Grace McGuinness has come to #seeme14 to find out more about how people with lived experience can get involved in the refounded see me programme. Literally and metaphorically it’s been some journey for her!
My name is Grace, I am rapidly approaching thirty and I received the majority of my official diagnoses in the last 3 years ago after almost 2 decades of mental health problems and am currently the best I have been mental health wise in my life. I applied to attend this conference as I have not only lived experience of my own ill mental health but that of family members and friends and I am SAMH Participation Champion. (Please blame Lesley Forbes at SAMH for that title, my ego is not large enough for me to come up with that one alone!)
Despite the progress I have made in recovery which makes me SO proud and happy today was incredibly difficult for me. This is the first time I have slept overnight anywhere apart from my aunt’s and cousin’s since leaving hospital almost two years ago. It is also the busiest environment I have been in since before my hospitalisation. Coming here was painfully hard, missing the organised bus from Edinburgh didn’t help and gave me ample opportunity to run away and DNA (Did Not Attend for those who aren’t au fait with the lingo of the out-patient world) the event as I have so many things in life.
Even when I was waiting on the bus here from Perth bus station the temptation to return home, put on pyjamas and use physical poor health as an excuse was massive and had to be fought. The stress and chaos caused by my sleeping late (which in turn was caused by constant packing and unpacking of things to bring with me) meant today started incredibly badly. Anxiety, panic and all the physical symptoms of those feelings meant I arrived at 12 feeling like I would rather be anywhere else than here.
That feeling ended at approximately 12.05pm – event staff made me feel at ease, welcome, and of importance. That welcome was the catalyst in turning today into one of, if not the best day of my life (births of my nieces and nephews OBVIOUSLY excluded).
I’ve made contacts, new friends and those who I would like to be friends with. I have shared experiences, interests, ideas and perspectives whilst enjoying meeting these people.
Not pretending to be intrinsically different to who I am to be accepted has been something of a revelation for me, as has being able to tell complete strangers some of my diagnoses and not feeling judged, shunned or examined.
Finding that the passion I feel for participation and practical change is matched with others means not just what I have just said about friends and contacts. It means I no longer need to worry about whether or not my intense feelings about mental health issues, stigmatisation, degradation and segregation of those of us with mental health issues is not indicative or symptomatic of my illness.
Hearing the missions, outcomes and plans of SeeMe has been awesome and there is nothing I disagree with which is incredibly rare for me! 😉
Knowing that SeeMe is as committed to participation, lived experience being shared and changing and challenging behaviours has left me feeling like the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders. I no longer feel like that ant trying desperately trying to push a golf ball up a hill and failing over and over! I feel heard, I feel supported, I feel fought for, I feel vindicated to a certain extent and I feel even more determined to help affect and bring about change than I did before.
All of this is thanks in part to everyone in attendance today, even to the gentleman who corrected me on information I shared regarding one of my diagnoses that a mental health professional had given me. He has shown me I can react in anger, compose myself and realise that I can shrug my shoulders and say what I just said to him, apologise for my initial reaction and attempt to interrupt him and say I am really sorry the information he has appears to be different to what I have been told, grab me fir a brew or a coffee and we can talk.
To sum up how I feel today (I apologise profusely for not doing this earlier – the ability to be concise is not something I can brag about) in one word is easy, thanks to SeeMe, all the staff and volunteers who organised and are facilitating the event and the other delegates in attendance I am relieved.
Relieved to be one of many.
Relieved to no longer feel or be alone.
Relieved that change is a-coming, and for the better.