Hearing voices. Need help.
August 13, 2014 10:26 AM   Subscribe

This is hard to write, but I'll try to get things out... I've been hearing voices and I don't know what to do. Be prepared for a book...

I was abused as a child. Pretty severely if you listen to my therapists. I started seeing a new psychiatrist a few months ago. I started seeing a psychologist a few weeks ago. IOW, everything is covered on that front.

About a month ago, I told pdoc I had been starting to hear my mother's voice (she's been dead almost 5 years). Many of the things I heard were things she might have said. Until recently, that is. The voice has been getting nastier and more intense. The most disturbing thing is it telling me I should kill myself and that nobody would care (I'm not actively suicidal). In addition, I've been hearing random other voices with similar messages.

I told this to pdoc last Friday. She had been slightly concerned before that but now is more concerned. She prescribed 1 mg Haldol (I do not like the side effect profile from the atypicals, which I took in the past for severe PTSD symptoms, but not voices) at night. She said it probably wasn't going to be enough to make a difference but wanted to take it slow because of my anxiety around the medication and the symptoms. I was only able to start it on Monday night because the pharmacy didn't have it in stock.

I'm not sure what to do anymore. I'm really scared. I don't have anyone to talk to who has been in a similar situation. I'm afraid to disclose to people for fear of what they'd think. Yes, I know there shouldn't be stigma surrounding mental illness, but sadly there is. If anyone has any words of wisdom or coping strategies, I'm all ears. This is really distressing and really is interfering with my life.

I set up a throw away email at askmethrowawayvoices@gmail.com. I was going to post this anonymously, but the hell with it. I'll do my part to battle stigma.
posted by kathrynm to Health & Fitness (42 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Have you looked into NAMI's peer-to-peer programs?

While you're in therapy, you might find it comforting to have someone who also experiences mental illness to support you.
posted by brookeb at 10:35 AM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: for me the voices were connected to intrusive thoughts (and anxiety). i found it helpful to speak out loud to myself, never the voices, to remind myself what was real. things like, "nadawi, no one is talking to you. get up, get dressed, put on some music, and then go interact with people." or, you know, whatever routine helps jog your brain out of it. sometimes i'd just narrate every move i made. i found the out loud part was crucial - like an emotional barrier between me and the voices. if i tried to do it silently my voice and the other voices just fought, which was less than helpful.

keep talking to your therapist, maybe investigate some cognitive behavioral therapy to give yourself routines to break out of the intrusive thoughts (or whatever is driving yours). good luck.
posted by nadawi at 10:37 AM on August 13, 2014 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Is there anyone in your life that you can trust with this? Having someone available to you to reassure you and for you to talk to when this is happening may help. It could be beneficial to engage with the real person instead of engaging with/listening to the voices.

If they ever get to a point where you start even half believing them or consider acting on them, get yourself to an in patient facility.

Take care of yourself.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:48 AM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Hearing Voices Network might be able to help:

posted by alex1965 at 10:49 AM on August 13, 2014 [6 favorites]

The psychosis section of the NAMI website is helpful, and says some temporary auditory hallucinations can be brought on by things like sleep deprivation and severe stress. You might find reading about major depression with psychotic features to be useful as well. The NAMI section on interventions is also good.

I read an interesting article a while back that discussed a treatment approach for auditory hallucinations that involved engaging the voices.

But certainly keep talking to your doctors. Best wishes to you.
posted by megancita at 10:52 AM on August 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

Have you checked to make sure there's no underlying medical issue? If this is the first time you've heard voices, it seems to me that you should rule that out.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:02 AM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yes, a support group sounds like a good thing right about now - talking to someone who's been through the same things you are going through can be so useful.

For whatever a secondhand report is worth, someone close to me has occasionally heard voices, really one specific voice. As she's described it to me, in addition to being open with her therapist and pdoc and doing whatever they tell her to, she's found a useful coping mechanism in very explicitly externalizing the voice. She's given it a name, to concretize it as something separate from her own real thoughts, and that lets her say things like "Darla [not voice's real name] told me XYZ but I know that's a bad idea," either to herself or to me or her therapist, and that seems to be a very useful mechanism for her. She really explicitly works at thinking of that voice as someone else, someone who shares her brain and gives her really bad advice and may need to be soothed once in a while but should not generally actually be listened to. As a minor but positive side effect, this also lets her be more open about talking about this stuff in public, where she might not want everyone up in her business if she starts talking about the voices in her head, but talking about "That jerk Darla said the stupidest thing" just makes it sound like we have a terrible friend we like to gossip about, which she seems to find both helpful and amusing.
posted by Stacey at 11:05 AM on August 13, 2014 [6 favorites]

Can your pdoc not offer you anything at all besides Haldol (maybe that answer is no, I'm not super-familiar with that family of drugs)?

ArbitraryAndCapiricious has a good point, as well. You don't mention whether you are on any other ongoing medication, but sometimes your metabolism changes and a thing that used to be fine is now too much or not enough. Or your thyroid or blood sugar might be on the fritz. Do you have the means and access to have a physical with bloodwork? Since this is such a new, abrupt thing I think it's worth checking all perimeters for contributing issues.

I think the NAMI website/helpline is something you can do right this minute, and might get you access to people in your area who can mentor, so to speak, or a group you can reach out to. I think support is a very close #2 to appropriate medication for getting through this as happily and healthily as possible.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:09 AM on August 13, 2014

I was abused as a child. Pretty severely if you listen to my therapists. I started seeing a new psychiatrist a few months ago. I started seeing a psychologist a few weeks ago. IOW, everything is covered on that front.

About a month ago, I told pdoc I had been starting to hear my mother's voice

I actually would view this as a positive. I would view this as "I have finally gotten to a place where I feel safe enough to open up this can of worms and cope with it."

I had suppressed memories that did not come out until I moved to another continent and got back in therapy there.

You sound really, really together. I would view this as a step forward. I would view this as my self concluding that I was strong enough and safe enough to start facing this stuff and resolving it. Yes, it's scary. But it doesn't get better as long as it is just suppressed. Instead, it tends to be like a festering wound. Oxygen is often the best antidote.

Having said that:

A) I will Nth the suggestion to look at medical issues. I have had auditory hallucinations a few times. The first time was when I was trying to avoid going to the ER for a sinus infection and just kept taking more and more decongestant until, when I closed my eyes, I would hear things that were not there. So there can be medical causes for this.

B) I really like the link posted above about engaging the voices. That is very similar to an approach that has worked well for me to cope with, not necessarily (or exclusively?) voices per se, but what I call Shit In My Head. I blogged for a time to talk at the Shit In My Head and, more recently, I started a sandbox comic to both try to develop my art and also cope with Shit In My Head. It's been really helpful.

C) But I will also Nth suggestions to not get overly involved with the voices, to use grounding techniques that pull you back to reality, to here and now. I went through a phase where coping with Shit In My Head was just magnifying the importance of its role in my life and I got to a point where I felt that was not constructive. It was keeping me stuck. So I had to work on focusing more on other things. It's a balancing act.

I'm really scared. I don't have anyone to talk to who has been in a similar situation.

You can memail me occasionally. I have had a few people I could talk to. I still sometimes wonder if it was wise to talk to those people and I wonder if they think I am just nuts and stuff like that but I kind of blurted things out a few times when I was just losing my shit and it helped. So, presumably, it was the lesser evil even if it wasn't necessarily a great solution.
posted by Michele in California at 11:22 AM on August 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

In addition to the above advice, add probiotics to your diet.
posted by hortense at 11:28 AM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I struggle with intrusive thoughts; not voices, but disturbing images of harming myself. I'll be working or having a conversation, and suddenly a horrible image of [unnecessarily triggering content redacted] will flash vividly in my mind and I feel worthless and sick and anxious and like I'm being tortured by some malevolent force outside of myself.

Here are some things that have helped:

-cutting down on caffeine; i have a neurological disorder (tourette syndrome) that is aggrevated by stimulants, so ymmv

-thinking of the intrusive thoughts in a more positive, mundane way; instead of OH GOD WHY IS THERE A PART OF MY BRAIN THAT WANTS ME TO DIEEEEEE WOE IS MEEEEE I would phrase it more like "ok, some symptoms of my mental illness are cropping up again, it's no different than having a cough or a sore throat if you have a cold"*

-i'm semi copy/pasting this from another thread but: I've started imagining that I have a little sloth buddy who gives me pep talks. Little sloth buddy says "Just sloooooooooooooowwwww doooooooowwwwwn and take deep breaths, it is super easy for me because I am a very lazy sloth but you can learn it too." Little sloth buddy tells me I'm really interesting and smart and funny and worthwhile and he's sorry I'm having such a rough time right now but it always gets better, doesn't it? And I get distracted from my awful spiral of anxiety and horror by the fact I'm picturing an adorable sloth sitting on my hip with his long arms wrapped around me, which is ridiculous and somehow comforting at the same time.

*this is not to minimize how truly painful my or your symptoms are, but for me the self-pity and panic were definitely not helping matters
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:30 AM on August 13, 2014 [23 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, yes, kinda like what Juliet Banana says: The Shit In My Head gets a lot uglier when I am tired, in pain, etc. Rest, food, and other ways of just taking care of myself help get it back to just crabbiness and backed down from PEOPLE NEED TO DIE (whether me or someone else) levels.
posted by Michele in California at 11:35 AM on August 13, 2014

Can your pdoc not offer you anything at all besides Haldol

IIRC they all have similar unpleasant potential side effects.
posted by elizardbits at 11:40 AM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might find this article interesting. Its possible you might have an easier time with them (near term) if you don't necessarily think of them as a disease that needs to be fought against. People who don't try to silence them tend to have less confrontational experiences with internal voices.

You should definitely continue to pursue treatment with a psychologist/therapist, though.
posted by empath at 11:48 AM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have never heard voices like you're describing, but I have a close friend who did. Haldol took them away, but only at pretty high doses, doses that weren't compatible with also living a normal unfettered life. Her situation got a lot more manageable when she stopped trying to silence them and started letting them say their piece and then disregarding them. However, her voices were not of her abusers, and she was working very carefully with a therapist who was skilled in this area. This was about 12 years ago, and to the best of my knowledge, she almost never hears her voices anymore unless she's under very severe stress. If you like, I can ask her if she'd be willing to talk to you about her experience. I know it was very unpleasant and frightening for her, but it's been behind her now for a decade or so.
posted by KathrynT at 12:36 PM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

You sound frightened and overwhelmed. It seems like you, understandably, don't feel capable of handling this on your own. I am glad you're reaching out for guidance. It is brave and shows a lot of resourcefulness. Since you are overwhelmed and since we can't really help with medication or more intensive support, I suggest calling your psychiatrist now and telling her that you're not sure what to do, you're really scared, and the Haldol is not having a noticeable effect. I would also call your therapist if you can't get your psychiatrist. Hang in there.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:44 PM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: So, this is maybe not the best metaphor, but it worked for me: I think of this part of my brain sort of like a person on the street or in the subway: mean, weird, smelly, but actually harmless as long as you don't engage. It likes to stand a few feet away from me and yell insults at me. I don't argue with it, or agree with it, I just acknowledge it and remember that I am a much better person than what a random mean, weird, smelly person in the subway of my brain thinks.

So my conversations with it go sort of like this:

Mean, Weird, Smelly Person In My Brain: "You're so blah blah blah, you don't deserve blah blah etc"
Me: "You're a mean, weird smelly person in my brain, not me. I heard that thing you said, but it isn't what I think. You have a nice day now."
Mean, Weird, Smelly Person In My Brain: "But BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH.."
Me: "Mmmhm, I heard you, right now I'm eating a sandwich."
Mean, Weird, Smelly Person In My Brain: "But BLAH BLAH!"
Me: "Uh huh."

And we repeat that over and over, and eventually it stopped being quite so loud the more I gave it the polite brush-off.

I also had much better results from risperidone (Risperdal), I found it very calming.


I don't know how helpful this is but I hope you find something that works for you, and please know there are a lot of us. For myself, I'm happy and doing very well now, and I think you will be too in the future:)
posted by epanalepsis at 1:19 PM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I just looked at the link empath posted and that's very interesting, I wonder if I tried to make friends with my subway troll that would work better. Maybe you should try both ways.
posted by epanalepsis at 1:20 PM on August 13, 2014

My brother had a mildly terrifying psychotic episode where he was convinced he was responsible for a bunch of murders a number of years back (and went on risperidone, which calmed it down). I offered him similar advice about framing the voice to the above and he said it was helpful; maybe imagine a laugh track after the voice, or that it's coming from something ridiculous like a flying potplant. Fighting them is likely not the right choice, so investigate ways to rob them of their power.

Also, better medication.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:29 PM on August 13, 2014

I'm really sorry you are going through this. It is so awful that you endured what you did as a child, and I'm sorry that your current symptoms are causing you distress.

I just wanted to point out that hallucinations of the dead are actually quite common and are seen as a normal part of the grieving process (Here is an overview of some of the research from the popular press). Usually, these hallucinations are comforting visual hallucinations (as opposed to disturbing auditory hallucinations), but not in every case.

Of course, just because many people experience hallucinations of deceased relatives doesn't mean that you should have to live with your distressing experiences. I like the idea of talking back to the voice, and I encourage you to keep trying different medications. I just wanted to assure you that this need not be a symptom of insanity or anything scary like that.
posted by girl flaneur at 3:12 PM on August 13, 2014

I have the idea that auditory hallucinations are a big deal. I do not have particular experience here, maybe I am wrong. In any case, mention stuff like this to your psychiatrist immediately when it happens, that's what you're hiring him for.

I would say you should tell all of your doctors and therapists about this. You might also get a second opinion from another psychiatrist--I at least would want to hear a best guess about what was happening, and not just be prescribed Haldol.

The internet is good for pseudonymous interaction. There are forums and probably chat rooms where you can find supportive people. If you have a best friend, that's what best friend are for, too.

My condolences. This sounds terrifying. Hang in there.
posted by mattu at 3:48 PM on August 13, 2014

The internet is good for pseudonymous interaction. There are forums and probably chat rooms where you can find supportive people.

There is also http://www.7cupsoftea.com/ which indicates you can talk anonymously to trained listeners. They also offer access to therapists and counselors online.
posted by Michele in California at 3:52 PM on August 13, 2014

You may like the writing of Esme Waijun Wang - Google for articles and her website/blog. She is a mental health advocate with multiple diagnoses herself - smart, positive, but meanwhile experiencing some very weird and difficult things.
posted by jrobin276 at 4:00 PM on August 13, 2014

Best answer: I have a few comments in regard to the comments made above that might help other commenters (and/or you).

- The OP specified that he/she doesn't like atypical antipsychotics after trying them in the past, which means that the other medication options available are limited.
- As far as medical causes go, to give the OP's psychiatrist some credit, the vast majority of auditory hallucinations are related to psychiatric etiology, i.e. psychosis. Visual hallucinations should raise concern for other medical etiology. Not saying the OP could not have some other medical issue going on, but considering he/she is seeing a doctor regularly about this, and a psychiatrist to boot, I suspect they are very familiar with ruling out medical causes for psychotic symptoms. You could talk to your primary care doctor about this too in the meantime, but definitely keep pursuing psychiatric treatment while you do so.

You might also get a second opinion from another psychiatrist--I at least would want to hear a best guess about what was happening, and not just be prescribed Haldol.
We don't know that the psychiatrist didn't discuss in detail what is going on with the OP. The right thing to do in a case where someone is having escalating and frightening psychotic symptoms (especially involving command hallucinations encouraging suicide) is probably to start them on antipsychotics!

I'm not sure what to do anymore.
You're being very brave. Stay strong. What you should do (in addition to checking out some of the helpful resources above) is talk to your doctor and tell her how it's going on the Haldol. She likely won't be surprised that this dose of Haldol is not yet effective for you, because that is not a typical therapeutic dose - as she mentioned, it seems she wanted you to start low to help you overcome your fears about using medication. She may increase your dose of Haldol. Be prepared for this possibility. Hearing your mother's voice telling you to kill yourself sounds terrifying and miserable, and it sounds like you're really doing the right thing by pursuing medical treatment. Treatment for psychosis can be extremely effective, and I see many patients on antipsychotics who are absolutely "normal people" to an outsider, who no one would guess are on antipsychotics because they have the disease so well controlled. Best wishes to you and good for you for helping to destigmatize mental health problems! (IANYD/TINMA - just some hopefully reassuring info!)
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:32 PM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Y'all are awesome. I never thought I'd get even 1 response.

To answer a few questions...

The new atypical antipsychotics have an unfavorable side effect profile for me. They did "bad things" to my body in previous attempts for flashbacks. Pdoc agrees that health wise, they're not a good choice.

I actually do go to a NAMI group and I could probably talk about it there. But I've only been back for a few weeks (I used to be a regular member about 10 years ago) and I'm still feeling things out.

I talked to pdoc earlier and she's increased the Haldol to twice a day (or all at night if it knocks me on my arse). She is starting to consider hospitalization if things don't start turning around. That scares me to death.

Thanks to everyone who emailed me. It means a lot. I will try to get back to you.
posted by kathrynm at 4:32 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, looks like I posted a moment too soon. I repeat, you are doing the right thing!
If it does come down to hospitalization, just remember that most everybody else in the hospital with you is going to be as scared as you are, and that they are just people with illnesses too. Just like any other serious illness, when things get severe, being in the hospital until you get stabilized is the safest and best option for your health. Hope you're on the road to recovery post-haste.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:36 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm glad you talked to your pdoc. I can tell you are scared about hospitalization. That makes sense. For this kind of thing (them trying to figure out new meds so you can go back to not feeling scared of the voices), hospitalization, while scary, can be a huge relief. You won't have to be the only one managing the voices or worry about keeping yourself safe. Also, they will discharge you from the hospital when you feel better. So if you do end up in the hospital, it might be scary, but ultimately I think it will make your life much less scary (if that makes sense).

You're doing a great job of dealing with this very difficult situation. Hang in there.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:19 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm glad you are in close contact with your psychiatrist, and I think it is good to have hospitalization on the table as an option if the medication increase doesn't help.

While you are waiting, I wonder if you might want to hear some personal stories of people with similar experiences who have come out the other side. If so, here is a TED talk given by a woman, Eleanor Longden, who started hearing voices after a history of childhood trauma. She describes the voices as a "sane reaction to insane circumstances." (I think Longden takes an anti-medicalization position, but one need not accept that part of her platform; perhaps medication and taking the content of the voices seriously would be most helpful).

I wish you all the best at this dark time.
posted by girl flaneur at 6:02 PM on August 13, 2014

Do you mean like your internal dialogue voice sounds like your mother? I struggle with major depression and anxiety, and sometimes I hear my mother's catch phrases about my appearance or intelligence scrolling through my mind, but it's definitely my internal dialogue and it's definitely things she's actually said to me. But if this is a voice saying thing that aren't in your memory and like a disembodied voice in the room with you . . . well, everyone else has given you some good options here, but let me just add to please, please don't be afraid to get yourself to an ER and insist on an inpatient psychiatric referral. In fact, maybe calling your doctors first thing in the morning and getting inpatient status until medications are all sorted out might be a good idea.

Good luck, I wish there were a magic way the Internet could fix this for you.
posted by mibo at 6:39 PM on August 13, 2014

I won't pretend to be any sort of expert here... but how is the rest of your life going? Is there some major source of stress or anxiety that you're struggling to cope with? You may feel like you're handling it OK, but dealing with profound stress can cause all sorts of awful mental and physical problems. If there is something that's crushing you but you feel like you just have to be strong and bear it, now's the time to take a closer look at that.

Many fine people have heard voices and suffered ghastly, intrusive thoughts. You sound really rational, and that's the important thing. No matter what is causing it, you are in control of yourself and you can address this and treat it.

You don't say if your mom was the one who abused you. Was she the kind of person who would tell you she wanted you to kill yourself? If not, remember that. Your mom would not want to say that to you.

I would definitely talk this over with your shrink first, but maybe it could be good to have some conversations with this voice in a safe, quiet place. If you have a lot of unresolved issues with your mom, this could be a way for you to hash it out with the part of her that lives on in your mind. You can try to make peace with your mom's voice, or tell her that she's dead now and has no power over you anymore. You can tell her anything that you couldn't tell her, while she was alive.

I wish you the best of luck.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:40 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Some people hear voices and believe the voices are from an external source. You recognize that they're 'coming from inside the house.' Keep reminding yourself that what you hear is not accurate. Maybe even write some notes to yourself on index cards with responses to the negative messages. I'm glad you're getting good help. I hope you update this.
posted by theora55 at 10:07 PM on August 13, 2014

Best answer: Another simple thing you might try: headphones. Music. All the time, like a teenager. Listen to all your old favorites, get a bunch of new stuff, spotify, pandora, whatever. It's harder to hear things that aren't there if you're already listening to things that are. If it's a problem at work, maybe an excuse like 'I've been having inner ear problems that give me dizzy spells. ..this actually helps believeitornot'
(I mean in addition to actual professional help, of course. ..good luck to you :/)
posted by sexyrobot at 10:14 PM on August 13, 2014

Best answer: Try to ease up on the fear of hospitalization if you possibly can. I admitted myself 10-12 years ago when I was actively suicidal for the first and only time in my life. I was terrified, cold sweat terrified, to do so. What happened was exactly the opposite of what I expected: First, I instantly felt SAFE! I'm a very independent person and could always handle everything by myself, thank you very much, but I had no idea I'd reached a point of total dysfunction and was so filled with fear that I could barely move, let alone accomplish anything. In the hospital, I realized I was not going to be allowed to flounder around, trying to escape everything that might be wanting to fight - family, creditors, landlord, even the IRS! Once in the hospital, nothing and no one could get to me - I was 100% protected from all outside influences.

The first couple of days I was in sort of a lockup situation because I was suicidal, so I was watched very closely and wasn't allowed to be with other patients. But this only lasted for a few days and then I joined the other patients and began group therapies and sharing chores and just getting along with strangers who also had terrible problems. And that's where I gained the perspective I'd lost while wallowing in my own terrors - I found out that other people had problems that blew my mind. I was cautioned by the therapists not to let that awareness diminish the reality of my own problems, but still the awareness of the incredible suffering of others made me stronger.

I'd had some counseling outside of the hospital years previous to this, but it had only been for a short time to get past some trouble and then I was back to flying solo, but the counseling and help I received as an inpatient was a thousand times more helpful, more specific, more courage building, more everything I needed - those people were wonderful. After I was discharged, about two weeks after I went in, I spent another three weeks attending outpatient therapy sessions and visits with a psychiatrist.

All in all, one of the very best things that ever happened to me. And no one in the universe was more terrified than I was of being locked up forever in a psychiatric hospital as being beyond any help, etc. and more etc. than you can imagine.

Please, dear, consider inpatient help if you have to continue even a few more days or hours with this kind of frightening, threatening situation. You have nothing that will surprise the docs and therapists in the hospital, I promise. Their primary interest is getting you FIXED and discharged in a condition that makes you able to take care of yourself and be at peace; they have no interest in extending your psych needs into a long-term investment, though they'll undoubtedly recommend that you continue your healing with counseling. Still, they want you back on your feet and doing well and they'll get you there.

Feel free to memail me anytime if you think I can be of help.
posted by aryma at 10:21 PM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

I would like to second the sort of line of thought Ursula Hitler and girl flaneur open. Hearing voices -- whether at some moments of crisis or as a regular phenomenon -- can be perfectly consistent with holistic sanity and rationality. Rather than working to excluding the possibility, you might attempt to work with it creatively.

i write this as someone who has had conversations with daemonic voices on occasion. Sometimes really rather negating ones. In the long run I have come to interpret them as being -- more or less -- the voices of various daemons, having things to say of varying validity, but which once thought through are usually in the interest of personal growth, so to speak. So girl flaneur's suggestion that you have to do here with a voice of the dead has from my p.o.v. a lot to recommend it.

I do understand you are frightened by the menacing message you are hearing at the moment. Yet I would urge you not to look to anti-psychotics and the suppressive kind of mental health intervention their use goes with as the ultimate response to what you are going through. Even if they are effective in 'getting you through' or 'back to normal' that may be counter-productive.

They really are nothing more than thought suppressors.

The mind is larger and richer than the folks at NAMI and the like are able to acknowledge. Coping with your particular traumas may mean you are seeing -- or being -- less of it than you would otherwise and than you should expect to eventually.

posted by bertran at 11:14 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

(Re-reading what Michele in California wrote, i want to add that it is indeed very important to keep clear what is public or 'external' reality and whatever the reality is -- with whatever status you choose to assign it -- that is your inner reality. Both can be allowed to coexist and it's of course best, as Michele in CA indicates, if the external reality is not lost sight of.)
posted by bertran at 11:28 PM on August 13, 2014

I really appreciate bertran's insightful post. I wasn't able to articulate my thoughts as lucidly or directly as bertran perhaps because I'm a "moderate" when it comes to the use of medication for managing mental health, and I'm genuinely torn about what to recommend to you.

I so, so, don't want you to hurt yourself or be tormented, and if the Haldol or another other drug will help you achieve genuine peace without significant costs, then great. On the other hand, given the details of your experience (i.e., the past abuse, the fact that your mother is dead, the fact that you recognize that these voices are, for a lack of a better word, delusions, the fact that you can so clearly speak about your experience) leads me to think that these voices are, as Longdon puts it, "a sane reaction to insane circumstances," and you might be better off considering what they can teach you about your past trauma and how to best to move forward. The Hearing Voices Network mentioned above looks like a great resource for thinking more about non-medicalized approaches to auditory delusions, and I hope the fact that lots and lots of people hear voices is of some comfort to you.

I do wish you all the best, and I hope, if you feel up to it, you can keep us updated on your progress.
posted by girl flaneur at 11:55 PM on August 13, 2014

Best answer: Hey, so I know a lot of people have already commented to this with a lot of good information about NAMI, and medicines, and doctors, and so on. Me, I just wanted to comment as someone who's lived through a very terrifying summer where the voices almost won. I am going to add a MASSIVE TRIGGER WARNING for hallucinations and suicidal thoughts/descriptions, because well... yeah. Heavy stuff.

It's definitely possible to make it through. It is, and while some people might say that you're too... aware, or too into your brain and thought processes, too knowledgeable, they're wrong. There is nothing wrong with being this intellectual about it, this detached, this dissociated. People handle things in different ways, and just because many people are not able to tell that they are hallucinations and not real does not mean your problem is invalid.

I spent a summer with a fast-increasing head orchestra, that whispered nasty somethings into my ears, screamed at me to "just jump" or to take that knife etc etc. I basically spent that summer in a psychotic break. It took me six months just to become semi-functional again. But there's the key -- I did become functional. It was hard work, and it sucked, and I had four week-long visits in the psych ward by that Thanksgiving... but I made it out okay. I was able to beat the Mind Gremlins, and I started just where you're started now -- by taking your courage into your hands and opening up for help.

I don't want to make this too long or I'll probably lose my entire train of thought, but... I just wanted to let you know it's okay to need help, it's okay that you're scared... and it's possible to come out on the other side. If you ever need, please, send me a me-mail, any hour of the day or night and I will get to it as soon as I can.

Most of all, though... be good to yourself.
posted by gloraelin at 1:41 AM on August 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

About 13.5 years ago, I was bedridden for about 3.5 months. I was very, very ill and I ended up on a lot of medication and I was basically hallucinating discussions with The Grim Reaper. Then, one day, The Grim Reaper rode up to me on his black steed and leaned down and peered intently in my face. He then turned his steed around and rode off, with me running after him (in my mind) screaming "Don't leave! Take me with you!" After that, I knew I would live. The death watch was over.

To me, it isn't really terribly important whether The Grim Reaper was an alien intelligence communicating with me about my imminent journey into the nether world or some symbolic product of my mind talking about the fact that I was so sick that I was in real danger of dying. I am actually perfectly okay with both of those being true at the same time. Regardless, when he left, I knew I would live. That was important information signaling a big change in my status.

(And I am hoping that story helps you consider the possibility that "crazy" or not, the stuff in your head can have meaning and it can be useful to try to constructively engage it and not just go "la la la NOT LISTENING". Though, of course, that does not mean you should just accept the ugly things these voices say to you without deeper examination. I don't mean to suggest any such thing.)

I tell that story to say this: All the drugs, fevers, illness and whatever left my internal reality permanently altered. My mind has never gone back to what it was before I was bedridden. My brain was permanently altered and it changed the way I experience thought and my internal landscape. (Some of those changes are very positive.)

So I can't see some clear distinction here between "medical" and "psychiatric." It seems to me that if medication helps, then, in some sense/to some degree, it is medical, even if they call it psychiatric. If intentionally manipulating your brain chemistry quiets the voices or has any other effect at all, then there is a biological component.

Getting healthier has helped me become a lot more emotionally stable and has helped make Shit In My Head loom less large, even in cases where the internal dialogue hasn't substantially changed. It is still way less threatening and way easier to stay grounded.

So I will suggest that working on nutrition, sleep hygiene, fitness and general physical health can help you stay grounded. As the Greeks used to say: A sound mind in a sound body.
posted by Michele in California at 10:54 AM on August 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't usually talk about this, but I once checked into a hospital for mental health reasons (post traumatic stress) while under severe life and occupational stress. I was scared of it too, but it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. I had been over worked, and having days when I didn't have to, and couldn't, do anything, any work, account to other people who were being awful, was incredibly helpful. Getting daily therapy was also really key in my road to recovery. Don't be afraid of the hospital - if it's necessary, it may be a blessing.
posted by corb at 2:09 PM on August 14, 2014

Response by poster: Just wanted to update. Pdoc increased the Haldol to 2 mg. It's not helping yet. I see her this coming Friday. I talked about the voices at my NAMI meeting and got some positive feedback. I've been trying to "talk back" to the voices, but it isn't really helping. I think it gets me more wound up and actually quite panicky.

I'll keep in touch with pdoc and therapist as needed until I see them again next week. I think I'm going to ask therapist if she can see me twice a week until this gets better under control.

I know hospitalization isn't the end of the world, nor nothing to be frightened of (if only emotions were logical) but I had some bad experiences in the past.

Again, thanks to everyone who emailed or MeMailed. It helped a lot and I'm truly grateful.
posted by kathrynm at 8:40 AM on August 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

the whole situation sounds very frightening, but I wanted to say out loud that you are doing this, you are managing this, you are taking good steps and you have a good care plan, and if other steps become necessary well then they become necessary, but today, you are doing this.
posted by KathrynT at 10:24 AM on August 16, 2014

Response by poster: Updating for posterity. I ended up spending a week in the hospital and I'm doing much better. I'll probably be starting a local IOP program next week and seeing my psychologist twice a week regardless if I do IOP.

Thanks for everyone's kind words.
posted by kathrynm at 3:54 PM on August 28, 2014 [8 favorites]

« Older Does eczema ever go away?   |   Will this temperature controller work in North... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.