I was really pleased with it. It was really nice to take a moment to celebrate what we’ve been able to accomplish! About two years ago Ben, Cary, and myself starting meeting up to talk about the lack of resources for people who experience dissociation.Cary and I were (to my knowledge) the only two people in Mifsa with a dissociative disorder, both of us had started as participants and had to explain our condition to every support work or staff member involved with us. Initially we talked about how frustrating we found this. Then we started to investigate how we could start to change things.
We ended up holding some ‘community consultations’ where we asked other people who experience dissociation what their experiences in mental health services have been like (mixed – a lot of bad stories, the occasional really great therapist or worker) and what resources they really need. We then had a look at what, practically we could actually get set up.
The greatest ask was for a support type group. Most people with a dissociative disorder have never even had the chance to meet someone else with the same experience. The isolation was extreme, and the level of stigma and discrimination also. Many people talked about being thrown out of hospital while in crisis, told their condition doesn’t exist or they are faking it for attention. The level of anxiety in this population is the highest of any group I’ve ever worked with. The need for sensitivity and confidentiality is also very high. Some people have been told by their support workers that they will lose their support if they ever ‘research’ their condition, as that will be seen as proof they are making it up. The result of this is often deeply internalised self-stigma, and an inability to access information, community, and resources – which are the very things anyone with a mental illness needs. Even the process of community consultation was both confronting and a huge relief for many of the people who came. There have been tears as for the first time people hear someone else talk about something they’ve experienced and kept secret for so long. It’s very powerful and deeply moving to be part of.
So we decided to set up Bridges and put a lot of time and research into deciding on a good format and making sure we could sustain it over time. We launched a new flyer for the group, which has the answers to the most common questions we’re asked about it printed on the flyer here.
The other resources people asked for that we felt we could get up and running without too much trouble was fact sheets that broke down dissociation and multiplicity into simple everyday language so people could take them home to family or friends or in to doctors. The burden of constantly having to try and explain confusing experiences we may not understand ourselves is a huge one and some paper resources can help. At the Afternoon Tea we launched two fact sheets that will be made available at the front desk (on display behind the receptionists). You can download your own in pdf form, one is Introducing DID, the second is Managing Dissociation.
Access to books to read about dissociation was another request we’ve been able to start on. I’ve made my personal library available to anyone at Bridges, and now opened it up broader to anyone who needs some more information be they family, friend, or staff working people who experience dissociation. I do need a deposit to help me replace books that don’t get returned, but it is refunded on return of the book. You can find a list of my personal library here.
We’ve recently been very fortunate to have several books about dissociation from my wishlist donated to the Mifsa library! The admin team are now creating a brand new area the library, Dissociation, and putting the new books into it! I’m so excited about this, when I first came along to Mifsa I looked for information about dissociation in the fact sheets and the library and was deeply disappointed that there weren’t any. Now there are both! The Mifsa library books are free to borrow for Mifsa members (which only costs $10 a year conc), just take the book to the reception and they’ll sort you out. 🙂
Most of the people attending the Afternoon Tea were from organisations outside of Mifsa, which was really good to see. A couple of people came along to ask about Bridges and seek support which I’m always really glad about. I bought along a little gift for myself, Ben and Cary to thank each of us for the work we’ve put into this. I think it’s really important to make time to celebrate and appreciate people, and when there are a lot of voluntary hours involved that is doubly true!
So there we go, done and dusted and now I can work on finishing the powerpoint for my talk in Melbourne this week – it’s almost upon me! I leave Tuesday evening to give me Wednesday to chill out a bit and then both talks I’m doing are on Thursday. Lots of busy-ness will be happening in the next couple of days!