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!

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 Amazon.com.

Also, if you have a question about schizophrenia I encourage you to ask, you may also email me: ashley@emminc-recovery.org. 

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.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

My Enemy- Depression Or My Responsibilities?

How often do you confuse your mental health deterioration and physical ailments for your mental illness, opposed to the burdens that you put on yourself with an active lifestyle?

Over the past few months I've struggled with the physical ramifications of "depression," or what I thought was my depression. I've had partial work days as the result of my fatigue and lack of energy. I've felt: drained, off balanced, and uneasy. In fact, I visited my mental health doctor and primary care doctor for help. My mental health doctor realized my poor sleeping habits were the outcome of lack of direction or not taking my medication as prescribed which was in the morning and NOT at night. Finally, when my primary care doctor performed several blood tests without issues he explained to me what my problems were, an "active lifestyle."

Now, I know what I should do to help myself with this concern of lack of energy- continue to take my medication, resume taking vitamins and create more time for self care. I've struggled with managing my self care because I want to help those around me, so I lessen my "me-time" and volunteer additional support to peers at work and friends outside of work... I cannot continue on this routine. I spoke to a peer who is also in recovery and we plan to check in with each other to hold ourselves accountable to our new self care regimens. We've practiced this before but let it go, now I'm ready to pick up our check in routine to get myself back focused and well. Peer support helps a lot, and I need it again. I'm glad I have a better understanding of my problems and situation.

How do you balance your self care for good mental health?