The Voices in My Head
Eleanor on How it Began
The day I left home for the first time to go to university was a bright day brimming with hope and optimism. I'd done well at school. Expectations for me were high, and I gleefully entered the student life of lectures, parties and traffic cone theft. Underneath, I was actually deeply unhappy, insecure and fundamentally frightened -- frightened of other people, of the future, of failure and of the emptiness that I felt was within me
On the first day of classes my second semester, I was leaving a seminar when it started, humming to myself, fumbling with my bag just as I'd done a hundred times before, when suddenly I heard a voice calmly observe, "She is leaving the room." This was the beginning. The voice had arrived. And the voice persisted, days and then weeks of it, on and on, narrating everything I did in the third person. I told a friend about the voice, and she was horrified. A subtle conditioning process had begun, the implication that normal people don't hear voices and the fact that I did meant that something was very seriously wrong. Such fear and mistrust was infectious. Suddenly the voice didn't seem quite so benign anymore I told a friend about the voice, and she was horrified. A subtle conditioning process had begun, the implication that normal people don't hear voices and the fact that I did meant that something was very seriously wrong. Such fear and mistrust was infectious. Suddenly the voice didn't seem quite so benign anymore.
Two years later and I'd been diagnosed, drugged and discarded, and was by now so tormented by the voices that I attempted to drill a hole in my head in order to get them out. Now looking back on the wreckage and despair of those years, it seems to me now as if someone died in that place, and yet, someone else was saved. I would ultimately realize that each voice was closely related to aspects of myself, and that each of them carried overwhelming emotions that I'd never had an opportunity to process or resolve, memories of sexual trauma and abuse, of anger, shame, guilt, low self-worth. The voices took the place of this pain and gave words to it, and possibly one of the greatest revelations was when I realized that the most hostile and aggressive voices actually represented the parts of me that had been hurt most.
It was armed with this knowledge that ultimately I would gather together my shattered self, each fragment represented by a different voice, gradually withdraw from all my medication, and return to psychiatry, only this time from the other side. Ten years after the voice first came, I finally graduated, this time with the highest degree in psychology the university had ever given, and one year later, the highest masters, which shall we say isn't bad for a madwoman.