‘Bombarded by voices’

I was born in 1962 in Sydney, Australia. My father had been
stationed there when he was in the navy. My grandfather died in
1972 and we returned to the UK to look after my grandmother. We
moved a lot during my formative years. This, combined with living
in two countries, led to a lack of cultural identity. I have two
older sisters who are well and a younger brother who now has some
mental health problems. My mother is still living, but my father
died of cancer in 2001.

My last couple of years at school were rather rebellious, though I
managed to leave with two O levels and three CSEs. I left home as
early as possible, aged 16, and became involved with drink and
drugs. At the age of 20 I met a girl and fell in love. We moved in
together and within a couple of years she became pregnant. The
child, now a beautiful young woman, was planned. I had various jobs
during this time but also a long period of unemployment. My work
was mainly in engineering.

My illness began in 1984. The onset was sudden and acute. My mind
was being bombarded with voices which were very abusive and
derogatory. For example, they would call me a child molester, a
pervert, a lecher and the like. This frightened me and for a while
I hid away in a bedroom, not coming out for days at a time.

My partner took me to see a doctor. I was admitted to hospital.
After a while there I felt better and discharged myself, which I
realise now was a big mistake. Before long the voices were back. By
now my partner was expecting our second child. There was another
aspect to the voices now. They weren’t just calling me names, they
were telling me that my wife was being unfaithful with my friends
and they laughed at me. I believed that the radio and TV were
controlling and listening to my thoughts. I couldn’t cope with this
and made various suicide attempts, including overdoses, lying down
in front of traffic and trying to jump from a moving car.

My partner couldn’t cope with having a mad husband and having to
manage two young children, so she took out an injunction against me
and I left. My parents found out and took me back home. They
persuaded me to go into hospital as a voluntary patient. I was in
there three months and took prescribed medication. I resented being
in there at the time but now I realise that it was the best place
for me.

I discovered a lot about myself while I was there. After discharge,
I attended day hospital, which I found strict. The best therapy I
had was attending a Mind drop-in centre. Here I felt more at home
and able to talk. I have managed to reduce my medication and the
side-effects, such as weight gain. My symptoms have subsided and I
live quite a normal lifestyle.

I am starting a social services course this year, a certificate in
community mental health care. This has enabled me to acquire an
identity other than that of a mental health patient, that of being
a student. This makes a big difference to me.

Terry Campbell is a mental health service user. He has used
a pseudonym.

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