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My Own Voices Return (Again) July 7, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Hallucinations, Hearing Voices, mental illness, Mental Illness and Medication.
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My sleep cycle got off a few days ago when we were camping.  I was sleep-deprived more or less when a 1 ½ year old boy belonging to one of the families we were with kept waking up about every 2 hours during the night. Combined with the inconvenience of sleeping in a tent in a strange place, my sleep and my schedule took a severe beating which meant that my stress level increased proportionally.  Not surprisingly, I began hearing voices again.

Although hearing voices would be scary to the average individual, someone like me, who has a history of hearing voices, isn’t frightened by them for several reasons. The first reason is that they’re relatively comfortable- like an old shoe. I’ve had them before, and I will probably have them again.  Secondly, thanks to my wonderful psychiatrist and counselor, I know that with proper treatment they will go away. Just how severe that treatment has to be to get them to leave is the real question.  Can I just reduce the stress and make them go away by myself, or do we need to escalate treatment up to the Haldol level or commitment to the mental hospital level?

Whenever I hear voices, I have an agreement with my family and physician. I must always tell my husband and sister, whether I want to or not. I realize that not telling them is a slippery slope, leading me back to the point where I once again get comfortable with them.  I want to discourage that mindset as soon as it starts to rear its ugly head.

Regardless of my own relative lack of concern, learning that I’m hearing voices again is always scary from my family’s perspective. Besides my family’s fear factor, one of the more unfortunate and upsetting points about hearing voices (for me) is that once again I have to come face to face with the fact that I have a mental illness.

Before the camping trip, I was feeling so good that it was easy to convince myself that I was no longer mentally ill.  Maybe, in fact, I had never really been mentally ill. Maybe it was all a mistake. Based on the relative stability of a couple of weeks or months,  I had convinced myself that I no longer needed any counseling and that soon I would be going off my meds entirely.

But now with this latest episode bringing back the voices, I must once again confront the fact that obviously am not “cured” like I thought I was, and that’s a major disappointment for me.   I really had myself convinced that I wasn’t sick any more.  I believed that I had grown out of my illness (or was misdiagnosed), and that very shortly I would be going back to my old way of living and working.   I thought I didn’t need my medications anymore because I was no longer mentally ill.  Things were going so well before the camping trip vacation that I really thought I had the illness under control and maybe whipped for good.  It was so nice to feel that good, looking forward to an illness-free future.

My latest episode of hearing voices returns me back to the point where once again I have to acknowledge that I have a mental illness and that I have certain limitations in my daily living.  I have to adhere to those restrictions or else I will find myself going back into my old psychotic ways.  Because I took action right away, although the voices came back, they weren’t nearly as loud and dominating as they used to be.  But when they returned, I realized that if I didn’t do something about them (get more sleep and reduce my stress levels as much as possible) the voices would increase in loudness and frequency, and it’s possible that I would find myself hospitalized once again.

And so yesterday afternoon I began my program of doing nothing, and today I continued that program.  The only thing I accomplished today was doing a blog on anosognosia, which is the inability of a person with a mental illness to realize they are ill.  It’s ironic that I did that blog, since I believed based on my own personal lack of symptoms for several weeks that I no longer had a mental illness. Because I had been symptom-free for so long,  I was so sure that I was no longer mentally ill that I was prepared to stop my medication because I believed that I was close to being “cured”.

It’s easy for me to understand how someone with a mental illness can be in denial.  It’s  a lack of symptoms kind of thing.  I think that’s what a lot of people on medication get caught up in.  It’s a logical point: If I take medication and I get better, then I actually get well entirely and no longer need that medication. Therefore, I can discontinue its use and return to my old way of life. It’s a cause and effect thing. No symptoms for a certain amount of time means that I am no longer ill.  It’s such a symptom-driven illness that the absence of the symptoms indicates an absence of the illness itself.

And so, it’s not particularly surprising to learn that roughly 70 percent of people with mental illness stop taking their medication at some point in their life.  We so badly want to be cured that we wish ourselves into being cured.  In my own case, I was really, truly symptom-free for weeks  (which is forever in the mental illness realm).  No voices, not even a hint.  And with a little lack of sleep and stress, a cocktail of mental illness symptoms raised its ugly head.  That fast.

Of course, going off my medication, had I decided to go that route, would have doubtlessly put me back into a severe case of psychosis, bringing me to the point (possibly) of hospitalization.  At the end of the day, I would have returned to a much stronger cocktail of medication designed to make the psychosis, whatever its form, go away, along with the voices that would surely accompany it.  It likely wouldn’t have taken me long to fall back into that abyss of voices and psychosis. And what a horrible thing that would have been to do to my family.  So I’m glad that I had that little episode while camping. It kept me from having bigger problems than just a few voices.

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Comments»

1. Anon - July 9, 2010

I stopped taking medication years ago. The voices had things to communicate to me, even when they scared me or spoke in metaphor. I’m glad I finally listened to them and stopped drugging them so I could finally get well.

Crazy Mermaid - July 9, 2010

What if they told you to kill someone or commit suicide or something else equally horrible?

2. Anon - July 9, 2010

Then I told them no and asked them why they would say such things. (I’ve never been much for doing what I’m told.) For something this radical, I did need emotional support and understanding from enlightened people. Finding that was the hardest part and it was too scary in the beginning to do all by myself.

3. Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC - July 15, 2010

I am so glad you decided to stay on your medications. You explained the whole process very well. With chronic arthritis and lupus, I have done the same thing regarding medication. After a period of time, the inflammation always came back.

Thank you for giving us a glimpse into the real reasons why people with mental illness go off of their medication. Very insightful.


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