Hearing Voices at Boeing October 25, 2014Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Hearing Voices.
Tags: Hearing Voices, Psychotic
NAMI has several signature programs (all free), including one called In Our Own Voice. In this very structured program, two co-presenters talk about what it’s like to live with a mental illness on a daily basis. The program is about an hour long, with time for questions and answers at the end.
For me, stress brings on hearing voices. In my daily life, I live a fairly stress-free life. I have my routines, and my husband and family do a good job of insulating me from stress. We live frugally, but have no major money problems that I am aware of. I am no longer aware of any of our financial information because when I became psychotic I blew through lots of money in a short expanse of time, so while I was still in the mental hospital we decided to safeguard our financial future by keeping me ignorant of our finances. The long and short of it is that a lack of information and a trust of my husband’s financial acuity mean that I can relax about money and not worry about it and stress about it.
The one thing that brings stress into my life is the In Our Own Voice presentations. I stand before a group of strangers and share the story of my psychotic break and my resulting life changes. Simply sharing that story brings back a state close to my psychosis as the memories of what was come flooding back. With the return of that state comes a voice. I tell the audience about the voice. It is actually talking to me via ESP in my head during my presentation. The voice is neither a man’s nor a woman’s. It is genderless. As the presentation starts, it starts talking to me in a fairly quiet voice. But as the presentation continues, the voice gets louder. Fortunately, it doesn’t get as loud as it used to when I was psychotic, when I couldn’t hear myself think because the voice was so loud.
The voice tells me things to say to the audience, reminding me not to forget certain parts of the presentation. It also tells me things to remind my partner to say. It makes observations about audience members, especially focused on pepole’s clothing and hair. I don’t notice these things until the voice points them out to me. It is distracting, but I have learned to live with it. I am willing to put myself through this in order to bring knowledge and understanding of mental illness to a broad audience.
I have been told that because I know the voice isn’t real, I should be able to internalize that thought rationally and eliminate the voice entirely. But it simply doesn’t work that way. Even though I know the voice isn’t a real person, it still behaves as a real person, with thoughts of its own. It isn’t simply my subconscious talking. It’s a separate being apart from myself living inside my head and sharing my body.
Recently, my presentation partner, Matt, a chiropractor with a similar psychotic history, and I gave a presentation to a group of Boeing employees. We typically get a few questions from the audience from every presentation, and audiences are usually eager to ask both of us questions, and usually bring up a question or two about the voice. Surprisingly, at the end of our presentation, no one in the audience asked a single question. Not one.
I suspect that the stigma of mental illness played a large part in the lack of questions. If you ask a question, it might mark you as someone with familiarity with mental illness, which might impact your career. I understand that reasoning, but the whole point of the presentation is to break down that stigma and make it okay for people to ask questions. Although we failed in that aspect of our mission, I think it is important to expose people to the reality of mental illness. Telling people that I am hearing a voice during my presentation shows them that you can hear voices and live a fairly normal life, which is the other key part of the presentation. You look perfectly normal, and no one knows what’s happening inside your head unless you tell them.
One day, I hope that people will be free to ask us questions during a presentation like that. But we’re not there yet.