Helena Sonar is young and vibrant and enjoys dedicating her time to peer support. She also has experience of hearing voices – and was just 19 when they first arrived.

“That was scary for a teenager like me. One minute the voices would be telling me someone else's thoughts, and the next they would be talking to me in my mind.”

Helena believed she could read people’s minds. She thought someone was coming to get her. Each situation the voices spoke to her about felt as if it was real.

“I was stressed, anxious and worried. I heard voices wherever I went. It felt like I was in another world. I didn’t feel like life was worth living.”

Being responsible for wellbeing

She spent time going in and out of hospital. At first she thought the doctors would cure her completely, but she discovered that wasn’t the case.

Instead, the medication she is prescribed makes up only “a quarter of her circle of wellness” – the rest is up to her.

“I’ve learnt I need to be responsible for my wellbeing and part of my own recovery.”

Being social and finding support

Apart from taking medication, Helena makes sure that she socialises and is around positive people. She’s joined a hearing voices network and a regional consumer network and recommends others look for support from their local mental health groups.

Doing things she enjoys and interests her also helps.

“I think if you have a passion for something, you should explore the opportunities that are out there and take them on board,” she says.

She’s found that work, whether paid or voluntary, makes a difference. However, she’s careful to keep a balance between her work and her personal life and, most of all, find time to relax.

Somewhere along her recovery journey her voices stopped. And now, seven years on, Helena sees her experience – and her voices – as a gift.

“I didn’t start thinking of my experience of mental distress that way, but now I recognise it as unique. What I am today is a daughter, a sister, a friend, a colleague and now a survivor!”