Being diagnosed with a mental illness can be both emotionally and practically challenging. Listening to others who have experienced similar situations is often re-assuring and can be helpful for you, your loved ones or when preparing questions for your doctor or a specialist.
The patient aged 51 was abused by a priest as a child. He first heard voices at work and over the following ten years he spent six of them in in-patient care. He went to the Hearing Voices network in 1991 and began his recovery journey. He now works in the field of mental health.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
ECT is a form of medical treatment for severe depression, bipolar disorder and psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia.
This interview has been sourced from healthtalkonline.org, award-winning research into patient experiences in conjunction with the Health Experience Research Group at Oxford University, UK.
healthdirect doesn't endorse any personal opinions expressed in the video, and we recommend you discuss any questions you have regarding unfamiliar terms or descriptions, as well as how this experience compares to the Australian health care system, with a health professional.
After the first time Ron heard voices he got ‘completely drunk’.
I remember sitting in my office and this voice behind me saying, “You’ve done it wrong.” I was in-putting some data into a computer and in those days computers were still on tapes.
So it used to take ages for it, them to wind around and bring everything together for you, [coughs] and I looked around and there was nobody there and so I went to the pub and got absolutely drunk, and I guess drink then became my second coping strategy.
And then when I was drunk of course I would do stupid things and, get into really weird, situations that, and I thought that the voices would disappear, well the voice initially, but that it didn’t the, I got more voices and I ended up that I was going to work and, but I wouldn’t work I’d just sit there and listen to all this nonsense going on and, some of it quite, vile.
Ron stopped doing work as he heard voices that were ‘vile’, was made redundant, sold his house and spent thousands on drugs and alcohol.
Well I did, I’d a voice telling me it was my fault I led him into sin, I deserved to burn in hell and, and that was the voice of the priest, and then I heard [NAME]’s voice telling me to kill myself so we could be a family again and, oh it was, it was awful and then of course what happens, my boss pulled me in and told me I’d , you know, a couple of weeks to get my act together and I never got it together, I got a golden handshake which is how, how it works there. , and, I had to sign papers saying I wouldn’t no work with a, another firm for two years or something but the, the size of the golden handshake covers
All that. I sold my house and moved into a sort of studio flat. Which is a posh way of saying a bedsit I think it shows you how middle class I’ve become.
Yeah? and then I spent three months, totally out of my head on drugs and alcohol.
And I went through thousands over that three months in, in money, I spent nearly everything I had, I had loads of friends then but the [laughs], you know, they were only there because there was drugs and alcohol on the go.
And then one morning I just could no take it anymore, I went to my doctors and I told him, and he got me, I saw a pychiatrist the same day and the pychiatrist had told me at the end of it that he thought I might have a serious mental illness and I needed to come into hospital.
Ron rediscovered spirituality, finds church a good place for reflection and has many Christian friends. He now considers studying theology.
And I guess the last thing I’ve rediscovered is my Spirituality I’m now in a, I’ve started going to church, not that I believe everything in church is saying but I think it’s nice to have a place where you can just reflect and I, I find church is particularly good for just sitting being quiet for an hour and being able to reflect differently. so there’s that sense of being able to explore my own spiritual being again which is, I know, I’ve got some friends that are quite strange for me, because they’re people that don’t drink they don’t smoke, they’re, they are Christians very much and quite a lot of time when we get together we, we argue about scripture and, the characteristics of God, you know? so it’s, so I guess my life’s come full circle because I started my life wanting to be a Priest, and, and I’m coming to this point in my life where I’m probably going to study Theology and maybe never become a Priest because I can’t imagine [wife’s name] as a minister’s wife she’d kill me but I can imagine me doing that just for myself and just something for me because I’ve been travelling on the road now for, what? Seventeen years? And, I don’t think I want to be doing it after twenty I think I want to stop and become a farmer [laughs] you know, or something.
Ron speaks about the passion he and his wife share for recovery and the work they do one-to-one with people.
I guess we, we share a vision and a dream of being redundant in Mental Health and that’s, that’s our vision. we share a passion for recovery, we both work with people one-to-one and we enjoy that that’s probably the, the thing gives me the most satisfaction. I enjoy people recovering, and I get a buzz out of seeing people reclaim their life and, suss it out and work out that they can do something and then doing it. I’m always amazed at the process of that, that, that there seems to be this bit, you’re, you’re running ahead and you’re getting on great and then it’s almost like you need to go back to the system to check it out again and that actually that now is just part of the journey, and so when it happens I don’t worry about it I just say [dismissive noise], “Well they’ll get through it.” And I’ve saw many people do that and I did it myself so, I guess I, I think since ninety-three I, I’m seventeen years now without medication and I guess that twice in, in the last twelve years I’ve went to my GP feeling really down and twice my GP’s given me a packet of anti-depressants and twice I’ve went back and looked at them and put them in the medicine cupboard and never ever opened them, , [pause 3 seconds] because I think I’ve realised that those times when I, I did go on them, I was down, it was just a normal response to living it wasn’t illness, it was, it was just a normal response to what was going on in my life at the time. Yeah.
And would that be a similar attitude towards your voices or is it different?
Nah it’s the same with voices they’re just there they’re part of who I am and that, that, that, I guess that’s the thing I’ve discovered, I’ve discovered who I am and I’m comfortable with who I am now. Although I still have my moments, you know, like everybody where I go through and I, struggle with how I’m feeling about things and, you know, but that’s not illness that’s living.
At one point Ron was very successful in the City, yet at the same time he was very lonely.
And I didn’t like relationships because people either abused you [laughs] or died on you so I just didn’t do relationships and even today I can count the number of friends on one hand, although I’ve got lots of people I know, the people that I let through that, personal space are very few and, people have to earn that so I guess before I was diagnosed I was, almost setting myself up for it, by not having that social interaction, not, not doing that, I lived for work. I started my life in a very Marxist family, quite left wing, quite a lot of social conscience, all those kind of things, and in the Eighties I became a child of Thatcher because that idea of, the not having any society worked for me, so that actually appealed to me her policies never appealed to me but the, the idea of the cult of the individual really appealed to me and I worked in the City of London, doing in the Finance Sector and earning quite a nice living , part of those that, that, I guess I was a bit of a Yuppie, and quite enjoyed it, and I was good at my job I did buying on Futures and things like that and I was quite successful and I was pretty good at guessing the market. So that, so my life was a whole load of contradictions, I had a, quite a successful career and yet at the same time had, nothing. I had the trappings of prosperity but not, any peace of mind I didn’t, I didn’t go out on Friday nights, I didn’t meet up with everybody after work or any of that kind of thing, I lived and breathed the job. So, so if anybody was setting them self up I guess it was myself at that stage.
Ron was kept hearing voices despite taking higher and higher doses of antipsychotics so he wanted to stop taking it.
They started me on antipsychotics, and that didn’t work and he told me I’d be ten days before the drugs would work and I’d start feeling better and, the, the ten days went past and I was still feeling awful and I remember trying to leave then, I thought to myself ‘well I’ve been here for ten days it obviously doesn’t work I’m getting out of here’
And that’s, and that’s when I discovered the Mental Health Act, you know?
So I was sectioned, and my life just became a, then for ten years I spent six and a half of that next ten as an inpatient, being treated with all sorts of drugs but still hearing the same voices.
And they would never ever ease up, and it didn’t matter what they pumped into me it was, I mean I remember when I was in the community, you know, whatever that was, I used to take a thousand milligrams of chlorpromazine at night just to get to sleep because that was, that would somehow seem to, I used to think it got rid of the voices I think what actually happened was that I was so stoned out my head I didn’t care, and then I was, I was given ECT because I started getting depression, which was one of the effects of neuroleptics, I became a mess for ten years I actually came to the end of those ten years not wanting to be alive any more, and this is in a system that you’re meant to, recover in, you know? And I guess I became non-compliant and I was one of those patients when nurses heard I was being admitted would go, “Oh no not him again.” And, [sighs] it was a never ending cycle of in and out of hospital and, they, they, they always tried to blame me, they said that, you know, I was non-compliant but the drugs didn’t work and I didn’t see how the drugs not working made me not, me non-compliant I think it made them, made the, the drugs not work.
Ron describes the importance that the idea of ‘trauma-induced psychosis’ has for psychiatry.
I suppose we’re seeing now, the work of the Hearing Voices Network being taken on by services and like everything services take on changed, changed to fit a medical construct, changed to fit, it’s still a disease, it’s still this, it’s still the next thing, and, [sighs] my biggest issue with my whole history now is, in an era of evidence-based practice surely we should start with an evidence base for the illness?
And if there’s no evidence [laughs] base for an illness, where, where are we going?
You know, well why do we focus on this evidence-based practice all the time? When I’ve not seen one piece of scientific evidence that proves it exists in so many of the major mental illnesseslike Schizophrenia, which is why I think the Japanese are being very bravein saying, “Okay this actually doesn’t fit, this does, so let’s call it that.”
And I think the great thing for me about, Integration Disorder and the, this idea of trauma-induced psychosis that’s floating around now is it means the treatment mentalities will have to changeyou know, and I think that’s where the hope lies in Psychiatry is, see I don’t want to destroy Psychiatry, I sometimes get the, I used to have this reputation of being anti-Psychiatry and I’ve never been anti-Psychiatry, I’ve always been anti-bad Psychiatrybut I think that’s allowed and I’m never anti-medication I, I’m always anti-the bad use of medication but again I think that’s a, a, a good position to take, because I think one of the things about reflective practice is that reflective practice should always be critical and so when I look at myself and reflect on myself, and I reflect on this thing that was called my illness, I’ve got to do it in a critical way myself I’ve got to look at where my responsibility lay and I think that’s one of the hardest things, to accept your responsibility, that you can change it, that you can do it differently from now you know? You didn’t need to wait six months, and I hear this, people saying, “Well it takes time.” Well why? you know, well once we know what the root of the problem is we can deal with it.
Source: healthtalkonline.org (Experiences of psychosis, 50-59 yrs, Ron - Interview 04)
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Last reviewed: September 2013