In October 2021 I created Kindling Space, a peer support group meeting weekly around a campfire to talk about trauma. We have very kindly been offered a beautiful plot in nature to use, just outside Brighton, East Sussex, UK. We held our first Kindling Space meeting, around a campfire & under the stars, in November 2021. We held weekly meetings throughout November and December, building our community, proving the need for this, and working towards finding our own permanent space.
Why We Need It
When we experience mental distress, many of us are desperate for a safe place to go, to be with people who understand and feel there is hope. Despite the best efforts of many mental health professionals, these safe places still do not exist in the way we need. I have experienced re-traumatisation from mainstream mental health services many times. Sadly, I am not alone in this. It has become clear that we need non-clinical, trauma-informed safe spaces to heal alongside our peers. So, I’m going to build it.
Why This Helps
Trauma can be anything which overwhelms the nervous system, and remains unprocessed. The nervous system can be similarly overwhelmed by physical and emotional events. These events can be experienced before or during birth, as a young child, or as an adult. When these experiences remain unprocessed, they are held in the body, and manifest in many different physical & emotional ways. The mainstream mental health system likes to give us lots of different labels to describe these varying symptons of trauma. And whilst individual lived experience of trauma are unique, what happens at a physiological and neurological level is often shared.
When we experience trauma, we become disconnected. We disconnect from ourselves, from each other, and from the world around us. Healing trauma is about reconnecting. Feeling safe in our body again, feeling able to relate to people around us, and feeling like a part of society again. As many of us have experienced, mainstream mental health services make us feel more disconnected, not less. Clinical environments, assessments, diagnoses, medication and re-traumatising interpersonal dynamics with professionals. This is the opposite to what we need.
Fire: Nature’s Original EMDR
Thankfully, nature has the answer. We have just forgotten this, in our wider disconnection from each other & the world around us. Nature is absolutely the best, especially when it comes to healing from trauma. and I have written more here about how the flickering flames of fire are nature’s version of EMDR.
How It Happened
I posted about my experiences, and dream to build this space, online in a local Facebook group. Within 24 hours I was absolutely overwhelmed with support from over 200 of my peers who also desperately need something like this. Many commented that they have similarly struggled with their own lifelong mental health battles and have never found the right help. Others are professionals, qualified therapists, and even work for the local mental health services, and still also see the need for this.
It’s equally sad there are so many of us who do need this, but I’m more convinced than ever that the time is now right to build it. And it has already begun. I’ve managed to gather a strong group of 200 local peers, with relevant skills & lived experience who really want to help build this safe space that we need. And we already held 12 weekly sessions from November 2021 – January 2022. It was a great success, with many of our group members overcoming personal challenges and taking a lot of value from our meetings around the campfire.
The Future Goal
On a small scale, I hope to run Kindling Space during the 2022/23 winter again, and would like to set it up as a community group so I have some support to run it. I’d like to run a small crowdfunder to meet our running costs (so far coming out of my pocket and one kind sponsor) and apply for community group funding.
On a bigger scale, I wish for every community to have a Kindling Space for those of us who so desperately need it. I would love to connect with my peers around the country, and further afield, who are interested in setting up a Kindling Space in their own local community. My dream is also to develop Kindling Space into a larger, holistic healing community, where people can come to live for a while and heal amongst their peers.
Trauma often has such a large impact on our lives that it affects things like our housing situation and relationships with close family and friends. Sometimes we really do need to go somewhere else, to reconnect with ourselves in a safe way, and learn new coping skills that can help us live life in society again. But again, the only current option for this, is psychiatric hospital. And again, many people with experience of trauma and severe mental distress have experienced nothing but further harm & retraumatisation in these settings.
Let me know if you are near Brighton, UK and would also like to be part of this group, contributing ideas & skills to help set it up. Even if you’re not local, I’ll continue to share any progress we make to hopefully inspire similar initiatives in communities further afield. Every town, village and city needs a Kindling Space.
I hope to see you by a fireside one day, wherever you are. ✨