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  • I met Jacqui more than 4 years ago. Seeing her, birdlike, young and old and beautiful. With a quiet insistence and spry bit of wit which I think springs from the part of her that used to be a paparazzi. A bundle of contradictions, rolled up in a powerful ball of herself which she could hit right over all our heads and out of the park. She helped inspire much in me (as I say in many of these stories here, more on that another time).

    She talked (and still does talk) about her experience. Born to parents who kept her more or less captive and who were part of a paedophile ring. She knows now the reasons for her birth.
    At a very early age she says, she began to hear voices; voices that talked to her, talked about her, comforted her, protected her and made her feel less alone. In time, they controlled and terrorised her but helped her to stay alive. When she managed to escape her parents in her teens she carved for herself a wild and creative life to some degree. Always on the edge of dancing wildly out of control in her red shoes.

    When she gave birth to her own child the constructs she'd built to survive her own life crumbled and she both went mad and went sane. And ended up on a psychiatric ward.
    But she knew why she was there.
    Despite the madness she also knew she had an opportunity to talk and get help, finally. But it didn't come.
    When she met with her psychiatrist and told him her story. He looked at her and told her, very directly;
    "Jacqui, none of that happened to you. It is just your psychosis, mad people often say things like this. But its not true"

    Jacqui says, that it was at this point that she nearly did go over the edge of no return...

    Jacqui Dillon is not an obvious hero, hearing voices and ritualised sexual abuse still being stigmatised and taboo, for general conversation. She is a woman who lives with her voices and teaches others how to do so. And how to recognise the meaning in the defragmentation of our lives, as messages from splintered selves who need to be heard. She teaches how to draw on resources and how to more than survive, to thrive. And it is her courage in this, that has helped save so many lives of people who didn't even realise they had a right to do so.
    Jacqui is Chair of the Hearing Voices Network. Part of the now famous (in certain circles) Marius Romme and Sandra Escher research - the first of its kind to begin to take note of the prior life circumstances in a patient with psychosis.

    I base my own innovation work for mental health services on survivor-led* approaches such as Jacqui's amongst many others.
    * In the UK the term Survivor-Led denotes a political stance of an individual in defining themselves as someone who has 'survived the mental health system' as opposed to merely the life experience(s) that led to mental health distress. The term Survivor is also used in reference to sexual abuse in the UK and in the USA.
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