Voices, whispering in my head
Jael (not her real name) has been hearing voices in her head since she was about three years old. She said she considers some of them to be like friends.
“The voices provide some certainty in my life, they don't always have to be negative,” she said.
Jael is part of a support group for people who hear voices that gets together in Lismore twice a month. It is run by MISA (Mental Illness Substance Abuse), an outreach program run by The Buttery.
“It can feel safe to have a fantasy world, but the other side is terrifying. Like being in a dream, but it can be like a waking nightmare,” Allison, another member of the group, said.
Allison said she hears hundreds of voices and random sounds like gates scraping on concrete, leaves rustling and even gun shots.
“You can't plan anything. It's a very fragile, tentative thing...Once you lose your mind you can't guarantee anything,” she said.
Although Allison is managing to do a graduate certificate in writing and says having a deadline helps “pull her through”.
All of the members of the support group said being able to talk to other people with a similar condition was helpful for them.
“You can say things here that you can't say elsewhere. When you come to this group, we accept each other for who we are. There is no artifice. You are getting acceptance and accepted for being yourself,” Jael said. “It's like a confession... you don't have to explain yourself and Theila (Franco -the group's facilitator) asks the best questions. She is so perceptive,” Dom, another member, said.
Everybody has their own coping strategies. Dom said, for him, meditation exercises help, Allison said she can reduce the voices by putting an earplug in her right ear, and they both said playing music, particularly death metal, helps.
MISA is running a day of music and events on Wednesday, October 7, at the Lismore City Hall as part of mental Health Week. There will be entertainment by Mr Percival and Greg Sheehan, as well as the Hearing Voices Choir. There will also be workshops in things like Tai Chi and Wu Tao dance. For more information about the event, or about the support group you can contact MISA on 6687 1658.