It is officially 2019, albeit in the very early hours. I should probably be do doing some celebratory New Years thing, but a combination of passion, frustration, excitement, inner geekery and something that could potentially be labelled as a symptom listed in the DSM-5 has given birth to feverishly creating a website over the last couple of days. I've just added the blog function, so thought I'd capture the moment for posterity with a quick selfie and stream of consciousness blog post.
I started working as a freelance Lived Experience Practitioner trading under Pink Sky Thinking in 2010. I had a website, an office and enough work to manage without a second job. Although I am insanely proud of that bit of paper I'm holding, completing the final dissertation meant self employed projects had to take a backseat, and I didn't bother updating renewing my website. Even Superwoman would have struggled with juggling NHS employment, getting married, moving home, various bereavements. There are also the curses and blessings that go with what some call a complex mental health condition, but what I'm starting to view as less of a flaw and more of a sensitivity that gives me some gifts and talents but leaves me more open to feelings that can overwhelm functioning.
The main reason I'm insanely proud of that certificate is that I've studied from the lens of a Lived Experience Practitioner. The three years spent studying, reflecting and learning all had to be done from the lens of the discipline we worked in, and applied to our workplaces. All of us were working from different disciplines in Mental Health, so we all were challenged to take in knowledge from outside our disciplines and comfort zones. However, working from a Lived Experience lens meant having to constantly translate most academic ideas in order to both learn from and critique them from a different perspective. Added to the complexity is that 'service user involvement' isn't standardised in terms of language or models used, which made researching and writing assignments challenging. But... I've loved it. It's stretched me, made me question what I thought I knew and given me the language to articulate internal knowledge and confidence to stand my ground where these may not fit within other frames of reference. It has helped me to connect with others working in this area, and better understand the wide range of views amongst survivors. I've learnt that factors such as the process of how people are involved, the levels of shared decision making and the power structures of organisations shape whether we have even asked the right questions, let alone have the ability to embed the answers people give us back into crafting a service to meet their needs.
Fast forward to now. I've been gifted with this tax-payer funded education, and now that it has ended I need to continue to embed this into the work I do. My New Years resolution is to proactively do this and to be smarter about where I spend energy doing this. The most innovative work will be the projects I collaborate on or do in a freelance capacity, which means paying attention to this area. I've started with creating a new website and this blog.
The blog is intended to be a variety mix of reflections, news, projects, work, research... anything that relates back to the area of lived experience working, co-production or survivor politics. It will undoubtedly be delivered in a slightly irreverant style, as you would expect from someone who rocks hair somewhere between a Mermicorn and a My Little Pony.