Hearing Voices

AP Photo/Jaime Henry-White

Struggling with depression and shame over his bisexual identity, a young college student smokes an excessive amount of weed, trying, he thinks, to escape what ails him. Eventually, his visual and auditory hallucinations disrupted not only his college education, but his ability to live. In the gripping essay “Some Kind of Reality” for The Threepenny Review, Andre Bouyssounouse writes about how even after he stopped smoking pot, the voices grew so loud that he had to seek professional help. What begins as story of confusion, alienation, and what the author calls “stupefying depression and anxiety” becomes a chilling, detailed account of the mind turning on itself. It’s one of the most vivid accounts of psychosis I have read. As someone who struggled with the heavy psychological effects of cannabis dependence myself, back in college, Bouyssounouse’s story hit me hard. It also begs the question: Did the cannabis permanently awaken a latent condition, or would Bouyssounouse have heard the voices without his period of over-indulgence?

For that whole day, I carried on a dialogue with the voices, mumbling to my phone under my breath. There were two distinct voices: Sarah and Michelle. Michelle was the more practical and level-headed of the two. Andre, she said. There’s something wrong with Sarah. She’s obsessed with you, and I’m scared for both of you. I think she has a brain tumor or something. She stole your phone and she’s been listening to you for months. Ever since you got back from Santa Barbara. I heard Sarah: Give me the phone, you bitch. Andre, I want you to come over here right now. You hear that? Are you a man or what? Michelle begged me not to tell anyone. She’s my friend, Andre, I can’t let this get out. There’s something wrong and I’m trying to control her but I don’t know what to do anymore. Please don’t tell anyone about this. She’s a good person, there’s just something—something’s wrong…

The essay is behind the paywall, but you can purchase the essay in the Summer 2020 issue of The Threepenny Review.

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