It came to me as a surprise. I tried to prevent it from happening, but slowly the voices seeped in from the crack in the car window, as if the wind were talking to me.

They knew my every move, every thought, and like adversaries, they would try to force me to think on their terms, like a dog. They called me a dog for years, and I started to believe it. That’s what paranoia is like.

Sometimes the voices would have a different approach to attacking my mind. They would convince me that the people around me were talking to or about me. I’d hear whole conversations about me.

Sometimes the people sounded less real, but most of the time I couldn’t tell. Usually they were about how I was a (gay slur) or a dog, and I would have to pretend not to be hurt so that I wouldn’t cause a scene.

Pretending is such a shallow feeling, and years of it drove me mad.

I entered a hospital where I encountered a nightmare 10 times worse than the voices: Prolixin. I took it for eight years and would describe it as anxiety beyond anxiety, as though every cell in my body was on the verge of decomposing.

This and the voices: I lost all reason. All I could do was pretend to be normal to get by.

Today, a different drug helps with few side effects. The voices remain, but I can respond to them in a way that decreases my awareness of them.

Walt Wang of Mount Pleasant