The Author

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Atlanta, Georgia, United States
My name is Ashley Smith and I am a Certified Peer Specialist (CPS), health blogger, mental health advocate, speaker, and non-fiction author. To contact me go to the "contact" page. Thank you for visiting my blog!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Coping with Isolating Emotions

A couple of months ago I experienced isolation, self-doubt, and fear, that was triggered by my travels out of town, and lack of immediate contact with my support system. In fact, I journaled in that moment and this was some of the concerns I identified:

I feel negative energy. I feel alone because I don't feel like I can trust my support system, and I don't know why? Maybe it's paranoia? Or indifference about some relationships, and guilt about others; I don't know. What energy am I putting out?- I try not to complain. I try to be easy-going. I feel a range of negative emotions: emptiness, void, depression, sadness, exhausted, alone, struggling, uneasiness, tension, unsettling...

While my emotions were real, they came from a place of fear that manifested emotional instability. For example, I could not explain why I should not trust my closest supporters. In that moment, I created more anxiety. In turn, I tried to calm myself by asking a series of questions in order to think my way out of my fears. Ultimately, I addressed my feelings by reverting back to my personalized coping skills. I encouraged myself to engage in practicing my coping tools to help soothe my spirit; that included: listening to music, writing in my journal, watching television to help distract myself, and positive self-talk by creating positive affirmations, which I recited out loud; "I am strong," and "I am loved!" Utilizing these coping tools rekindled emotional wellness for those feelings. The following day's journal started off with "Today is a new day!..."

Suffering from isolation are side effects of stigma and fear, among a range of other issues. I understand how isolation can be a huge challenge, and its resolutions to that demands adequate supports such as a support system, unique coping skills, and ongoing customized engagement in self-care acts. For me, self-care acts involves oneself validating experiences and prioritizes them into a desire and need to focus on getting oneself well again.

Feeling isolated is real, and fighting to overcome it is a process. If you are feeling any of the negative emotions I shared I encourage you to fight back with your customized coping skills. Finally, I shared this experience with you to offer a glimpse into what my isolation looks like, and how I fought through it in the moment. However, my way is not the only way to get through it, you must resort to your own coping skills that generally works well for you. I hope my experience offers insight and awareness that validating our emotions is essential, as well as practicing coping skills to maintain emotional and mental wellness.

If you feel that you experience severe isolation, depression, and self-doubt, however you define severe, I urge you to seek professional help, immediately. The following resources may be a great starting point:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Reset, Now Focus.

There were a few consecutive days leading up to my grand finale of bad side effects to my antipsychotic medication that impaired my eye sight to the extent that I could not drive to my own doctor's appointment to get relief. Sometimes I would lose my ability to focus on the task at hand. I could sort of see, but not directly what was in front of me. I had a bad tendency of looking up, literately. I could not maintain eye contact with people or look down long enough to see the tasks I tried to do with my hands such as texting. The nerves behind my eyes would not let me concentrate, it was an uncomfortable, nerve-wrecking, stressful experience, which lasted more than two hours on and off, the worst of my experiences yesterday. Thankfully I had a great friend chauffeur me to go to my doctor's appointment and to wait for me, help me pick up my son from school, and drop off my prescription, and then pick it up from the pharmacy.

For the last couple of weeks I've been tip toeing with my vision and privilege to drive. Whenever I felt my focus beginning to shift I rested my eyes to "reset" them. Last week I had to drive back home "before it got bad" to rest my eyes so that I could drive the street way to pick up my son from school, it was a merry go round, but a safer alternative.

My greatest coping skills were patience and humor, both of which I do not master. I am grateful to my friend for their peer support and for creating time to help me maneuver. I am so glad I have the fast acting medication that minimizes and counteracts my side effects to help me control my paramount concentration problems. Now I can focus, again!

What challenges have you had with side effects of your medication? How did you cope?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Starting the Conversation

Many times limited information about mental illness leaves room for speculation and worry, which undoubtedly leads to fear, distancing oneself from discussions, and a poor outlook about the condition for oneself and the general public. However, a discussion about mental illness needs to be had to reduce confusion, isolation, and propaganda. Frequently, I share my story to reduce stigma and to promote the truth.

Whenever I share my testimony of living with schizophrenia I usually get a warm and familiar response that goes something like: 'I know so-and-so with schizophrenia... I wish I would have talked to you sooner because your story helps me understand mental illness more.' Hearing that rekindles my desire to further articulate my crisis history and present-day recovery to share hope and to reduce the lies- the lie that recovery is not possible, the lie that life is over if you have a diagnosis, and the most ignorant lie; the lie that we should not talk about it. 

Sometimes people are reluctant to ask me questions in the beginning because they don't want to get too personal, but I welcome the conversation because the discussion provides insight and understanding. For me, sharing my story is so therapeutic, it enables me to release the dreadful experience of living with the condition, but in a constructive manner. 

The misinformation circulated about schizophrenia and other mental illnesses have an invisible muzzle on that must be eradicated and destroyed. My hope is for society to remove that mouthpiece and to have a lively dialogue about the truth- the truth that people can and do get better living with mental illness, and that an individual like you, your relative, or your partner can live a fulfilling life in recovery. 

There needs to be a frank conversation about mental illness in order to reduce stigma, help others, and to break the cycle of suffering. Talking about my mental illness helps me and others to talk openly about our dark moments and hopeful life after crisis. 

To help start a conversation I encourage you to read my book, What's On My Mind? A Collection Of Blog Entries From "Overcoming Schizophrenia." Available in Paperback or e-Book online at

Also, if you have a question about schizophrenia I encourage you to ask, you may also email me: 

Finally, I am inviting you to an event in Atlanta, Georgia where I will start a mental health conversation, Mental Health Day At The Capitol on Tuesday, January 20, 2015, 8AM - 12PM located at the Freight Depot, 65 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Atlanta, GA 30303. The deadline to register is January 15th. For details visit the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network, Inc.