I’ve read that you first started to hear voices at age 14, can you tell me what happened?
would play the UK
top 40. I listened to it and taped the songs I liked. All of a sudden the music went quiet and a troll-like voice issued from the radio: “What do you want, Dolly? How much do you want?” My skin prickled. I shut off the radio in fear. Deep demonic
laughter followed. “Can’t get rid of me. I’m yours for life now.”
“Who are you?”
“I am the universe. I choose whether you live or breathe.” I got up and ran out of the room. I stopped listening to the radio from then on. As the days passed, I thought maybe I just dreamed it all. But they came back and haven’t left me yet.
Was it one voice, or many? … What were the voices saying?
At first it was only one distinct voice with whispering voices in the background, but not long after my first experience, one voice became many. The voices were quite vicious and abusive, ordering me to kill myself, telling me I was evil and a demon, that my family were better off with me dead and that I would bring harm to them just by being alive. If there was a disaster on the TV
, they told me it was my fault. They called me a whore, a slut, that my heart was rotting. Imagine hearing that day in day out, for years on end.
When you heard these voices were there any images that appeared in your mind? Did these become visual hallucinations as well?
Before I heard my first voices, I was seeing shadows in my room, and sensing presences behind me, or over me when I slept, so they all came together more or less. It was only days after hearing that first voice, that I began to see demonic faces. The voices felt demonic too. I was too scared to know their faces so I didn’t have any images in my mind as to what they might look like.
How difficult was it to go about your daily life whilst experiencing these voices?
I had no life. I couldn’t function on a day to day level. I rarely went out or communicated with my family. I had no friends, no hobbies, no work, nothing to occupy me but terror. When that happens to you, you either lash out or freeze. I froze. I became a statue for over a decade. I did nothing; I couldn’t do anything. Even when I tried to brush my teeth, the voices were telling to stab myself in the eye with a toothbrush.
Do the voices feel as if they coming from inside or outside your head? For over 20 years, they came from outside my head. I even felt the breath and the body heat of the voices I heard behind me. The more I deal with why I have my voices and accept they are part of me I can’t face or are too painful, some of them move into inside my head.
Does the distance of the voice change with its character (i.e. angry voices compared to soft soothing voices?)
They cover all sorts of distances. Sometimes they seem far and muffled, like they are in the other room. Sometimes they feel so close, their spittle touches me and disgust me. These close ones are the ones that are characteristically negative, abusive and overpowering.
Do you believe that the voices you hear are a metaphor, holding traumatic experience safely?
Absolutely. The evolution of my voices were at first thinking they were demons. When I was diagnosed with psychosis, I was relieved they were not demons so welcomed a diagnosis. But as the years went on and the medication turned me into a zombie but did nothing to address WHY I was having those voices. Pills do not cure trauma or abuse. Although voices produced terror, they also saved my life. The abuse at the hands of my dad and others was so horrible that if I believed what he told me about why he was abusing
me, it would have ended with my suicide. Voices took it away from my heart and head to save my soul, to turn it into metaphor so I can deal with hell in installments. My voices are the sanest part about me. I have to learn to listen to their pain. Voices tell me about the state of my soul. If the voices are telling me I am an alien, it is telling me I am feeling alienated from the human race. If they tell me I am Jesus
, God or all-powerful, I know it’s because I am feeling powerless and need to address that. Whether you want to describe voices as flesh, ghost or dream, I have to listen. What has changed over the years is the power dynamic of the voices. They controlled my life for many years, now I am in the driving seat, but I understand they have to be in the passenger seat until they have reached the end of their journeys.
You mention that you find it very difficult to make phone calls. Please explain more about this.
Try speaking on the phone whilst listening to music or talking on your headphones, and see if you are able to do it. It is physically impossible, because the voice at the other end of the phone is also disembodied, which is the right voice to listen to in the orchestra of confusion? That’s why I think you should have more than one way to contact crisis services than a phone.
Often when we hear about conditions like voice hearing it’s considered a ‘broken brain’ issue. Would you agree the issue should be considered in this way?
No, because they still haven’t proved it. But what I can prove to you is that people who hear voices have a broken heart that needs healing. The more my heart heals, the less power the voices have.
Tell me about some of the art works you’ve produced and the role of auditory hallucinations in the process. Do voices help you in your work?
Creativity seems like an exorcism of pain. One day I will write and make art about pretty things and being middle class, but I have still some terrors to release and some ghosts to make even more invisible. Art helps me do that.