"Voices in my head would say unkind things"

Delusions and voices have been a daily feature of Richard’s life for more than 10 years. Despite this he recently completed a master’s degree in broadcast journalism and successfully runs his own business.

“When I was 21 I had a bad experience with hallucinogenic mushrooms, after which I started having delusions and hallucinations. Voices in my head said unkind things and I had suspicious thoughts that felt like they came from outside me. I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and the thoughts and voices have been with me ever since.

“A lot of the time the thoughts and voices are like another layer of interaction with people and the world. It’s as if there are two coexisting realities. If I am listening to the radio, for instance, the rational part of me knows that the programme is being transmitted to lots of listeners and that it is a one-way form of communication. My delusional thinking, however, makes me think that the radio can project what I say out loud to the people making the show and all the listeners.

“My delusions will also make me think that a lot of the discussion in the programme has a special meaning or relevance to me. For example, the host of a show might mention that they are going to the dentist soon. If I happen to have a dental appointment in the near future, then it can seem like the presenter has just dropped that into the conversation as a hidden message. They aren’t going to the dentist, but they want me to understand that they know I will be.

“In truth, when something like that happens it is, of course, just a coincidence, but there’s a part of my thinking for which it becomes another reality.

“I’ve come to accept that they are an ongoing part of my life, but there are times when it is hard to deal with. Out shopping, it sometimes seems people are looking at me in a sinister way because they don’t like something about me. The truth is they’re probably noticing my clothes or are just looking in my direction.

“Nonetheless it can get me down, to the point where I won’t go out of the house. In the past it has made me feel depressed, even suicidal. At times like that it helps to have friends who can either tell me to stop thinking rubbish or, if needs be, help me work through my delusions and do some reality-checking.

“I had some cognitive behavioural therapy when I first got these symptoms. It was helpful because it gave me another way to work through negative emotions and keep on top of things that could be disabling. I also take medication and have decided that I always will.

“The media consultancy company I’ve just set up keeps me busy. That’s important too, because when I have lots of work on it helps me keep focused, rather than drift off with my delusions.”

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