Eleanor Longden was diagnosed with schizophrenia, hospitalized and drugged. She says that the voices in her head were a normal reaction to abnormal circumstances.

Image: Screenshot from the video, TED Talks 

At TED Talks, the lecture is summarized as follows:

By all accounts, Eleanor Longden, like all other students, was on her way to high school as a promising student, with no worries in life. But that was before the voices in her head began to speak. The voices, which at first seemed harmless, became increasingly resilient and dictatorial, turning her life into a nightmare when awake.
As diagnosed with schizophrenia, hospitalized, and immersed in medicine, Longden was neglected by a support system that did not know how to help her. Longden tells a moving story about a year-long journey towards good mental health, and she says that it was through learning to listen to the voices in her head that she was able to survive.

Today, Eleanor Longden has completed a master's degree in psychology and an important message that she seeks to convey is that the voices in her head are a normal reaction to abnormal circumstances.


The "meaningless" voices in my head take over

It started small, and Eleanor had voices in her head that were troublesome to deal with. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was told that the voices were only symptoms of this disorder, and as such that they were meaningless. This was of little help to Eleanor, and despite medication, the voices were not lost. She cites an example from this time. One day when she was at school, the voices in her head said:

Do you see the tutor over there? And do you see that glass of water? Now you should walk away from him and pour the water over his head in front of the other students.

As I said so done. She did as the voices commanded, and it goes without saying that this did not make her very popular at school. Eleanor says:

In reality, I had entered a vicious circle of fear, avoidance, mistrust, and misunderstanding, and this was a struggle in which I felt powerless, and I was unable to find any kind of peace or reconciliation.

The voices in my head were only going to get worse. Two years later, the situation was critical.

Now I had a completely insane repertoire: the scary voices, grotesque visions, bizarre, insoluble delusions. My mental health had been a catalyst for discrimination, verbal abuse, and physical and sexual abuse, and I had been told by my psychiatrist, "Eleanor, it would be better if you had cancer, because cancer is easier to cure than schizophrenia." I had been diagnosed, drugged, and rejected as a hopeless case, and I was now so bothered by the voices that I tried to drill a hole in my head to get them out.


The voices were a source of insight into my emotional problems

It might seem like a hopeless battle, but the battle was gradually won. Eleanor says that there were people around her who never gave up hope that she would get well and who with a unique mix of patience, love, integrity and creativity persevered with her and waited for her to come out of the darkness. She attributes the credit to these people for eventually recovering.

I used to say that these people saved me, but what I do know now is that they did something even more important in empowering me to save myself. And most importantly, they helped me understand something that I will always suspect: that my voices were a meaningful response to traumatic life events, especially childhood events, and as such, the voices in my head were not my enemies, but a source of insight into understanding my emotional problems.

Today, Eleanor Longden is involved in an association for people who hear voices. She tells:

I am now very proud to be a part of Intervoice, an organization that is part of International Hearing Voices Movement, which is an initiative inspired by the work of Professor Marius Romme and Dr. Sandra Escher. These consider hearing voices as a survival strategy, a normal response to abnormal circumstances, and not as an aberrant symptom of schizophrenia, but a complex, significant and meaningful experience that deserves to be explored.


Here you can watch the video