by Hazel Cornhill

I hear voices.

This is still a sentence I find hard to say, it's one that seems to scare people, especially when they find out that these voices tell me to do things. I think when people find out that I hear non-existent people who tell me to do things they assume that these commands are to harm people – like what we sometimes see in films or books. The reality though is that my command hallucinations tell me to hurt myself, they tell me that I deserve to be hurt, that by being hurt I am saving others, or sometimes there is no justification they just tell me to hurt myself over and over insistently.

Most of the time I can ignore the voices, or sometimes even reason with them, but at times I will give in to them sometimes because I believe them and other times just to shut them up. Sometimes I can negotiate with them, make it so a lesser injury will appear them, other times I get so scared of doing what they say that I will have to start avoiding certain items or situations. I have even had to leave jobs due to this before as a way to remove myself from the means to damage myself in the way that the voices command.

They are cheerleaders demanding the destruction of my being.

It's an awful moment when you present to a medical professional with an injury and know how their face will change if you say “because the voices told me to” when you are asked why you did it, why you hurt yourself. So sometimes I lie, often to avoid those looks, but also regularly because I will be sat there with the voices yelling at me telling me that I'm not allowed to tell anyone about them or what happened.

My voices hate me talking to any sort of medical professional from doctor to psychiatrist, bit awkward when they are expecting (and needing) me to tell the truth. But it's hard to tell the truth when every fibre of your being is telling you not to, hard to open up when you feel certain that no one else has this experience.

I think people find the entire concept of psychosis scary, but they find the idea of command hallucinations particularly terrifying. The idea that we are being told to do things by some unknown secret entity that noone else can hear and noone can control. A voice, or entity, that suffers no consequences and cannot take responsibility, that is understandably scary. Believe me it scares me and I can hear them.

I think this fear is why the topic is rarely spoken about, as awful as the topics we usually hear about in awareness campaigns are I think people find them more palatable and understandable than what they find psychosis. For much of society those of us with psychosis are some shadowy dangerous beings, living outside of society or locked up in asylums. This is far from the truth though, many of us exist in the community some even have full time jobs, families, and rich lives. We deserve to be part of the conversation and our experience needs to be included in the awareness campaigns.

The voices say awful things and tell me to do terrible things, they distress and scare me, and I often feel like I am fighting them alone.

Since finding communities online and getting to speak to others who experience similar to what I do I feel so much less alone. We have been able to support each other, share ways to cope, and generally make life so much better for one another. Our experience deserves inclusion in campaigns, we need people to be aware that we exist

I have an entire gang of invisible cheerleaders of self-destruction, I don't want my experience to be invisible too.

Hazel Cornhill is a mental health campaigner, blogger and podcaster. Hazel can be found on twitter @AnLasair and are the host of the Reality Tourists Podcast speaking to people about their experiences of psychosis -