Eleanor Longdon was a college student when she began hearing a totally neutral voice in her head that would narrate her daily going ons in the third person. “She is leaving the room.” She is going to the lecture.” Longdon’s relationship with this innocuous narrator eventually turned into what she called a “psychic civil war” where the voices multiplied, becoming both her “persecutors and her only perceived companions.” This eventually led to a diagnosis of schizophrenia and complete mental unraveling, which caused her to go so far once as to try to drill a hole in her head to get rid of the voices.
In this inspiring TED talk, Longdon shares her arduous journey from the throes of severe mental illness to full recovery. Once she had emerged from her nightmarish existence, she returned to psychiatry, but from the other side, earning her masters in psychology and focusing in recovery-oriented approaches to psychosis. Longdon says she eventually arrived at the conclusion that the voices were not her enemies but a source of “insight into solvable emotional problems” and a “sane reaction to insane circumstances.” Her hope now is to bring this compassionate perspective to the the psychiatric world at large and encourage a paradigm shift from asking patients “What’s wrong with you?” to asking “What’s happened to you?”
Longdon now works with Intervoice: The International Hearing Voices Movement, which endeavors to bring dignity, solidity and empowerment for individuals in mental distress.
This unbelievable tale gave me chills because Longdon’s revolutionary perspective on mental illness, based on her own harrowing experience with it, has the power to change so many people’s lives who are suffering. [TED]