Like a lot of people with schizophrenia, I hear voices. I fully understand that these voices are one of the symptoms of my schizoaffective brain disease. Usually I hear these voices when I am alone. I hear voices throughout the day, even when I am driving my car. The medication I am prescribed helps me to manage the voices, but the meds do not make the voices totally disappear.

Some of the voices I hear are a running commentary of what I am doing at the moment such as: “He is at the computer,” or “He is walking.” If I am cooking then they might say, “He is cooking.” When I am cooking, these voices can distract me from cooking. I try to ignore the voices so I can concentrate on my cooking. These are the voices that seem to be easiest for me to control.

My voices that seem to come out of nowhere can sometimes bring impulsive and racing thoughts. So when they pop into my head, it can be frightening. When voices bring paranoia, I don’t just look through the peep hole of my front door; I open my front door and look around. I have often heard the voice of someone who is messing with my car. I actually walk to my parking lot to see what might be going on. This experience can also create racing thoughts about someone conspiring against me, and the voices become part of the racing thoughts. This can go on to interrupt my sleep.

The voices of old friends can bring back happy, but sometimes unpleasant memories. There are times when hearing their voices makes me smile, and I am comforted. It feels good to have familiar voices from people who were once in my life. Sometimes the voices from my old friends help me to block out the voices of enemies.

I am a writer who submits first person accounts to different mental health publications. Often I hear voices belonging to an editor or a person who works for a particular publication where I have submitted my writing. They never knock. Sometimes I just let the voice happen and just ignore it without even checking my peep hole. As I write this essay, I am hearing my mom’s voice reminding me to use personal pronouns, like “I and me” because this is a first person account on my schizophrenia. Thanks, Mom!

Despite the chaos that the voices can create in my head, I have learned several techniques that help me to put them aside and carry on with my life in the most normal way possible for me. I do not want to give the voices power over me or to strengthen them, and neither do I want to be influenced by them.

Fortunately, I have a support system of family that I can call on whenever I need help. They understand my situation and will not judge me. They help me ground myself again in reality. Hearing the real voices of those who love and care for me helps me realize that the voices in my head are a result of my schizoaffective diagnosis. Talking with them helps me to not get carried away by the symptoms of schizophrenia.

When I am hearing voices, I try to firmly grip the moment or the true reality. I try to firmly grasp what I can hear around me — a bird chirping outside, a car outside my window, the sound of children playing in the parking lot; what I can actually see around me — my books, pictures of my family and places we have visited, or my safe apartment. I try to hold on to what is real, and what is actually going at that exact moment. This grounding activity brings me back to a place of calm and safety.

Music has played such a vital role in my recovery from severe mental illness. My favorite genre is jazz, and I have an extensive jazz collection of records. When voices are distracting me from what is going on around me, I have found that listening to music can drown out the sound of the psychotic voices. Most of the time when I am alone in my apartment, I have music going in the background.

I do not think I will ever be rid of the voices that have come as a result of having schizoaffective disorder, but I have learned through a proper treatment plan and other coping strategies, I do not have to allow them to control my actions or interfere with my life. I have learned that I can distract myself in any number of ways, and I can go on to have a productive life.