I moved into a new flat in 2000. At the time I was very lonely and I did a very curious thing, I started to talk to my neighbours through the walls and ceilings of my flat. And stranger still, they started to talk back. At the time I believed I had an old man on one side of me, a younger man on the other side and a couple upstairs. These I identified as ‘the old man’, ‘the bloke with the Staffy’ and ‘David and Sandra’. As I say, I was very isolated and I did not discuss these experiences with anyone, although I had a support worker. I should point out that I was drinking copious quantities of Special Brew and you will probably believe that this was the reason for my ‘voices’. This is probably not true because I was not drunk most of the time. I got my money, got bladdered and then spent the remainder of the fortnight in miserable sobriety.

What really alarmed me was when I started hearing my neighbours on the tram. I used to live near a tram stop on the Eccles line and used to commute between there and Manchester on a regular basis. At first I thought my neighbours must have very distinctive voices that had stuck in my head. But this was blown out of the water when they started commenting on my thoughts and talking to me. ‘Don’t read the names of the stations’ they said ‘don’t reveal your location’. ‘Our enemies are listening’. One day when I was walking back home from the tram stop my neighbours identified two old men standing in the street as ‘enemies’ and told me not to think where I was as this would lead the ‘enemies’ to their front door.

One day I was lying in bed gasping for a smoke and my neighbours were arguing about whether to buy me a packet of tobacco. This developed and they became quite threatening. I panicked and went to the A&E Department of the local hospital. I was very alarmed when Sandra started saying ‘ooh, he can hear us’, as I sat in the waiting room and started reading the signs. At that precise moment I believed she was actually seeing through my eyes. A psychiatrist would probably explain what was happening as ‘you were reading a sign in the waiting room in a different voice’. If you think this is interesting, read on because it gets better!

I stood outside the doors of the Emergency Department trying to get my head together. I thought, ‘what is this?’ David replied, ‘telepathy’. He actually told me what to say to the psychiatrist. ‘Say you are deeply distressed and suicidal’. ‘David is telling me to say I am deeply distressed and suicidal’ I told the doctor. ‘Don’t tell me what David is saying,’ he said ‘tell me what you are thinking’. What happened after that I can’t remember, but anyway I was put on the ward.

That evening was hell. I thought David, Sandra and ‘the bloke with the Staffy’ were all stood outside in the car park of the hospital shouting at me, but there was no-one there. A week later the ‘voices’ had gone away and I was relieved to find myself in a reasonable state of mind.

But that was only the beginning …

At first I found it easier to talk to doctors about the voices than to my parents, probably because psychiatric doctors are used to hearing about things like that. I did tell my dad I thought I was talking to my neighbours through the walls of my flat, but he said this was very unlikely as my neighbours would be too busy getting on with their own lives.

If you tell a doctor you are hearing voices they will probably ask you a lot of questions. If your voices are very bad, there’s a chance you’ll be admitted to hospital. Doctors class voice hearing as something they call ‘psychosis’. Once in hospital they’ll keep a close eye on you. They can’t see what you’re thinking all they know is what you tell them. But they can find out a certain amount from your behaviour.

In hospital there’s a good chance the doctors will try you out on ‘anti-psychotics’. These are tablets designed to reduce your symptoms, in my case, voices. I took quite a few tablets before I found the ones that worked.

Some people refused to believe that I was hearing voices. One said he did not believe me because I was not distracted and that people hearing voices would be distracted. A psychologist later dismissed this view as ignorant. But if you are hearing voices and no-one believes you it is like saying ‘there’s a brick wall in front of me’ and being told ‘no there isn’t’. If you hear voices you may not actually have any clear ideas about what is causing them. As I said before, my explanation was that the voices were telepathy.

When I started hearing voices I was living in a flat on my own with a couple of visits a week from a support worker. Later they even stopped this because they said my main problem was drinking. It was in this period that the voices started to become more severe. Two years down the line and everyone was accepting that 1) I was hearing voices and 2) I was unable to cope on my own. I was being held in hospital under Section 3, which meant they could keep me in for up to six months. After this Social Services became involved and found a place for me at a staffed project. My next admission to hospital was to be my last – to start me on my new medication. This has worked for me and I have not been back to hospital since I started on it about three years ago.

Anyway, good luck and I hope this has been useful to other voice hearers. If you are experiencing problems in this area, you may want to contact:

Hearing Voices Confidential Helpline
Open on Tuesdays 1pm – 4pm
Tel: 0845 122 8642