearing the voices today and about having the cortisone shot yesterday afternoon, he told me that steroids are famous for causing voices to return. Surprisingly, he also told me not to adjust my medication at this point. He said to give it three days, including today. So if I’m still hearing the voices on Saturday, I’m supposed to call him.  Of course if they get worse, he wants to know about it right away. But I’m not worried and he’s not worried. At least at this point.

But I must say that the cortisone shot gave me such relief that I wouldn’t hesitate to get another one, even if it means living with the voices for a few days.  Unless the voices get worse or stick around for longer than a few days, that is.  But so far, so good.



1. Jean - November 19, 2009

Take really good care of you. Sorry about the arthritis-have to be so careful with steroids, though. Maybe pressure point massage, and foam roll counterpressure would give some relief. I know I had major relief from my arthritis by reducing trans-fats to low amount. Everyone’s body is different though. Your body is delicate balance though-especially since mental health is #1 at all times.

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