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Guide for Writing your own Life Story


1:  Introduction  Intervoice would like to ask...  click here to read on.


Dear Voice Hearer

Intervoice would like to ask your co-operation in composing a book of fifty anthologies of people who hear voices or did hear voices and profited by the "accepting voices" approach. You may well know of us already, because most of you who ask for co-operation we know personally. However for those we do not know so well we provide some details of the work of Intervoice.

Intervoice is a charity organizing meeting possibilities like conferences, a website and a discussion forum for people hearing voices and professionals who like to work with voice hearers. Intervoice promotes accepting the voices and engaging with them. The purpose is that people change their relation with their voices in order to take their lives in their own hands again.

To promote this approach more widely Intervoice would like to publish a book with 50 stories of persons hearing voices who have profited from the "accepting voices" approach. The reason for this is to give evidence based motivation for other voice hearers and professionals to overcome their hesitation in trying it out.

The idea is that you write your own anthology and that we provide guidelines in order to make the task easier for you, and also to collect well organized information.

Furthermore, members of Intervoice have agreed to help you if you like, in writing your story. You will find their names and telephone numbers at the end of this paper. Naturally you can also ask a good friend or the professional that helped you in coping with your voices or changing your relationship with them. Below we have quoted from the UK hearing voices network the benefits of the "accepting voices" approach published in "Coping with Voices".

In order to make this challenge easier, we enclose an example. It is not our idea that you follow the guidelines or example literally, because voice hearers are different from each other and also the book would become quite dull. If you don't want to complete all the parts of the information we ask for, because of the privacy or intimacy of it, feel free just skip that part - but please go on.

We hope you will co-operate and we hope you will like to write about you experiences

With warm regards


Marius Romme


INTERVOICE

Nat. Hearing Voices Network
19 Oldham Street
Manchester, M4 1LW


2:  Part I - experience, history, influence  Please describe briefly who you are...  click here to read on.


  • Please describe briefly who you are, include your full name (or only your first name), age, gender, marital status, main education (one) main activities (max. two), main hobbies (max, two). Start with "I am".

  • Please describe some of the characteristics of your experiences such as 'I hear most of my voices from outside through my ears, or in my head' (say what is true for you). 'My voices are 'not me' (not my thoughts or feelings) but from somebody else or something else (when you think some voices are part of yourself, tell so)' Describe how many years you have been hearing voices; did they disappear for some time. How often did/have you hear(d) the voices (all day; sometimes; weekly; monthly etc).

  • Could you give a short description of the characteristics of the five voices who are most important to you. Tell us their name(s) or the name(s) you give them or the symbol that characterises them (like aggression man; silverman; mother type; whatever you think is appropriate). Could you also provide information on the age; gender; the characteristic way of speaking to you like scolding or helpful etc. of each voice.

  • Please tell your "hearing voices" history. That is: I was x years of age when it started. For instance 'I remember that I was... (if you remember say where you were and what you were doing). Would you then describe what has happened to you since the voices started and/or changed, for instance when the voices became ugly or changed in being nice. The issue we want you to cover here is to describe what you think might be their relationship to your life history and your personal development.

  • Could you give the most important triggers that provoked the voices during the time you were very much hindered by them. For instance: 'When I am in the 'kitchen', or 'when I am alone', or 'when I feel tired', or 'angry', or 'afraid of…' Please don't make this too long, one or two most important situations and one or two most important emotions will do. If you need to expand feel free.

  • Can you give two typical phrases or expressions the voices use, when they talk to you and if you think it made sense or not and why?

  • What impact do or did the voices have on you when were most hindered by them. Did they threaten you; blackmail you; made you afraid; hinder you in doing what you like to do etc. Could you also say if this has changed and what impact the voice have now?

  • Then we would like you to write down if you had any influence on the voices for instance did you have any control or no control at all over the voices when they most hindered you and how this feels now.

  • Most people have an explanation for their voices. What was or is your explanation? How important was this explanation for you and is this still the case? Did others accept this?

  • Perhaps you can also tell us what coping strategies you used when they were most hindering you. We would also like you to say how you reacted to your voices.

  • The last issue in this part is to tell how you related the voices when they most hindered you and how this has changed, if it has changed.


3:  Part II - Meeting the accepting voices approach and the benefits of it for you  Can you now tell us...  click here to read on.


Can you now tell us:

How you came into contact with the "accepting voices" approach. Where was this?

Who first talked to you about your voices and showed interest? How did you react?

What did you do with this information and how did you work with this person?

We would like you to tell us about the people and had a positive experience with.

This might well be a number of different people and possibly a number of different attempts.

Just describe them rather briefly and as clearly as possible. It does not only have to be directly related to the voices but might also include other empowering activities or assistance of any kind that helped you live a more satisfying or independent life, in spite of the voices or with the voices.

We now give you a list of benefits of the accepting voices approach partly quoted from "Coping with voices" published by U.K. National Hearing Voices Network in Manchester.

  • I had an opportunity to talk freely about voices or other sensations
  • I had my experiences accepted as real and not necessarily negative
  • I learned ideas and coping strategies
  • It was the first step to coping better
  • I became less isolated because of talking more freely about my voices
  • I did no longer have to deny or keep quiet about my experience
  • I felt supported
  • I came in a non-judgemental atmosphere
  • I gained positive reinforcement from small gains that I made
  • I learned about the relationship between my voices and what I had suffered in earlier life
  • I could better cope with my daily life
  • I started a job again
  • Other…

Can you tell us what helped you and if possible give some evidence for this like the activities you undertake now and were not able to do so before. We would like to know from you what really helped you, not what could have been helpful.


4:  Part III - How is your life by now?  ...describe how your life is now...  click here to read on.


In this last part we like you to describe, how your life is now, how you feel on average; do you still hear voices and can you cope with them? Or if you don't hear them anymore and possibly miss them; or are you afraid that they may come back or are you just more confident about your self? We also like you to tell us how you live your life in the sense of having a partner, having a job and what kind of job. What kind of housing you enjoy, if you enjoy it, and whether your financial position is feeling reasonably safe. All in all giving a short picture of your life and how dependant or independent you are from other people, carers, professionals, institutes. Are you active in the "accepting voices" movement and if yes in what way? That is it.

It is not necessary at all to keep the order of parts that are proposed in this guideline. You might well like to start with part III or II and end with part II or I. Feel free to tell your story in your way. The only thing we would like that you check afterward if most items are covered in your story and eventually put the missing ones in.

Thank you very much for your co-operation. In editing we might propose some changes. However we will always ask your permission. For the length of the book we must ask you to restrict your story to a maximum of 3000 words.


5:  Example  I can remember hearing voices...  click here to read on.


Alex's Story

I can remember hearing voices from a very early age, but it was always associated with seeing a floating face that always seemed to be smirking, but this has now gone. However, I was about ten when the voices became aggressive and difficult to handle. Throughout my childhood and early adolescence a member of my family sexually abused me. The voices were ever-present during this time, and I can recall them teasing, bullying and talking to me. At the age of 14, I was taken to see a child psychiatrist, and I was admitted to a large hospital which had established a special unit for children. However, the reality was that I was admitted to an adult male ward. Here, my voices went on the rampage. I was diagnosed as schizophrenic and given Modecate injections. This actually removed my ability to cope with the voices; my emotions were flattened, and my mind could not help me engage the voices. I was transferred from one hospital to another. At no time was I asked what I thought and felt, and as soon as I said that I heard voices, I was either told to pull my socks up or given different cocktails of chemicals.

Only once in 15 years of psychiatric intervention, and at the age of 36, was I able to find someone who was willing to listen. This proved a turning point for me, and from this I was able to break out of being a victim and start owning my experience. This nurse actually found time to listen to my experience and feelings. She always made me feel welcome, and would make arrangements so we would not be disturbed. She would switch off her bleeper and take her phone off the hook, and sometimes, as there were people outside her room, she would close the blinds. These actions made me feel at ease. She would sit to one side of me instead of across a desk. She told me that what we said was confidential, but that there were some exceptions, so I could decide what to reveal. Slowly, as trust grew between us, I was able to tell her about the abuse, but also about the voices. Sometimes when I was describing what happened to me, she would tell me that it was hurting her and she needed a break. At last, I had found someone who recognized the pain I was feeling. She helped me realize that my voices were a part of me, and had a purpose and validity. Over a six-month period, I was able to develop a basic strategy for coping.

Thanks to the support this worker gave, I have been able to develop a range of coping mechanisms. One of these is that I give them a specific time each day when they can flow and I can engage with them. However, to allow this to happen, I must prepare myself; some things done in advance also help, like establishing a regular sleeping pattern. Even when I promise the voices a particular time, they still carry on, but they do not overwhelm me. One of the things that I have had to learn is to allow myself to be in touch with my emotions, and sometimes I get afraid of my feelings and the voices.

Here are my voices…and their triggers

  • Voice one: the Silver voice. This voice is softly spoken and usually whispers, often fragmented phrases and comments about the people I meet or have relationships with.
    Triggers: talking to people over the telephone; meet new people

  • Voice two and three: the Two Brothers. These two voices speak to each other, as well as to me, in a rhythmic pattern. They are very aggressive and abusive and talk to me about the other voices. These two voices are the most difficult to cope with.
    Triggers: these voices often seem to dominant after any sexual activity.

  • Voice four: the Mechanical Voice. This voice usually comes in the night, and is dominant and active when it is dark. It usually repeats the same set of phrases - it often tells me that other beings, usually animals, can hear all the voices, and that cats hear the best.
    Triggers: darkness; the full moon.

Training the voices: getting them balanced with my life

  • The Silver voice I often find that drawing pictures or even speaking out loud what the voice is saying helps to reduce its power (each session lasts about 10 minutes)

  • The Two Brothers These are the most emotionally demanding. If they start, I have to find a place of sanctuary and let them go (lasts up to three hours)

  • The Mechanical Voice I usually talk back to this voice, asking it questions that I hope it will find difficult to answer. By allowing myself to be afraid, I am able to question the voice by asking, for instance: "You cannot hurt me, can you?" By teasing the voice I prove that I am stronger.

I have found that in order to live my life, I had had to take control and reject the notion of seeing myself as a victim. You may find that by talking about them with others, you voice may play up for a few days, doing all it can to distress you and disrupt your daily routine - don't give in. Once you have established a pattern, and you keep to it, then the voices will become less powerful.

Writing this has not been easy. The voices have told me that once this read by others who hear voices, my voices will become stronger and return to me. This does not scare me a bit, but I am alive. I am pleased that we are coming together to share our experiences and explanations but we have to be careful not to lose control, and that any movement does not end up synthesizing our experiences and turn them into stereotypes.

As far as my life now is concerned I still hear voices, but I am much more in control than before. I have a fulltime paid job and live with my wife and kid in a nice, rather small house. I am not worrying much about finance. In my job I also organize self-help for voice hearers and I take interview with them.


5:  Further Information  If you have any questions or...  click here to read on.


If you have any questions or you need more guidance, you might contact one of the following persons:

Paul Baker
Spain p.cbaker@ctv.es
Julie Downs NHVN Manchester 0161 834 5768
Roddy Gordon C.I.C. Scotland 0797 001 9664
Babs Johnston Melrose - Scotland 01896 751162
Terence McLaughlin Stockport 0161 282 6518
Phil Thomas Bradford 01422 846632