Supporting people to find their own solutions to improve well-being

Mandy's Story

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Our family life changed when my father walked out and left us, we were all in shock and it impacted us all so differently. I was eight years old and in those days’ children were seen but not heard. I felt isolated, abandoned, confused and alone and had no one to really talk with about it all at the time. I could not even find words to describe how I really felt inside. I guess I just felt sick. I really wanted my dad to just come home. I started to feel different to other kids who had two parents at home. I desperately wanted to be like other children, and felt ashamed that I wasn’t. I started to spend a lot of time alone, I was a dreamer who was very sensitive and felt things deeply.

As my mother tried so very hard to pick up the pieces and get on with life, raising my brothers and I as a single mother. I got on with being a student. I enjoyed High School and have always loved to learn, but I found it hard to find my place and to fit in. My teenage years became even more challenging, and deep in my heart I still felt so very different to others, hurt and alone.

I then become a victim of abuse at the hands of a professional care giver and it was not long after this that I started to hear my first voice. My voice was female and sounded like an angel, she was wise, comforting and guiding, helping me to know what to do when I was unsure and I did not feel so alone. I didn’t feel like I needed to tell anyone about her and she did not cause me any problems. However not long after hearing her, I began to hear another voice that was different. Still female, cheeky and sometimes fun, but not as nice, she was angry a lot and would argue with my other voice about what was best for me. I became overwhelmed at times from listening to her and I didn’t like her attitude, and the way she would argue with my other voice. She wanted me to take risks and to stand up for myself, when all I wanted was peace and to not rock the boat.

My voice hearing experience became a problem when I listened too much to them and could not talk to anyone about them. I found it harder and harder to stay in the real world and do what I had to do. I had a boyfriend at the time which was good, but then we broke up, I was devastated, my voices worsened. I didn’t want to stay in the real world anymore, I could see the point and neither could my voices, it felt for once that we all finally agreed but our plan was not a good one.

I ended up having to get help for the distress I was experiencing from hearing distressing voices. Mental health services, told me my voices were an illness, that I probably would never be able to work, that I was different. They told me I had a problem, and that they could help me to get better, I had to take medication and then my voices would go away. I would also have to go to hospital at different times. In hospital I met other people who heard voices too but we were not encouraged to talk about them, and I felt too scared to anyway. It has not been easy, and after many years of taking medication and going to hospital, I knew my life was getting worse and I felt stuck, I still heard voices.

Then I heard about the Hearing Voices Movement, and got the opportunity to go to a hearing voices support group. I was a little scared to go, but really wanted my life to change so I went anyway. I met other people who heard voices and I was surprised it was so helpful to actually talk about them. The facilitators and other group members were really interested in me and my voices and treated me like I was not different but normal, I really liked that and made some good friends.

I felt safe and comfortable, going to the group was the best part of my week. I learnt that there were other ways to help deal with my voices and stay in control of my life. So I started to think about my voices differently and tried different coping strategies which really helped. Initially my voices didn’t like me talking too much about them, so I didn’t say much at first, but eventually they got used to it and I told them I didn’t care, because I wanted to talk at the group, and I did.

I can now facilitate hearing voices groups and help others with their voices. I feel so much better and in control of my life. I belong to the QLD Hearing Voices community; we know that hearing voices groups can help. We know that hearing voices is a common human experience and that one in four people have the experience of hearing voices at some point in their life, it isn’t always a distressing experience.

People get scared when you say you hear voices because people don’t understand very much about it, and they don’t know what to do. The media only tells people bad things about people who hear voices and not about how it can be helpful sometimes. I learnt that famous people hear voices too Charles Dickens the famous author who I like, was quoted to say “when I sit down to my book, some beneficent power shows it all to me, and tempts me to be interested, and I don’t invent it – really do not – but see it, and write it down”. I like to write and want to write a book one day, maybe my voices can help me too.