The Author- Ashley

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Atlanta, Georgia, United States
My name is Ashley and I am a lot of things, read this blog to learn more... Thank you for visiting my blog!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

I Am Happy Today Because...

I am 31 years old. I am a single-parent. I am a writer, an advocate and peer counselor for mental wellness. I also have schizoaffective disorder; schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder (mania), and anxiety. And today, I am happy...


I have a beautiful son that I am thankful to have and to love on every second of my life! I am working on a book with two great friends on recovery, Angela B. Franklin and Charlene Flagg. Our book, Out of the Darkness: Faces of Mental Illness and Recovery REVEALED, is for release this year (2018).


Ashley Smith
Because of my condition I am more aware of mental illness. I am passionate for the cause to fight the ongoing beast of widespread stigma, and negativity on persons living with mental health conditions. I aim to encourage mental wellness for myself, peers, and EVERYBODY. Living with my diagnoses enables me to be conscious of my self care needs, demand to engage in self-love activities, and to strive for overall wellness with my many goals, and attempts to get it right! 


Now my greatest challenge is my depression, anxiety, and side effects of my medication. With my depression I've slept for extended periods of time as if exhausted, but no physical labor to validate the sleep. It could be difficult to maintain energy to function at the pace I am accustomed to. My anxiety and side effect of my medication, which is poor focus and vision impacts me at work today. 


However, I am fortunate to manage these concerns with my doctor's prescriptions, regular therapy sessions twice a month or more often depending on my levels of stress, and engaging in my support system; and coping skills that include: journaling, creating a monthly budget, talking to close friends and family regularly, listening to music, lighting candles, buying flowers, and greeting cards for myself to keep me uplifted. I journal and write about my daily activities, give thanks to my Father God, and reflect on disappointments and happenings in my life. 


Currently, I am working part-time for a non-emergency resource information line for a mental health advocacy group in Georgia. My position requires me to respond to requests for resources in Georgia by phone and email. I talk to peers, care partners and caregivers, mental health professionals, activist, educators, law enforcement, and people like you! I love my job, because I feel like I am helping the recovery movement whenever I share my personal experience living in recovery, and to make effective local referrals and linkages to care in our communities.


Despite working 4-hour shifts I have to manage myself by attending to self care demands, because I am stationed at a desk and constantly on the computer, and calling individuals back with a list of resources. My self care needs at work are to take a mini break that may include reflecting on the moment, only, eating a snack, checking in with a friend, and self encouragement. My self encouragement may be motivational self-talk such as 'Ashley, you can do this... Ashley, take your time... Ashley, you got this!' During really difficult days, which are rare, I may journal on my light work break, pace the parking lot, and to take my anxiety medication. 


All of my coping tactics help me maintain my position at work, and to live well. There is no single coping act that trumps all coping skills to me, because I must rotate them for effectiveness, practice routine, and to 'be gentle with myself,' as a close friend says. I am not for or against medication, I support whatever helps my peers with professional support, but I take my medication because it works for me.


I am happy today, because of all of these things. I've been in recovery for 10 years! I am proud of myself. I may not have the fantasy life I envisioned growing up; I do not have a bachelor's degree. I do not own my home. And I cannot sing, but I am a proud mother. I am a proud daughter, sister, auntie, cousin, niece, friend, girlfriend, and peer... And I have many great relationships; 1) with my God and family, 2) best friends, and 3) my many peers and associates that add to my life and help with goals. 


Finally, I am working on completing, Out of the Darkness: Faces of Mental Illness and Recovery Revealed. Afterwards, I plan on getting back to my follow up book to What's On My Mind? A Collection of Blog Entries from Overcoming Schizophrenia, Volume I. My follow up book will be titled: What's On My Mind? Coping Takes Work, Volume II. 


Lastly, thank you for checking on me- much love! Ashley


Saturday, December 2, 2017

Goals vs. Limited Time

Because the year [2017] is closing, I am going to start preparing to my mindset, spirituality, finances, and miscellaneous needs; and overall wellness, today. I have many goals, in fact, I always have a goal. I like to check off my goals like a grocery list. Most times I categorize goals by dividing them into short-term (1-6 months), or long-term (6 months-2 years), phases and deadline to meet.

For example, here are a few of my goals:
CPS, Author,
Resource Coordinator & Trainer
  • To master punctuality; to be at work, and events earlier, in order, to reduce anxieties and stress.
  • To wake up earlier at least twice a week in order to gives thanks to God, journal, and to prepare my mindset for the day.
  • I am going to look into getting more certifications as a peer counselor, and trainer.
  • I will be more attentive to others, and will reduce offering feedback, because I need more information, and I enjoy lively conversations, everyday. 
However, I have a longer list than that, but I could prioritize my lists by focusing on two goals each week.

Unfortunately, this year has been an ongoing struggle. I loss much including my car, friend, and almost my ability to manage my depression among other conditions. In fact, I quit my job on my own, of almost two years, because I was in therapy, or my doctor's office weekly. My anxiety was severe to the extent that I left work early often such as twice a week. And I did try to overcome my anxiety by walking around my workplace, listening to music, journal, talking to a coworker, and keeping my mental health appointments.

Charlene Flagg, CEO Matters of the Heart
Counseling
I quit my job due to my mental illness, ahead of time so that I would not seem incompetent, which could've become a byproduct of my symptoms of depression, and anxiety. I quit my job in January 2017. This year has educated me a lot on how to walk alone when one doesn't want to for personal time with self, focus, and to be mindful of negativity that can disrupt daily goals.

Finally, I will try to stay focused on the good things, such as completing two books...

  • Out of the Darkness: Faces of Mel Illness and Recovery, Revealed, co-authored by Ashley Smith, CPS, Angela B. Franklin, and Charlene Flag.... (Coming soon!)
  • What's On My Mind? Vol.II (Coming soon!)

Below is a brief biography of the women I am co-authoring the book with,  Out of the Darkness:


Angela B. Franklin is a survivor of a traumatic past—having survived childhood abuse, suicide attempts, and self-harming; among her own stigma, shame, and secrets. Furthermore, Angela is a two-time breast cancer survivor, initially diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2013. Angela was diagnosed with depression (1977), borderline personality (1984), and post-traumatic stress disorder (1988). Despite years of shame and silence, Angela triumphs and shares her process of recovery, self-confidence, and love for her God that she had concerns with because of her traumatic experiences. Now for the first time Angela reveals several rough years of suffering in silence, and learning how to cope. The harsh experiences of her past transformed her into working as a Certified Peer Specialist (CPS). 

Angela graduated from Huntingdon College (Bachelor of Arts, Biology). After being unable to maintain employment due to severe persistent mental illness she worked for Job Corps Center for 15 years. Angela has an extensive background working with at risk youth (ages 13-24) with severe behavioral concerns. Pursuing her passion she started her own business, Crafty Treasures by Angela, in 2012. Instructing youth, senior citizens and others in diverse arts and crafts workshops that may include: pottery, jewelry-making, and crocheting among a host of other crafts, and such. Now a CPS, Angela supports peers by encouraging them to partake in self-directed recovery initiatives. Angela openly shares her past shame, silence, and faith in this collaboration, Out of the Darkness: Faces of Mental Illness & Recovery Revealed. Still she fights, still she prays, and thus, still Angela lives in recovery! 



Charlene Flagg is a licensed Therapist with over 20 years of experience in Direct Practice, Administration, Research and Teaching at the College-level.  Charlene graduated from the University of Georgia with a Masters Degree in Social Work, and also earned a Masters Degree in Sociology from the University of Michigan as a scholarship recipient.  She is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity Degree at Emory University, also as a scholarship recipient.  Charlene recently began her own private practice, Matters of the Heart Counseling Services, LLC. 

Charlene is highly proficient with rendering diagnoses and providing psycho-therapeutic intervention for individuals diagnosed with severe and persistent mental illness.  Her areas of specialization include: Depressive Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Bipolar Disorders, Trauma, and Psychotic Disorders.  She is adept with Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy, and Crisis Intervention.  


Ashley Smith is a writer, speaker, and peer counselor. Ashley Smith self-published her first book, What’s On My Mind? A Collection Of Blog Entries From Overcoming Schizophrenia, (2014). Ashley Smith’s book debut, What’s On My Mind? was endorsed by the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network, Inc. (GMHCN). The GMHCN endorsed Smith’s book by distributing a copy to each attendee free of charge. At their annual conference. “The Year of the Peer,” (2014) which was that year’s theme featured Ashley Smith as one of three keynote speakers. In addition to that Georgia’s prison system supports Smith’s book by having placed a copy in each state prison facility across the state!

In 2007, Ashley learned that she had schizophrenia at the age of 20 through a significant legal incident and arrest. Anonymously, Ashley began writing her story on her blog, “Overcoming Schizophrenia,” starting in 2008. Ashley publicly disclosed her life-changing experience with mental illness on her blog. When the online mental health community learned of her self-disclosed story they quickly embraced her. One of the many individuals who embraced Ashley was Christina Bruni. Bruni, a fellow peer who is a journalist, librarian, blogger, and author of Left of the Dial, wrote the foreword to Ashley’s book, What’s On My Mind?

In 2012, Ashley became a Georgia Certified Peer Specialist (CPS). A CPS is a peer counselor that is certified by the state of Georgia’s DBHDD and the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network, Inc. CPS Project, which developed the new mental health position, the CPS.


THANK YOU READERS

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Ashley Co-Authors New Book- Out of the Darkness: Faces of Mental Illness Revealed

Next month is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month (July), and the debut of my new book, Out of the Darkness: Faces of Mental Illness REVEALED. I co-author this book with two awesome women, and friends, Angela Franklin and Charlene Flagg. We will present our book on July 22, 2017 at the 2017 Mental Health Conference at House of Hope Church, hosted by their counseling center, Haven House, located on 4650 Float Shoals Parkway, Decatur, GA 30034.


Out of the Darkness: Faces of Mental Illness
REVEALED

First the book, Out of the Darkness: Faces of Mental Illness REVEALED, explores three individualized stories of living with a diagnosis. We share candid experiences with self-stigma, and barriers to living our lives well in recovery. Despite the pain, traumas, and setbacks in wellness and life; Angela, Charlene, and I accepted change, and help.


In our book, we reflect on our challenges and progress to better manage recovery; and to survive, thrive, and to live! Our faith played a significant role in grasping and maintaining hope for a better day; relief, and access to treatment and therapy. Still,we have struggles, still we have needs, and still we share admiration, and many thanks to God for hope, and different healthy self-care tools, which helps maintain recovery, and wellness.


The 2017 Mental Health Conference aims to educate, and guide persons into therapy, and treatment, if needed, as an option. There will also be a panel discussion with individuals living with a diagnosis, and others from Emory University faculty, mental health professionals, and community members. Presenters will address concerns of severe and persistent mental illness (i.e. anxiety, bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and, suicide), and other behavioral health concerns. 

Attending this conference will undoubtedly get the conversation started in right the right direction, in order, to reduce the stigma of mental illness in the African American community, and church. Workshops will share resources and ways to access treatment, and therapy. This conference will passionately deliver messages of hope, and encouragement to STOP suffering in silence, and to link individuals to professional help and care! 


Finally, do, mark your calendars for July 22, 2017, located at House of Hope Church, 4650 Float Shoals Parkway, Decatur, Georgia 30034. And, be prepared to get some great information, listen to g great praise music, and to obtain resources. For details on the conference, which is free of charge, visit the House of Hope, Haven House Counseling Center website: www.havenhousecounseling.com  This is a free event that will include lunch and refreshments.