Coping & Recovery: Living with Voices

LightbulbHearing, seeing or sensing things others don’t doesn’t mean that your life is over. You can find ways of dealing with them and live the life you choose.

Life isn’t always easy. When times are tough it’s really helpful to have a toolbox full of ideas and strategies to help you cope. You’re not starting from scratch, though. We all have ways of dealing with the things that stress us out. The idea is to build on what already works for you and see what else you can add.

If you try some of the strategies in this section, but nothing seems to work – try not to get too downhearted. It takes time to develop new ways of dealing with difficult experiences. Talk it through with someone you trust (or email us at Voice Collective). You don’t need to go through this alone.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some help quickly – reach out. Here are some pages that can help you get the support you need.

Are you a parent, family member or carer looking for ideas?

Check out our two guides for parents:

Developing a toolbox to find ways of dealing with voices

Coping ToolboxSometimes it can be helpful to think of coping strategies as being tools that each have a different purpose. Just like with regular tools, it’s helpful to have different kinds of tools in your toolbox for different situations. After all, whilst a hammer is great for knocking in nails it isn’t so useful if you want to tighten a screw. Using music to block out the voices can be really helpful, but that strategy might not be so useful if you’re struggling with voices in the middle of a quiet exam room. Having some options can help you deal with lots of different difficult situations.

There are different ways of finding strategies and ideas that work for you. You can start with one of these questions:

  • What do you want the strategy to do?
  • How are you feeling?

What do you want the strategy to do?

It can be useful to think of four main types of things coping strategies can do:

Cocoa MugCalming/safety

These are strategies that are designed to help you feel calmer, safer and more secure. You might want to try some of these strategies if:

  • the voices or visions leave you feeling scared, worried or frightened
  • the voices get louder or nastier when you feel stressed out or frightened
  • you notice that the voices sometimes start when you feel worried, unsure or afraid
  • you are struggling to chill out or get to sleep at the end of the day

HeadphonesBlocking:

These are strategies that can help you block out the voices, stopping them for a time or making them quieter or further away. You might want to try some of these strategies if:

  • you need a break from the voices or visions
  • you want to be able to focus on something else (e.g. at school/college, when you’re with friends or if you want to watch TV)

DecksExpressing:

These are strategies that are designed to help you express some of the feelings or experiences you’re having. You might want to try some of these strategies if:

  • the voices, visions or other things you are experiences are leaving you with intense feelings that aren’t so easy to talk about
  • you often bottle up how you’re feeling and struggle to let other people know what’s going on for you
  • you feel OK, but the voices sound like they’re very angry, scared or carry other emotions
  • you’re not sure how you feel about things (because sometimes expressing it creatively can help you understand a bit more about yourself)
  • you’re struggling to show a supporter (parent, nurse, support worker, counsellor) how you’re feeling

FistEmpowering:

No matter what the voices say, if we feel empowered and more sure of ourselves it can be easier to deal with them. Empowerment strategies are about exploring and changing the power balance between us and the voices. You might want to try some of these strategies if

  • you hear voices that feel very powerful, strong or claim to know more than you.
  • the voices say things that get you down, worry you or have a negative impact.

How are you feeling?

Question markIn our experience, coping strategies work best if they match the thing that’s bothering you. So, the first step can be working out what the problem is. It might be that the things you hear or see are making you feel frightened. It might be that you feel like you’ve got no control over your life. It might be that other people are bullying you or giving you a hard time.

If there are lots of things that are worrying you at the moment, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Deal with the ones that are most important to you first. Take it step by step. Worries are a bit like dominos. Once you deal with one, it can get easier to deal with others. You’re building up a toolkit that will be useful to you for the rest of your life, in lots of different situations.

To give you a head start, we’ve put together some ideas for dealing with difficult stuff. Just click on the link, below, that is nearest to how you’re feeling.