Was an awesome celebration with some of my favourite people in the world. There were incredibly mad hats at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in the afternoon.
There was an amazing spread of food:
Including cucumber sandwiches
And an incredible cake sculpted into the shape of a top hat:
That had three rainbow coloured layers inside!
That evening we had potatoes cooked on the fire
With homemade spiced hot chocolates
And when we were briefly rained on, I found my modest umbrella collection and we stuck it out until it fined up.
Our first year of a peer-led support group for people experiencing dissociation and/or multiplicity has not been without challenges. One of the biggest ones is that dissociation is a broad category and often new members are anxious and keen to feel they fit in. If they are the only guy there that week, or the oldest or youngest member there, or the only person struggling with a particular type of dissociation, or they feel they’re the most functioning member in a room full of mentally ill people, or the biggest wreck in a room full people who are miles ahead in recovery, it can be a challenge to help them feel comfortable enough to stay and engage. The mindset shift to that of being comfortable in a diverse group can take some time, and it’s not unless a newcomer is willing to attend and represent a minority of some kind that the next person with those characteristics who comes along will find somebody in the group like them. It takes a lot of courage to be the first!
It also takes a mental shift to embrace that a healthy group is supposed to be a safe place for you, where your needs count, but also a place you contribute to supporting other people’s needs and helping them feel safe too. Some people find that group approach isn’t helpful to them, not what they needed. Some find groups appealing but stressful for various reasons. Some people connect briefly, then drop off the radar, leaving us wondering if they’re okay, if there was something different they needed, if there was anything else we could do for them. Some come while its needed then go on to other things. Some stay on, become family, helping new members and building a strong group. The lack of pressure and open door policy mean members come and go as they need, can be as free or as close as is helpful for them and change their minds as often as they wish.
Some people opposed the idea of a peer led group for people who are considered to have ‘severe mental illness’. The idea that we may have something to offer each other, and that community is crucial to recovery, are fairly revolutionary even today. After a year of running Bridges, I feel very confident and excited that our trial has been a magnificent success. We have built on positive feedback, adapted to negative feedback and the group has grown and adapted organically with the members. We have learned a lot from each other, and perhaps most importantly, none of us are alone anymore. It was a lot to celebrate. 🙂