Transcript of the speech given by Hywel Davies at the “Recovery into Practice: A Whole Life – Whole Systems Approach”at the National Botanic Gardens of Wales, Carmarthen, Thursday 20th June 2013
My Recovery Journey Hywel Davies
I am a voice hearer, a retired lecturer of Spanish in Pembrokeshire and a benefactor. Born on August 3rd 1954 in St Thomas’s Hospital in Haverfordwest, I was a breach baby and it was a long and difficult birth. The trauma of the birth may have affected my brain.
I was raised at Upper Robeston Farm in Robeston West near Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire in West Wales, the only son of Mr. Hugh Davies and Mrs. Henrietta Davies (née Howell). Educated initially in Milford Haven (North Road Primary School) and Gloucestershire (Wycliffe College), I obtained a Combined Honours Degree in French and Spanish at Birmingham University in 1977. I obtained a Postgraduate Certificate in Education at Aberystwyth University in 1978.
I have heard voices since the age of about 11 years old. I heard them for the first time at Wycliffe College. There was a nice voice that helped me cope with the fears I had of being in a boarding school and being away from home. The first time I heard the voice was after being told by a boy that he was being bullied and the voice I heard told me to tell the boy to “take no notice”. I duly told the boy to take no notice of the bullying. I continued to hear voices and experienced them as generally helpful throughout me school life until the age of 18.
My life in school was generally happy, productive and successful, occasionally affected by trauma. During my university days, I became religious and regularly used to attend a Welsh speaking chapel in Birmingham. I enjoyed some of the courses I followed at University and the social life. However I kept a little bit of my self to myself at University. I was active in education as a teacher and lecturer in Wales, England and Spain again as a consequence of hearing voices.
Teaching was a vocation (a calling) as at this time I considered myself to be Jesus (and I still do). I heard a voice say “O come unto me little children” and the voice told me that I was a teacher. Some years later I taught Spanish with humour, grace and and success to over 350 adults in Milford Haven and Haverfordwest between 1987 and 1996. I am now retired.
In terms of my mental health milestones, I had a nervous breakdown in May 1983 and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Carmarthen, where I stayed as a patient for three months. At the time I was labelled by psychiatry with the diagnosis of “schizophrenia”. For me this was the beginning of a journey of change, discovery and transformation.
Even though I was diagnosed as having “schizophrenia”, I was never told this, although my mother was.
Generally I had good psychiatric care. People were attentive and kind.
When I first entered the hospital I was on my own in a single room, initially for two weeks. I lost my ability to speak and I was very frightened. I found the experience of being hospitalised frightening but I found fellowship amongst some of the patients and ancillary staff and my parents visited me in hospital.
In 1985 I was admitted for three months into the psychiatric unit of a general hospital in North Devon. Again I found fellowship amongst one or two of the other patients and staff. Colleagues from the where I was teaching and my visited me in hospital.
In the community in Pembrokeshire, I had contact with a psychiatrist and a Community Psychiatric Nurse.
They did not talk with me about my voices and visions.
My main treatment was medication and attendance at Bro Cerwyn Psychiatric Day Hospital in Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire.
People and relationships with other people helped me to get direction, hope, and friendship.
My mother was a key person who helped me in my recovery She bought me a book about “schizophrenia”. She encouraged me to think about my experience of “mental illness” in different ways. She encouraged me to see a counsellor who dealt in astrology. My mother also encouraged me to attend my first meeting of Pembrokeshire Mind, at the time a fledgling mental health charity. She also encouraged me to attend the international hearing voices in Maastricht, Holland in 1996. She said that it would be like attending Sunday School.
Keith Miles, the Charge Nurse in charge of Bro Cerwyn Psychiatric Day Hospital in Haverfordswest and Richard Robson, the Mind Project Officer in Dyfed, encouraged me to be involved in mental health voluntary work.
Sally Clough, an art therapist, humanized and sensitized me and encouraged my love of music and film.
David Morgan, a United Reform Church minister gave me Christian love and leadership and David, as Chair of Pembrokeshire Mind, played an important part in my recovery. At this time I helped Pembrokeshire Mind as secretary, vice Chair and Chair.
Guy Norman a worker with West Wales Action for Mental Health was one of the people I reported back to on my return to Wales from the international hearing voices conference in Maastricht, Holland in 1996. Guy ran with the approach of the hearing voices movement and a hearing voices group was established in Pembrokeshire, one of the first in Wales.
Another individual who was and remains a key pet of my recovery journey is John Stacey and is at this meeting, a colleague, friend and confident with whom I work closely in the hearing voices movement in Wales and elsewhere.
Ron Coleman, who is also here today gave me a vision of courage and emancipation – showing me through his lived experience that is possible to get ones life back.
Marius Romme and Sandra Escher, editors of the pioneering book “Accepting Voices”, were and are key leaders in my recovery.
There are other key individuals, colleagues, relatives and friends who have helped me as an educator and mental health activist. I also write poetry and this is a healing part of my life.
I make choices and take responsibility for my own actions. I have been a mental health activist since May 1987. I knew what it was like to suffer and I wanted to make the world a better place. I have funded INTERVOICE (the international network for training education and research into hearing voices) website and the Hearing Voices Network Cymru website. I am patron of INTERVOICE, a UK registered charity and limited company that is also the organising body for the international hearing voices body. In 2011 I established the Hywel Davies Foundation. The Foundation provides financial support that amongst other things enables the distribution of Hearing Voices Information Packs consisting of books, CD’s and DVD’s about hearing voices from the variety of perspectives. The Resource Packs are distributed globally. I am a philanthropist and I support a wide range of charitable causes. For instance, I help children with clefts in poor countries of the world (Smile Train, UK) and Christians globally. This has been a productive and healing part of my life.
I take ownership of my experience and feel content. I have been a voice hearer since the age of about eleven. I believe that I have lived before as Judas Iscariot, A Cathar (13th century French “heretic”) and James I of England/ VI of Scotland. I believe that I am Jesus.
I was labelled by psychiatry in a certain way in 1983. However, I think that reincarnation, astrology and complementary therapies can help society in the 21st century. I may be right in terms of what I think. I may be wrong.
Miguel Unamuno, the 20th century Spanish philosopher said that a religion that does not doubt itself is not a religion. Similarly, a man who does not doubt himself is not a man. A woman who does not doubt herself is not a woman.
I am recovered, a traumatized good.
A principal lesson from my experience is to encourage voice hearers to talk and share experiences . A problem shared is a problem halved.