I have seen some videos online that try to show what it’s like to hear voices. Often, the videos show someone doing something while recorded voices shout out words. In my experience, the voices sounded just like from real people and not just a recording. They sounded three dimensional. They were not random phrases but specific to what I was doing. Other than not having a physical presence, they almost made sense. That was why they were so confusing!
When I first heard Joe, my first voice person, I imagined a young man talking into a microphone in a room somewhere. Of course, I did not think that my brain made him up. I thought he was real somehow. Somehow I could hear him through some impressive technology that I did not know about. He was a soft-spoken, friendly, and not terribly talkative person. Mostly he made comments about what I did. He was not particularly funny or smart. I could not tell if he was logical because we did not have enough “conversations” that would make me think that. I could not get him to tell me anything about himself even though I asked him many questions. We took turns “talking” and never talked over each other. He never yelled or whispered.
Once in awhile, he would tell me what to do. For example, he told me once to go to Starbuck and talk to a stranger. We had very harmless “interactions.” At first, I tried to figure out where his voice was coming from. I would look around to see if I could find a speaker or some sort. Failing that, I tried to reason with him. If I could figure out what he wanted then I might be able to get rid of him or get him to show up.”Why are you doing this to me?” “Did someone hire you to follow me?” I was not successful. Sometimes I felt romantic. Sometimes, I thought he was helping me to be happy, somehow magically. But at the end, I kept repeatedly facing the reality of Joe never showing up when I kept asking him to.
After Joe, after a while I had another episode for a few weeks. I did not just hear back from him, but from many different voices. This time they were all voices of people I knew, my friends and family. My voice friends and family took me right back into a world of my own alone in my apartment. My voice friends and family led me in personal conversations and fun games. I tried to stay quiet and fight against them, but I often was consumed and swallowed by them completely.
When I first heard my family and friends, I felt disbelief. These could not have been my family and friends. Could they? They would not talk to me this way. They would not put me through this. But my disbelief did not stop them. Different circles of friends talked to me on different days.
I made rules for myself on how I should behave with these voice friends and family: don’t do anything they told me to do and don’t talk back to them using my mouth. Doing those things, I thought, would mean that I was okay. Okay for what, I was not sure. It seemed to make sense then. As much as I tried to use logic to conquer the voices, I still could not reason my way out of them. I did not seem to “talk” or “think” better this time either.
I tried to understand how the voices worked. This also seemed to make sense at the time.
Normally, when someone talked, I heard the words in my head. My hearing had always been normal. I could also talk to myself silently in my head. In these situations, I could also hear voices talking to me in my head without seeing someone. They sounded real to me. Other than talking voices, I also heard sounds that sounded like talking from raindrops, birds, etc. I could tell all these different kinds of talking apart.
As I said, when I was alone with the voices, I tried to understand them. I moved around in my apartment and realized that the voices did not move with me. If I turned my head to look out of the window, the voices I “heard” did not move from where they were before, just liked how it should if there were real people in the room. When I walked out of my apartment, the talking sounds stayed in my living room in the far end of the hallway. I also used earplugs and that helped. They could block off the voices when I tried to fall asleep. Similarly, I also could block out voices by listening to music using earphones. These made me felt that I had proved the voices were real somehow.
When I was out of the house and among people, the voices were less prominent or nonexistent. That made it easier to forget about them when I was out with friends, and therefore allowing me to live in two different parallel worlds.
Even though I sort of figured out ways to block out of the voices, I could not do it for long. I could not wear earplugs and listen to music all day. I ended up listening to the voices most of the time. I gave them my attention. All that did not made me understand them more.
What I wanted to do the most was to stop them. I never figured out a way to stop the voices. I still was not thinking about being a schizophrenic. I never thought that my brain was the cause of them.
I regretted how I let myself got sick the first time I met Joe. Every time after that, I thought they were my second chances to do over and be smarter about it. The voices were a problem that I could not solve on my own no matter how hard I tried.
A wise friend told me a few years later, “Mindy, this is not something you can reason your way out of!” That hit me. I repeated that in my mind many times. Then, after all these years, I gave out a heavy sigh. “I can’t solve this!” Finally, I stopped asking myself what I could do when I heard “them.”