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Schizophrenia’s Voice

I would perhaps start with explaining that everything that I say is honest and true, the reason being that some of it may be unbelievable, but then I find many of the stories I have heard about schizophrenia to be remarkable and hard to accept. I even find it remarkable that people have the courage to say that they have this condition, which is something they may end up living with for the rest of their life, and something that is barely discussed by everyday people without them conjuring up images of the psychotic with the blade in one hand and the head of a dead child in the other. My story is not that gruesome or hard to believe, but at times you may just have to swallow it. This is the short version.

It’s hard to really say where I grew up, as I grew up far more quickly than I would have liked. I know that might sound clichéd, but I was born premature and was raised by a single mother who played the disciplinarian and the caregiver in my life. The latter, I am hard pushed to honestly raise any awareness of. I was born in Scotland to a married couple, who were my parents. I say were, as they split up amongst lies and deceit which still exist today, and the truth of their breakup I am not aware of. Before I was removed from Scotland by my mother, I was kidnapped and taken away to Pakistan by my father.

He was born and raised in Scotland, so I’m not sure why this transpired — again, this is from what I’ve been told, as I recollect very little from my haunted childhood. I was recovered, and we moved to England, Lancashire to be precise, and Blackburn to be pedantic. I grew up with cousins, who were the nearest thing to family we had, but I grew up being teased and insulted about my not having a father, about being of two different Islamic castes (Shia and Sunni), about having big ears, or being too fat. This wasn’t playground stuff though, and I often cried until they stopped tearing my soul apart. It would have been OK if my cousins (who were of mixed age and gender) were the only ones that did the soul ripping, but their parents got involved too. I still remember the cackling their mother used to make, and even hearing her talk causes nausea and the will to vomit repeatedly to distract myself from the childhood torment.

Once more, I may have turned out OK, if the only person that was in my life related to me by blood and was in the vicinity didn’t get involved in the piss taking. That person is my mother. You see, my mother was raised strictly by her father, and so she tried to instill the same discipline in me. If I didn’t like the clothes she bought for me, she would beat me. If I didn’t eat the food she bought she would beat me. If I made a mistake, I was beaten; if I wasn’t in the wrong but involved with troublemakers, I was beaten again. Most of my childhood is filled with beatings, insults, threats and violence. If you can believe it, I was seven years old the first time I thought about committing suicide.

I remember the exact images of that day. It was my birthday. I opened the door of the car prior to it being parked and my uncle told me he would inform my mother. Bring on the dread and fear as he tells my mother, who loses it, throws my uncle and aunt out, and everyone else. I run up stairs and lock the bedroom door, while I hear my mother swearing her mouth off, telling me she will send me to my father who’s going to throw me out on the street, that she should tear me apart, limb from limb, piece by piece. There I sat at the window, looking down at the street where I lived, where I sometimes played with friends, and wondering to myself, “Maybe I could finally make her happy by jumping from this window.” I really hoped that I had the energy to do that, but I was in tears at the violence that would come ahead, how I would try to protect myself under the duvet, but my mother would simply tear it off and beat me even more. I knew all this would happen, you see, as it often happened. Then she broke the door down, and my predictions went into motion.

I first started hearing voices around the age of 6 or 7. I never believed in the bogeyman, in demons or ghosts as a child, but I used to stand at the bottom of the stair case at night, and whisper to the voices that I wasn’t scared. I would hallucinate seeing figures coming to get me, which would only disappear if I closed my eyes. Sometimes I felt I heard them breathing, waiting for me to open my eyes. Going to bed, I often saw figures running around stabbing my cousins (we lived with them for some time) in their beds, the blood spraying across the walls, and then their dark eyes meeting mine and running towards me. I cried myself to sleep quietly, fearing they would hurt me, or worse, my mother would for waking her up.

At school, I experienced violent thoughts and images, about attacking others, and often I would lash out as commanded. “They hate you,” “They don’t want you,” “You’re worthless.” Words similar to what my mother would say to me when she was angry, words that often echoed as a voice that only I could hear, one that only I could talk to. I don’t know if this was psychosis, but I know it wasn’t my imaginary friend. It was something malevolent that I didn’t like talking to, but if I didn’t talk to the voice it would get angry, and that instilled the fear that my mother had borne into me like a knife with a jagged, rusty edge that won’t come out.

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I never told anyone about the voices as a child, and to be honest I’ve never even told my psych yet, but perhaps if I offer this as something to read she may understand better. I don’t know. Just thinking about it makes me tearful, as this was part and parcel of something that no one helped me with as a child. Perhaps it was a manifestation of my mother keeping an eye on me, or perhaps it was something more innocent. A voice shouldn’t threaten or scare a child, should it?

10 years later and I’m living in London, my mother has remarried, and I now have a stepfather. I’m not happy as I was pulled out of school in Blackburn just as I was about to start my most important years of study. I don’t like my stepfather one bit, there’s something seedy about him, add to the fact that I don’t know him. I speak English as my first language and Punjabi or Urdu as my second language, and not very well at that. I feel depressed and lonely, as I sit in my room reciting lyrics to songs that talk about misery and depression. The music helps a little, but for some reason I am at an all time low.

My mother no longer beats me, as that stopped around the age of 10 or 11 years of age back in Blackburn. It was a violent end to violence. During my primary school and secondary school years I stopped hearing voices, and live life as a happy- go-lucky sort of guy, until I come home dreading the filth that will pour out of my mother’s mouth about me being a disappointment, worthless and she will ship me off to my father. None of this happens after the remarriage, it’s all love and kisses. “Can I get this for you? Can I get that for you?” It’s all peachy and fine, except it’s not, and London is making me feel more isolated and more alone than ever before.

10 years later, and I hear a voice that tells me “We’re going to be OK. I’m going to take care of you.” My fears rise, my hands and armpits sweat, tears start to flow down my face as I don’t know what’s happening to me. Why am I hearing this voice? There’s no one in the room but me, yet I hear this voice. I’m depressed and this time suicidal. I go to my doctor and I explain my symptoms, but I never mention the voice. I fear if I do, I will be locked up and the key thrown away. That’s the solution that’s often presented about those hearing voices on television programs. Why risk it? I still have college to go, a world to see.

I don’t want to be locked up. My doctor tells me it’s nothing; I do not need to worry. Whatever is troubling me will go away. I just need to go out more with friends, become more socially active. In my head I hear the voice telling me he’s talking lies, he doesn’t want to see me, and that he’s wasting my time. I agree with the voice and leave empty handed.

Over the years after school I become more isolated, and make few friends. I drink heavily at college, in secret, ending up drunk in class or passed out somewhere. It’s not until I’m 17 or 18 that I’m finally prescribed Prozac. I take these like candy. Why? They don’t stop the voice; I feel worse about my depression and feel even more suicidal. At this age I’ve already overdosed, and am now being ordered by the voice to self harm. “Cut your arms,” it says, “cut your arms and you will feel better.”

I do so, tears running down my face, no one at home but me, blood running down my arms, words cut into my skin. The cuts are not deep enough to cut a vein, but enough to cause pain, to feel the blade sitting underneath the upper layer of skin, and sliding upwards, downwards, sideways across my flesh. I continue to drink heavily and started on drugs a couple of years before, from taking LSD tabs, to Ecstasy, speed, to painkillers, cocaine to marijuana.

I try anything to take away the depression and the voice. It’s eating me up inside out, and no one is alive to help me, to protect me from myself, from the voice or any other external influence. I’m dying inside and I don’t know how to stop it. I become more violent towards my family, by this time there’s another child in the house. Their child, their love and joy. I no longer care about anything or anyone, and I swear at my parents, I swear at my cousins, I warn everyone I’ll kill them, I will murder them and they aren’t who they say they are. They’re all against me, they’re in my head and they’re trying to screw me over.

A new friend becomes a close friend over a couple of years. He’s dealt with schizophrenia himself, and he tells me about his experiences. I never tell him about mine though. He freaks me out, as finally I’ve found someone that might be able to empathize with my standing. The truth is, I don’t trust him fully, even with what he’s telling me. Some of it seems bullshit, farfetched and untrue. It’s only later I realize, when he helps me, that he meant what he said. It scares me to think someone else out there knows what I’m experiencing, because they’ve experienced it themselves.

During one bad day in a year, older now, I lose the ability to speak while we sit around smoking and drinking alcohol in a pub. I go outside, smoking nervously, as I try to pronounce simple words. My speech is stammering, and I’m getting frightened. The thoughts are racing, the voice is talking louder than before, and I can’t hear myself speaking. I try again, but I can’t. My friends come outside to see what I’m doing and I try to explain to them, stammering what’s wrong. I call home and tell my mother to pray for me, and I’ll be home soon. I’m scared because I should be able to talk, but I can’t hear myself and the thoughts are racing faster and faster, the voice is getting louder and louder. Then I black out, and wake up to see my friends telling me to get up. I get up, haggardly, and my friend starts to talk to me, talking me through what I’m going through. It saves me, but I still cannot speak.

I visit my cousins, and go to see another doctor, who prescribes paroxetine. The side effects are awful, and I sleep in a cold sweat, shivering in a boiling hot room. My stammer still exists, and everyone is confused. Some say God has struck me down for some reason; my mother blames herself and prays for me every night. I tell one friend it feels like a demon is inside of me, and I try to explain but my stammer forbids me, my voices insists I don’t. I’m still scared. Several months later I can speak again, through coaching. I mess up college three years in a row, mostly due to illness and instead go to work. I still hear the voice but I tell no one about it. Not even my friends.

Over the next five years I am made redundant, then find another job but am sacked because of my blog which contains all my experiences, and how I wish to kill every one of the members of staff at work, and therefore am considered “dangerous and threatening,” find work again only this time to lose it due to the worst instance in my life. I tell the training company I can’t work, I need time off. They refuse, so I take the time off anyway, and I’m hearing the voice again.

It gets so bad that I’m close to self harming again. Over the years my doctor has been of little help, particularly with my depression and never taking me seriously. I make an appointment to see him. When I do see him I threaten to kill him with a pencil, unless he gets me help. I’m given a psychiatric evaluation, and told I will be contacted. This is a lie. Three years previously, my doctor sent me for an evaluation, I was told I was OK, yet in a letter to my doctor I was referred to hospital and psychiatric treatment.

So three years later, I am once again not contacted, and it’s three months later down the line that I make the effort in my shattered and vulnerable state to contact the evaluation team, only to be told to come in again. I do. It’s a further several weeks before I have to make yet another appointment to see the team, and this time I am a nervous wreck, barely able to speak, hardly capable of communicating in any way. The doctors make an assessment on the spot and refer me to hospital taking me themselves.

How did my parents react? I told them I was going in for observation, and having taken no money or funds with me, I didn’t realize they would find out eventually as I had to leave the hospital at some point. When they did find out, they were shocked and concerned, at least that’s the impression they gave. The voice was telling me otherwise.

I was medicated with olanzapine, a new drug called duloxetine and provided with ophenadrine to combat the tremors of the initial medicine intake. Later on, for my impulses to act out violently I was given carbamapazine. This worked fine, but it affected my blood count and was therefore stopped. Eventually my meds changed from 10mg Zyprexa (olanzapine) to 7.5 and the 60mg of Cymbalta (duloxetine) continued. The ophenadrine was dropped eventually as I no longer suffered from tremors. The medication combination worked fine for me, but far from becoming a healthy individual, I was now putting on weight and increased my weight to over 10 kg (22 lbs.) over my original, correct weight.

This increased my depression as I wasn’t used to being fat since I was a child. I went back to my doctors, was then put on Abilify (aripiprazole) along with the Cymbalta, and a reduced dosage of Zyprexa to help me through the phase of changing medication. Since switching to Abilify, it’s helped wonders with the voice which I sense, but don’t hear. Therapy has also played a major part in my treatment, but the psych changes every 8 months which is the only niggling factor. Six months on since my initial threat to my doctor, I’ve improved greatly and feel I can go to work without wanting to kill anyone on a regular basis. This has been reduced, though not eliminated completely.

I wish I had words of wisdom that I could share, but I can’t as everyone is different, and that is what I’ve learned through this experience. Particularly when dealing with psychosis, doctors seem to treat everyone with the same brush until it doesn’t work, and then they try something else. I felt like a guinea pig, prodded and assessed (particularly during my stay in hospital) by more and more different faces each time. Mental health in the UK is an absolute farce; the general practitioners are also a cosmic joke — if it wasn’t for my own persistence I may be dead somewhere.

If any wisdom can be gained from my experience, it would be to never give up on getting help, as help is available, you just have to fight for it, even if you’re emotionally vulnerable and close to suicide. If mental health in the UK was taken as seriously and with as much care as the rest of Europe and even other parts of the world, then perhaps I would have been treated far earlier, and had the courage to step forward and admit I was hearing a voice and hallucinating much sooner. As it is, I am being treated now, for which I’m thankful, but I’ve had to fight tooth and nail for it, and I hope you never have to do the same.

–korefuji

Schizophrenia’s Voice

Personal Story

A personal story contribution is a story told by someone who is living with mental illness, a caregiver or family member, or a professional who treats mental illness. We believe in the importance of the patient's voice, and those most impacted by the effects of mental illness. These stories are a vital part of the mosaic that makes up the complexity of living with mental health concerns.

APA Reference
Story, P. (2020). Schizophrenia’s Voice. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/schizophrenias-voice/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 14 Jan 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 14 Jan 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.