Eleanor Longden was a college freshman when she started hearing voices in her head. Diagnosed with schizophrenia and checked into a psychiatric ward, Longden spent years trapped in a nightmare of hospitals and medications, pain and despair. Yet she survived. Her technique: to learn to listen to her internal narrators, not reject them. Now on the cusp of finishing her Ph.D. in psychology, Longden still hears voices — and she says she wouldn’t live without them.
Part personal memoir and part medical argument, Learning from the Voices in My Head challenges society’s definition of crazy. Longden calls for a new, nuanced understanding of voice hearing and urges us to see madness not as a condition, but as a process — one through which those who struggle with mental health issues have the chance to emerge with their sanity intact. Longden’s story shows that there is, in the end, a message in the madness.
Eleanor Longden, psychologist, was in her first year of university when she started hearing voices. Initially she dismissed this experience as harmless, simply an expression of her own thoughts, triggered by the loneliness and pressures experienced by many students on starting university. However having confided in a friend and, later, a GP this led to a swift diagnosis of schizophrenia, a mental health condition considered by many as having little hope for recovery.
Eleanor spent some time lost and ignored by mental health services eager to provide heavy doses of medication and shut her away in inpatient care facilities, but uninterested in providing any form of emotional support. After struggling for some time and being bullied due to the stigma of her condition, she returned to her family home and this is where her luck changed.
With treatment under psychiatrist Dr Pat Bracken Eleanor began on the path to recovery. She has since earned a BSc and an MSc in psychology, the highest classifications ever granted by the University of Leeds, England. Today she is studying for her PhD, and lectures and writes about recovery-oriented approaches to psychosis, dissociation and complex trauma. She is actively involved with Intervoice and Hearing Voices Network amongst others. She hears voices to this day but no longer views this as a negative experience.
This is a truly inspiring story of someone who has learnt how to live with schizophrenia and who, after a dark period, rather than perceiving it as a mental disturbance, started accepting it as an emotional response to some traumatic events. Longden understood the difference between "hearing voices" and listening to them, and started believing they had compelling information that could answer some of her most dark emotions and unresolved issues. The proof that our problems are only a sum of the power we choose to give them, that control and focus can go to great lengths and that our minds can be stronger than we lead ourselves to believe. Somehow, what looked like a well of despair became the initiation of a healing process. It is also a critic to the bad connotation that people have put in the term "schizophrenia" and "voice-hearing" and how that meaning influences the way patients will take it, rather then trying to see the way around it.
AMAZING book. I could not put it down. In fact, i woke up in the night last night and couldn't help but have a sneaky read until it was finished. I saw a TED talk by its author, Eleanor Longden, who hears voices herself. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, she went through a mental health system that essentially consigned her to the scrap heap and told her that her condition would only degenerate. Shunned by her friends and taunted by her peers, she isolated herself and resigned herself to a life without hope.
These days, she still hears voices, but she has made peace with them. She no longer touches medication. After taking an award for achieving the highest ever score for science, she is now a psychiatrist herself, but unlike most psychiatrists, she believes that hearing voices is a response to trauma and should be treated through therapy. She believes not everyone who hears voices should be taking medication. She is an amazing, big hearted woman, and now officially my new hero.
She also says trauma is a social and political problem. "By placing the causes of distress on the individual and not her context, our culture fails to look at what external factors are creating this distress," she writes.
“So, for example, in the U.K. we have newspaper headlines proclaiming that “depression and anxiety are the biggest cause of misery in Britain,” in which nebulous psychiatric concepts are given causal precedence rather than the numerous social contexts that give rise to unhappiness."
These days, she has joined a worldwide social movement, the Hearing Voices Network, which offers hope and empowerment to people who hear voices. In addition to fighting stigma, the network encourages those who are open to it to consider their voices as aspects of themselves they need to confront and make peace with. I had no idea that such an organisation existed.
Although I do not hear voices myself, I do have my own mental illness, and this book was absolutely revolutionary and life-changing. I feel hope, and like i am ready to approach my experiences in a whole new way. I have barely done it justice. Absolutely INCREDIBLE.
This was a good read , my only reservation is that the author had enough social capital / education / family support / money etc to facilitate her recovery ( which i tKe my hat of to and would never wish to undermined) Having worked with one of the psychologists and one of the psychiatrists mentioned in the book, the realities of poor areas and Hearing Voice Networks are that they are often inaccessible to people in real need. Also I do think that social work and OT were left out a bit as I think both professions have been real champions of social change My finial bug bare is that certain words in the book were americanised why do people do that !!!!
Es un libro corto, pero con un buen insight sobre la estigmatización de las alucionaciones auditivas y sobre cómo el acercamiento psiquiátrico tradicional sólo exacerba dañinamente los síntomas. Buen libro para repensar el concepto de enfermedad, con muchas fuentes. Se ve que la autora está acostumbrada a escribir académico así que hacia el final parece blogpost pero buena lectura de todos modos.
This was an incredibly inspiring read that truly aims to promote understanding and empowerment to those who have struggled with hearing voices. The wisdom of finding healing through welcoming the voices and their wounded past... gives a tremendously powerful outlook for those that have been shunned or misunderstood for too long. The one main disagreement I had was with the seemingly segregated description of thought with biology. One cannot separate thought from biological function, it is a biological function. With every thought, there is a neural impulse that has a biological imprint. These neural networks can be modified and adapted...but that itself IS a biological process. While certain conditions have been exploited for a variety of reasons, there are justifiable arguments for pharmaceutical intervention at the appropriate times and amounts if there is a biochemical imbalance. Of course, this should always be a last resort and it has been utilized much too readily in our culture.
Inspirational humbling stuff. I use Eleanor’s TED talk in training frequently to challenge stereotypes, sigma and prejudice. She gives hope to people who have had theirs sapped by adversity. I use her ideas and account of her life in my work with voice hearers, survivors or abuse and trauma. I’m proud to be a part of bringing the ideas of the Power Threat Meaning Framework (that Eleanor co wrote) to bear in mental health systems in the UK.
This book is deep, thoughtful, and probably quite world-changing. It destigmatizes some major assumptions society encourages about mental health and makes us question our own perceptions in the face of neurodiversity. I highlighted more sentences than I didn’t... I practically painted the pages yellow with phrasings I thought so intelligent and summarizing ... I can not recommend this book enough.
This book is the autobiography of a woman who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in college. She talks about how the voices originated and later went into psychiatry and then mental hospitals after making the mistake of telling her friend about it. She went as far as harming herself by burning her arms with cigarettes and lighters as well as pouting chemicals on her arm. Her condition with schizophrenia was very serious, but after meeting with Dr. Pat Bracken and his team, she learned to listen to those voices and manage to recover from a serious case. While this is an autobiography, this would also fall under non-fiction as it is a true story and she also gives more of an insight on schizophrenia. I gave it this rating because it gives good information on schizophrenia, or "voice hearing" as she calls it, and is highly suggested for those going into psychology whether they're in high school or college.
This was a fantastic story. I purchased this book after seeing Ms. Longden's TED Talk and I'm really glad that I did. It's really a whole new way to look at voice hearing. Indeed, this book really blows apart the amorphous concept of "schizophrenia." I'd also said this book went far in restoring my faith in psychiatry and psychology. I did bog down a bit in the last half of the book mainly because it was talking about a whole lot of psychological theory that I really was blurring out on, but I'm sure it will capture the interest of anyone actually interested in psychology. This latter part is critical, I think, for practitioners to read.
But seriously, just for Ms. Longden's story of descent and recovery, this is well worth the read.
It's a short but potent read. Through her early experience as a diagnosed 'schizophrenic' a Psychiatrist critiques the system she was once treated by, exploring some major problems with the current medical and societal perspective towards psychosis, trauma and 'auditory hallucinations'. To name just a few; the over-reliance on medication as a treatment for psychosis to the neglect of understanding important psychological and social factors, the failure of the biological/genetic model to fully account for 'schizophrenia' after decades of research and the relative indifference of the discipline to the potential of voice hearing as a positive therapeutic and life tool. Eleanor's story is both inspiring and thought provoking, if you liked her TED talk I would definitely recommend the book.
This book amazed me. My voices are internal, positive, and protective, which I perceive as guides, not as a part of me. I find the concept of confronting and comforting negative voices absolutely brilliant. I also think the author makes important points as to how people can be better diagnosed /understood as well as how they can be taught to cope rather than expect cures.
I am someone who has heard voices from the age of twelve. This book brought tears to my eyes with the knowledge that I was not alone, that I didn't have to think of myself as crazy, and that hearing voices was nothing to be ashamed of. It also empowered me to know that there is an entire movement dedicated to these unique and precious people.
A fantastic introduction to the Hearing Voices Movement. Eleanor's personal story is painted with broad brush strokes and the resounding message is to other voice hearers - you are not alone, the shame and stigma that you feel is an historical aberration that is being slowly undone.
It is easy to read and understand. Helps immeasurably to those of us trying to understand the process of the mind and positives ways to treat, survive and believe that despite what we might have gone through, we are entitled to heal and save ourselves.