Later this year this amazing conference is being held in Melbourne and I’m determined somehow to go. Last year it was in Cardiff, and I had an abstract accepted but was unable to fund the trip. I’ve just submitted this bio and these three abstracts… wish me luck. 🙂
I’m a poet, writer, and artist living with ‘multiple personalities’. I’m co-founder and chair the board of non-profit organisation The Dissociative Initiative. In the past few years of work in mental health I’ve been developing peer-based resources, facilitating groups, and giving talks and presentations about dissociation, trauma recovery, and voice hearing. I’ve also been a full time carer for others with ‘mental illness’. I’m passionate about creating alternative frameworks to that of mental illness and reclaiming madness as valuable.
Voices as parts: Understanding multiplicity and other dissociative experiences
Dissociation is often misunderstood and ‘multiple personalities’ is seen as rare and bizarre. Some voice hearers are struggling with dissociative issues and/or experiencing some of their voices as parts. These are commonly interpreted as psychotic experiences and can be confusing and distressing, such as the sense of being possessed. I will share some of my personal experiences of how dissociation affects me, what it is like to have voices that are parts, and strategies I have used in my own recovery. I will also share a framework for making sense of the array of dissociative experiences, including multiplicity. My experience has been that multiplicity is a spectrum, and I will explore common forms of multiplicity we can all relate to in a non-sensationalist way. I do not locate these experiences within the ‘mental illness’ paradigm, but nor do I minimize the suffering they can cause. For people who hear voices that are parts, there can be additional challenges to recovery such as conflict over control of the body. Parts can present a voice hearer with an additional threat to their sense of identity, and their exclusive right to determine the course of their own life. I will explain some basic principles of working successfully with parts and living as a multiple. I hope to inspire people to feel more comfortable and confident in discussing and navigating dissociative issues, and encourage people that it is possible to live well with voices who are parts.
Embracing Diversity – Life as a Tribe
I will share my experience of living with voices who are parts – from confusing childhood issues, diagnosis within the mental illness paradigm, to my current passion for peer work. A personal sharing of my own movement towards greater understanding and self-acceptance, and my rejection of the mental illness model in favour of “a grand adventure of self discovery”. I’ll share sad and funny life stories about multiplicity that will help people better understand the experience and reflect upon their own identity growth and relationship to community. Drawing upon my skills in the creative arts I’ll share some of the pain and joy of life as a tribe. This talk will invite audience questions and welcome friendly curiosity about the nature of multiplicity.
Supporting someone through a dissociative crisis
Despite the psychiatric tendency to divide experiences into discrete categories, we are becoming more aware that experiences such as anxiety, psychosis, and dissociation can commonly occur together. We now have Mental Health First Aid training offering suggestions to support people through various common crises such as a panic attack. However, few of us know how to recognise or support someone experiencing a dissociative crisis. I will discuss common experiences, an understanding of triggers, and the role of trauma. Common problems for people with parts in crisis will also be touched upon such as major internal power shifts, abuse between parts, vulnerable or child parts getting stuck ‘out’, and chronic cries for help. Harmful coping techniques will be explored in the context of an attempt to manage and gain control over these experiences. I will demonstrate how to understand and map these harmful approaches, such as alcohol abuse or self harm, in a way that opens up many other possibilities for effective grounding techniques that are individual and specific. The protective role of dissociation will also be discussed, and the need at times to trigger or increase dissociation both for safety and to make possible deep emotional renewal.