It's come to this

After an abortion, a voice told her he would remove her fingers “one by one by one.” She was arrested more than once. She tussled with cops; she raved and slammed her head against the wall of a solitary-confinement cell. Her third arrest was for stealing electronics to trade for drugs. It may only have been the wherewithal of her parents, both lawyers, that spared her a criminal sentence. She was sent to a high-end locked ward in the outskirts of Houston and then to a psychiatric farm in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, where, after dutifully earning the privilege of not taking her pills under the vigilant eye of a nurse, she decided to quit all her medications. The choice was impulsive but not irrational. She felt calmer at the farm, shoveling out sheep stalls and ministering to the chapped hooves of a runt donkey. And she could no longer bear the drugs’ futility and harm. She did no tapering. She flushed the drugs down the toilet morning by morning and evening by evening, careful that if anyone checked her med case they would find the right number of pills remaining…

She began leading Hearing Voices Network support groups — which are somewhat akin to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings — for people with auditory and visual hallucinations. The groups, with no clinicians in the room, gathered on secondhand chairs and sofas in humble spaces rented by the alliance. What psychiatry terms psychosis, the Hearing Voices Movement refers to as nonconsensus realities, and a bedrock faith of the movement is that filling a room with talk of phantasms will not infuse them with more vivid life or grant them more unshakable power. Instead, partly by lifting the pressure of secrecy and diminishing the feeling of deviance, the talk will loosen the hold of hallucinations and, crucially, the grip of isolation.