This last post in the series is in essay or story-telling format. The Q&A doesn’t work this time.
I hear voices. Lots of voices from different parts of my mind. Not all of them are from my alters. In fact, most of the time, my alters choose video, images, story-telling, play-acting, music, writing, and sensation to communicate with me. They only talk when the other communication formats don’t work. That is how I learned to tell the difference. Most of the time. My alters learned to recognize when the voices are triggering them by realizing we only talk to each other when nothing else works. The rest of the time, we find other ways to show love, respect, acceptance, affection, and information.
The voices are different from my hallucinations because they sound real to me; they are the voices of my family members, abusers, bullies, and fake friends telling me to hurt and punish myself because I am worthless. They insult me; verbally abuse me; taunt me; and constantly tell me ways to hurt myself; then urge me to act on those thoughts. And if the voices are not working on me, they work on my alters. It’s a mental loop of negativity that seems impossible to break, let alone stop or ignore.
Sometimes the voices sound like me talking to myself. Sometimes they sound like a parent or sibling or relative. Sometimes they sound like a medical professional or an authority figure. The voices play on my weaknesses, insecurities, and fears. They use those insecurities and fears to persuade me to hurt myself and others. Sabotage my plans for going forward. Or freeze up so that I can’t study or pass a test or complete assignments or put myself in situations where I will be emotionally hurt and shamed.
Then the voices hit me with shame and guilt for not accomplishing my goals. They reaffirm my inability to do anything right.
And they don’t stop. The voices speak to me, to my alters, waking and sleeping.
Why and when and how they appear, none of us know. My therapist thinks it is a symptom of increased anxiety and a form of backlash or flashbacks or nightmares. I tend to agree with this. But that’s not the only time the voices visit.
Only one successful way to stop the voices permanently: give in and hurt myself.
Other less successful ways to stop the voices: take a knock out pill; watch a funny or feel good movie; distract myself; listen to music; use affirmations and positive self talk; reality test my thoughts and fears
When I don’t give in to the voices, I start to obsess about ways to make them stop talking to me. And then I think about what the voices are saying and remember all or many past experiences where their predictions of current outcomes came true. And I get anxious; start to doubt myself. Then try to use coping strategies to get myself out of the mental loop. And when the strategies don’t work, feel more angry and depressed.
One way I learned to deal with the obsessive thoughts and feelings of anxiety from hearing voices was giving in to compulsions or compulsive routines. I try not to give in to the compulsions because they tend to take over my life. I get so caught up in using the activity or routine that the rest of my life suffers; not going to work, missing deadlines, procrastinating, feeling shame for doing something I don’t want to do, etc. Not all compulsions are bad ones, but even safe ones can become problems when I can’t do anything or go anywhere until I finish my compulsion first. It’s one reason why I am so careful with my habits and routines. I don’t want them to become compulsions.
Sometimes, when nothing else works and I absolutely need temporary relief, I give in to the voices, obsessions, and compulsions. I try to find the least harmful behavior or activity that will also soothe the anxiety and do it. I am not proud of this. I prefer to find alternatives instead. The backlash is painful. But worse, the temptation to give in gets stronger every time I use a negative coping strategy. And when I am coming off of an adrenaline high with the voices in my mind telling me to use this energy for revenge or punishment, the temptation to get relief instead of waiting it out is strong.
“Waiting it out” means: going without sleep or rest; listening to the voices fighting us (our internal system); experiencing all of the headaches, migraines, physical pain that comes with the internal fighting; not dissociating or switching and forgetting for a while; living with the memories and experiences all of this brings back; and continuing with life and work while coping with it all.
One Moment at a time
Sometimes the best strategy is also the hardest concept to understand. When I first started therapy/recovery, I was in crisis mode aka survival mode. Every moment felt like a thousand years. So I learned to live one moment at a time. Dissociation and daydreaming helped a lot here. But that doesn’t help as much now because all of my parts and I have different daydreams. And lack of focus in the outside world is dangerous. So now it’s time to find another version of “one moment at a time” that works for us. I guess that means going back to basic survival strategies.
I hope anyone else caught in some form of survival mode makes through this round too.