I’ve been off my meds for nearly a week, and my mental health is waning. I mean, it’s not all bad. I’m manic, which means I’m sleeping less and working more. Productivity has skyrocketed. I’m answering countless emails each day and churning out more than a dozen articles a week. I’ve lost weight. I’m exercising consistently. Obsessively. The only thing running farther and faster than my legs is my mind. And I’m euphoric. My mood is lifted. I’m happier than a proverbial pig in shit. But I’m also hearing voices. Again. I’m experiencing auditory hallucinations.
Of course, when most people think of hallucinations, they think of visual ones. Like that kid from ‘The Sixth Sense’ who sees dead people or Uncle Joe who goes to Burning Man every year and takes ‘shrooms in the desert. But I don’t see things. No lights. No shapes. No colors. No people. Instead, I hear voices — whispers of the future, present, and past. And while it sounds alarming, it’s not. Not usually. Not in the moment. Because my hallucinations sound like someone is having a conversation behind me, or beside me. It’s like I’m overhearing Meredith and Lauren at the grocery store.
My hallucinations are like a phone call without headphones or an earpiece. I’ve “spoken” with my therapist and psychiatrist virtually. In my bedroom and my head.
And my hallucinations sound like there is a TV on in that background. That, or a radio station only I can hear. Plus, most of my hallucinations go unnoticed. The conversations are as real to me as any other. As natural as my right arm.
Some of the “voices” are passive. Annoying, yes, but not threatening or aggressive. They pester me but do not put me down. Some of the “voices” are insightful. They tell me what I should do, how I should act, and what I should feel. And some of the “voices” are cold. Callous. They mock and criticize me. They are constantly putting me down. But they are always with me, be it friend or foe.
I know this sounds crazy. It is. I have a legitimate diagnosis, after all. Bipolar, with mixed moods. I also live with PTSD and anxiety, and while the former doesn’t cause hallucinations, the latter makes me talk to myself. It causes me to have frantic, panic-induced conversations in my head. And these, when mixed with auditory hallucinations, can be a lot. Too many voices to listen to. To hear. It’s like being at a concert and trying to pinpoint a single sound.
“Psychosis is a symptom of a condition, not a disorder. People experiencing psychosis may have hallucinations or delusions,” an article on Healthline explains. “Sometimes, a person with bipolar disorder may experience symptoms of psychosis. This often occurs during a severe episode of mania or depression.” And this is true of me. I hear the voices when I am manic and (usually) when I am off my meds.
The good news is, my medication does help me manage the voices. When I take said pills, I am able to silence the chatter in my head. But stress can cause the voices to return. Depression can cause me to stop my medication. When I am too downtrodden to care I miss doses. I choose to sleep over standing up, and mania is a tricky beast. She tells me I don’t want the pills. I don’t need the pills. She tells me these “voices” are my friend. So I fight this fight regularly. I cycle constantly, and I talk to strangers. I have conversations with my bedding, pillows, and walls.
“Psychosis in bipolar disorder can happen during manic or depressive episodes but it’s more common during episodes of mania,” the article on Healthline continues. “Many people believe that psychosis is a sudden, severe break with reality. But psychosis usually develops slowly,” with sleep deprivation, faltering hormone levels, and sex being a driving cause — i.e. females are more likely to experience bipolar psychosis than males.
But in spite of it all, I’m fighting. While I am currently off my meds, I’m still trying, and I will keep maintaining as long as I can. Because sometimes the “voices” are my enemy, but sometimes they feel like my only (and oldest) friend.
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