Connecting People and Ideas in the Hearing Voices Movement

Source: The Independent on Sunday, 18/03/2007

I am from Nigeria, I’m a textile designer and a craftsman, but I am also caught up in two worlds. Elements talk to me and teach me to work with the forces of nature. That’s what becoming a shaman is about. I was working in Switzerland when my voices started telling me I have to go home to Nigeria and become a shaman. So I went back in 2000.

At the time a vigilante group – called the Bakassi Boys – organised by the Nigerian government – were killing people, burning down houses and bringing fear. I decided to confront them, by going on television and speaking out. I even went to meet with them. On my third meeting they abducted me, telling me they wanted to kill me.

They tortured me – my body is full of marks. I was strapped down, beaten with machetes and cut all over. My mother called my cousin, who was a representative in the House of Assembly, who in turn called up the Governor and, after a long dialogue, they released me. After that I started having panic attacks. I couldn’t sleep. I’d see people chasing me with machetes, even in my dreams. But my voices told me I needed to go through this to understand Shamanism; I had to be wounded to understand about pain. I started painting and writing stuff down about my abduction experience. But then the Bakasi boys came to my office and burned down the whole place. I lost all my pieces – all that energy that it had taken to make all these things and understand stuff, and it was gone. It was hell.

In 2001, I came to the UK and brought a lot of evidence and videos of what these vigilantes had been doing to people. But staying in London made my panic attacks worse. It was a hard time. I’d have panic attacks everywhere. I’d start sweating and all I could hear was negative voices. I’d think the people around me were following me and wanted to kill me. I realised I had to move away from London to the sea, where I would be able to communicate with the elements and get myself better. So five years ago, I moved down to Brighton.

Because of the problems I was having, I had to talk to the doctors, who sent me to a psychiatric ward. They saw me as a mad person, who was delusional, as I was still talking with my voices. My social worker was the only person who trusted me.

As my panic attacks continued, I started getting angry at my voices and myself, then one day they told me, “You have to fight.” So I brought an old Egyptian sword and hung it in my flat. It was my tribal sword. Next time I had a panic attack, I saw the machete men, but this time they ran away. I thought, “I’ve got the key now. There’s no need for me to be afraid.” It was a symbolic event, and now I am fearless again. I haven’t had any panic attacks since.

Now I help others who have had similar problems. I see myself as an African psychologist. The modern, European approach is only geared to the body and mind – not the spirit. These things are not clinical – psychiatrists can not cover it; I think us shamans can.

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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