The Stigma of Hearing Voices in Schizophrenia Is Unnecessary
Hearing voices might be the most stigmatized symptom of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. When people hear about it, they imagine “what the voices tell you to do,” and even go as far as assuming that the voices command those of us hearing them to kill people. Just for the record: my voices don’t tell me to do anything, and even if they did I wouldn’t comply because I know they’re not real. Getting the message that the stigma of hearing voices is unnecessary across to people is probably one of the most important things I can do.
The Stigma of Hearing Voices Keeps Me Quiet About Them
I heard voices at dinner two weekends ago: loud voices, intrusive voices, unexpected voices. I was out with my husband, Tom, and my dad. The restaurant was really noisy, with crowds of people everywhere. Some were drunk. Many were watching the game on the many big TV screens. People were cheering – and then it was time to order another round.
I have trouble eating out at noisy restaurants and I’d never been in a restaurant this noisy. My dad suggested we leave, but I wanted to tough it out. I wanted to try my coping skills for dealing with noisy places, like talking with my dad and Tom to filter out the cacophony around me.
Then the voices hit.
We had already ordered dinner by then so I felt, again, like I’d have to tough it out. I did exclaim, “Holy smokes.”
To which Tom quipped, “What, did you see a hot waitress?”
I said, “Faeries.”
“Faeries” is the code word Tom and I use for hearing voices. He nodded.
I’m not sure why I wanted to keep the problem from my dad. After awhile, it was clear he knew something was wrong, but, for whatever reason, I didn’t tell him I was hearing voices. I don’t like too many people knowing, but I did consider telling him a couple times during the episode. I think I honestly just wanted him to enjoy his dinner.
The Stigma of Hearing Voices Says We Can't Cope with Them
But hearing voicing in my schizoaffective disorder is unnecessary. Hearing voices doesn't make me act much differently than when I don't hear them. For years my mood stabilizer kept me from hearing voices. Then the voices started breaking through again. They don’t make me act differently, except I’ve noticed I get really quiet. I try to distract myself when I’m hearing them, often by listening to quiet, mellow music or watching a soothing, lighthearted movie. But when I’m out, I can’t do those things.
Since the cacophony around me kept rising in volume, the voices struck full force. I didn’t know what to do and I was getting very anxious. What if these voices turned into a full-blown psychotic episode, even though I haven’t had such an episode in 19 years? I decided to keep talking to my dad and Tom, and to eat a little bread. It would be alright. It was a bummer, but it would be alright.
Being Able to Cope with Hearing Voices Defies Stigma
Then, miraculously, a song I liked sifted through the restaurant, drowning out some of the other noise. Our food came. The restaurant started to clear out. The voices were still pretty intense, but I’d make it through the storm.
I don’t know what it’s like for other people who hear voices. I don't know if they ever think about the stigma attached to the voices they hear. I just know that for me, it’s simply a schizoaffective symptom to be managed. I don’t want to take more medications to do so and there’s no need to. I’ve never hurt anyone. My voices usually come at times of heightened anxiety and the self-soothing tips I’ve learned over the years really help with them: simple things like eating, being with loved ones, or playing soothing music. Sure, it’s a bummer, but I know I can win.
Caudy, E. (2017, June 1). The Stigma of Hearing Voices in Schizophrenia Is Unnecessary, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/creativeschizophrenia/2017/06/hearing-schizophrenic-schizoaffective-voices-out-to-dinner