Original artwork by Dusk Delacour.

For everyone who experiences mental health challenges, it can seem like you’re alone. As if there’s nothing that can make it stop, and you begin to ask who in the world has been through this?

The more alone you feel, the more you may have emotions about what’s going on around you. But I have found that I am far from alone, that many are actually like me. Very great, interesting people. And I realized that I am so lucky and glad to be able to meet them. 

I noticed the more I felt alone about it, the more I would react to hearing voices. And the more I reacted, the more unable I was to figure out what was going on. This made me go farther and farther from getting past it all. But once I was able to get into a voices group and get to know people like me, it took that reaction I had and helped me move in the right direction. Hearing someone just like me say yes, that’s exactly what I’m experiencing, made a big difference. 

Groups provided lots of sympathy, and we got to converse back and forth about what had gone on during the week. It was a great way to check in with each other. It was a way to give each other voices, rather than giving power to the ones that had been echoing inside. It kept us from feeling alone and it gave us a routine. This made everything a lot easier. I was hooked, joining as many groups as I could across the world and developing relationships with people all over.

I started having my experiences when I was in my early twenties. Everything around me in my world changed. I began to study and make art, hoping to get at what and why I was experiencing these feelings. It was like everything was dull, not much was going on, and then all of a sudden, I was hearing a whole other world happening below my home.

The experience can be very real. It’s not like the word psychosis, it’s like a hallucination. For many, it’s actually a real live thing that happens for them. For me it’s nothing different than hearing someone in real life. It’s like a whole other eye to life. It’s very like a whole outer world that is happening simultaneously. 

My voices can be very smart. They can be so smart they become kind of a challenge. After a while, voices can be very difficult to ignore when constantly questioned by them. Once you hear the voice it sort of makes you turn. They almost guide your direction. They want attention, and giving them attention can give them more ways to get through.

Some people in frustration argue with their voices, and it begins to continue on, and they end up stuck in an argument with their environment. Some people are lucky to have voices that are positive, but most people I’ve met experience negative voices. 

In history, there are some amazing people who have had these visions. Joan of Arc who is the Patron Saint of France, and artist Van Gogh who painted, as well as Harriet Tubman, who also had visions as I heard.

The meds never seem to get rid of these outside experiences and voices. They moreso change how people take in what’s going on with them. In most cases the meds do not get rid of the voices. That’s why there are so many of us who deal with this for so long. 

After years of it, all I can say is that I have found ways to ignore what’s going on, and have my own place to relate to others. Finding your own place and getting support where you’re at helps. Especially groups, and the internet, which has many answers and places to educate yourself. 

Dusk Delacour is a Berkeley-based artist and advocate for people living with mental illness.