Giving Voice to the Void

I read the keynote speech from Karlo Mila-Schaaf that she presented at the Building Bridges Conference in Wellington.

An inspiring story it tells of some of her own experiences , her diagnosis with mental illness and her recovery.

She has kindly allowed us to place it on our website. You can read it by clicking  here.

Here is a little excerpt:

How do you explain why voices are talking to you from under the floor? How do you make sense of dreaming in ways so real that it does not feel like a dream, that you are being burned or hung in front of a large, maddened crowd, in Mala’ekula every night? (Mala’e kula is the Tongan royal burial ground).
How do you explain having the voices of your friends and enemies in your head, saying things louder and clearer than anything else around you? How do you make explain the fact that you can hear the pigs and farmyard animals around your house in Tonga talking to you in ways that you understand?
How do you explain people’s faces contorting and shape-shifting into other things? The Maori psychiatric nurse, for example, who shakes his head and he turns into a ruru, an owl, right in front of you? None of this makes any sense according to anything you have ever known or understood to be true. When you see your grandmother kneeling on a tapa, greeting the sun and you run out of your house to see her, forgetting that she is dead, and wondering, when you run outside and see no one, you’re wondering, what is happening to you?

My sister told me that someone she knew was hearing voices and she didn’t know how to deal with it, or her. What was the best way to react, she asked me. I said to her, “Don’t tell her the voices are not real”. It’s not helpful. It never helped me. The voices were there. I could hear them. Being told that I was delusional was not helpful. It just undermined the truth of my own experience. “Tell her that that sounds very frightening,” I said. “Tell her, that if that was you, you’d be freaked and frightened and that she is being very brave, dealing with this, because it must be impossibly frightening to deal with.” I said to her, “Affirm her bravery and courage and agency in what must be one of the most difficult and frightening experiences she has ever had to confront.”

You know, I can’t think of any worse response to facing this kind of incredibly frightening situation and then being at the height of this vulnerability, the most vulnerable and frightened you will ever be in your life, being slammed with a diagnosis that then cages you and captures you and pins you to the ground, saying thou shalt never move from this spot again, you will never recover from this, and you are now doomed with a diagnosis that you will never escape from, or recover from, go to jail, do not pass go, you will never be normal again.

Because this is what we do to people who experience psychosis, who see things they shouldn’t be seeing and hear things they shouldn’t be hearing. We give them some kind of schizo diagnosis, to separate them out from the rest of us, and we leave them on the other side of that bridge”

To read it in its entirety, please click on the link above.

Living with Voices-50 Stories of Recovery- new book released-ISBN13 9781906254223

This is a new book released, edited By Marius Romme, Sandra Escher, Jacqui Dillon, Mervyn Morris and Dick Cortens –

It looks like a must read for anyone who hears voices, or works with those who are distressed by them.

A new analysis of the hearing voices experience outside the illness model, resulted in accepting and making sense of voices. This study of 50 stories forms the evidence for this successful new approach to working with voice hearers.

This book demonstrates that it is entirely possible to overcome problems with hearing voices and to take back control of one’s life. It shows a path to recovery by addressing the main problems voice hearers describe – the threats, the feelings of powerlessness, the anxiety of being mad – and helps them to find their way back to their emotions and spirituality and to realising their dreams. This book also holds true for those who have been given a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

At the heart of this book are the stories of fifty people who have recovered from the distress of hearing voices. They have overcome the disabling social and psychiatric attitudes towards voice hearing and have also fought with themselves to accept and make sense of the voices. They have changed their relationship with their voices in order to reclaim their lives.

All the people in this book describe their recovery; how they now accept their voices as personal, and how they have learnt to cope with them and have changed their relationship with them. They have discovered that their voices are not a sign of madness but a reaction to problems in their lives that they couldn’t cope with, and they have found that there is a relationship between the voices and their life history, that the voices talk about problems that they haven’t dealt with – and that they therefore make sense.

Our own Debra Lampshire well known in New Zealand for her work with those that heaer voices, has her story within its pages.

If you want to order the book it is available online here from their publisher PCC books 

IF anyone has read it, I would love to hear your comments.