Worth Living Ambassador Thomas Morgan
My name is Thomas Morgan. I am a 21-year-old Sociology student at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. I am a brother to both a younger sister and an older brother. I am a son to two wonderful parents. I am a suicide survivor. I am also Bipolar.
When people think of Bipolar Disorder, they usually tend to think that those who are diagnosed with it just get extremely happy or sad, and that their mood is generally unpredictable. However, I have found that it is not common knowledge that some of us who have Bipolar Disorder can also have psychotic symptoms.
When I say psychotic symptoms, I mean delusions. These are in the form of auditory and visual hallucinations. I, personally, hear voices. These voices, as well as what they say, are entirely dependent on the episode I am experiencing. Because Bipolar Disorder is an episodic illness, they tend to go away when I am stable. Unfortunately, lately my episodes have tended to cycle rapidly, meaning I hear the voices frequently.
I have two different experiences with the voices and I want to explain them to the best of my ability in this article.
When I am manic, the voices comfort me. During mania, my brain has countless ideas racing through my head at once and the voices tend to help me deal with that by organizing the thoughts or sometimes by giving me motivation. I occasionally have moments where I have a verbal discussion with them. This has rarely happened in public, but when it does I tell people I am just thinking out loud. They encourage me, further elevating my mood. Sometimes I make a joke that nobody in the room understands or finds funny, but the voices find it hilarious.
I enjoy my productivity boost when experiencing mania and I channel it into my studies or hobbies. I love the euphoric feeling of being on top of the world. I also look forward to hearing the manic voices during an episode. At times they can be annoying, such as when I am in the gym trying to listen to instructions on proper form from friends. Overall, I view the voices that I experience during mania as friends.
If the manic voices are my friends, then the voices I hear in my depressive episodes are the things of nightmares. When I am depressed all that I hear is screaming or shouting in my head. A lot of it is incoherent, but I can usually make out a few words or phrases. Imagine the sound effects that you have heard from the THX company that always played before movies years ago. Imagine turning the volume to the maximum and listening to it on repeat for hours, sometimes days. That, coupled with certain words and phrases, is what I usually hear while depressed. Sometimes the screaming is directed at me and other times it feels as if somebody is just screaming and raving at nothing or nobody in particular.
Dealing with this is incredibly difficult given the fact I know I cannot do anything about it and have no idea when it will end. When the screaming is directed at me there is a separate voice in the background whispering things such as “Everyone hates you”, “You’re worthless”, “It’s your fault they died”, and explaining various ways I should end my own life. There are countless times when I have ended up covering my ears trying, unsuccessfully, to stop the screaming, while also being curled up on the floor crying because I am so scared of them.
Growing up I always thought hearing voices was normal, like it was a way everybody processed their thoughts. Despite having an incredibly supportive father who also has Bipolar Disorder, who shared exactly what being Bipolar meant in a way my sister and I could understand it since we were young, I never knew that psychotic symptoms could also be involved. Therefore, as you can imagine, the experiences were frightening beyond compare when I was not aware of my diagnosis.
The voices I hear because of my mental illness can be encouraging and helpful, or crippling to the point where I consider ending it all. To be honest, I am constantly having moments where I struggle with my acceptance over my Bipolar diagnosis with these auditory hallucinations playing a large part in that.
In my last article, I mentioned how mental illness shapes who we are, depending on how you work with it. This remains true. However, it is also important to keep in mind that living with mental illness will always be a struggle for some. Our struggles, and the results of them in particular, are what I believe make life worth living.
Besides, if you never get knocked down, you’ll never learn how to fight.