Ever since her teenage years, Sederia Lewis heard voices. Despite common perceptions about voices, hers encouraged her to reach for her goals, and to overcome obstacles in her life. Despite her own positive experiences with the voices, telling others about them led to numerous trips to therapists and psychiatrists, as well as medications to lessen their presence in her life. Though some of this work was helpful to her, she mostly learned to not tell people about what she was hearing. At the same time, she didn’t gain the tools to make sense of her life, or to move forward. Eventually she began to find her way by connecting with peer groups, and then the hearing voices network. In her first hearing voices group facilitator training, she discovered that she was not alone in hearing voices, and that hearing voices could be seen as a source of strength.
In 2014, to further explore her experiences with voices, Sederia helped to start the first hearing voices group in Berkeley. As her participation in this group, and others continued, Sederia found she was able to make healthier choices in all areas of her life. As she built new habits of living, developed greater inner strength, as well as a community of mutual support, she found the voices stopped. In one sense, they have been replaced with voices from the group she facilitates, which has flourished now with an average of 15 participants per group.
Much of the behind the scenes work for this group, and others like it requires significant support. The Bay Area Hearing Voices Network, is a local 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to developing awareness around voices, visions, unusual beliefs and extreme states, and depends on volunteers to function. Our groups are part of the international hearing voices network, which seeks build community and change perceptions of the experience of hearing voices. But to sustain and build communities like the one that Sederia leads, we are asking for your financial assistance. As little as $1 will keep our website up for a week, $40 for a year, and $150 could pay for a speaker at a local organization. If we can reach our goal of $25,000, we can improve our website, and apply for grants to expand the services we provide. With your help, we will expand opportunities for people to understand these experiences, so that like Sederia, when a supportive voice leaves us, we will always have a place to go where we can find another.