Coming to terms with hearing voices

Marlene Janssen hears voices but now offers help to people in a similar situation. Picture: Will Russell   d441475
Marlene Janssen hears voices but now offers help to people in a similar situation. Picture: Will Russell d441475

She struggled with mental distress at school but finished university and qualified as a nurse.

After a back injury at work, she was given benzodiazepine for depression and anxiety. She was also taking sleeping tablets, painkillers and anti-depressants.

Ms Janssen became addicted to benzodiazepine and the depression continued.

The next few years of her life were spent in and out of different hospitals and in front of different doctors and psychiatrists.

In 2001, she returned to her homeland of Holland.

She worked at a nursing home but became isolated when she contracted glandular fever and had to stop work.

�The depression kicked back in and that�s when I started hearing voices,� she said.

�The first voice I heard told me to harm myself; it said �throw yourself down the stairs and everything will be fine�.

�I was petrified. I also started doing really strange stuff I have no recollection of, like waking up next to a pond in my pyjamas with my bike next to me and I had no idea how I got there.�

Ms Janssen�s parents convinced her to return to Australia but when she told doctors about the voices, she was put on high doses of anti-psychotic drugs.

�It�s like your brain is in a fog; you can�t function,� she said. �The voices were dulled, but I couldn�t think either.�

She was also diagnosed with borderline personality disorder but her life changed when she went to Richmond Wellbeing in 2005.

�A recovery worker helps you come up with a recovery plan,� she said. �They ask what goals you want to achieve and what you need to do to achieve them.�

Ms Janssen learnt coping strategies, including listening to music, using breathing techniques and hitting a basketball with a tennis racket to get rid of tension and anger.

�They also helped with the little things that matter; having a shower every day, brushing your hair, taking pride in your appearance,� she said.

Ms Janssen also joined the Hearing Voices Network, where she could talk without fear of judgement.

After she came out of the Richmond Wellbeing facility in 2006, she was a changed person. She learnt to cope with the voices and got a job as a project officer in the Hearing Voices Network.

Ms Janssen moved on to a number of positions in the organisation, including helping people who had been in mental health facilities integrate back into the community.