Day 384

Do ‘normal’ people not have conversations in their heads?

I definitely do. And I know for sure that I am not the only one as often I see people talking to themselves while walking around town. Are they responding to voices that only they can hear or are they all just barking mad?

“This is a really dumb thing to do.”
“She is not listening to me.”
“We should do it this way rather than that.”

“When Eleanor Longden began hearing things, she soon found herself drugged, sectioned and labelled schizophrenic. Then a psychiatrist taught her how to talk back.”

By Kate Hilpern, Published: The Independent, 06 March 2007

Eleanor Longden, 25, started hearing voices when she was a teenager. They weren’t destructive: “It was rather mundane, simply giving me a narration of some of the day-to-day things I was doing. In many ways, the voice was companionate because it was reminding me that I was carrying on with my responsibilities despite feeling so sad inside. There was something constructive about it.”

A group of psychiatrists and psychologists believe it’s time we reconsidered labels such as schizophrenia. They believe we should get people to listen to, and actually engage with the voices inside their heads.

Longden believes her biggest mistake was in telling a friend she was at university with about her experiences. The friend was horrified and insisted she see a psychiatrist, who ignored her unhappiness and homed in on the voices, assuming it meant she had no sense of normality.

Longden was sectioned and hospitalised. The drugs she was coerced into taking did little except cause weight gain, and the terrifying label of schizophrenia she was given was, she believes, directly responsible for the arrival of 12 very hostile inner voices.

“Voices themselves are not a problem; it’s people’s relationship with them that’s important. So, rather than voices being something that we should avoid at all costs – the traditional psychiatric view – we should be trying to get people to face them, understand them and work with them.” Says Dr Rufus May, a psychologist.

Once Eleanor learnt to work with the voices she made peace with them. Her TED talk is an inspiring and informative one, reiterating the fact that dispensing pills in not always the correct solution.

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