Statistics show that 10% of the general population hear voices regularly but only 1% of the population has schizophrenia and many of those do not hear voices. Thus, the widespread belief that voice-hearing is synonymous with schizophrenia is a misnomer.
I am a lot of things in life, I am a daughter, a friend, and a peer connector in a job I love. I am also a proud voice hearer and I hear voices every day. For a long time during my adult life, it seemed I was solely a voice hearer living in the shadows of society.
Sometimes people who don’t hear voices ask me what it is like to hear voices, firstly, the voices are real. Voice hearing is very individual but for me it is akin to being in a busy restaurant where distant conversations are going on, it is possible to discern what some of them are saying and with others it is less clear. Some voice hearers hear only one or two voices but for others like me we hear multiple voices. I can’t identify my voices unlike some people who have names for each of their voices; my voices change depending on my surroundings. I hear both male and female voices sometimes they talk to me and at other times they speak among themselves.
For me, I’ve learned that my voice-hearing is associated with anxiety and stress and sometimes my voices become more insistent and more present. When this happens I realise there is something going on in my life which is causing me stress. It is at these times I’ve learned to ask my voices “what have you got to say to me?” It may appear unusual to those who do not hear voices to read that I speak to my voices, but this has been a revelation for me. I have developed healthy coping skills to help me to manage my anxiety and this in turn has helped me develop a partnership with my voices.
As part of my recovery, I found striking up a relationship with my voices and coming to accept my voices as an intrinsic part of me just like my eyes are blue or my hair is brown. My voices are very much part of my recovery journey. I know that when my voices increase in their intensity, I need to question what is going on in my life as they act like an internal barometer. Thus, for me what started out as a huge negative in my life, voice-hearing, I now would no longer be without.