Auditory hallucinations: Voices that whisper, are they real?

by Angela Brooks

The voices that speak inside someone's mind are as real as the one that is reading this story to you. Can you hear them?

They are called Auditory hallucinations, or also known as "hearing voices". Auditory hallucinations can range from primitive noises such as bangs, whistles, claps, screams, and ticks, as well as other noises such as speech and music. Commonly people who have auditory hallucinations hear voices which utter short phrases. Sometimes the person may recognize the voice as one of a family member or deceased friend, and sometimes it may be the voice of a stranger or even God. The voices or sounds can be thought to originate from anywhere. The walls, the ground, trees, or even a shoe are all possible origins of hallucinatory sounds.

An older lady who was petite in size came into the hospital a few years ago. Her daughter would visit almost daily. She said her mother would get so sick at home she would not sleep for days at a time. The less sleep she received the more manic she became.

As I was making rounds to check inside the rooms while the patients should be sleeping, I found this lady sitting on the edge of her bed with her hands resting in her lap. She smiled an unusual smile, "I am fine," she said calmly.  I closed the door. Something told me to watch her closely but each time I glanced in her room she looked at the staff with her hands laying in her lap just sitting on the edge of her bed.

She just could not sleep but did not want to take anything to help her sleep, which was okay with me.

Back in the early times of working in the hospital it was normal for only one or two staff to work on a unit during the night. I never thought it was safe, but each unit worked with low staffing.

She weighted around 90 to 110lbs at the most. However, she had been known to show unusual strength on her manic days. When I opened the door around 3 AM and she was still sitting in the same spot something in my mind clicked; this was not right. I flipped on the big over head light to see better than what my small flash light was providing. She looked at me with wide eyes and panic. I asked her what was wrong, and then I looked down. Her fingers on both hands were pointing to the ceiling in the most unusual form. They were twisted and broken. I screamed for the other staff to call for help as she stood up to fight me. She had one finger left and was determined to break that one too.

I grabbed both of her hands and tried to pull them apart until the other staff returned. She was going to break the last of her fingers. She held onto her small pinky finger with all her might screaming, "No! Leave me alone; they told me to!”

When help arrived and we called for an ambulance to transfer her to the local medical hospital, she began crying. I had to know, so I asked, "What on earth made you sit and break your fingers?" She looked at me with a faraway look and said, "They told me I had to or they would kill my daughter." I asked her, "Aren't you in pain?" She shook her head, "No, it doesn't hurt. I saved her life; that is what mothers do for their kids."

This patients voices were so real, she truly thought her daughter was in harms way. She listened to them like she was held hostage and I guess in a way she was.

Angela Brooks has worked in a state-funded psychiatric hospital in Kentucky for 21 years as a nurse, assisting sometimes-dangerous patients who come in shackled and cuffed. At, she offers stories of life on the inside of a psychiatric ward, and the site, as well as her company, offers support for nurses in the mental health field and helps them bring passion into their role at work.

On her BlogTalkRadio show, Mental Happiness with Angela Brooks, she shares some of her experiences “learning to love those others have forsaken” and gives tips on how to bring peace to your own life.

* Please note: I am not here to CURE, DIAGNOSE, Treat or suggest replacements for what a doctor prescribes – I am sharing my nursing adventures with you.

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Angela Brooks is a retired nurse after 25 years in mental health. She used her lunch breaks to build her business part time on the night shift. Her car became a mobile university as she listened to business training, coaching calls on CD and phone webinars. She blogged while she was at her sons' baseball practices.

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1 Victoria Gazeley October 28, 2010 at 11:24 am

Wow, Angela. Your stories bring to the light a whole world most of us know absolutely nothing about. This topic is both fascinating and frightening. I look forward to reading more from your unique perspective.

2 denny hagel October 28, 2010 at 11:50 am

I am always riveted to your words as I read your articles Angela. They raise a variety of emotions in me…sadness for the patients…admiration for you for what you do for them….and gratitude that God put you here to deliver the blessings that you bring to so many who need you. I am at the top of the list to buy your book!!!

3 Angela Brooks October 28, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Victoria & Denny Thank you! The book is moving along – There is more coming soon – I can't wait to share it with you. Your comments mean so much

4 Lily October 29, 2010 at 8:22 pm

That was a scary one– just coming up on Halloween too.  I so want to hear about how your patients' stories end.  I hope this woman was ok in the end!  Will you be able to follow up with your patients in your book? 

5 Angela Brooks October 30, 2010 at 10:45 am

Hello Lily – Some of the patients – I can follow up on – but so many will leave and I will never see them again or they will come in and go to a long term floor and I want even know they are there. That is the sad part – you help them in just a part of their life and they move on. There are so many I wish I knew what happen to them after they left.

6 Rose Mis October 30, 2010 at 4:36 pm

That made the hair on the back of my neck stand up Angela !! I was cooking on the line one night when one of the other cooks decided to take a French cleaver to his pinky finger… It was one of the most shocking things I had ever seen. While we were waiting for the ambulance to come … he told us … eyes as shiny as polished glass, unblinking and big as saucers … THEY told him that he had to do it otherwise they were going to kill his mother. He never was able to come back to work and none of us ever heard from him again.
I can only imagine how being exposed to situations like that on a daily basis affects you. You truly are a blessing for all. Your courage and dedication are beyond inspiring. The fact that you are sharing this is a God-send for all that read your stories.

7 Angela Brooks October 31, 2010 at 10:50 am

Thank you Rose

Amazing how someone would want to take a meat cleaver to his hand – wouldn't you like to know what was going on in his mind!

I am sure my experiences have an affect on me and may not show up til it is all over and done – right now I see so many things it is a release to share them here.

8 Dr. Scott November 1, 2010 at 7:41 am

Angela!  What a story…. it kind of creeps me out.  Now, I know I'm going to have auditory hallucinations …… "S N A P"!  ewwww……!!

9 Comancheshadow November 10, 2010 at 10:46 am

Hello Angela!   I was an LPN prior to becoming an RN, and was a charge nurse at a county nursing home, working nightshift.  One of my favorite patients was an elderly woman who used to be a schoolteacher.  She was in a room , alone, and as I passed one night on my rounds, I heard a high pitched voice…. and  the patient answered this voice with her own, low pitched, husky voice, in a conversation.  I wondered who the other person was, and turned on the light in the room, to check.  Imagine my surprise when I saw only the patient alone….  LOL… now, that was SOME auditory hallucination on MY park, I guess………..LOL…..!

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