Auditory hallucination (also described as hearing voices) is the perception of voices or sounds that are not there. It is usually described as an experience separate from one’s own thoughts and mental processes. Auditory hallucinations are typically found as a co-morbid symptom of a mental health issue, for example, psychosis, depression or schizophrenia.
Research tells us that 1 in every 200 Aussie adults will experience a form of psychotic illness. — sane.org
The 3 layers of stress
During this period in my life, there were a few challenges I faced. I call these the layers of stress.
1. Depressive symptoms
I noticed in Year 10, my mood was generally low and I was losing motivation to complete my school work.
I never considered myself a ‘model student’ but during this time, my attitude to school in general was apathetic at best.
I got into a bad habit of cramming and last-minute assignment completion, which is still something I struggle with today.
Being referred to the school counsellor, I was absolutely uninterested to delve into the reasons why I felt the way I felt. I was afraid of what people would say. I was afraid of the counsellor telling my family what was going on with me. I left that appointment and never went back.
My low mood would more or less stay the same as time continued.
2. General dysfunction in my environment
I was quite the rebel throughout high school. I defied the rules at every turn and refused to change my attitude.
It was at this point in time that my relationship with my parents was extremely rocky.
I would feel on-edge, afraid and irritated almost constantly.
Although I attended youth group, there were wounds within that continued to fester. Many moments arose where I felt prayer helped, but many more moments where I felt alone, empty and afraid.
From a young age, I had nightmares. The dysfunctional environment only exacerbated these experiences. Nightmares and ‘visions’ occurred for about a decade from childhood into adolescence.
3. Lack of mental health awareness and support
The only exposure I had of mental health and how it could impact people was of a distant relative overseas.
I heard stories about her experience and how she had to be ‘locked’ in a room to prevent her from behaving ‘strangely’ in public.
This instilled fear. Is that what it was like to be treated as the ‘crazy person’ in a town? It sounded horrific.
Looking back, I know now that stigma arises from lack of education. Which is a huge part in why I study what I do, and why I advocate for mental health and wellness today.
The day the voices began
I was at a youth camp, praying alone when all of a sudden, I heard whispering.
I thought it was people gossiping outside the room. I sat quietly and waited.
I could not make out any words that resembled English or another language I’d heard before.
A few minutes passed and the whispering got louder.
My body froze. The hairs on my arm stood up.
Something wasn’t right.
“The devil is here.”
This voice was crystal-clear.
The whispering stopped, but it felt like a presence was in the room with me. I somehow felt this presence ‘walk around me’, even though my back was up against a wall.
I started praying frantically.
When it was finally time to leave the prayer room, I ran out.
As I walked back to the dorms, this voice whispered my name.
I was terrified.
At the next camp, it happened again. It then started happening sporadically while I was at school.
I’d always ask, “Did someone call my name?”
In school, my teachers knew things were going on at home and their attitude towards me was different than before.
I’d also lost a noticeable amount of weight during this time, despite already being underweight.
One day, my English teacher approached me when I arrived late to school. She told me that she heard things were tough. All I wanted to do, was talk to her about it, but I didn’t have the strength. I could only muster the bare minimum to show up, survive and continue on.
By the end of high school, I was emotionally and mentally shot. I was missing school due to relationship dysfunctions and distractions.
I never saw a psychologist during this time, which is something I do regret. However, I also know that I had huge trust issues with adults and authority figures, so I’m almost certain I would not have gone to an appointment.
Less stress, no more hallucinations
The year following my high school graduation, things were much more calm for me mentally, emotionally and environmentally.
One day, I was sitting alone in my room and noticed I didn’t feel afraid anymore. A wave of calm washed over me.
Thankfully, I was surrounded by a supportive bunch of people and I finally had time to focus on myself and feel better.
I felt safe, actually alone and I indulged in the silence. Arguments with my parents stopped and our relationship was in the best place I could have ever imagined.
The way forward
At 18, I moved out of home and knew this was the fresh start I needed. I was free and could have my own space.
I also started university and felt a sense of independence, empowerment and purpose.
Although the years that followed brought their own difficulties and mental health challenges, it was 100% easier to face.
I knew the hallucinatory days were behind me.
Years later, after finding a psychologist that I felt understood me, I mentioned my experience. She said it could have very well been auditory hallucinations, caused by the stress I was experiencing at the time.
If you are under extreme stress, not feeling yourself and hearing voices that are unexplainable, please seek help. Links below.
Help for a loved one
If you know someone who is experiencing auditory hallucinations or you are worried about there well-being, you can head here: