So, here’s my biography, which had to be under 80 words:
I experience voices as part of my dissociative disorder. I co-facilitate two groups at MIFSA, Sound Minds and Bridges, and love delivering talks about mental health. These groups have made a tremendous difference in my life, I’ve learned so much and been able to better manage my own conditions and find ways to ‘pay it forward’. I’m also a poet, artist, and blogger, passionate about educating, inspiring, and reducing stigma around experiences such as mental illness.
And here’s the abstract, under 200 words:
I will share my personal experiences with ‘mental illness’ and voice hearing. I was diagnosed with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder when I was 14, and later a Dissociative disorder, although my troubles started much younger. I now co-facilitate groups, one of them for voice hearers. I will share the experience of voice hearing from a dissociative perspective, other troubling experiences associated with this, and how my recovery journey is unfolding. I will explore the critical role of creativity in my health, and how I’ve worked to develop greater self-awareness and self-compassion to reduce conflict with my voices. Dissociation is an often misunderstood and feared experience, I will explain common dissociative symptoms, how they feel and affect me, and what I find helpful. For many people who hear voices as a part of a dissociative disorder, the classic episodes of wellness and sickness don’t apply, and identity is tangled with the experiences in a way that can make ‘me’ difficult to separate from the ‘illness’. I hope to inspire people to feel more comfortable and confident in navigating dissociative issues, and while the recovery process is very individual I want to encourage people that it is possible to live well with voices.
I’ve also teamed up with a friend, Jenny, we’d love to present a talk together about how successful our voice hearer’s group Sound Minds has been, and how Bridges has developed from it. Here’s her biography:
I am currently employed at The Mental Illness Fellowship of SA as a peer facilitator of ‘Sound Minds’ a group supporting people who experience voices and as a Community Educator. My voices started at about 5yrs of age. At 22 following a car accident these voices came to the attention of the hospital staff. Psychotic illness was diagnosed. I am now learning the power of living beyond illness. It’s my passion to share this knowledge and help others.
Jenny also contributes to Mindshare, you can see her work here. We had a quick chat to both groups this week to see what they thought of the idea of Jenny and myself not talking so much from our own experiences but going to the conference as ambassadors of the groups, putting quotes and thoughts of group members into the talk. They sounded excited about that so that’s what we’ll do. Here’s our abstract for a joint presentation:
Jenny and Sarah each experience voices and are both peer facilitators of a SA Voice Hearer’s group called Sound Minds. We will share the development of this group from inception in 2009 to now. Sound Minds has encountered challenges and difficulties such as months of low attendance, and the instability of being an open group with regular new members. Over time, the group has grown and developed into a strong, caring community of people with very diverse experiences. We are thrilled with the success of this project and will share members experiences of the difference Sound Minds has made in our lives and our ability to manage our voices. This format has been so successful that in July 2011, after much planning, Sarah started a sister group called Bridges. Bridges runs on the same principles as Sound Minds but specifically with people wanting support for experiences around dissociation and/or multiplicity rather than voice hearing. The principles have translated well and Bridges is also developing into a strong, useful resource. We’re very excited by the benefits both groups are providing to their members, and will share how the voice hearing group format has broader relevance in mental health.
Fingers crossed! Even if this one isn’t our time, I’m excited about doing talks about these topics and I’m sure we’ll give them somewhere.