Brian: I learned to live with voices
Source: BBC Online, 18/09/2006
Brian, 38 and from Manchester, hears voices in his head.
Sometimes they tell him that he is dirty. At other times they taunt him, calling him worthless and evil. When he hears them, he knows there is nobody there, but they sound as clear as you or me speaking to him. As a boy aged six, when the voices first began, he was afraid.
“At first I did not cope at all. I struggled. I used to lose my temper a lot. I had a really bad time. I hated myself.
The voices started when I was six. At first it was just one. It was a man’s voice – a man that I knew. It was the man that was abusing me at the time.
That voice continued all my life. When I was 19, it was joined by another one. On and on. Again, someone tried to sexually assault me and it was that person’s voice.
The voices would just say whatever. They were really derogative. They would put me down, tell me I was dirty, worthless and evil.”
He would mainly hear them at night-time. Sometimes they would keep him awake all night.
“The voices can be going on, and on, and on. It is better when you are busy. They can go away, sometimes for days.
I did not tell anyone at the time. I was too scared. It wasn’t until I was 33 that I told my GP.”
Brian was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He now takes medication and no longer hears the voices. But he questions whether his voices are a form of mental illness or merely a normal human variation.
“I think it is a variation of normal rather than a mental illness. I think a lot more children and adults hear voices than admit it. There is not anything abnormal about admitting that you are hearing voices.”
Through his work with the Hearing Voices Network, Brian says he has met many other people who hear voices in their head.
He said many viewed the voices as a positive thing.
“Some people have religious voices. Some people say God speaks to them. Some people have voices telling them about music and some have voices and they get really artistic. It’s not always bad. My voices used to inspire me to write poetry.”
Brian said there were ways to cope with the voices.
“Keeping yourself occupied and talking about things helps. Getting things out in the open rather than building things up – actually talking about them.”
He said stress is a major trigger.
“And tiredness, fatigue, or if you are not sleeping or eating well can cause the voices to get really bad”.