#ThisisOxford is Oxford SU’s mental health anti-stigma campaign, aiming to raise awareness of those in our community who are studying with a range of mental health conditions.
Today’s feature is on Biomedical Science student Sophie Thomas, who has written a poem about hearing voices.
I have heard voices since I was eight years old. It started off with a narrator voice who slowly convinced me I was going mad. I told nobody what I was experiencing and gradually became more distressed. I eventually sought help when I was nineteen. I have dissociative unusual experiences: on a good day, I hear voices. On a bad day, I also see things that aren’t there (usually faces in places where there quite clearly aren’t faces). Without medication, the voices cause anxiety to the extent that I can’t swallow and have to be admitted to hospital for IV fluids.
My voices are a part of me and they express emotions I’m not able to display myself. I am learning how to manage my condition and view my voices as a tool for building myself. If there were more awareness of unusual experiences, maybe I would have been able to ask for support earlier. My message to other people going through a similar thing is that they aren’t alone. My message to people who don’t hear voices is that people with unusual experiences aren’t dangerous. We’re far more likely to be the victim of crime than the perpetrators.
Whilst my voices can occasionally be a source of creativity, most of the time they’re just distressing. The below poem describes what life is like with unusual experiences.
Today I woke up
to the sound of a voice
tapping on a window that doesn’t exist.
I do not let it in.
The voice in my bedroom
laces it’s cyanide fingers through my hair
and whispers my name:
a lullaby of all the reasons I cannot sleep.
I am not myself;
that is not my name.
I open my textbook
and a voice flies out of the spine.
I remind the voices that books
do not have nervous systems because they are not alive.
But the book can’t hear me
and neither can the voices.
I gather up all the voices
and shove them in the pocket of my Hufflepuff jacket.
I ignore their silent shrieking
and promise them that I will let them out
before I wash my clothes.
They will emerge shrunken and crumpled,
but just as loud as before.
Sophie is a first-year student at St Edmund Hall, and a committee member of the SU’s official disability campaign, Oxford Students Disability Community. For more information about the work of OSDC, check out their webpage here: https://www.oxfordsu.org/campaigns/OSDC/.
If you have been affected by the issues raised in this blog:
Oxford SU runs has 2 Student Advisors who provide a space for students to talk over their worries in confidence, and offer information on a range of issues which you might encounter. Visit the Advice Section of our website to find out more: https://www.oxfordsu.org/wellbeing/student-advice/.
Rethink Mental Illness is a national charity helping millions of people by challenging attitudes and changing lives. They run an advice and information service from 9:30am – 4pm Monday to Friday [0300 5000 927], and list a range of free, expert factsheets on their website, which you can find here: https://www.rethink.org/about-us/our-mental-health-advice
In an emergency, you are able to call the Samaritans free any time, from any phone, on 116 123, www.samaritans.org.