“‘dis-sociated’ – The first ever feature documentary on PNES

I’m Clea, the director, producer and editor of dis-sociated, the first feature-length documentary about Dissociative Seizures which is now available to watch on YouTube:

I was inspired to create this documentary after my friend developed mysterious absence-like seizures, which doctors were unable to explain or prevent. Once my friend finally received a diagnosis, her life had fallen apart due to her seizures. She had been forced to drop out of university and move back home to live with her parents. My friend was reluctant to look into the condition, partly due to sheer exhaustion after so many years of no answers, and also because so little help or guidance had been offered to her after diagnosis. She was given a label and sent home with instructions to “google it”. Eager to understand her mysterious condition, I ended up doing a fair bit of “googling it” for her. My first impression was dismay: firstly, at the complete lack of media awareness on the condition. Secondly, at how common it was, yet how few doctors knew about it, and finally, how much more likely recovery was if a patient was told within months, as opposed to years, what their condition actually was. Soon I began to realize that ignorance of PNES was making the experience of PNES more detrimental for sufferers. A year later, I was looking to make my first documentary film, and contemplating what story I could tell. At a certain point, it became clear to me that this was the story I should tell: it was fascinating, mysterious yet somehow had been completed overlooked and ignored.

dis-sociated follows the lives of five men and women living with the condition, including my friend, as well as providing up-to-date expert explanations of PNES by internationally recognized experts such as Lorna Myers from the US or Markus Reuber from the UK. Despite the growing research and understanding around the condition, I was conscious of seeking to offer balance between what is understood and what remains mysterious about brain/mind, and consequently PNES. There were many more interviews conducted that were not able to be included in the film, many of which will be uploaded separately in smaller videos onto the dis-sociated Youtube channel for subscribers. After hearing from so many diverse voices, I felt it was imperative to stress how many different sides there are to understanding PNES, many of which are seemingly contradictory but just as valid, depending on the experience of the individual. Everyone’s experience of PNES was so different to each other in so many ways, and each required unique and personal understanding.

This film was intended to raise awareness and understanding of PNES among the general public, but it is an excellent therapeutic tool to show people affected by PNES how life can go on and how they can get better. I saw firsthand the therapeutic effects the documentary has had on those involved, as through talking and sharing their stories, they felt more empowered and less isolated, ready to tackle their condition with a renewed force and an awareness that they were not alone. I encourage anyone with an interest in this fascinating condition to take a look, as it has the power and scope to resonate with anyone, even if they have never experienced PNES themselves.

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