i got guns in my head and they won't go
Updated: Jan 4
Photo: the cold unwelcoming streets of Saint Gilles
"A pilgrimage is two journeys, one for the feet, and one for the soul". Will
On the 10th of April 2013, I was standing outside my hotel in Saint Gilles heading towards Gallargues le Montueux (29 km / 7 hours). The sky was a grey smudge and the wind surgically cold. I zipped up my jacket to my chin, heaved on my pack and set off down empty cobbled streets in search of a cafe for breakfast. I found one, a grim unsociable place with a hard tiled floor, and white plastic tables and chairs. Three men dressed for outside work were standing at the counter, one older lady behind it. They all turned to stare at the stranger. The news (on the big tv) was competing with the bells, whistles and flashing lights of two gambling machines. I downed my coffee and croissant, I said “au revoir” and then we left.
Photo: A road, some fields and the only clue I was on the right path.
Today would be a template for the next few weeks. A freezing morning till about 10.00 when the sun would make a difference. Vast empty stretches of unfrequented tracks bordered with tedious fields with only a few memorable features. My everyday encounters with the locals were brief and purely functional. There were no fellow pilgrims, this was a “solitary route”.
I had made the deliberate decision to leave behind my MP3 player. My mobile needed a local sim card, which I chose not to buy. In between villages, the only consistent sound was the methodical rhythm of my boots crunching the sand and stones on the track. Otherwise, it was the occasional stream or bird calls or distant traffic. My world had gone quiet.
Photo: not so interesting scenery.
The stage was set for me to walk these long days, free from distractions, just me … and my companions.
This is going to be a difficult, and for many, a surprising new subject, and as with anything of which people are unfamiliar and can provoke a knee jerk response. Please don’t judge or jump to conclusions, just read, and reflect on the new knowledge. I will leave some links to useful websites, for those who are interested.
If you have never heard of this phenomenon before let me explain, in brief.
I have what is called an “inner dialogue”. In my mind I “hear” different parts of my personality talking to myself. They are not “real voices”, it's not like I hear them and turn around looking for the speaker, it’s internal. I have lived with these voices or characters for so long, I just assumed everyone had the same internal experience, they don’t.
It’s a not very well researched area of human experiences, it touches on some very serious and sensitive issues, like mental illness, addictions, PTSD, abuse, and destructive behaviours. It’s scary, and people are afraid to talk about it. As with all mental health issues, it comes with a stigma, baggage, judgement, and hurtful assumptions.
I don't hear a voice screaming at me to kill myself or commands to wipe out all sinners, it’s more like a quiet discussion between old friends. It's just me, Ed, Neville and Jim trying to process my feelings and make decisions. Well, at least I thought it was.
As the cold morning warmed up and the sun came out, my journey got darker.
"Don’t believe everything you hear, even in your own mind".
Daniel Amen, Psychiatrist.
LINK - Inner dialogue wiki link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_monologue.
LINK - Intervoice, The International Hearing Voice Network https://www.intervoiceonline.org/