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I've been hearing voices

As someone who has divulged the dirty details of their mental illness for almost 5 years, it’s easy to assume that I’m an open book and am no longer bound by stigma. I hate to say it, but I still am. It's not only difficult to write about what I am going through, there are things I still struggle to share with my loved ones because of fear. There are so many conversations around mental health lately, but there’s still something that people don’t want to talk about so I’m going to take one for the team in this. 

I’ve been hearing voices. 

As someone with bipolar disorder, I’ve been cursed with episodes of psychosis on top of my depressive and manic episodes. Now, when I’m feeling low, I am plagued with loud voices that tell me perverse and disturbing things. The voices try to convince me to harm myselfthey put me down at every opportunity and I can’t switch them off. This isn’t my inner voice - I can hear voices outside of my ears both gossiping about me and speaking directly to me. Thanks to my emetophobia (that’s a story for another day), I am unmedicated and can’t even take a drug to stop what I’m going through, as much as I want to. 

I only told my boyfriend a couple of months ago about what I was dealing with, otherwise it has just been a secret between my doctors and I. I'm not gonna shit you – it's been really scary. It’s like being stuck in a horror movie, as clich├ęd as that is. The experience can easily shift my attention from things that I’m doing, make me feel depressed, lonely, terrified and even gives me a headache. Can you imagine a day of your life where people are just yelling abuse at you when you’re just trying to walk around Tesco? That’s my realityhave to deal with the voices and live with the idea that it’s not actually real at all... yet I can’t just stop it. My options are really limited. 

I've been fearful too about telling people what I’m going through. Will people think I’m weird? Yeah, they probably will. Let’s not beat around the bush - unless you’ve experienced psychosis, quite frankly it would be odd if you didn’t think it was a little bit weird. As a result of this, in a time where people are singing about mental illness and how sad it is, psychosis is not invited to the party. People are still using words and phrases like ‘schizo’, ‘not well’ and I still occasionally hear the old: ‘there’s a place for people who talk to themselves’. As someone with bipolar disorder, I already felt like my experiences were adverse and difficult for others to understand, so of course I don’t want to chat about how a voice in my head is screaming that it’s time for me to jump in front of the train. 

Psychosis – as abstract as it is to people who have never experienced it – is not as uncommon as you think. Do you know that many people under 25 experience psychosis? Not necessarily as a result of a mental illness like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, it’s just something that can happen for short periods of time. Yet, I never hear about those people who are ‘just like me’. There are not that many people I know with bipolar who can relate either – so it is quite isolating. 

That’s why I felt it was instrumental for me now to just say it publicly – that I’ve been hearing voices. I can complain so much about there not being conversations about serious and complex mental illness, but I’ve played a part in that by being quiet. So right now, I’m releasing my inner B&M canvas quote and ‘being the change I want to see’. 

If anyone wants to reach out for a chat, you know where I am on Twitter – just send me a message. Don’t stay alone. Let’s make the party for mental health awareness a truly inclusive one.