About three this morning I heard something that sounded like people fighting outside. I looked out the front window and witnessed a man standing on the sidewalk, screaming to someone down the street. He would walk a few steps and then turn around to face his accuser. His voice spooked me. It had a sort of demon-like tone to it. Like he was playing a part in some horror film. As I waited and watched, it occurred to me that there was no accuser. At least not one that I could see.
My stomach turned as I watched the man, so obviously tormented by something that only he could hear. After about ten minutes, he moved far enough down the street where I could no longer see or hear him. I couldn’t shake the sound of his voice or the thought of the kind of mental hell he lives with each day.
I saw him again this morning, sitting at the corner two blocks down the street. As my car turned the corner, I looked over and saw him yelling in my direction. I have no idea what he said but he appeared as he had last night – racked by the voices that the rest of us cannot hear.
I’ve carried him with me today. Felt a sadness for this cross he has to bear. Wondered what he may have been like as a child. Tried to forget the demonesque voice and remember that in some ways we are alike… this man and me.
For I have voices in my head, too. Fortunately these voices are not auditory hallucinations like the ones of the man I saw last night. But they are real in another sense. They come from people I have known throughout my life, people who have loved me, as well as people who have hated me. Lately, the voices I hear are words spoken from friends who are trying to offer counsel for my current life situation. While these voices are not meant to be harmful, they can get confusing. They often become so jumbled in my head that I end up paralyzed. The friends who carry these messages, who dump them into my head, have good intentions. I know they love me and want to stop the hurt I feel. Even so, I must sift through the content to find the truth for my life. For instance, the other day I sat at the dining room table of my friends who have walked with me through many of the hardships of this past year. The couple has been nothing but encouraging to me. I have literally spent hours at their house. In our recent conversation, the husband shared part of his childhood story with me. While I know he wants me to do what is best for my life, he acknowledged that what he was presenting was much easier said than done. That’s the problem with the voices I often carry. They may sound good in theory, yet each message has implications.
If I’m not careful, I can play the tapes of these voices over and over in my head until I shut out my own voice completely. Worse, I shut out the voice of God. If I am spiritually healthy, I can scrutinize the voices within the context of a connection with a loving God and find my way out of the maze of messages with my true self intact. If I am spiritually sick I tend to obsess about the messages, especially the ones which pierce my heart, and inevitably I find myself swimming through a pool of insecurity and depression.
When someone tells me, for example, that they do not want to talk to me, no matter the reason, I assign a message to this that says something is wrong with me. I am not worthy to be known or to be pursued. There might be a perfectly good reason for someone wanting to push me away, but when I am feeling vulnerable or weak, I can act as crazy as the man on the sidewalk outside my house last night. I do not like feeling this way. I don’t like losing myself in these voices that tell me I’m not good enough or, the contrary, that I’m too much to handle.
Today I’ve had to examine the voices I have heard the past few days. Instead of standing on the sidewalk shouting, I chose to take my journal to the local park and separate the good messages from the bad. I didn’t draw any conclusions, and I still feel hurt over some of them. I’m confused over others. But most importantly I have started the process of dealing with them. I have tools to work through them, tools like prayer, writing and solitude.
My heart continues to ache over the man who walks Alabama Street and other nearby thoroughfares late at night. His psychosis seems hopeless, but I hold out hope that somehow he can find a way to cope with the voices that plague him.