As anyone who knows me can tell you, I love beer. Settling down with a pint of real in my hand after a hard day’s work is one of life’s pleasures. Our mutual love of beer even motivated me and my husband to move from SE London to Faversham (home of Shepherd Neame and some seriously great pubs).
So, what is it that would prompt me to give up beautiful beer, say ‘no’ to wonderful wine and leave the single malt firmly on the shelf?
- I hear voices, see visions and have other unusual sensory experience.
- I work with people who hear voices, see visions and have other unusual sensory experiences.
- The National Hearing Voices Network – of which I’m a trustee – is completely unfunded other than by donations, and could really do with some extra cash to ensure we can pay volunteer expenses, circulate our newsletters, support the development of new peer support groups and organise events.
Why do I think the Hearing Voices Network is worth 6 months of sobriety?
When I went to my first Hearing Voices Group (in Leicester’s Adult Education Centre) back in the early 2000s I was a different person. I was diagnosed with schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder, taking high doses of medication to suppress my voices/visions/beliefs and reconciled to spending the rest of my life as someone who was in the ‘severe and enduing mental illness’ category. I had no dreams. No hopes. No friends. I felt like a zombie.
Going to the group – a peer support groups for people who hear voices/see visions – saved my life. I met people, made friends and – most importantly – felt like part of something again. The group helped me explore my experiences and find ways of dealing with them. Over the next few years I slowly began to make sense of why I hear voices and found ways of relating to them and dealing with them. I got into training (something I know make my living from), found some supportive housing (thanks to Network for Change) and got back to college (thanks for Access To Music). I began to gig on the Leicester Music Scene and found out that I’m not mentally ill. I’m a human being who has been through some tough stuff. I’m a survivor.
These days I still hear voices, but no longer need medication to block them out. I work with people who hear voices (in diverse settings) and am fortunate enough to travel to different countries to help others set up similar initiatives. I live a life that I love and feel extremely grateful for.
I can honestly say that I do not think I would still be alive today if it was not for the support of that Hearing Voices Group. It was like a travel brochure, showing me worlds that I never knew existing at a time when I felt most hopeless and dejected.
The Hearing Voices Network is a tiny national charity with no statutory funding. We try to share information, resources and hope – connecting up the 100s of different peer support groups out there across the country. We manage a website, distribute newsletters, answer emails/calls and work to stimulate and support new developments in parts of the country that don’t yet have access to Hearing Voices Groups.
There’s so much to do. But, with such little money available, every little really does help.
How am I doing?
It’s now May and I’ve survived trips to the U.S., Bosnia, Serbia, numerous conferences and social occasions (prime drinking times). So far this sobriety has raised over £750 for the Hearing Voices Network – if I can get to £1,000 before the end of June that would be amazing.
I’d like to thank everyone who has been generous enough to donate. Your support is helping me stick to my soda water.