Personal Stories

The Hearing Voices Network believes that voice hearers are experts on the voice hearing experience. Sharing our stories is one of the ways we can help each other to understand the voice hearing experience better. If you would like to submit a story, please see our contacts page.

Observations on My Journey by Richard Gray

Richard grew up with a mother who experienced Nervous Breakdowns every 6-10 years after her first born, a sister who developed a severe sleep disorder and panic attacks after a burnout, a daughter who entered the psychiatric system at around 14 years old, and a burnout himself after too many life issues “ran him over!” Through these, he attended a number of polytech courses in mental health, did Integrated Mental Health Training at Supporting Families, and was member of a number of related boards and quality groups. In 2001 he gave up Consulting Engineering to join the mental health workforce, and has continually studied as required for work since then. However, he says that it is his more esoteric education at places like Theosophy, the Western Buddhist Centre in Auckland, the Awa Tawa Marae healing nights, New Age centres and Esoteric Christian teachings which has taught him the most – along with his own personal experiences, books, meditation and groups like the Hearing Voices Network.

It is from this perspective and an engineering mind for logic and practical common sense that he wrote an article from which the following is an edited version for the HVN.

In 1998 I had a burnout and was given the names of the four Psychologists that the Taharoto Mental Health Unit used. It took me some time to decide which one, but in the end the guy I used was both a qualified psychologist and an ordained minister, though never practicing. He was happy to take any approach that suited me, and we followed various paths at different times. He said three things that stuck in my mind; one, that I had a force 10 burnout – one of the very most severe, and two, that I was the only person he’d met who was able to direct his own therapy sessions whilst in this state, and three, I was the only person he’d had who was not on drugs. Because of this, he called me an amazing person.

It later occurred to me that the reason I was the only one able to lead my own therapy sessions was the same reason as number three; I was not on drugs and therefore fully functioning. And because of this, I was able to observe and learn a lot about the process of what caused me to be unwell, and the healing through it.

It became very evident early on that this was a “whole person” experience. Spirit, Mind, Body and needed to be treated this way rather than the standard western way. In medical language, the west see it as the mind that is having problems, caused by a physical or pathological condition or imbalance that can be treated only with drugs, like all other medical treatments! The happy consequence of this is lots of money can be made; mental health drugs are by far the most profitable branch of all in medicine...

However, not all agree with this approach. Professor Stanislav Grof (Researcher and ex Director of Psychiatric Research at Maryland Psychiatric Research Centre) says, putting off what is frequently a spiritual emergency is not the best solution, but is an option that is not too harmful provided heavy medication is not used to enforce the process...

In his work, and in the even wider research with his wife Christina into “unusual” emotional and mental states, there comes evidence which suggests that drugs are often detrimental to the healing process. And in my own experience, the natural alternatives that work on the brain alone, rather than the whole person, are just another temporary measure also whilst one prepares themselves for the journey. The problem with us western people, we so often want the quick fix, and we want it now. And because we have so often detached ourselves from our true spiritual nature, we fear what lies beyond that which we consider normal in everyday life.

A good healer who can see the various etheric layers of a being can see a dis-ease forming in the outer layers long before it shows itself emotionally or physically. However, in mental health, by the time the dis-ease descends from our outer layers and reaches the mind, it is also often evident in the physical too, if one knows where to look. The medical model of mental health does not take the whole person into account, and treats only the brain as having a chemical imbalance. We are not a brain separated from a body, but a multi-functional interdependent unit. Orthomolecular treatments - as promoted by Abram Hoffer, and their practitioners, look at and treat the total person, to find the overall picture. If the body is out, so is the brain, and vice-versa. 

I have found it important to look at and treat the whole person. This is where appropriate and correct use of herbs, homeopathy and orthomolecular are so useful. The mental health drugs do nothing to help here, and just keep on bombarding the brain and stopping it from functioning as it is designed to. And in so doing, actually weaken the brain’s ability to act as the command centre for the body, and so a wider range of ill-health issues often start to follow their use.

Read more: Observations on My Journey by Richard Gray

Debra's Story

My first recollection of voice hearing was when I was very young, around six years old. I would hear a very soothing maternal voice telling me that everything was all right they would “protect me” and “not to be afraid”.  This voice remained during my early years and was always a great comfort and frequently lulled me into sleep which so often eluded me at night.

As I approached adolescence the range of voices increased and I was visited by four or five voices of differing gender and age.  My previous experience of voices had been positive and comforting but now the voices took on a much more critical tone and made disparaging comments regarding my actions. They would find fault or berate me for doing things wrong, being stupid, and never being able to get things right. Still the maternal voice remained to soothe and mitigate the negative impact those voices were having on me.

Upon completing my schooling the voices became more active and far more intrusive, they invaded all parts of my life and I felt I had no privacy and was constantly being observed and scrutinized. I lived in fear of the barrage of abuse that would follow any of my actions and became increasing anxious about mixing with others as I felt sure others could also hear the voices and were aware of just what a terrible and useless person I was.

I retreated into a solitary world as I endeavored to make sense of what was happening to me. A complex and mystical explanation developed, in which I believed that I had been chosen to receive a message from God.  This message would relieve mankind of war and conflict and peace would prevail. What I had to do was stay home and be ready to receive this message.

In the meantime I was being tested by demons and the devil (the voices) to prove I was a worthy recipient of the message.  I stayed in my house for eighteen years not leaving except in the most exceptional circumstances waiting dutifully for this message.  Voices filled my day and kept my mind occupied as I engaged in deep conversations with them.

Read more: Debra's Story

Giving Voice to the Void by Karla Mila-Schaaf

The following article was given by Karla Mila-Schaaf at the Building Bridges Conference and is reproduced here with her permission.

In order to be heard, and for stories to be successful, it depends on there being a community who can hear them (see Plummer, 1995). Stories and narratives depend upon communities that can create the conditions for them to be heard. So I thank you for being that audience, for being that community of support, who is ready and waiting to receive this story. There are some stories which may have been waiting in the wings, for their time, for their voice, and for their audience. This is one of those stories. It’s not the easiest story to tell.

For the longest time I’ve had my back to this story. As if it was my own sun. You know what they say: “Never look directly into the sun, or you might go blind.” It is the kind of sun that makes people blink awkwardly. Light aches in their eyes and you’d wish for a cloud, any cloud. They are not the easiest stories to tell, or to hear, and perhaps more than anything, they are not the easiest stories to create spaces for, to create spaces for both the telling and the listening.

I acknowledge the work of so many of you out there, who work everyday (many of you) to create the conditions for these stories to be heard with dignity; who clear the spaces for these healing and burning stories to be told.  

I want to acknowledge Maria Glanville, Vito Nonumalo, Seiuli Papali’i Johnny Siosi, and Tuiloma Lina Samu who have all come before me, telling their stories and who are all committed to clearing the space and clearing the path, so that such stories can be told and heard.

The lens of pathology tends to have the monopoly on the way we view mental health illnesses and experiences. And then, sadly, our experiences are framed within the tiny, pigeon-hole boxes and classifications of the DSM. Our complicated, messy life histories and twisting personal plots are squeezed into the narrow parameters of diagnoses. This doesn’t leave much room for other, longer, more complex, shimmering and sometimes uncontainable, stories to be told.

Read more: Giving Voice to the Void by Karla Mila-Schaaf