They Spoke to Me

Last Updated by Kealey Bultena on

I heard the voices with my ears. They encouraged me, they criticized me, and I heard them through my ears.

I know that seems obvious. We hear with our ears. Yet, when I considered what a person who “hears voices” experiences, I never realized that they hear them. Then I heard them. 

Stick with me. 

I put the earbuds in at Crisis Intervention Training with the Sioux Falls Police Department. Law enforcement officers spend a week learning and practicing techniques to address mental health situations from new perspectives. A section of that work includes a demonstration on hearing voices.

The earbuds flood sound into an officer’s mind. While listening, they read a story while listening. While listening, they watch a movie for 10 minutes. While listening, they then fill out a questionnaire from the original story. It is difficult, to say the least. I participated in an abridged version of the simulation. You can see some of the footage of my experience in the video.

I heard whispering. It was just loud enough that my brain automatically worked to discern the words, but it was too soft and muffled. The hissing became obnoxious, distracting noise that cluttered my senses.

I heard a voice that soothed me. A woman’s voice told me, “You know the way.” She said it again and again. She willed me, supported me, lured me.

I heard them laugh at me. A woman cackled. I heard her so amused that she couldn’t catch her breath while she laughed.

I heard a voice that degraded me. His cruel tone shouted. He tore at insecurity. “Wipe the smirk off your face,” he told me. He chastised me that this was not a joke. He told me to stop it. He reminded me, “You are disgusting.” 

I heard them with my ears. The sound was real. It wasn’t created in my head. And it clicked: that’s how some people experience their illness. 

When I’m thinking about something – trying to figure out which street to take or which words to type next – my conscious mind creates a monologue. This “voice” manufactured in my brain forms complete sentences or helps weigh pros and cons. Perhaps we just call it thought. 

Each time I’ve considered the symptoms of mental health conditions that cause people to hear voices, I’ve assumed those voices show up as thoughts. Sometimes they do. But other times, people physically hear the voices. The voices manifest. People hear the voices as if someone were speaking directly into their ears.

Maybe I’ve just missed this. Maybe it’s obvious that when we talk about someone who hears voices, everyone else understands that we’re referring to a delusion that the brain processes as realty. Maybe I just didn’t get it. Now I do. 

The voices crowded my focus. If I dealt with voices speaking to me, I have no idea how I would function. I don’t know how I’d resist their constant commentary, their urging and their destruction. They flustered me, and they left me troubled after only a few minutes. I can’t understand what it’s like to fight through those voices every day, but I’m now more aware of the struggle and of my own ignorance.

 

subscribe to sdpb email updates TileAd_Beatsupport_300x250.png food and cooking banner image learning blog link living blog link news and information blog link science and technology blog link sports blog link image

The Latest From SDPB Radio News

State Dems Forcing Nursing Home Funding Issue

Two bills that call for increasing payments to nursing home facilities are now in the appropriations committee. Both...

Judge Lifts Injunction On KXL Pipe Prep; Keeps Ban On Building Worker Camps

A Montana federal judge has loosened restrictions on preconstruction activities for the Keystone XL pipeline. The...

KXL Pipeline Heads To 9th Circuit Appeals

The Keystone XL pipeline has landed in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. That court has opened five cases stemming...

State PUC Approves Dakota Range Three

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission approves a permit for a wind farm in Grant and Roberts counties. Dakota...

Weekend Snowstorm En Route

Forecasters call for additional snowfall accumulations across most of the state this weekend. The National Weather...

Statehouse Podcast: House Passes Hemp Bill, Lawmakers Won't Lift Restrictions on Sex Crimes

A House bill that legalizes the growth, production and processing of industrial hemp is now headed to the Senate...

Statehouse Podcast: Indigenous Language, Civics Test, Hemp

An effort to codify the official indigenous language of state. The House Education Committee is advancing a bill...

Lee Strubinger's Update On Revenue Projections And Sales Taxes

In The Moment ... February 15, 2019 Show 517 Hour 1 SDPB's Political reporter Lee Strubinger brought an update from...

Stay Craft SoDak

In The Moment ... February 15, 2019 Show 517 Hour 1 Calling all South Dakota crafters “Stay Crafty SoDak” is a new...

The Latest from NPR News

Queen And Lambert To Rock The Oscars

Bohemian Rhapsody, a biopic about Queen's late frontman Freddie Mercury, is up for five awards. Two surviving band...

Facebook Has Behaved Like 'Digital Gangsters,' U.K. Parliament Report Says

"The age of inadequate self-regulation must come to an end," says Damian Collins, chair of the committee behind the...

In Arkansas, Thousands Of People Have Lost Medicaid Coverage Over New Work Rule

The state now requires many of its Medicaid beneficiaries to work, go to school or volunteer in order to keep their...

Massive Loss Of Thousands Of Hives Afflicts Orchard Growers And Beekeepers

Honey bees deal with many stressors: chemicals, climate change and viruses. But this year, a tiny mite has wiped out...

Graham Vows To Investigate 'Administrative Coup' In FBI, Justice Department

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told CBS and NPR that officials had discussed invoking the 25th Amendment...

The History Of American Imperialism, From Bloody Conquest To Bird Poop

Historian Daniel Immerwahr shares surprising stories of U.S. territorial expansion, including how the desire for...