The Playlist in My Head

Back in the good old days when people heard voices those voices told them to save the world or at least their country.  Now a days when people hear voices they are instructed to destroy the world or at least kill a bunch of people living in it. 

The one thing we have in common with our predecessors is that like now back then if you did hear voices they thought you were a complete nut job.  And boy, we sure have outdone ourselves in that department.  Every other street corner has some poor soul shouting out about the end of days.

Actually, I think we all are secretly hearing voices but we don’t admit it. Granted it’s probably more like a spinning cyclone of thoughts and not a clear distinctive voice speaking directly to us.  So at least we aren’t completely crazy.

I’ve worked with some pretty severe mentally ill people.  I took care of a pair of paranoid schizophrenics, a mother and a son.   Way to go mom, he’s just like you.  Except that while she was delusional, powerful and all knowing, he was a sniveling shivering wreck of a human being.  She had nursed him on terror and fear and kept him hidden from the world locked inside their small apartment until he was in his early twenties.  He and the trash were equally valued as the trash never made it out the front door either.

They were both institutionalized and for reasons I don’t quite understand they were also placed on the same ward.   This wasn’t the greatest solution for the son as he would have been better off to never see his mother again.  He spent his days in front of a TV, restrained and heavily sedated.

She too was heavily sedated but it didn’t seem to faze her all that much.   I worked as a nurse’s aid on this ward they now occupied. I was 16 years old. The mother was convinced I was related to them, I was her evil brother’s daughter and the only decent one of her blood related family.  Most days she would follow me around, in love with me regaling me with tales of my childhood, and how it was she that had bought me my first pair of pink ruffled panties.

Then there were days when I would arrive at work and she would ambush me.  She would hide behind doorways, desks, and then leap out and attack me.  Jumping on my back, pulling my hair, screaming that she knew I was going to kill her and I couldn’t fool her.  I could trick all these other fools looking at us but she knew the truth about me.  The orderlies would have to come get her and the nurses would give her an extra dose of medicine and restrain her. I would keep out of her sight. I never knew what to expect when I arrived at work until I saw her.  I never knew what voices were speaking to her on any given day.

At 22, I was hired to work by the government on a special case.  There was a young girl of 15, who was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. All the other caseworkers had quit because she was really impossible to deal with and out of reach.  She played mind games on anyone who was assigned to her.   She had been severely abused as a child.   Think every awful story you ever read about then add them all together and they would equal Irene.  Just so you don’t go soft on me in your thinking, I’ll share with you one of the milder forms of abuse this girl endured.  Each morning her father would whack off into her cereal bowl and she was forced to eat it.  Trust me this is but a small atrocity compared to the other things she had to deal with and I’d rather not remember it and you’d rather not hear about.

Irene was the real deal; she was like one of those books or movies they made. Lisa Bright and Dark, Cybil, Carrie.  You get the picture.

Of course by 12 she had run away from home, started prostituting herself on the streets and getting into all sorts of trouble.  She was violent and dangerous.  Upon arrest she had managed to break a policeman’s arm.  Nobody liked her, she wouldn’t allow it.

They sent her to the highest-level security prison for youths but she managed to burn that place down.  Then they upgraded another facility just for this one girl.   She escaped from there and was caught fighting on the streets. They upgraded the facility again and this time got it right.  To get in to visit her you went through the general security that most jails have.  You showed id, stated your visitation rights then went through a metal detector and were finally escorted by a guard through a locked door into a hallway.  The guard locked the door behind him.  You walked the 15 feet or so to the end of the hall where you were then escorted through another locked doorway, which was promptly locked behind you as well. To get to Irene you had to go through this then a whole other lock down scenario.  A guard would go into a room to release a heavy door that would slide open and then shut behind you.  You then waited locked inside this chamber for about 60 seconds before the other door was opened.  Once through this door would shut immediately.  She was in her own private wing with her own private guard.

Now Irene heard voices but she knew they weren’t real. She heard voices the way I think most of us hear voices.  She knew what she was doing, and she knew she could stop the voices but she had no reason to.  She had no other voices to listen to.   Me, I have options.  I have all sorts of different choices.

There are days and times in this life when things start going south, not going the way I wanted, when things feel like they are starting to come apart.  Immediately a little voice creeps in, quietly reminding me that nothing every turns out for me, life’s not fair.  Who do I think I am anyhow?  “People don’t like you”  “your ugly” “your poor” “your fat” “you’re a loser” “your unlovable’ “unworthy”.

Obviously that voice is inside my head and it’s me, but then again it’s not me.  I mean I’m listening so can I be the voice and listener at the same time?

So if I am the listener then can’t I stop listening?  If I don’t like the music I turn off the source.  If I don’t like what what’s on TV I change the channel and move to a different station.  I can even turn it off.

Inside my head it’s the same I have a whole network of stations to turn to but somehow when I’m feeling beat up I can’t find the clicker to my brain, or I forget I have options and just listen to a bunch of shite. 

I should just turn it off.  Listen to something else; anything else.  Listen to silence.  Listen to the birds.  Listen to the wind.  Speak out loud and listen to my own voice.  Write down the things I want to hear, want to think and I should say and listen to those things that say things I like hearing.

Like making a playlist of my favorite hits.  I can make a playlist of the words and feelings that are good for me, the thoughts that make me feel good about myself and the life I am in and the people I know.  I can remember what it feels like on good days, when friends, love and laughter surround me.  I have other channels and stations and can continue finding new ones to tune into.  There are hundreds of channels to check out.  Why get stuck on the ones that suck.

I cannot write about hearing voices without adding this last story.  It’s certainly one of the most interesting tales about this subject and from the most unlikely source. This young couple I knew were about the brightest eyed bushy tailed do-gooders I knew.  They were in their early 20’s, innocent and pure.  He was hired to be the youth pastor at a large church in town.

His new young bride is getting unexplainable headaches and one day confesses to her husband that she is hearing voices.  He tells her its just thoughts inside her head and to control them.  He tries to downplay it and they both agree they should keep it to themselves.  They don’t want people to think she’s crazy or possessed.  One day she can’t take it anymore and goes to him in such pain he presses his ear against her head and guess what?  He hears the voices talking inside her head! 

They take her to the doctor and the doctors also hear the voices.  Ends up she has a brain tumor.

Now there’s a whole other idea to explore, that those famous people who heard voices, think Noah and his Ark, Joan of arc, what if they actually had brain tumors?  But I digress.

Now I know that my pitiful little voices aren’t going to bring about the end of a 100 year war, or save the species from drowning but given enough time those voices can get louder and they can destroy me.  They can keep me frozen in place, paralyzed with fear, afraid that every move will be wrong, every decision will back fire.

Forget that, I’m not listening, I’m changing the channel.    I can save me from myself.

I’m going to think good thinks. Speak good speaks, and if there’s no station that I like, I’m gonna turn it all off and listen to the silence.  The silence is quiet and safe and leads me to serenity.


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