Connecting People and Ideas in the Hearing Voices Movement

I am 28 now and I have seen and heard voices since I was 4. I hear them in a telepathetic way in my own mind. My childhood has been difficult, dotted with painful and traumatic experiences for a helpless baby girl alone in this word. My family consisted of an alcoholic and depressed mother and a violent father. At the onset of my experiences with voices and visions, my parents had only just divorced and I totally blamed myself for this whole catastrophe. And so, almost by magic, my pain led me to create a sort of parallel universe of my own, where I could find a shelter for something otherwise unbearable for a little girl: the loss and shattering of her only family; her only safe place in respect to the rest of the world.

There, in my loneliness and isolation, forced by the events… there, in my anguish and fear to feel abandoned, suddenly something new, enveloping and reassuring: my own world of voices and visions.

I remember my first contact had been at the nursery school, during recreation time. I was a kind of uncommunicative and self-effacing child, I would stay invisible to the eyes of adults and other children alike. This is the reason why I was given a special place in the school: the small wooden hut in the courtyard. It was here, in this place, where I could feel protection and safety, that a voice found its way in my heart. The beginning of my wandering between two worlds.

The contact with my voices and visions did not scare me at all: instead, it was reassuring me; it made me feel I was existing for somebody.

I had many good voices performing a lot of activities: for example, there was the lawyer, the doctor, the policeman, the wise man and many more. All of them had the function to advise me and protect me. The protraction of neglectfulness and isolation at emotional level brought out a change into my parallel world. Feeling invisible and guilty for what was happening to my family, led me to project my huge pain and helplessness feelings outside of me. All of a sudden, my visions and voices became aggressive against me. I remember precisely the instant in which the Evil joined my world: a scene of utter suffering appeared before my very eyes in which I was the only one surviving person. Even in my own world I was alone in the face of the Evil.

Since that very moment my voices began commanding and dominating me. They were male voices with different identities and ages. These voices considered me their property and compelled me to obey them, otherwise they would threaten and torture me with horrible and gruesome sights whilst I was tied up. They would call me as a number and forced me to pay respect to them.  through a series of questions. For example, my voice would ask me who they were and I had to answer: “You are my bosses, you are my God, you are the Law”. The sense of powerlessness and anguish I was feeling led me to a total sensation of being unable to defend myself. I was absolutely and totally passive. I was a prisoner of myself.

There were times when the burden oppressing my soul was so big that since I was a child I had suicidal ideas. Reality would have had new challenges and attacks in store for me to face. During my adolescence, given the abandonment and neglect state in which my parents left me, I was forced to leave my family. I ended up in a rehabilitation centre for young people. In this place I had no contact with my world of voices… and the anguish from being separated from my family dropped me into an abyss of suffering.

As soon as I went back home, my visions and voices reappeared, angrier than ever before. They were just unmanageable.

I was totally at the mercy of my world and my emotions of rage, powerless and frustration. Yet, I did not feel I was ready to seek for help. I thought I could manage this just by myself. In those moments I could lose myself in my world for hours and hours. My soul was racked by pain.

In the meantime, in the real world a figure appeared who would have conditioned me in the years to come: my abuser, disguised as a family friend at first started stalking and deceiving me and in the end abused me. At that time I was just 14 /15 and both physical and psychological violences continued until I was 22 / 23.

This experience had the result of making me feel distorted from who I was and totally annihilated me both as a being and as an identity. From this point onwards, the abyss below my feet opened up and I went through a period of deep sadness that led me to the idea of attempting suicide.

All on my own I was trying to put into discussion my visions and voices: for instance, I used to throw objects to them in the vain attempt to detach me from the way I was feeling. From adolescence, I grew up into a young woman preserving these secrets hidden inside herself. Nobody knew what I had been through and the way I was feeling.

If on one hand these secrets made me a special person who was different from others, on the other hand they were digging up myself in depth day after day, as a result of which I became more and more detached from reality. When I was 18 I started University and such an important event for me caused a sense of disorientation, in that in the real world I was expected to make choices.

Such a thing had long being forbidden to me; both in my imaginary and in the real world. In my 3rd year at the University I had a very strong crisis following a period in which I tried on my own not to hear and see my own internal characters, but without success. I came to the point of not sleeping, eating and drinking, leaving myself completely overwhelmed and absorbed in voices and visions. At that time I was experiencing strong internal conflicts. It was from these signals I understood by myself that I needed some help.

So, I went to my practitioner and simply said to him I was talking to myself. It was the most difficult day in my life, as I was deciding to take care of myself. A real feat of courage and acknowledgement. The beginning of my journey in search of myself.

So I went to my mental health department where I met the man who would then become my psychiatrist who started suggesting psychotherapy and medication. I welcomed immediately this opportunity to engage in psychotherapy: there were so many things inside me that needed to be listened by someone.

With my psychologist, who in the course of the years would have proven very helpful and comforting, we have created a relationship of truth and mutual affection that till today follows me on my path of consciousness.

After 2 years of psychotherapy someone suggested to attend the day centre. For me, this moment marked a definite passage. In fact, it was the beginning of a change: I had to open myself to the world. To me, it was like a very good training ground to learn how to relate with others. During my path there have been difficult moments. Especially in the beginning the different approaches I noticed within the staff in respect to voices and vision were confusing me. And this made me feel jolting regarding my experience. When my voices were just seen a a symptom of illness I was feeling “mad” and powerless.

The Day Centre marked the meeting with a person who has become important in my life: Alessandra, my educator, who today I can proudly state to be the person who was able to listen and inspire me with love and hope and most of all to give a meaning not only to my own experience but also to me as a person. To me, she is like a fellow traveller; we travel together as peers along this path, supporting each other. She taught me how to find inside me the ability to love myself and the others and with her I started my journey of discovery of the meaning of my voices and visions.

I understood for example, that the various places where my visions occurred had a symbolic meaning that it was possible to understand. For example I found out that when I saw a vision of myself in a prison it occurred when for some reason some ancient feelings of guilt came up ; when I was in an hospital kind of environment as a vision, it meant a part of me felt the need to stop and listen to what in my real life is scaring me for some reason and therefore that I have to listen to my need of taking care of myself, my fragile parts my fears and my need to ask for some help. Or if I see myself as a vision, in  a sort of strange family where weird beings command me and make me feel at the same time protected but also very passive, this means I’m confronting myself with some inner conflicts or some scary or difficult emotions for me to handle. Very often in this place I met my most profound fears of being abandoned.  These three dominant places where my voices and visions occurred , what my voices used to tell me and how they made me feel are messages that talk about me and my story of life and feelings.

In 2009 eventually I voluntarily decided to leave my family and now I am living in a sheltered apartment with other girls. I earned autonomy and consciousness of my experience and this allowed me to decide to ask and get my psychiatrist to reduce my medication.

Now, when writing I haven’t been taking medications for 8 months. Untying myself from the role of victim, both in the real world and my parallel world of visions and voices has been very hard but worthwhile even if sometimes, I still hear a part of me saying I deserved all this suffering to atone the grievous weight of my heart and soul.

Meeting people along my journey who were able to listen and inspire me with hope has strengthened my own consciousness to hold the right to exist and love.

Thanks to this I started to expand the circle of my friends. Now I’m learning I can receive love and unconditioned affection from my fellow travellers.

In January 2011 I started to attend the voice hearers group of my mental health centre and there, in the group, I felt immediately accepted and unjudged, but deeply understood. Also helping other voice hearers is a good remedy for my soul. As well as feeling an active part of the organisation of the Hearing Voices Italian website, for which, together with Alessandra, I am taking care of the movies section.

Not only this, but also attending workshops and meetings about hearing voices made me free and conscious and let me understand that my experience, apart from having sense in itself, is also a great resource, both for me and others, walking like me on the road leading to rebuilding themselves. All these things put together have made me stronger and increased my self-esteem and love for myself. Presently I completed my course of study and and the same time also discovering the meaning of standing side by side with special persons who have endured suffering and descended into the Netherworld of themselves. But the biggest thing in all this is that I’m understanding inside myself what love is and its invincible force, thanks to which all of us get ahead with our lives.

I understood that reconstruction must pass through acceptance of oneself in all our different parts. My voices and visions are there in my everyday life but the relationship with them has decidedly changed compared to what it was before. I’ve learnt how to  manage them, control them and I have the power of choice, no longer the contrary.

Now it is 8 months that I don’t have voices and visions but even if I heard them again I would not be scared anymore by them because I understand that they are voices and visions telling me what I experience, what I feel in my soul. With courage and love I would look into their eyes and no longer fear what they are: they are just many parts of me echoing in the distant past and the near present. And now I raise my voice in the real world, I am no longer invisible but I have a body, a heart and a soul to donate to the world.

I believe that what allowed me not to succumb to the Netherworld have my vitality and joy of living.

In all these years of suffering and annihilation of myself I always activated helping strategies: earlier it was prayers or formulas I repeated to pluck up my courage. Then I learned, gradually thanks to psychotherapy, to recognize to myself my own emotions, even the ugliest and unpleasant, listen and welcome them without prejudice. Eventually, I discovered thanks to Alessandra, the group and a hearer girl friend of mine to reply, put questions and dialogue in a conscious and controlled way with my voices.

Sometimes I find it hard to acknowledge all the steps ahead made in these years, but thanks to the trust and love I learned to seek inside myself, I get along my journey of discovery and learning about myself.

I am happy, only now I know to exist and have found my tiny place in the world, supported by people able to get beyond the appearance. Now I know that what I have been through could not scratch my internal diamond.

I’m also grateful to a special person I met recently, my lover. Our relationship is bringing me forward on another step on the path of acceptance and love for myself in this case as a woman. As anybody else, I’m looking for a job to be able to leave the sheltered apartment and live independently on my own.

I wish to say that love and determination bring us far but also near and very close to our inner self and it is not just a question of will power but for me it meant to learn how to look into my soul’s mirror in order to find my answers and go towards my dreams.

Glenda Piona

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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World Hearing Voices Day Postcard