Peace be with you. I thought I would introduce myself first, tell you a little about myself and then tell you the story of how one day I began hearing voices. I am now 43 years old, male and had a relatively normal life up until four years ago. Although I am not a UK native, I had lived and worked in the UK for many years and had a fruitful career in IT, quite high flying even, until a physical illness forced me to take some time off. While I was recovering I started to hear voices. I used to be very career-focused, so losing work was a very stressful event, and I was also going through a spiritual crisis, no doubt this all contributed.

It happened very gradually. There were odd, vivid dreams, and snatches of conversation heard through the walls of a flat. It seemed very normal, except the contents were strange. Why were my neighbours discussing my previous employer? Then when I was walking in town, I heard my phone starting to talk to me. It dawned on me that I was hearing things outside my usual experience. I started to speculate, dreaming up scenarios about what could be happening, thinking about telepathy or alien technology. You don’t know it is called “hearing voices”, and since it is so outside of your experience it is easy to fall into the trap of building what-if scenarios.

It took me a long time to go see a doctor. First I wandered by train from town to town for a few days, all the while being told by my voices that I first destroyed, then saved mankind, over and over. Sometimes other stories would play themselves out in my head, like being followed by secret agents on the trains who I had to escape. I was borderline delusional, even though they were always “scenario’s” and I would keep in mind that perhaps it was all in my head.

There comes a point where you tell your close family. I was single, and so went to visit my mother and her husband. The initial conversation was a bit awkward. There was a period of adjustment, they noticed I was acting differently, my attention was not all there. I spent hours just sitting on the couch. What they couldn’t hear was the storm of voices around me, like small mini-plays, little stories that play themselves out over the course of a few hours. Eventually they contacted a crisis team, who visited but basically said, if he doesn’t take medication we can’t help him. They left behind some documentation when they departed, and that was all.

My subsequent experiences with mental health services were very mixed. They followed up one time to visit me when I was back home, and eventually after a year or so I was given a place in group therapy to help me p