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
What Can I Do?
We’re all different. Some people find that they express themselves through writing, whilst others prefer to draw, paint or use their bodies.
Remember: sometimes, if we’ve bottled a lot of things up, beginning to express them can feel really overwhelming. You can help keep this as safe as possible by:
- Making sure you have some safety/calming and blocking strategies in your toolbox (and have decided which ones you can do if you start to feel stressed out).
- Talking with someone you trust about these strategies
- Asking someone you trust to be with you when you try some of these ideas, or arranging to speak with them afterwards. You don’t have to do this alone.
- Deciding what to do with whatever you create. It’s yours, so you have a choice. If looking at it makes you feel strange, it’s OK to fold it up and put it away somewhere safe or change it in some way. You can rip it up, cover it up or fold it up tightly and as a trusted person (e.g. your support worker) to keep it for you.
- Have a plan for what you want to do afterwards. Sometimes people do something that is calming or reassuring. Other times people like to be around friends, family or trusted supporters.
These ideas are just a starting point. You can use them to find a way of expressing how you (or your voices) are feeling.
If writing is your thing, then you might want to try one of these strategies:
Write a diary
You can write about what’s happened in your day, but also about how you’re feeling about the voices/visions. This can be free-flowing, or it can have a bit of structure (where you write about times when the voices were hard to deal with and say a bit about what was happening just before they became overwhelming, how you were feeling and what happened afterwards). You can keep track of the progress you have made and the things you have achieved too – especially if you find it hard to remember the positives when you’re gong through a tough time.
Some people find that the worries and thoughts they have bounce around their head and get bigger and bigger. When people hear voices or see visions, sometimes they find that these experiences feed in to the worries … making them stronger. Other times they find that the worries trigger the voices, visions or other sensory experiences. It can all feel very tangled up.
The idea behind a worry box is to write down some of the things you’re thinking about / worrying about on separate pieces of paper. Once you’ve written them, you can put them in a tin, a box or somewhere that’s safe enough to house them. Some people find that just writing them and putting them somewhere can help to defuse them a little and stop them taking so much space up in their head.
You can choose what you do with these worries. Sometimes people look at them when they’re feeling better – ripping up the ones that no longer bother them and deciding who they can talk to about the ones that they’re still struggling with. You might decide to keep the worries that are no longer a worry in a box too – reminding you that you have overcome so many of these.
If you want to, you can also use this technique to write down some of the things the voices say that worry you. Again, it can help to take these to someone you trust. This can help your supporter understand more about what’s going on for you. It can also help to have someone help you think about what the voices say to make some sense of it.
Some people choose to write a story about themselves and/or the voices that helps to take some of the power from the voices.
For example, one young person we know chose to write their experiences of voices as if it was a video game. Choosing characters to represent themselves, people in their life and the voices they heard gave them a sense of control over their experiences. It also helped them to see their voices (and themselves) in a different light. In some of the best video games the characters have reasons for doing what they’re doing that can be complicated. The ‘good guys’ often have stuff they are dealing with. The ‘bad guys’ aren’t always so bad … they’ve just got stuff in their past too.
Someone else we worked with decided to give the voice they heard a back story. They invented a story to explain why the voice was so mean to them. They decided that the voice had been bullied and was taking it out on them because they felt bad. This helped them be kind to the voice, but also not take what it said to heart.
Some people choose to write about their experiences to help other people who are struggling. Others prefer to write about what they want to change about the world, or to write something that they feel will help other people to understand what it’s like to hear voices. We have a section on our site for stories like this, so if you’d like to contribute something – just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Drawing, painting or making something
Creating a scrapbook: This can be a visual diary, where you get together pictures that show how you’re feeling. It can also be a space where you give each of your voices/visions a page and find images that help describe them.
Drawing/painting: You might want to draw or paint an image that represents the voices (or how you feel about them). If you like, you can change the picture in some way to help it feel less overwhelming or make the voices seem less scary.
Making music: You might want to write a song, a drum track or an instrumental piece that describes part of your experience. You don’t need to be musical to do this … you just need a table, a drum or a keyboard to begin tapping, playing, scraping and making some noise.
Creating a playlist: Some people prefer to listen to music rather than play it. If you enjoy music, you might want to create a playlist of tracks that express something about your voices. You might choose to express how it feels when you hear a certain voice, or maybe what that voice can sound like to you. The different tracks can show different sides to your experience (which can be useful as things can feel very complicated sometimes).
Using metaphors: Sometimes it’s not easy to talk about voices. Some people find it useful to find a metaphor instead. A metaphor is simply a word that you can use to describe something else. For example, you could talk about your voices as weather. Are they stormy or calm? Is it like a cyclone sometimes, or grey drizzle? You could talk about them as colours, sounds, types of cars ….. whatever works for you.
Doing something active
Sometimes it’s easier to express ourselves in actions, not words. Here are some things young people we know do to express themselves:
- Getting a punch bag (or punching a mountain of pillows)
- Spinning clases (where you can cycle as fast as you can, without the risk of banging in to anything)
- Going to the gym
- Going for a walk (this can help people feel more grounded and in their body too)
Do you have any more ideas?
We’re always adding to our resources. If you have any tips or suggestions you’d like to share, just email us.