Dean Smith - Schizophrenia
Thursday, April 9th, 2009
Fifteen years ago Dean Smith first heard voices in his head whilst working on a holiday camp in Brittany. He was then in his mid twenties as reported in the Guardian (04 04 09).
Initially he thought it was his friends mucking about. However as the voices continued a and got worse, Smith admits to becoming both depressed and paranoid. He says he had a strong desire to be with his family, he had no money, but he had to get back to the bosom of his parent’s home in Stockport. He identified that the journey home was horrendous as the voices he was hearing convinced that everyone was talking about him.
Fortunately for Dean, his mother had previously looked after an elderly aunt with mental health issues; this gave Dean some comfort as she already had some previous insight. In addition, Smith found that his father was particularly patient with his son.
However, Dean found that the visits to the GP’s were less successful from the point of view that he was placed on ‘anti-depressants and, when they didn’t work, antipsychotics. They didn’t work either, and by now I was regularly hearing three, one laughing in a wicked kind of way, the other two using abusive and threatening language.
Smith argues that ‘the voices got me down so much that I started self-harming. I wound up getting sectioned several times. I was put on heavy medication and encouraged to spend my days playing games with the other patients - anything to distract the voices. Each time, I’d come out being a fantastic Scrabble or blackjack player, but none the wiser about the voices.
At the age of 29, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. The negative side of the diagnosis was that people he had considered friends, he found that they associated him with knife-wielding murders and thus had nothing more to do with him, he had now been officially labelled by these people and as a consequence he was also stigmatised.
Smith was very keen to have an overall knowledge in relation to the condition and treatment. Then he heard of an approach whereby the patient engages with the voices in their head and respond accordingly.
He took this advice readily, ‘questioning them, challenging them and even cutting them off if I didn’t have time to talk to them. I’d say things like, “I’m watching TV now, I’ll talk to you later” or “Why exactly do you think I deserve it when bad things happen to me? You can’t answer that, can you?” Sometimes I’d do it in my head; other times out loud. I began to recognise the voices as representing the negative feelings I had about myself, and that alone helped me feel less frightened of them. It’s not that they aren’t real, but they ceased to have the power over me they did. I began to realise they couldn’t carry out their threats.’
As a direct consequence of this action the voices now bother him less and less.
Dean explains that more recently another voice appeared, but this was a happy positive voice. It actually sounded more like himself when he was a teenager, mischievous, but funny.
Finally, for Dean, he has learned that the voices he hears are not the problem it is his relationship with them that is significant. Facing them and working with them will be key.