I was referred to a psychiatrist, who likewise took a grim view of the voice's presence,
subsequently interpreting everything I said through a lens of latent insanity.
For example, I was part of a student TV station that broadcast news bulletins around the campus,
and during an appointment which was running very late,
I said, "I'm sorry, doctor, I've got to go. I'm reading the news at six."
Now it's down on my medical records that Eleanor has delusions that she's a television news broadcaster.
It was at this point that events began to rapidly overtake me.
A hospital admission followed, the first of many, a diagnosis of schizophrenia came next,
and then, worst of all, a toxic, tormenting sense of hopelessness, humiliation and despair about myself and my prospects.
But having been encouraged to see the voice not as an experience but as a symptom,
my fear and resistance towards it intensified.
Now essentially, this represented taking an aggressive stance towards my own mind,
a kind of psychic civil war,
and in turn this caused the number of voices to increase and grow progressively hostile and menacing.
Helplessly and hopelessly, I began to retreat into this nightmarish inner world
in which the voices were destined to become both my persecutors and my only perceived companions.
They told me, for example, that if I proved myself worthy of their help,
then they could change my life back to how it had been,
and a series of increasingly bizarre tasks was set, a kind of labor of Hercules.
It started off quite small, for example, pull out three strands of hair,
but gradually it grew more extreme, culminating in commands to harm myself,
and a particularly dramatic instruction:
"You see that tutor over there? You see that glass of water? "
Well, you have to go over and pour it over him in front of the other students."
Which I actually did, and which needless to say did not endear me to the faculty.
In effect, a vicious cycle of fear, avoidance, mistrust and misunderstanding had been established,
and this was a battle in which I felt powerless and incapable of establishing any kind of peace or reconciliation.
Two years later, and the deterioration was dramatic.
By now, I had the whole frenzied repertoire:
terrifying voices, grotesque visions, bizarre, intractable delusions.
My mental health status had been a catalyst for discrimination, verbal abuse,
and physical and sexual assault,
and I'd been told by my psychiatrist, "Eleanor, you'd be better off with cancer,
because cancer is easier to cure than schizophrenia."
I'd been diagnosed, drugged and discarded,
and was by now so tormented by the voices that I attempted to drill a hole in my head in order to get them out.
Now looking back on the wreckage and despair of those years,
it seems to me now as if someone died in that place, and yet, someone else was saved.
A broken and haunted person began that journey,
but the person who emerged was a survivor and would ultimately grow into the person I was destined to be.