Connecting People and Ideas in the Hearing Voices Movement

Ron Coleman

Our relationship developed quickly from the torrid passion of new lovers to the passion that consumes those who are indeed soul mates. We spent as much time as we could in each others company often we would sit up through the night talking and planning as couples do. We were planning our life together, this was normality at its best. But like all normality madness was lurking waiting its chance to pounce and consume us and then one day it did.

Like the day I met Annabelle the day our relationship ended was a Saturday, I had been playing rugby and went home with something for both of us to eat. When I got in I called to Annabelle asking her if she wanted tea or coffee, she didn’t reply. I went into the living room and she was lying on the couch I asked her again and still got no reply I gave her a shake but she would not wake up. I rushed out of the house to a neighbour and asked them to phone an ambulance. They rushed her to hospital and put her on a life support machine she did not make it and three days later she was pronounced dead. Annabelle had taken her own life I never really found out why but I know that I blamed myself, I don’t know why I blamed myself though it was to be many years before I stopped doing so.

When she died a large slice of me died also, I swore that never again would I get emotionally involved with anyone. Like many others I suppressed all of my emotions about Annabelle and her death. I continued on with a semblance of existence that others called life. Like the abuse I choose to pretend it never happened and like the abuse my feelings of grief and loss and hatred of the world festered inside growing and growing waiting for their chance to devour me.

The time came for my emotions to overcome me when I had an accident on the rugby pitch that put me out of the game forever. Barely weeks had passed since I was discharged from hospital (still on crutches) when I heard a voice for the first time. I was in my office waiting for the computer to deliver the results of some data I had inputted when a voice behind me said that I had done it wrong. I looked behind me but there was nobody there. I stopped what I was doing immediately, went to the pub and got drunk, I remember thinking that I was stressed and needed a break.

Within a short six months period the voice had been joined by other voices that spent most of the day screaming at me. I could not focus on my work and the only relief I got was when I had drunk myself into oblivion. Eventually my boss told me I had four weeks to get my act together. Four weeks later I was out of work, losing my home and on my way (though I didn’t know it then) to my first encounter with the psychiatric services. In double quick time I became a pitiful sight with an unkempt beard, more often than not dirty clothes and more and more frequently drunk rather than sober.

Eventually I could not take any more and I phoned the Samaritans and after much talking went to see my GP. He ended the consultation with the words “I am going to arrange for you to see a specialist” fine I thought that will take a while, what a surprise I was in for. He took me out of his consulting room and asked me to wait in a small side room in the surgery a few minutes later he returned with a nurse who he told me was going to look after me while he arranged an appointment with the specialist. The only thing I remember about that wait with the nurse was how little she spoke it was as if she was frightened to be in the same room as me.

My short wait ended some three hours later when the GP returned with another man it turned out that this man was the specialist that the GP had contacted. The specialist introduced himself and told me that he was a psychiatrist and that he had come to see me since my GP was concerned about me. It was here that I went through my very first one-hour present state examination, after the interview the psychiatrist told me I was ill and it would be better if I came into hospital for a short time. I told him where to shove his hospital and fled the surgery, three days later I was dragged into the Royal Free hospital where I once again was subjected to the psychiatric interview with the conclusion that I was suffering from schizophrenia.

The psychiatrist there told me that if I took medication then my voices and other symptoms would be eradicated and I would get better. He told me that the medication took about two weeks to work and in no time at all I would be back to something like my old self, he was wrong. Two weeks went by and if anything I was worse not better so I stopped taking the medication and decided to leave. This was when I discovered the real power of the system I was put on a section two of the mental health act, which held me for up to twenty-eight days against my will. A section three this is a treatment order, which allowed them not only to detain me but also to medicate me forcibly if necessary, followed the section two in quick time. This became my new way of life a constant round of illness with short periods of respite (not wellness) in the community.

Over the next ten years I was to spend six of them as an in-patient almost all of them on a section three. In this time I had nearly forty sessions of ECT, tried nearly every neuroleptic on the market and was denied psychological interventions on numerous occasions. Despite the most vigorous of treatment regimes the voices I heard remained as virulent as ever, medication gave me no respite and eventually the volume of medication I was taking was so high that I became little better than a zombie who viewed life through a legalised drug induced smog.

The system did teach me things the main one being how to be a good schizophrenic, I do believe that we learn much about how to be mentally ill in the system. Ten years were to pass before I found a way out the system by then they (the system) had created a perfect schizophrenic. Now on to recovery.

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Intervoice was set up to support the International Hearing Voices Movement, celebrating the diversity and creativity within it. We do what we can to share information and connect people with groups, networks and resources.

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