Aidan O’Connell, End the Stigma

I have had a variety of diagnoses thrown at me over the years. I was told I had Generalised Anxiety Disorder,  I was told I had OCD. After I buried my girlfriend in 2008, I was clear I had PTSD. I have a Pain Specialist who has diagnosed me with Fibromyalgia. As a kid, Aspergers , High Functioning Aspergers was mentioned. I have displayed symptoms of Bipolar II with what could be called Hypomania. I now have a very definitive diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder / Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder which explains a lot and explains why I wasnt satisfied with the above diagnoses, given by various specialists. The concern now though is I am hearing voices..

The beginning of  hearing voices was life threateningly frightening..These voices are not those of people I knew and loved, they are strangers’ voices. The voices are not friendly. On one side of my head, I’m being told to kill myself. On the other side it ranges from conversations in a foreign language to buzzing.

I do not recall hearing voices as a child. I had an intense childhood with uptight anxious tense terse parents. They’d do absolutely anything materialistic for me, but nothing emotional. I’m 36 now, so I am over it, but my childhood was devoid of emotion. I’m not asking for a hug now, but there wasn’t a hug as a child. When I started displaying some tics, I was told to stop. I couldn’t,  but I had to, so I would engage in extra tics before  dinner for example, hold every muscle tight and release after leaving the dinner table. When I was small and round as opposed to tall and becoming a normal size, I was bullied heavily, I also experienced sexual abuse as a child, all again were kept to myself as my folks don’t want to know that type of information. I wasn’t hearing  voices. I am tying to “redesign, rebuild, reclaim Aidan” I don’t know who I am right now. I like to think I am a good person, but these voices scare me. I told my folks recently and they laughed at it, this was like a dagger to the heart, I hid it, but I was very sad, but then again, I didn’t expect any less.

When I began writing my blog on New Year’s Day, my goal was simply to offer a measure of hope to those who have experienced Mental Health troubles. Although I thought my story was very complicated and unusual, I thought it possible that many who have manifested the symptoms associated with my illnesses could achieve a greater degree of recovery than is currently the norm.

In the Spring of 2016, when I became involved with See Change, I learned that my experiences were not uncommon and I am in regular touch with a couple of very cool people with Borderline and someone cool who has heard voices for far longer than I have. There are hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland with Mental Health conditions. There are also thousands people who are hearing voices. I recognise that hearing voices doesn’t  change who I am, so my goal now is acceptance. and to help normalize the voice-hearing experience and to be an advocate for reform, adding my story and voice (excuse the pun!) to those that are calling for a change in the medical-psychiatric profession’s approach to diagnosis and treatment of people with mental illness, especially those who hear voices.

I can’t be an advocate for those hearing voices unless I tell my story a little

i have been hearing voices very frequently since the beginning of August. 8 weeks continuous. I didn’t want to alarm anyone and I was under terrible care, but I actually have been hearing sporadically since last October last, Oct’15. Nobody in work knew, nobody at home knew, nobody on Social Media knew, as I wasn’t on Social Media (Shock Horror!)

The voices got worse in January as work sresss grew and I was on paid leave One January afternoon I was sitting at home trying to focus on a book called “50 Psychology Ideas” and I can remember It was a surprisingly mild day, so my windows were open and I could hear all the noise of the neighbourhood. I enjoyed that—it made me feel less less alone.Shortly before I was finished my book , I heard distant laughing voices, so I stopped my reading, listened, and heard the distant laughing voices become close and malevolent, accusing me of being crazy and a waste of a life and telling me to kill myself.

“He sits inside and stares at the wall all day, why doesn’t he just kill himself”. the voice said.It was a female voice and it frightened me. I looked quickly out the window but saw no one. The words flew loud and clear into the right hand side of my head. I flinched, looked everywhere, checked my balance, vision and sight. Was I actually going mad? Scared and unhappy, I shut the window, shut the blinds , shut the curtains and turned on the television loud while trying to understand what was happenning me..

I have always been able to distinguish between my inner voice and the voices I was hearing, i.e. silent thoughts against the voices that were telling me to kill myself and giving real life reasons. I realise I’m fortunate here. Some cannot distinguish, that’s serious and often long term medical management is required.

Throughout my life, I I observed that if I followed “the rules”, I almost never went wrong. But if I overthought things, allowing my decisions to be swayed by risk or curiosity or making decisions  in attempting “to fit in with the crowd”, I was often disappointed. Intellectually subsequently,I knew precisely what had happened, and why. This was the beginning of an awarenesss of difficulty around emotions and stability circa personality

I can’t use the logical side of my brain re hearing voices though! Everything is so mysterious about the voices. Where do they come from? Why did they start?Will they change? Will they go? Will people think I’m a freak? At the moment occasionally on the right the voice tells me to end my life. On the left, it ranges from buzzing to conversations in another language.

When my Laura by passed suicide on 08.08.08,I had promised myself I would not follow suit and cause such pain against those who love me. And yet, just weeks ago, i was restrained by the police on a bridge after a good friend on the other side of Ireland got concerned and rang Dublin Fire Brigade off their own violation and they sourced a number . I had 1 leg over the bridge (close shave doesn’t come near in describing) I was of the opinion would I be better off away from all my pain and stress (as per the voice on the right side of my head). I was wrongly of the belief the voice was that of Laura. I now see this as very disorientated thinking voices can lead to,

From my understanding and acceptance that often the sources of voices are real people in the voice hearer’s life, I believe my voices are a  combination of my own cruel and self-hating voice from the guilt of Laura’s suicide and the voices of my tormentors from school and work .

I think early intervention is the key to understanding “voices”. Acute stress reaction or indeed acute withdrawal of inappropriate medication can cause you to hear voices in the short term, but I feel I might have passed into the medium term, but I am in treatment

I hope that my rational mind will conquer the cruel voices and began challenging the content of their communications and they might back away. Realistically I think I’ll  to remember the advice I was given by a very cool kind girl who I feel I am bothering , but the advice was- The voices come and go and never act on them.

I hope there will be a concerted effort to increase Mental Health services in Ireland and across the globe that provide a safe haven, especially for people with mental illness and those in recovery. Hearing voices doesn’t mean your mad. If there is such a word as mad, let’s reserve it for those who treat anyone differently because of their Mental Health conditions

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