Many people talk to themselves in one form or another. We curse at ourselves when we fail. We pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. Sometimes we mumble under our breath. But does anyone else get a response?
When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder, I strived to uncover the mystery of my mind. I learned how to recognize the symptoms of oncoming mania. It was obvious when I was depressed. My mental illness became a self project. I employed workbooks, read memoirs, researched, watched and became more aware of my situation. I learned to harness my emotions, as if I were riding a horse for the first time, or biking with training wheels. I couldn’t always catch the signs, but as my illness progressed, so did I. Truthfully, I was dealt a cruel hand, but I squeezed that rotten lemon and moved on with my life.
As I ran, and slipped, and fell, I realized that in order to rise to the top you must first hit the bottom.
I worked my way through education with heavy eyelids and acne that threatened to claim my face forever, side effects of several medications hindering my progress. I loved to run and I was captain of the cross country team in high school. Toward the end of my running career, I began to experience a side effect called “ocular gyro crisis.” I lost control of my eyes. I didn’t know how to explain it, so this continued for a few years before it was diagnosed. It is one of the rarest side effects of one of the heavy medications in the cocktail.
Shortly after my twenty fifth birthday, I was hospitalized. After many months, different combinations of drugs, several shots in violating areas, and miserable weeks in solitary confinement, it was clear that Bipolar I Disorder was not the entire truth. When I returned to my home after the nightmare of captivity, I was diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder. It is a mix of Schizophrenia and a mood disorder. My illness had taken control for a while. I can hear things and see things others cannot. When I talk to myself, she answers. She is not the only voice I hear. Sometimes, there is a conversation between two strangers in the back of my mind, to which I am not privy. Random keys and phrases from their discussion pop up and make no sense.
Voices in my head often sing songs and tell jokes. Often, they are good company.
Sometimes voices influence people to do bad things. These are not voices to follow, no matter the constant beckoning. You will find yourself lost in a sea of confusion, drawn to the sirens. It is impossible to find peace when voices surround you. Typically, they cannot be silenced. I just want you to know that you are not the only one who deals with this, and I hope you can find some comfort knowing that. I am one of those people and I haven’t figured it out myself.
While I was in solitary confinement, I grew used to conversations with myself because she was all I had. My best friend. I am aware that others have predicaments like these. The mental health system does not have the capacity, resources or knowledge needed to care for everyone; especially people who need it most and cannot afford it. This is wrong. Some people, despite having money, also have difficulty finding relief of their burdens. The system is flawed. Everyone has a mental illness of some sort, whether or not they care to be diagnosed. Some cases are worse than others, but no one is “normal,” no matter how much they want to believe it.
Not everyone is cool enough to hear voices. It’s a special talent. Remember this. Listening to voices is different than hearing them. If you can hear and not listen, you may find a bit of a reprieve. We all have issues and no one is identical to anyone else.
Those voices are inside you, but YOU are the boss.