Transformation in my life truly began when I had the courage to voice for the first time my lived experiences of voices, visions, other “unusual” perceptions and extreme states. It was May of 2014 and the opportunity presented itself for me to attend the first Hearing Voices Network Facilitator Certification Training offered in Connecticut. During this three day training, I gave voice to the most profoundly secret, silenced part of my being. Never before had I shared my experiences, yet I felt safe to do so during this training with complete strangers.
This training was sponsored by the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community and facilitated by Lisa Forestell and Marty Hadge. It was designed to be consistent with the Hearing Voices USA charter and values, and offered an atmosphere of safety in which I could share my experience without judgment. I was met with compassionate, genuine curiosity from both of them. I experienced validation of my experiences being real and NOT a sign of illness. What a relief!
The training opened up doors within myself that had been locked since I was three years old, having my first vision and experience of a presence that was a comforter and friend then. I know my age because it was about six months after the sexual abuse began at the hands of my father, while my mom was pregnant with my youngest brother. My experiences were many, most of them comforting and very supportive and encouraging until I was 19 years of age, which is when I experienced extreme distress by voices that shaped my life going forward.
Also during this training, Jacqui Dillon from the UK shared her story via Skype and answered questions, of which I had many. Jacqui is a writer, campaigner, international speaker and trainer who has personal and professional experience, awareness and skills working with trauma and abuse, dissociation, “psychosis,” hearing voices, healing and recovery. I began to question the status quo of the psychiatric system and all my diagnoses. I had been labeled with depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociative identity disorder, and schizoaffective disorder. I had been told by a psychiatrist that I would be institutionalized for the rest of my life. Gratefully, I took that fatalistic fate as a challenge and have definitely proved that psychiatrist wrong.
My life in the psychiatric system up until this Hearing Voices training had been one of many, many hospitalizations in state institutions and community and private hospitals. I had gotten the label of a “frequent flyer” because of the numerous hospitalizations (unfortunately they didn’t provide the perk of frequent flyer mileage like airlines do). I had been extremely overmedicated — at one period of my life I was on 21 pills a day. I was a zombie and felt like the living dead.
I attended the Hearing Voices facilitator training because I wanted to support others, to be there for them in a way I wished someone had been there for me. After the training I became passionate about my involvement in creating the CT Hearing Voices Network. I was a founding trustee in this movement in Connecticut, and facilitated my first group in July of 2014 in Norwalk, CT. Facilitators are members of the Hearing Voices support groups; there is none of the hierarchy that is found in clinical groups.
Between May and October of 2014, my relationship with my voices and other experiences transformed from being adversarial to acceptance and self-validation. My psychiatrist noticed a transformation in me and recommended I start to taper my medications, saying “less is more.” I was taking 45mg of Abilify, an antipsychotic/mood stabilizer, which was 15mg greater than the maximum therapeutic dose; 450mg of Wellbutrin, an antidepressant; 4mg of Ativan, a benzodiazepine prescribed for anxiety, and I was on Seroquel that was prescribed to aid in sleep (which it never did).
The taper off of medications has been gradual and self-directed with the support of my psychiatrists. Since October of 2014, I have had two different doctors and have found it necessary to continually advocate for myself regarding this medication reduction. Today, I am on 2mg of Abilify and 100mg Wellbutrin; no longer taking Ativan or Seroquel. Being medication-free will soon be a reality.
Transformations to liberation occurred for me through the holistic approach offered in the Hearing Voices movement and the amazing support I have received in being a facilitator/member of Hearing Voices support groups. My goal was to change my relationship with my voices from one that was adversarial to one in which I experienced them as allies. I was successful in that I now look at my voices, visions and other experiences as teachers, as gifts. It has not been an easy journey — it has been extremely trying at times with the intrusive and disturbing nature of these experiences. A journey marked with courage every step of the way for me.
Liberation from my voices, visions and other experiences was unexpected yet a profound and welcomed experience. My dad died on September 6th, 2015, and on September 9th he was placed in his crypt; as they were sealing up the crypt it thundered so loudly that the earth seemingly shook, and I heard the voice of God say “it is finished” (those were the last three words Jesus spoke on the cross). The voice of God was comforting and brought me a tremendous sense of peace. I was with my family who are all Jewish and I am Christian; hearing this at that moment was surprising since I was distracted by the funeral and all the people. I did not know that the ramifications of hearing those three words would bring me liberation. It brought closure for me of a nightmare that started when I was two and a half years old, with the sexual abuse and then the trauma that ensued going forward.
In looking back, I realize that my taking the Hearing Voices training has inspired me to touch the lives of many people, being available to connect with others in ways that were previously unfathomable. Currently, in facilitating five support groups weekly I reach an average of 30 people, opening doors for transformation and liberation in their lives. As the program coordinator for the CT Hearing Voices Network I am committed to growing and sustaining the 18 existing groups, working tirelessly to ensure that facilitators, members, family and friends of members have the support they need so that the possibility exists for greater connection and ease in facing life’s challenges.
Yes, I am passionate about my work, offering hope through my own story and the message that where you are today does not dictate your tomorrows. I feel so blessed to be able to serve others, never having imagined the reward in just being able to express my truth — to listen and connect with a compassionate heart.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
Gratefully resonates with my own experience. Thank you for sharing your process. I especially value your openness to understanding that violence towards fear and dominance does not free us. Healing wholeness emerges from listening and moving towards our fears, discovering and re-orienting. I look forward to hearing more about the unfolding joys that you co-create in your liberation. Thank you.
There is ALWAYS a way out of psychiatry. There is ALWAYS a way out, no matter what you’ve been through, what you’ve done, or what your quacks tell you to expect for your future. Jenna, if you ever get a chance to do so, I strongly suggest that you speak to some legislators about your transition into and out of psychiatry. You write so clearly and passionately, which is partly why your story is so enlightening to read. And, I imagine that it would seem even more enlightening to our nation’s leaders, nearly all of whom have never seen the wreckage of psychiatry’s false promises of benevolent, “scientific”, and effective care. Bless you, Jenna, for never giving up on yourself and for devoting part of your new life to the well-being of Mad people. Enjoy your new lease on life!
If one lives in a world of injustice and abuse, you don’t ‘Recover’ or ‘Heal’ from that. The injustice is ongoing, every moment of every single day.
You either find ways to resist and fight back, or you become a collaborator, an Uncle Tom.
And so the entire concept of Recovery and Healing is simply a way to put the blame back onto the victim.
And the type of injustice which effects the most people is the exploitation and abuse perpetrated by the middle-class family.
The middle-class family is unique, like nothing else which has ever existed. People are having children by choice, in order to enhance their social status. But they are not being honest about this. They are not honest about anything because the middle-class lives in bad faith. They don’t admit that they have choices and they don’t live up to their own values. And so the brunt of this is felt by children. In our society, children are the exploited workers, being used to give identity and status to their parents.
And so when this does not work, it gets turned back on the children. They are the ones who end up seeing psychiatrists and psychotherapists. And they are the ones who end up on drugs, both prescription and street. And they are the ones who get abused day in and day out. But the perpetrators are exonerated because the child gets a disability label. And then the child is the one who will end up seeking salvation in an evangelical church.
So if these voices are telling you how to fight back, instead of recovering or healing, then these voices already are our allies. Maybe you cannot really do what they are saying, but likely their perspective on the situation is correct.
Please join, move from being an Uncle Tom, to Resisting:
“I was taking 45mg of Abilify, an antipsychotic/mood stabilizer, which was 15mg greater than the maximum therapeutic dose; 450mg of Wellbutrin, an antidepressant; 4mg of Ativan, a benzodiazepine prescribed for anxiety, and I was on Seroquel that was prescribed to aid in sleep (which it never did).”
This is a drug cocktail which can make a person “mad as a hatter” and “psychotic,” via what is medically known as anticholinergic toxidrome. Were you hyperactive, as opposed to inactive? If so, you suffered from anticholinergic toxidrome not one of the theorized DSM disorders.
“My dad died on September 6th, 2015, and on September 9th he was placed in his crypt; as they were sealing up the crypt it thundered so loudly that the earth seemingly shook, and I heard the voice of God say ‘it is finished’ (those were the last three words Jesus spoke on the cross).”
This is interesting to me because I have had the final judgement going on in my semi-lucid dreams since at least 2015. According to my dreams, God called the final judgement prior to September, although, my dreams tend to be more prophetic, rather than in real world time. But absolutely, we do need God’s final judgement, especially now that the whole world is becoming aware online of the reality that our country and this world has been run by satanic pedophiles for quite a long time.
I’m glad you are healing from the abuse to which you were unjustly subjected – both the child abuse and the psychiatric abuse. Do be forewarned that you may suffer from a drug withdrawal induced super sensitivity manic psychosis after being completely weaned from the drugs, and this is almost always misdiagnosed as a “return of the illness,” despite it being a drug withdrawal effect. Thanks for sharing your story. Best wishes in your healing journey, Jenna, and God bless.
I’m just back from Australia and getting a chance to read your blog. Your writing is quite eloquent and, as I think I’ve mentioned in person, I so appreciate your willingness to share your story. I feel really special to have walked parts of your journey with you. I am always amazed by the fortitude and strength each of us, as voice hearers, embody on our journeys of healing and discovery. Of course, your story is no exception!
Thanks for all that you do for the Connecticut Hearing Voices Network. I hope your state realizes what a beacon and example it is for other states to likewise place their financial backing behind the hearing voices movement; the non-medical, mutual support environments that are hearing voices groups.
Keep up the good work and never stop telling your story. I look forward to the next chapter!
Much Warmth, ~Lisa Forestell
I respect your story and believe you are doing good.for yourself and others. My story points to another approach, which may be useful to many people, After over 30 years of a non-stop speeding mind ,hearing voices mostly unwanted and without them 99% of the time clearly explaining anything, sometimes seeing tracings of images of people in the air after having conversations with them. Going through sleepless terror states , spiritual messiah mental journeys, fearful scary mental journeys, diagnosed the S word and then Manic Depressive ,than Bipolar Depressive. Drugged with thorazine , halidol, cogentin , stelazine , and electro-shocked and hospitalized more times than I could count, even physically escaped institutions 5 times , I persisted to try to understand why and what was happening to me . The fact that I could see no justice in it and that my life was at stake drove me to seek answers .
It was into my fifty’s after searching for so long, that I finally had the finances made available to me to try an expensive option that seemed promising to me . I went to an advanced Hal Huggins trained dentist and had my 15 53% mercury so called silver amalgams removed as well as root canals removed ,(all metal totally removed ) By the time it was over infections removed ,all teeth eventually removed , false teeth made, all costing $5800. I was reborn , it was amazing , no voices , no fear , no drugs , clear relaxed thinking or a quiet mind as needed , NO SLEEP PROBLEMS, I could even fall asleep sitting in a chair or meditate easily if I chose to. I realized this sense of being is the promise of what a birth as a human being must be about .
I know many might say , I’m glad it worked for yooou ! But I say experience definitely trump’s corporate pseudo science . And I rather be dead then lie to people suffering even anything close to the hell I’ve been through . I’m convinced many millions of people all over the world are suffering like hell because of the main stream dental poisons installed in their mouths . Certainly there are other injectable and edible poison hazards sold as medicines to American’s and to other peoples elsewhere . Sadly there is no official real citizen oversight. We must tell each other . There is too much corporate guild government protected pseudo-science for profit and power over others , loudly blared, drowning out most all of the real science out there . We must rely on each other for usable info.