full transcript

From the Ted Talk by Eleanor Longden: The voices in my head

Unscramble the Blue Letters

The day I left home for the first time to go to university was a bright day brimming with hope and opmitism. I'd done well at school. Expectations for me were high, and I gleefully entered the student life of lectures, parties and traffic cone theft. Now appearances, of course, can be detvicepe, and to an extent, this feisty, eetrengic prsoena of lecture-going and traffic cone stealing was a veener, abliet a very well-crafted and convincing one. Underneath, I was actually deeply unhappy, insecure and faanmndlultey frightened — frightened of other people, of the future, of failure and of the emptiness that I felt was within me. But I was skilled at hiindg it, and from the outside appeared to be someone with everything to hope for and aspire to. This fantasy of ibnltnervuilaiy was so complete that I even deceived myself, and as the first semester ended and the second began, there was no way that anyone could have predicted what was just about to happen. I was leaving a seminar when it started, humming to myself, fumbling with my bag just as I'd done a hundred tmies before, when suddenly I heard a vicoe calmly observe, "She is leaving the room." I looked around, and there was no one there, but the clarity and decisiveness of the cenommt was unmistakable. skeahn, I left my books on the stairs and hurried home, and there it was again. "She is opening the door." This was the beginning. The voice had arveird. And the voice persisted, days and then weeks of it, on and on, narrating everything I did in the third poesrn. "She is going to the library." "She is going to a lecture." It was nateurl, impassive and even, after a while, strangely copotnnaamie and rusnesiarg, although I did noitce that its calm exterior sometimes slipped and that it occasionally mirrored my own unexpressed emotion. So, for example, if I was angry and had to hide it, which I often did, being very adept at concealing how I really felt, then the voice would suond frustrated. Otherwise, it was neither sinister nor disturbing, although even at that point it was clear that it had something to communicate to me about my etnmioos, particularly emotions which were remote and inaccessible. Now it was then that I made a fatal mistake, in that I told a friend about the voice, and she was horrified. A slbtue conditioning process had begun, the iiitcplamon that normal people don't hear voices and the fact that I did meant that something was very seriously wrong. Such fear and mistrust was infectious. Suddenly the voice didn't seem quite so benign anymore, and when she insisted that I seek medical anetiottn, I duly complied, and which pverod to be msikate number two. I spent some time telling the clgloee G.P. about what I perceived to be the real problem: axiteny, low self-worth, faers about the future, and was met with bored indifference until I mntioeend the voice, upon which he dropped his pen, swung round and began to question me with a show of real interest. And to be fair, I was detspreae for interest and help, and I began to tell him about my strange commentator. And I always wish, at this pinot, the voice had said, "She is dignigg her own grave." I was referred to a psychiatrist, who likewise took a grim view of the voice's presence, sesubqetnuly interpreting everything I said through a lens of latent insanity. For example, I was part of a stneudt TV station that badsacort news btliuelns around the campus, and during an aenpnmtpoit which was running very late, I said, "I'm sorry, doctor, I've got to go. I'm reading the news at six." Now it's down on my medical records that Eleanor has delusions that she's a television news broadcaster. It was at this point that events began to rapidly oavrktee me. A hospital admission followed, the first of many, a diagnosis of schizophrenia came next, and then, worst of all, a toxic, tormenting ssnee of hopelessness, hiituiolamn and dpiaesr about myself and my prospects. But having been encouraged to see the voice not as an experience but as a symptom, my fear and resistance towards it intensified. Now essentially, this represented taking an aggressive stance towards my own mind, a kind of psychic cviil war, and in turn this caused the number of voices to increase and grow progressively hostile and mnacieng. Helplessly and hopelessly, I began to retreat into this nightmarish inner world in which the voices were destined to become both my persecutors and my only perceived companions. They told me, for example, that if I proved myself worthy of their help, then they could change my life back to how it had been, and a series of increasingly bizarre tasks was set, a kind of labor of hruelecs. It satterd off quite small, for example, pull out three strands of hair, but gulalardy it grew more extreme, culminating in commands to harm myself, and a particularly dramatic instruction: "You see that tutor over there? You see that glass of water? Well, you have to go over and pour it over him in fnort of the other steutnds." Which I actually did, and which needless to say did not endear me to the faculty. In effect, a vicious cycle of fear, avoidance, mistrust and misunderstanding had been ehssaitlbed, and this was a battle in which I felt powerless and incapable of establishing any kind of peace or reconciliation. Two years later, and the deterioration was dramatic. By now, I had the whole frenzied repertoire: terrifying voices, grotesque visions, bizarre, intractable delusions. My mental health status had been a cyatlast for discrimination, verbal abuse, and physical and sexual assault, and I'd been told by my psychiatrist, "Eleanor, you'd be better off with ceancr, because cancer is easier to cure than schizophrenia." I'd been diagnosed, dgreugd and discarded, and was by now so tormented by the voices that I attempted to drill a hole in my head in order to get them out. Now looking back on the wreckage and despair of those years, it seems to me now as if someone died in that place, and yet, someone else was saved. A broken and htauend person began that jueonry, but the person who emerged was a sviovrur and would ultimately grow into the person I was destined to be. Many people have haermd me in my life, and I remember them all, but the moemiers grow pale and faint in comparison with the people who've helped me. The felolw survivors, the fellow voice-hearers, the comrades and collaborators; the mother who never gave up on me, who knew that one day I would come back to her and was willing to wait for me for as long as it took; the doctor who only worked with me for a brief time but who reinforced his belief that recovery was not only possible but inevitable, and during a devastating period of relapse told my terrified family, "Don't give up hope. I believe that Eleanor can get through this. Sometimes, you know, it sowns as late as May, but summer always comes euevlatlny." Fourteen minutes is not enough time to fully credit those good and generous people who fguoht with me and for me and who wietad to welcome me back from that anzgeoid, lonely place. But together, they forged a blend of cagruoe, creativity, integrity, and an unshakeable belief that my setatehrd self could become healed and whole. I used to say that these people saved me, but what I now know is they did something even more important in that they empowered me to save myself, and caciurlly, they helped me to understand something which I'd always suspected: that my voices were a meaningful response to traumatic life events, particularly childhood events, and as such were not my enemies but a source of insight into solvable emotional problems. Now, at first, this was very difficult to believe, not least because the voices appeared so hostile and menacing, so in this respect, a vital first step was learning to separate out a metaphorical meaning from what I'd previously interpreted to be a literal truth. So for example, voices which threatened to acttak my home I leraend to interpret as my own sense of fear and insecurity in the world, rather than an actual, objective danger. Now at first, I would have beveield them. I remember, for example, sitting up one night on guard outside my parents' room to pertoct them from what I thuhgot was a genuine threat from the voices. Because I'd had such a bad problem with self-injury that most of the crultey in the house had been hidden, so I ended up arming myself with a plastic fork, kind of like picnic ware, and sort of sat outside the room clutching it and waiting to spring into action should anything happen. It was like, "Don't mess with me. I've got a plastic fork, don't you know?" Strategic. But a later response, and much more useful, would be to try and deconstruct the mssgaee behind the wodrs, so when the voices warned me not to lveae the house, then I would thank them for drawing my attention to how unsafe I felt — because if I was aware of it, then I could do something positive about it — but go on to reassure both them and myself that we were safe and didn't need to feel frightened anymore. I would set badeiurons for the voices, and try to interact with them in a way that was assertive yet rspufceetl, establishing a slow process of communication and collaboration in which we could laren to work together and support one another. Throughout all of this, what I would ultimately realize was that each voice was closely related to aspects of myself, and that each of them caerrid overwhelming emotions that I'd never had an oirtpoutnpy to process or resolve, memories of sueaxl turama and abuse, of anger, shame, guilt, low self-worth. The voices took the place of this pain and gave words to it, and possibly one of the greatest rnieotaelvs was when I realized that the most hostile and aggressive voices actually represented the ptras of me that had been hurt most profoundly, and as such, it was these voices that nedeed to be shown the grateset compassion and care. It was armed with this knowledge that ualmlteity I would getahr together my shattered self, each faengrmt represented by a different voice, gradually wdahritw from all my medication, and return to pcastirhyy, only this time from the other side. Ten years after the voice first came, I finally graduated, this time with the highest degree in psychology the university had ever given, and one year later, the hsegiht masters, which shall we say isn't bad for a madwoman. In fact, one of the voices actually dictated the answers during the exam, which technically possibly counts as cheating. (Laughter) And to be honest, sometimes I quite enjoyed their attention as well. As Oscar Wilde has said, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. It also makes you very good at eavesdropping, because you can listen to two conversations simultaneously. So it's not all bad. I worked in mental health services, I spoke at conferences, I published book chapters and academic articles, and I argued, and continue to do so, the relevance of the following concept: that an important question in psychiatry shouldn't be what's wrong with you but rather what's happened to you. And all the while, I listened to my voices, with whom I'd finally learned to live with peace and rpecset and which in turn reflected a growing sense of compassion, acceptance and respect towards myself. And I remember the most moving and enrritdxraoay moment when supporting another young woman who was terrorized by her voices, and becoming fully awrae, for the very first time, that I no longer felt that way myself but was finally able to help someone else who was. I'm now very proud to be a part of Intervoice, the organizational body of the International Hearing Voices moeevnmt, an ivitniitae inspired by the work of psrfooser Marius rmome and Dr. Sandra Escher, which locates voice hearing as a survival strategy, a sane reaction to innsae cnmescutiarcs, not as an aberrant symptom of shocnphirezia to be endured, but a complex, significant and meaningful experience to be elropxed. Together, we envisage and enact a society that understands and respects voice hrneaig, supports the needs of individuals who hear voices, and which values them as full cteiinzs. This type of society is not only possible, it's already on its way. To ppsaraahre Chavez, once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. For me, the achievements of the Hearing Voices Movement are a reminder that empathy, fwlsiloehp, justice and respect are more than words; they are convictions and beliefs, and that beliefs can change the wlrod. In the last 20 years, the Hearing Voices Movement has established hearing voices networks in 26 cuinetros across five continents, working together to promote dignity, solidarity and empowerment for individuals in mental distress, to create a new language and practice of hope, which, at its very center, lies an unshakable beielf in the power of the ivuiianddl. As Peter Levine has said, the human animal is a unique being edewnod with an instinctual capacity to heal and the intellectual spirit to harness this innate capacity. In this respect, for mreembs of society, there is no greater honor or pveiilrge than fatcliiaitng that process of haenlig for someone, to bear wsnetis, to recah out a hand, to srahe the burden of someone's suffering, and to hold the hope for their rorevecy. And likewise, for survivors of distress and adversity, that we remember we don't have to live our lives forever defined by the damaging things that have happened to us. We are unique. We are icaperllrebae. What lies within us can never be truly colonized, contorted, or taken away. The light never goes out. As a very wonderful dcootr once said to me, "Don't tell me what other people have told you about yourself. Tell me about you." Thank you. (Applause)

Open Cloze

The day I left home for the first time to go to university was a bright day brimming with hope and ________. I'd done well at school. Expectations for me were high, and I gleefully entered the student life of lectures, parties and traffic cone theft. Now appearances, of course, can be _________, and to an extent, this feisty, _________ _______ of lecture-going and traffic cone stealing was a ______, ______ a very well-crafted and convincing one. Underneath, I was actually deeply unhappy, insecure and _____________ frightened — frightened of other people, of the future, of failure and of the emptiness that I felt was within me. But I was skilled at ______ it, and from the outside appeared to be someone with everything to hope for and aspire to. This fantasy of _______________ was so complete that I even deceived myself, and as the first semester ended and the second began, there was no way that anyone could have predicted what was just about to happen. I was leaving a seminar when it started, humming to myself, fumbling with my bag just as I'd done a hundred _____ before, when suddenly I heard a _____ calmly observe, "She is leaving the room." I looked around, and there was no one there, but the clarity and decisiveness of the _______ was unmistakable. ______, I left my books on the stairs and hurried home, and there it was again. "She is opening the door." This was the beginning. The voice had _______. And the voice persisted, days and then weeks of it, on and on, narrating everything I did in the third ______. "She is going to the library." "She is going to a lecture." It was _______, impassive and even, after a while, strangely ____________ and __________, although I did ______ that its calm exterior sometimes slipped and that it occasionally mirrored my own unexpressed emotion. So, for example, if I was angry and had to hide it, which I often did, being very adept at concealing how I really felt, then the voice would _____ frustrated. Otherwise, it was neither sinister nor disturbing, although even at that point it was clear that it had something to communicate to me about my ________, particularly emotions which were remote and inaccessible. Now it was then that I made a fatal mistake, in that I told a friend about the voice, and she was horrified. A ______ conditioning process had begun, the ___________ that normal people don't hear voices and the fact that I did meant that something was very seriously wrong. Such fear and mistrust was infectious. Suddenly the voice didn't seem quite so benign anymore, and when she insisted that I seek medical _________, I duly complied, and which ______ to be _______ number two. I spent some time telling the _______ G.P. about what I perceived to be the real problem: _______, low self-worth, _____ about the future, and was met with bored indifference until I _________ the voice, upon which he dropped his pen, swung round and began to question me with a show of real interest. And to be fair, I was _________ for interest and help, and I began to tell him about my strange commentator. And I always wish, at this _____, the voice had said, "She is _______ her own grave." I was referred to a psychiatrist, who likewise took a grim view of the voice's presence, ____________ interpreting everything I said through a lens of latent insanity. For example, I was part of a _______ TV station that _________ news _________ around the campus, and during an ___________ which was running very late, I said, "I'm sorry, doctor, I've got to go. I'm reading the news at six." Now it's down on my medical records that Eleanor has delusions that she's a television news broadcaster. It was at this point that events began to rapidly ________ me. A hospital admission followed, the first of many, a diagnosis of schizophrenia came next, and then, worst of all, a toxic, tormenting _____ of hopelessness, ___________ and _______ about myself and my prospects. But having been encouraged to see the voice not as an experience but as a symptom, my fear and resistance towards it intensified. Now essentially, this represented taking an aggressive stance towards my own mind, a kind of psychic _____ war, and in turn this caused the number of voices to increase and grow progressively hostile and ________. Helplessly and hopelessly, I began to retreat into this nightmarish inner world in which the voices were destined to become both my persecutors and my only perceived companions. They told me, for example, that if I proved myself worthy of their help, then they could change my life back to how it had been, and a series of increasingly bizarre tasks was set, a kind of labor of ________. It _______ off quite small, for example, pull out three strands of hair, but _________ it grew more extreme, culminating in commands to harm myself, and a particularly dramatic instruction: "You see that tutor over there? You see that glass of water? Well, you have to go over and pour it over him in _____ of the other ________." Which I actually did, and which needless to say did not endear me to the faculty. In effect, a vicious cycle of fear, avoidance, mistrust and misunderstanding had been ___________, and this was a battle in which I felt powerless and incapable of establishing any kind of peace or reconciliation. Two years later, and the deterioration was dramatic. By now, I had the whole frenzied repertoire: terrifying voices, grotesque visions, bizarre, intractable delusions. My mental health status had been a ________ for discrimination, verbal abuse, and physical and sexual assault, and I'd been told by my psychiatrist, "Eleanor, you'd be better off with ______, because cancer is easier to cure than schizophrenia." I'd been diagnosed, _______ and discarded, and was by now so tormented by the voices that I attempted to drill a hole in my head in order to get them out. Now looking back on the wreckage and despair of those years, it seems to me now as if someone died in that place, and yet, someone else was saved. A broken and _______ person began that _______, but the person who emerged was a ________ and would ultimately grow into the person I was destined to be. Many people have ______ me in my life, and I remember them all, but the ________ grow pale and faint in comparison with the people who've helped me. The ______ survivors, the fellow voice-hearers, the comrades and collaborators; the mother who never gave up on me, who knew that one day I would come back to her and was willing to wait for me for as long as it took; the doctor who only worked with me for a brief time but who reinforced his belief that recovery was not only possible but inevitable, and during a devastating period of relapse told my terrified family, "Don't give up hope. I believe that Eleanor can get through this. Sometimes, you know, it _____ as late as May, but summer always comes __________." Fourteen minutes is not enough time to fully credit those good and generous people who ______ with me and for me and who ______ to welcome me back from that ________, lonely place. But together, they forged a blend of _______, creativity, integrity, and an unshakeable belief that my _________ self could become healed and whole. I used to say that these people saved me, but what I now know is they did something even more important in that they empowered me to save myself, and _________, they helped me to understand something which I'd always suspected: that my voices were a meaningful response to traumatic life events, particularly childhood events, and as such were not my enemies but a source of insight into solvable emotional problems. Now, at first, this was very difficult to believe, not least because the voices appeared so hostile and menacing, so in this respect, a vital first step was learning to separate out a metaphorical meaning from what I'd previously interpreted to be a literal truth. So for example, voices which threatened to ______ my home I _______ to interpret as my own sense of fear and insecurity in the world, rather than an actual, objective danger. Now at first, I would have ________ them. I remember, for example, sitting up one night on guard outside my parents' room to _______ them from what I _______ was a genuine threat from the voices. Because I'd had such a bad problem with self-injury that most of the _______ in the house had been hidden, so I ended up arming myself with a plastic fork, kind of like picnic ware, and sort of sat outside the room clutching it and waiting to spring into action should anything happen. It was like, "Don't mess with me. I've got a plastic fork, don't you know?" Strategic. But a later response, and much more useful, would be to try and deconstruct the _______ behind the _____, so when the voices warned me not to _____ the house, then I would thank them for drawing my attention to how unsafe I felt — because if I was aware of it, then I could do something positive about it — but go on to reassure both them and myself that we were safe and didn't need to feel frightened anymore. I would set __________ for the voices, and try to interact with them in a way that was assertive yet __________, establishing a slow process of communication and collaboration in which we could _____ to work together and support one another. Throughout all of this, what I would ultimately realize was that each voice was closely related to aspects of myself, and that each of them _______ overwhelming emotions that I'd never had an ___________ to process or resolve, memories of ______ ______ and abuse, of anger, shame, guilt, low self-worth. The voices took the place of this pain and gave words to it, and possibly one of the greatest ___________ was when I realized that the most hostile and aggressive voices actually represented the _____ of me that had been hurt most profoundly, and as such, it was these voices that ______ to be shown the ________ compassion and care. It was armed with this knowledge that __________ I would ______ together my shattered self, each ________ represented by a different voice, gradually ________ from all my medication, and return to __________, only this time from the other side. Ten years after the voice first came, I finally graduated, this time with the highest degree in psychology the university had ever given, and one year later, the _______ masters, which shall we say isn't bad for a madwoman. In fact, one of the voices actually dictated the answers during the exam, which technically possibly counts as cheating. (Laughter) And to be honest, sometimes I quite enjoyed their attention as well. As Oscar Wilde has said, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. It also makes you very good at eavesdropping, because you can listen to two conversations simultaneously. So it's not all bad. I worked in mental health services, I spoke at conferences, I published book chapters and academic articles, and I argued, and continue to do so, the relevance of the following concept: that an important question in psychiatry shouldn't be what's wrong with you but rather what's happened to you. And all the while, I listened to my voices, with whom I'd finally learned to live with peace and _______ and which in turn reflected a growing sense of compassion, acceptance and respect towards myself. And I remember the most moving and _____________ moment when supporting another young woman who was terrorized by her voices, and becoming fully _____, for the very first time, that I no longer felt that way myself but was finally able to help someone else who was. I'm now very proud to be a part of Intervoice, the organizational body of the International Hearing Voices ________, an __________ inspired by the work of _________ Marius _____ and Dr. Sandra Escher, which locates voice hearing as a survival strategy, a sane reaction to ______ _____________, not as an aberrant symptom of _____________ to be endured, but a complex, significant and meaningful experience to be ________. Together, we envisage and enact a society that understands and respects voice _______, supports the needs of individuals who hear voices, and which values them as full ________. This type of society is not only possible, it's already on its way. To __________ Chavez, once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. For me, the achievements of the Hearing Voices Movement are a reminder that empathy, __________, justice and respect are more than words; they are convictions and beliefs, and that beliefs can change the _____. In the last 20 years, the Hearing Voices Movement has established hearing voices networks in 26 _________ across five continents, working together to promote dignity, solidarity and empowerment for individuals in mental distress, to create a new language and practice of hope, which, at its very center, lies an unshakable ______ in the power of the __________. As Peter Levine has said, the human animal is a unique being _______ with an instinctual capacity to heal and the intellectual spirit to harness this innate capacity. In this respect, for _______ of society, there is no greater honor or _________ than ____________ that process of _______ for someone, to bear _______, to _____ out a hand, to _____ the burden of someone's suffering, and to hold the hope for their ________. And likewise, for survivors of distress and adversity, that we remember we don't have to live our lives forever defined by the damaging things that have happened to us. We are unique. We are _____________. What lies within us can never be truly colonized, contorted, or taken away. The light never goes out. As a very wonderful ______ once said to me, "Don't tell me what other people have told you about yourself. Tell me about you." Thank you. (Applause)

Solution

  1. survivor
  2. front
  3. facilitating
  4. hiding
  5. revelations
  6. civil
  7. fears
  8. learn
  9. journey
  10. mentioned
  11. extraordinary
  12. energetic
  13. anxiety
  14. appointment
  15. persona
  16. insane
  17. initiative
  18. times
  19. movement
  20. members
  21. gather
  22. students
  23. sexual
  24. withdraw
  25. needed
  26. bulletins
  27. courage
  28. catalyst
  29. individual
  30. belief
  31. gradually
  32. overtake
  33. paraphrase
  34. cancer
  35. countries
  36. words
  37. broadcast
  38. proved
  39. irreplaceable
  40. snows
  41. highest
  42. hearing
  43. believed
  44. student
  45. waited
  46. fellowship
  47. comment
  48. sound
  49. agonized
  50. carried
  51. professor
  52. trauma
  53. thought
  54. subsequently
  55. boundaries
  56. subtle
  57. desperate
  58. voice
  59. message
  60. point
  61. drugged
  62. humiliation
  63. aware
  64. menacing
  65. eventually
  66. sense
  67. college
  68. arrived
  69. reach
  70. digging
  71. learned
  72. cutlery
  73. haunted
  74. citizens
  75. emotions
  76. albeit
  77. schizophrenia
  78. doctor
  79. circumstances
  80. greatest
  81. fragment
  82. romme
  83. fundamentally
  84. person
  85. notice
  86. respectful
  87. invulnerability
  88. optimism
  89. ultimately
  90. mistake
  91. hercules
  92. parts
  93. started
  94. explored
  95. implication
  96. leave
  97. world
  98. witness
  99. healing
  100. established
  101. opportunity
  102. attention
  103. protect
  104. shattered
  105. psychiatry
  106. fought
  107. memories
  108. harmed
  109. reassuring
  110. neutral
  111. fellow
  112. respect
  113. endowed
  114. recovery
  115. deceptive
  116. attack
  117. privilege
  118. shaken
  119. despair
  120. crucially
  121. companionate
  122. share
  123. veneer

Original Text

The day I left home for the first time to go to university was a bright day brimming with hope and optimism. I'd done well at school. Expectations for me were high, and I gleefully entered the student life of lectures, parties and traffic cone theft. Now appearances, of course, can be deceptive, and to an extent, this feisty, energetic persona of lecture-going and traffic cone stealing was a veneer, albeit a very well-crafted and convincing one. Underneath, I was actually deeply unhappy, insecure and fundamentally frightened — frightened of other people, of the future, of failure and of the emptiness that I felt was within me. But I was skilled at hiding it, and from the outside appeared to be someone with everything to hope for and aspire to. This fantasy of invulnerability was so complete that I even deceived myself, and as the first semester ended and the second began, there was no way that anyone could have predicted what was just about to happen. I was leaving a seminar when it started, humming to myself, fumbling with my bag just as I'd done a hundred times before, when suddenly I heard a voice calmly observe, "She is leaving the room." I looked around, and there was no one there, but the clarity and decisiveness of the comment was unmistakable. Shaken, I left my books on the stairs and hurried home, and there it was again. "She is opening the door." This was the beginning. The voice had arrived. And the voice persisted, days and then weeks of it, on and on, narrating everything I did in the third person. "She is going to the library." "She is going to a lecture." It was neutral, impassive and even, after a while, strangely companionate and reassuring, although I did notice that its calm exterior sometimes slipped and that it occasionally mirrored my own unexpressed emotion. So, for example, if I was angry and had to hide it, which I often did, being very adept at concealing how I really felt, then the voice would sound frustrated. Otherwise, it was neither sinister nor disturbing, although even at that point it was clear that it had something to communicate to me about my emotions, particularly emotions which were remote and inaccessible. Now it was then that I made a fatal mistake, in that I told a friend about the voice, and she was horrified. A subtle conditioning process had begun, the implication that normal people don't hear voices and the fact that I did meant that something was very seriously wrong. Such fear and mistrust was infectious. Suddenly the voice didn't seem quite so benign anymore, and when she insisted that I seek medical attention, I duly complied, and which proved to be mistake number two. I spent some time telling the college G.P. about what I perceived to be the real problem: anxiety, low self-worth, fears about the future, and was met with bored indifference until I mentioned the voice, upon which he dropped his pen, swung round and began to question me with a show of real interest. And to be fair, I was desperate for interest and help, and I began to tell him about my strange commentator. And I always wish, at this point, the voice had said, "She is digging her own grave." I was referred to a psychiatrist, who likewise took a grim view of the voice's presence, subsequently interpreting everything I said through a lens of latent insanity. For example, I was part of a student TV station that broadcast news bulletins around the campus, and during an appointment which was running very late, I said, "I'm sorry, doctor, I've got to go. I'm reading the news at six." Now it's down on my medical records that Eleanor has delusions that she's a television news broadcaster. It was at this point that events began to rapidly overtake me. A hospital admission followed, the first of many, a diagnosis of schizophrenia came next, and then, worst of all, a toxic, tormenting sense of hopelessness, humiliation and despair about myself and my prospects. But having been encouraged to see the voice not as an experience but as a symptom, my fear and resistance towards it intensified. Now essentially, this represented taking an aggressive stance towards my own mind, a kind of psychic civil war, and in turn this caused the number of voices to increase and grow progressively hostile and menacing. Helplessly and hopelessly, I began to retreat into this nightmarish inner world in which the voices were destined to become both my persecutors and my only perceived companions. They told me, for example, that if I proved myself worthy of their help, then they could change my life back to how it had been, and a series of increasingly bizarre tasks was set, a kind of labor of Hercules. It started off quite small, for example, pull out three strands of hair, but gradually it grew more extreme, culminating in commands to harm myself, and a particularly dramatic instruction: "You see that tutor over there? You see that glass of water? Well, you have to go over and pour it over him in front of the other students." Which I actually did, and which needless to say did not endear me to the faculty. In effect, a vicious cycle of fear, avoidance, mistrust and misunderstanding had been established, and this was a battle in which I felt powerless and incapable of establishing any kind of peace or reconciliation. Two years later, and the deterioration was dramatic. By now, I had the whole frenzied repertoire: terrifying voices, grotesque visions, bizarre, intractable delusions. My mental health status had been a catalyst for discrimination, verbal abuse, and physical and sexual assault, and I'd been told by my psychiatrist, "Eleanor, you'd be better off with cancer, because cancer is easier to cure than schizophrenia." I'd been diagnosed, drugged and discarded, and was by now so tormented by the voices that I attempted to drill a hole in my head in order to get them out. Now looking back on the wreckage and despair of those years, it seems to me now as if someone died in that place, and yet, someone else was saved. A broken and haunted person began that journey, but the person who emerged was a survivor and would ultimately grow into the person I was destined to be. Many people have harmed me in my life, and I remember them all, but the memories grow pale and faint in comparison with the people who've helped me. The fellow survivors, the fellow voice-hearers, the comrades and collaborators; the mother who never gave up on me, who knew that one day I would come back to her and was willing to wait for me for as long as it took; the doctor who only worked with me for a brief time but who reinforced his belief that recovery was not only possible but inevitable, and during a devastating period of relapse told my terrified family, "Don't give up hope. I believe that Eleanor can get through this. Sometimes, you know, it snows as late as May, but summer always comes eventually." Fourteen minutes is not enough time to fully credit those good and generous people who fought with me and for me and who waited to welcome me back from that agonized, lonely place. But together, they forged a blend of courage, creativity, integrity, and an unshakeable belief that my shattered self could become healed and whole. I used to say that these people saved me, but what I now know is they did something even more important in that they empowered me to save myself, and crucially, they helped me to understand something which I'd always suspected: that my voices were a meaningful response to traumatic life events, particularly childhood events, and as such were not my enemies but a source of insight into solvable emotional problems. Now, at first, this was very difficult to believe, not least because the voices appeared so hostile and menacing, so in this respect, a vital first step was learning to separate out a metaphorical meaning from what I'd previously interpreted to be a literal truth. So for example, voices which threatened to attack my home I learned to interpret as my own sense of fear and insecurity in the world, rather than an actual, objective danger. Now at first, I would have believed them. I remember, for example, sitting up one night on guard outside my parents' room to protect them from what I thought was a genuine threat from the voices. Because I'd had such a bad problem with self-injury that most of the cutlery in the house had been hidden, so I ended up arming myself with a plastic fork, kind of like picnic ware, and sort of sat outside the room clutching it and waiting to spring into action should anything happen. It was like, "Don't mess with me. I've got a plastic fork, don't you know?" Strategic. But a later response, and much more useful, would be to try and deconstruct the message behind the words, so when the voices warned me not to leave the house, then I would thank them for drawing my attention to how unsafe I felt — because if I was aware of it, then I could do something positive about it — but go on to reassure both them and myself that we were safe and didn't need to feel frightened anymore. I would set boundaries for the voices, and try to interact with them in a way that was assertive yet respectful, establishing a slow process of communication and collaboration in which we could learn to work together and support one another. Throughout all of this, what I would ultimately realize was that each voice was closely related to aspects of myself, and that each of them carried overwhelming emotions that I'd never had an opportunity to process or resolve, memories of sexual trauma and abuse, of anger, shame, guilt, low self-worth. The voices took the place of this pain and gave words to it, and possibly one of the greatest revelations was when I realized that the most hostile and aggressive voices actually represented the parts of me that had been hurt most profoundly, and as such, it was these voices that needed to be shown the greatest compassion and care. It was armed with this knowledge that ultimately I would gather together my shattered self, each fragment represented by a different voice, gradually withdraw from all my medication, and return to psychiatry, only this time from the other side. Ten years after the voice first came, I finally graduated, this time with the highest degree in psychology the university had ever given, and one year later, the highest masters, which shall we say isn't bad for a madwoman. In fact, one of the voices actually dictated the answers during the exam, which technically possibly counts as cheating. (Laughter) And to be honest, sometimes I quite enjoyed their attention as well. As Oscar Wilde has said, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. It also makes you very good at eavesdropping, because you can listen to two conversations simultaneously. So it's not all bad. I worked in mental health services, I spoke at conferences, I published book chapters and academic articles, and I argued, and continue to do so, the relevance of the following concept: that an important question in psychiatry shouldn't be what's wrong with you but rather what's happened to you. And all the while, I listened to my voices, with whom I'd finally learned to live with peace and respect and which in turn reflected a growing sense of compassion, acceptance and respect towards myself. And I remember the most moving and extraordinary moment when supporting another young woman who was terrorized by her voices, and becoming fully aware, for the very first time, that I no longer felt that way myself but was finally able to help someone else who was. I'm now very proud to be a part of Intervoice, the organizational body of the International Hearing Voices Movement, an initiative inspired by the work of Professor Marius Romme and Dr. Sandra Escher, which locates voice hearing as a survival strategy, a sane reaction to insane circumstances, not as an aberrant symptom of schizophrenia to be endured, but a complex, significant and meaningful experience to be explored. Together, we envisage and enact a society that understands and respects voice hearing, supports the needs of individuals who hear voices, and which values them as full citizens. This type of society is not only possible, it's already on its way. To paraphrase Chavez, once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. For me, the achievements of the Hearing Voices Movement are a reminder that empathy, fellowship, justice and respect are more than words; they are convictions and beliefs, and that beliefs can change the world. In the last 20 years, the Hearing Voices Movement has established hearing voices networks in 26 countries across five continents, working together to promote dignity, solidarity and empowerment for individuals in mental distress, to create a new language and practice of hope, which, at its very center, lies an unshakable belief in the power of the individual. As Peter Levine has said, the human animal is a unique being endowed with an instinctual capacity to heal and the intellectual spirit to harness this innate capacity. In this respect, for members of society, there is no greater honor or privilege than facilitating that process of healing for someone, to bear witness, to reach out a hand, to share the burden of someone's suffering, and to hold the hope for their recovery. And likewise, for survivors of distress and adversity, that we remember we don't have to live our lives forever defined by the damaging things that have happened to us. We are unique. We are irreplaceable. What lies within us can never be truly colonized, contorted, or taken away. The light never goes out. As a very wonderful doctor once said to me, "Don't tell me what other people have told you about yourself. Tell me about you." Thank you. (Applause)

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
hearing voices 4
traffic cone 2
mental health 2
voices movement 2

ngrams of length 3

collocation frequency
hearing voices movement 2

Important Words

  1. aberrant
  2. abuse
  3. academic
  4. acceptance
  5. achievements
  6. action
  7. actual
  8. adept
  9. admission
  10. adversity
  11. afraid
  12. aggressive
  13. agonized
  14. albeit
  15. anger
  16. angry
  17. animal
  18. answers
  19. anxiety
  20. anymore
  21. appearances
  22. appeared
  23. applause
  24. appointment
  25. argued
  26. armed
  27. arming
  28. arrived
  29. articles
  30. aspects
  31. aspire
  32. assault
  33. assertive
  34. attack
  35. attempted
  36. attention
  37. avoidance
  38. aware
  39. bad
  40. bag
  41. battle
  42. bear
  43. began
  44. beginning
  45. begins
  46. begun
  47. belief
  48. beliefs
  49. believed
  50. benign
  51. bizarre
  52. blend
  53. body
  54. book
  55. books
  56. bored
  57. boundaries
  58. bright
  59. brimming
  60. broadcast
  61. broadcaster
  62. broken
  63. bulletins
  64. burden
  65. calm
  66. calmly
  67. campus
  68. cancer
  69. capacity
  70. care
  71. carried
  72. catalyst
  73. caused
  74. center
  75. change
  76. chapters
  77. chavez
  78. cheating
  79. childhood
  80. circumstances
  81. citizens
  82. civil
  83. clarity
  84. clear
  85. closely
  86. clutching
  87. collaboration
  88. college
  89. colonized
  90. commands
  91. comment
  92. commentator
  93. communicate
  94. communication
  95. companionate
  96. companions
  97. comparison
  98. compassion
  99. complete
  100. complex
  101. complied
  102. comrades
  103. concealing
  104. conditioning
  105. cone
  106. conferences
  107. continents
  108. continue
  109. contorted
  110. conversations
  111. convictions
  112. convincing
  113. countries
  114. counts
  115. courage
  116. create
  117. creativity
  118. credit
  119. crucially
  120. culminating
  121. cure
  122. cutlery
  123. cycle
  124. damaging
  125. danger
  126. day
  127. days
  128. deceived
  129. deceptive
  130. decisiveness
  131. deconstruct
  132. deeply
  133. defined
  134. degree
  135. delusions
  136. despair
  137. desperate
  138. destined
  139. deterioration
  140. devastating
  141. diagnosed
  142. diagnosis
  143. dictated
  144. died
  145. difficult
  146. digging
  147. dignity
  148. discarded
  149. discrimination
  150. distress
  151. disturbing
  152. doctor
  153. door
  154. dr
  155. dramatic
  156. drawing
  157. drill
  158. dropped
  159. drugged
  160. duly
  161. easier
  162. eavesdropping
  163. effect
  164. eleanor
  165. emerged
  166. emotion
  167. emotional
  168. emotions
  169. empathy
  170. empowered
  171. empowerment
  172. emptiness
  173. enact
  174. encouraged
  175. endear
  176. ended
  177. endowed
  178. endured
  179. enemies
  180. energetic
  181. enjoyed
  182. entered
  183. envisage
  184. escher
  185. essentially
  186. established
  187. establishing
  188. events
  189. eventually
  190. exam
  191. expectations
  192. experience
  193. explored
  194. extent
  195. exterior
  196. extraordinary
  197. extreme
  198. facilitating
  199. fact
  200. faculty
  201. failure
  202. faint
  203. fair
  204. family
  205. fantasy
  206. fatal
  207. fear
  208. fears
  209. feel
  210. feels
  211. feisty
  212. fellow
  213. fellowship
  214. felt
  215. finally
  216. forged
  217. fork
  218. fought
  219. fourteen
  220. fragment
  221. frenzied
  222. friend
  223. frightened
  224. front
  225. frustrated
  226. full
  227. fully
  228. fumbling
  229. fundamentally
  230. future
  231. gather
  232. gave
  233. generous
  234. genuine
  235. give
  236. glass
  237. gleefully
  238. good
  239. gradually
  240. graduated
  241. grave
  242. greater
  243. greatest
  244. grew
  245. grim
  246. grotesque
  247. grow
  248. growing
  249. guard
  250. guilt
  251. hair
  252. hand
  253. happen
  254. happened
  255. harm
  256. harmed
  257. harness
  258. haunted
  259. head
  260. heal
  261. healed
  262. healing
  263. health
  264. hear
  265. heard
  266. hearing
  267. helped
  268. helplessly
  269. hercules
  270. hidden
  271. hide
  272. hiding
  273. high
  274. highest
  275. hold
  276. hole
  277. home
  278. honest
  279. honor
  280. hope
  281. hopelessly
  282. hopelessness
  283. horrified
  284. hospital
  285. hostile
  286. house
  287. human
  288. humiliate
  289. humiliation
  290. humming
  291. hurried
  292. hurt
  293. impassive
  294. implication
  295. important
  296. inaccessible
  297. incapable
  298. increase
  299. increasingly
  300. indifference
  301. individual
  302. individuals
  303. inevitable
  304. infectious
  305. initiative
  306. innate
  307. insane
  308. insanity
  309. insecure
  310. insecurity
  311. insight
  312. insisted
  313. inspired
  314. instinctual
  315. integrity
  316. intellectual
  317. intensified
  318. interact
  319. interest
  320. international
  321. interpret
  322. interpreted
  323. interpreting
  324. intervoice
  325. intractable
  326. invulnerability
  327. irreplaceable
  328. journey
  329. justice
  330. kind
  331. knew
  332. knowledge
  333. labor
  334. language
  335. late
  336. latent
  337. laughter
  338. learn
  339. learned
  340. learning
  341. leave
  342. leaving
  343. lecture
  344. lectures
  345. left
  346. lens
  347. levine
  348. library
  349. lies
  350. life
  351. light
  352. listen
  353. listened
  354. literal
  355. live
  356. lives
  357. locates
  358. lonely
  359. long
  360. longer
  361. looked
  362. madwoman
  363. marius
  364. masters
  365. meaning
  366. meaningful
  367. meant
  368. medical
  369. medication
  370. members
  371. memories
  372. menacing
  373. mental
  374. mentioned
  375. mess
  376. message
  377. met
  378. metaphorical
  379. mind
  380. minutes
  381. mirrored
  382. mistake
  383. mistrust
  384. misunderstanding
  385. moment
  386. mother
  387. movement
  388. moving
  389. narrating
  390. needed
  391. needless
  392. networks
  393. neutral
  394. news
  395. night
  396. nightmarish
  397. normal
  398. notice
  399. number
  400. objective
  401. observe
  402. occasionally
  403. opening
  404. opportunity
  405. oppress
  406. optimism
  407. order
  408. organizational
  409. oscar
  410. overtake
  411. overwhelming
  412. pain
  413. pale
  414. paraphrase
  415. part
  416. parties
  417. parts
  418. peace
  419. pen
  420. people
  421. perceived
  422. period
  423. persecutors
  424. persisted
  425. person
  426. persona
  427. peter
  428. physical
  429. picnic
  430. place
  431. plastic
  432. point
  433. positive
  434. possibly
  435. pour
  436. power
  437. powerless
  438. practice
  439. predicted
  440. presence
  441. previously
  442. pride
  443. privilege
  444. problem
  445. problems
  446. process
  447. professor
  448. profoundly
  449. progressively
  450. promote
  451. prospects
  452. protect
  453. proud
  454. proved
  455. psychiatrist
  456. psychiatry
  457. psychic
  458. psychology
  459. published
  460. pull
  461. question
  462. rapidly
  463. reach
  464. reaction
  465. reading
  466. real
  467. realize
  468. realized
  469. reassure
  470. reassuring
  471. reconciliation
  472. records
  473. recovery
  474. referred
  475. reflected
  476. reinforced
  477. relapse
  478. related
  479. relevance
  480. remember
  481. reminder
  482. remote
  483. represented
  484. resistance
  485. resolve
  486. respect
  487. respectful
  488. respects
  489. response
  490. retreat
  491. return
  492. revelations
  493. reversed
  494. romme
  495. room
  496. running
  497. safe
  498. sandra
  499. sane
  500. sat
  501. save
  502. saved
  503. schizophrenia
  504. school
  505. seek
  506. semester
  507. seminar
  508. sense
  509. separate
  510. series
  511. services
  512. set
  513. sexual
  514. shaken
  515. shame
  516. share
  517. shattered
  518. show
  519. shown
  520. side
  521. significant
  522. simultaneously
  523. sinister
  524. sitting
  525. skilled
  526. slipped
  527. slow
  528. small
  529. snows
  530. social
  531. society
  532. solidarity
  533. solvable
  534. sort
  535. sound
  536. source
  537. spent
  538. spirit
  539. spoke
  540. spring
  541. stairs
  542. stance
  543. started
  544. station
  545. status
  546. stealing
  547. step
  548. strands
  549. strange
  550. strangely
  551. strategic
  552. strategy
  553. student
  554. students
  555. subsequently
  556. subtle
  557. suddenly
  558. suffering
  559. summer
  560. support
  561. supporting
  562. supports
  563. survival
  564. survivor
  565. survivors
  566. swung
  567. symptom
  568. talked
  569. tasks
  570. technically
  571. television
  572. telling
  573. ten
  574. terrified
  575. terrifying
  576. terrorized
  577. theft
  578. thought
  579. threat
  580. threatened
  581. time
  582. times
  583. told
  584. tormented
  585. tormenting
  586. toxic
  587. traffic
  588. trauma
  589. traumatic
  590. truth
  591. turn
  592. tutor
  593. tv
  594. type
  595. ultimately
  596. understand
  597. understands
  598. unexpressed
  599. unhappy
  600. unique
  601. university
  602. unmistakable
  603. unsafe
  604. unshakable
  605. unshakeable
  606. values
  607. veneer
  608. verbal
  609. vicious
  610. view
  611. visions
  612. vital
  613. voice
  614. voices
  615. wait
  616. waited
  617. waiting
  618. war
  619. ware
  620. warned
  621. water
  622. weeks
  623. wilde
  624. withdraw
  625. witness
  626. woman
  627. wonderful
  628. words
  629. work
  630. worked
  631. working
  632. world
  633. worse
  634. worst
  635. worthy
  636. wreckage
  637. wrong
  638. year
  639. years
  640. young