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!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Back on Track

I am going back to school in January 2010. I am very excited about this opportunity and this new challenge. Prior to my diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia I dropped out of college because of many stresses. Since then I have attended a junior college and now I am transferring to a four-year university to get my bachelors degree in marketing. I have overcome many hurdles to get to where I am now and I am very proud. Because of my mental illness I plan on taking a light course load.

However, I will continue to maintain my blog, Overcoming Schizophrenia, and my support groups with Embracing My Mind, Inc. To ensure success at my endeavors I will continue to attend group therapy and cooperate with my mental health professionals by taking my medication regularly, keeping appointments, and communicating needs.

This is huge ya'll! Going back to school has been my goal ever since I stopped attending college in 2007. I am moving forward in my life and in my recovery, and I am very happy!!!

Recovery to me is taking care of self, doing the things I used to do such as go to school or work, and maintaining a stable mind in order to process thoughts and to communicate with others.

Happy Holidays!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Positive?!

Someone commented on one of my posts and implied that I was too positive. There will be ups and downs for the individual living with a mental illness as well as for their family and/or caregiver.

However, I am at a very positive state in my life right now, but it has not always been the case. To tell you the truth I went through hell to get to where I am now, and I've written many blogs on the horrible experiences I've encountered while living with this illness!

Can you imagine being watched constantly, and everyone around you are after you? And you are scared because you are outnumbered!

I had a nervous breakdown at the age of 20, I heard voices, saw strange people, and was disoriented. Psychosis led me to do something stupid and that incident led me to jail and to the state hospital for five months. Prior to this incident I never went to jail or committed a crime.

I isolated myself during that time in my life from everyone. I even told my mother I didn't want to see her anymore, which was very hurtful. I denied visits from family even though I wanted to see them, my mind played many tricks on me, and at the time I was a wreck because I did not understand why I was acting the way I was.

I was hungry many times but I refused to eat and drink because I believed someone was trying to poison me. This is the paranoia that many people living with a mental illness experience. I heard discouraging, awful, mean voices that nobody else could hear. I remember the voices telling me I was a dishonor to my family, and that I could not survive on my own. Sometimes there were multiple voices at once which frustrated me.

For a while I wouldn't speak, shower, or even leave my room to eat or go outside. Sometimes I wouldn't sleep because I thought my peers in jail would attack me in my sleep, this led to high anxiety and additional stress. I would experience panic attacks, nurses held brown bags over my face in order for me to breath and gave me anxiety medication.

Guards held me down in order for nurses to give me shots because I refused to take the oral form or medication, my family encouraged medication compliance by the judge, after all that I did not believe I was sick! And the side effects of these medications were very uncomfortable, I had to stay in constant movement I was so restless, and as a result I couldn't sleep. Another medication made me sleep all the time and it made it hard for me to stay awake during groups. One medication made me so stiff peers called me a robot.

I've shared these incidents over a range of diverse posts. So when someone says I am too positive I do not apologize, haven't I been through enough? I just hope that others will see the light soon and experience something that will make them feel more positive too.

Thank you for reading about my story and for giving your opinions on my experiences.

To learn more about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanks

I ended one of my groups the other day by going around the room and letting people share what they are thankful for.(I lead closed groups, not open to the public, at various facilities).

I am thankful that I am able to function well, organize, research, and to lead groups. As you probably already know, if you follow this blog regularly, I have come a long way to get to where I am now. In the past, schizophrenia tried to hinder me, take away my speech, make it hard for me to recognize family, and almost kill me by my excessive paranoia and determination not eat or drink. But now, I have hold on my brain disorder; I take my medication regularly, I continue to learn more about different mental illnesses, and I have support of family, friends, and health professionals.

What are you thankful for?

If you have a mental health concern such as schizophrenia, you are not alone, I can understand you. If you are a caregiver, family member, or friend of someone living with a mental illness believe that recovery is possible and that your special someone can get better. I am living proof that people living with a mental illness do come back and live productive, independent lives!

For those of you learning what schizophrenia is for the first time, it is a thought disorder that is difficult to treat but is treatable. There is no cure for it, yet, however with a combination of medication and support people living with schizophrenia can lead fulfilling lives. I am one of them.

If you want to learn more about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Stereotypes- A Voice or a Sound We Should Ignore


Society has programmed many people living without mental illness to believe that those living with mental illness are bad. The media has played a huge role in brain washing people to think negatively about other people with brain disorders. They cannot do the same things I do, they are violent, they are crazy, the people without mental illness are led to believe.

And, many people with mental illnesses believe these lies. The people with mental illnesses limit their goals and believe they cannot lead a productive, independent, full life in many instances as a result of stigma.

DO NOT LISTEN TO THAT VOICE (the stereotypes). An individual with mental illness can and do accomplish many things despite mental health concerns. In fact, people that have a mental illness should use these stereotypes as motivation to overcome them. For those of you living with a mental illness I hope you will challenge yourself and excel at it.

At one point, I was not functioning well. I did not speak, bath, eat, or leave my room. In fact, I was catatonic, not moving my limbs for hours at a time. Schizophrenia had the best of me, or so others thought. After taking various medications for weeks and coupled with group therapy I came back to life, Ashley emerged out that mental state and I was able to take control again. Don't let others' expectations bring you down!

A little background knowledge on what schizophrenia is: it is a thought disorder that confuses and jumbles thoughts and speech for some. It creeps up on an individual usually in early adulthood. Symptoms may include, but are not limited to the following (this list is not intended diagnose anyone, if in doubt seek professional assistance):

- Paranoia
- Sleep disturbances
- Hallucinations
- Delusions
- Isolation
- Speech disturbances
- Short term memory loss
- Disorientation
- Inability to recognize friends and family
- Appetite disturbances
- Suicidal thoughts
- Religious preoccupation
- Poor concentration

I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at the age of twenty. There are different types of schizophrenia such as paranoid, catatonic, residual, and undifferentiated. There is no cure for schizophrenia, yet, but there is treatment. however, everybody does not respond to the same medication is it's basically trial and error when finding the right medication to treat someone with schizophrenia.

I hope that this information was beneficial to you. If you have a mental disorder such as schizophrenia, I want you to know that you can achieve whatever you want.

If you do not have a mental disorder I hope you know more about what schizophrenia is and that people with brain disorders are NOT violent, crazy, and we can and do achieve goals!

To learn more about schizophrenia visit NAMI or Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).

Monday, November 16, 2009

HOPE: The Strength to Overcome

It has been two years since I was released from the institution, in jail and in the state hospital, in California. After my release I was thirsty for knowledge about my illness, schizophrenia.

I remember going to the nearby pharmacy to get a prescription and then doing research on the computer on schizophrenia. I got involved in an outpatient treatment facility, called Providence Community Services: Catalyst, in San Diego through a referral from my social worker in jail.

At that point I did not have a clue that I would strive to help others with mental health concerns by sharing my experience on a blog or leading groups. I did not even know what blogging was or that I could start my own non-profit organization.

Catalyst was awesome. They provided a clubhouse, Oasis, that offered several groups and services such as Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), help finding employment, and cooking classes among several other services. I really grew there mentally. I got back into college and was well balanced, and doing the things I enjoyed again.

After a few months I moved back to Atlanta to be closer to my mother and sister. I went to the County mental health department, participated in groups, and started blogging in September 2008.

Starting a blog was my sister's idea. She said it would allow me to keep track of my moods and improvements, blogging would be like my online diary. I blogged everyday about things I learned about my illness from books I had read and about the groups I attended at County mental health.

Now I am facilitating groups at the center where I receive treatment with the support of my therapist. I also facilitate groups at another facility. Through this experience I have learned what my strengths are and that with hope and support I can live the life I want to live despite having a mental health diagnosis. I also believe that if I can live the life I want to live, you can too!

Thank you for reading about my experience with living with schizophrenia. I hope this post inspires you to move forward after you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a mental illness.

I believe my wellness and ability to function at the level where I am now to organize, perform research, and to teach others is a blessing from God. I especially thank my family and treatment team for supporting me. I welcome questions, comments, and other opinions related to this blog.

To learn more about schizophrenia visit NAMI or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Never Lose Hope In Dealing With Your Fears And Depression

By: Stanley Popovich

When your fears and depression have the best of you, it is easy to feel that things will not get any better. This is not true. There is much help available in today's society and the best way to deal with your fears is to find effective ways to overcome them. As a result, here are some techniques a person can use to help manage their fears and anxieties.

You never know when the answers you are looking for will come to your doorstep. Even if the thing that you feared does happen, there are circumstances and factors that you can't predict which can be used to your advantage. These factors can change everything. Remember: we may be ninety-nine percent correct in predicting the future, but all it takes is for that one percent to make a world of difference.

Challenge your negative thinking with positive statements and realistic thinking. When encountering thoughts that make you feel fearful or depressed, challenge those thoughts by asking yourself questions that will maintain objectivity and common sense. For example, your afraid that if you do not get that job promotion then you will be stuck at your job forever. This depresses you, however your thinking in this situation is unrealistic. The fact of the matter is that there all are kinds of jobs available and just because you don't get this job promotion doesn't mean that you will never get one. In addition, people change jobs all the time, and you always have that option of going elsewhere if you are unhappy at your present location.

Some people get depressed and have a difficult time getting out of bed in the mornings. When this happens, a person should take a deep breath and try to find something to do to get their mind off of the problem. A person could take a walk, listen to some music, read the newspaper or do an activity that will give them a fresh perspective on things. Doing something will get your mind off of the problem and give you confidence to do other things.

Be smart in how you deal with your fears and anxieties. Do not try to tackle everything all at once. When facing a current or upcoming task that overwhelms you with a lot of anxiety, break the task into a series of smaller steps. Completing these smaller tasks one at a time will make the stress more manageable and increases your chances of success.

Take advantage of the help that is available around you. If possible, talk to a professional who can help you manage your fears and anxieties. They will be able to provide you with additional advice and insights on how to deal with your current problem. By talking to a professional, a person will be helping themselves in the long run because they will become better able to deal with their problems in the future. Managing your fears and anxieties takes practice. The more you practice, the better you will become.

The techniques that I have just covered are some basic ways to manage your fears and depression, however your best bet is to get some help from a professional and not to lose hope. Eventually, you will find the answers you are looking for.


BIOGRAPHY:

Stan Popovich is the author of "A Layman's Guide to Managing Fear Using Psychology, Christianity and Non Resistant Methods" - an easy to read book that presents a general overview of techniques that are effective in managing persistent fears and anxieties. For additional information go to: http://www.managingfear.com/

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Psychiatric Labels

I hate the term "Schizophrenic" because it identifies the person by the illness and not by their character. I mean, I understand when people use the term they do not intend to offend anyone, just state in the illness (in its rawest form).

While watching a lecture the other day I was oblivious to what was being said because I could not get over the term "Schizophrenic". I thought the professor should have been more careful with wording because someone, like myself, may be listening to the speech. But should I really let it get me? It's just a label, right?

This is what other groups are saying about the term, Asylumonline.net states: "To be labelled ‘a schizophrenic' is one of the most devastating things that can happen to anyone. This label implies dangerousness, unpredictability, chronic illness, inability to work or function at any level and a lifelong need for medication that will often be ineffective (Whitaker 2005)".

In addition, an October 9, 2006 article "Experts Call for Ban on Schizophrenia 'Label'" (Mail Online) states: "Once given a diagnosis of schizophrenia, a person was labelled an incurable social misfit and placed at the mercy of a psychiatric system that mostly benefited the drug industry.

A new campaign called CASL (Campaign for the Abolition of the Schizophrenic Label) is said to be gaining increasing support from both patients groups and professionals".

Stigma surrounding the term schizophrenia has such negative connotations that in 2002 or 2004, The Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology abolished the term and renamed the condition, from "Seishin Buntreyso Byo" (mind- split disease) to the new term: "Togo Shitcho Sho" (Integration disorder).

Whether you have schizophrenia or not, how do you feel about the term "Schizophrenic"? If it bothers you, why? If it does not bother you, why not?

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-409472/Experts-ban-schizophrenia-label.html#ixzz0VGQEY9Tb

To learn more about schizophrenia visit NAMI, Embracing My Mind, or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Your Not Forgotten

Hello Readers,

Thank you for following this blog. Lately, I've been busy with my new program for my non-profit, Embracing My Mind, Inc.

The program offers mental health education, coping skills, and stress management among several other things to study about mental illness. These are closed meetings, however, I plan on opening meetings to the public in Atlanta in January 2010.

Thank you for your support.

Ashley

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mind Over Matter - Catatonic

The mind is so amazing and powerful it is a terrible thing to lose...

Imagine not eating for a week or more. Or even drinking water and being hospitalized several times just to keep you alive. At first, you are hungry, however, as time passes you no longer have an interest in food or drink. You do not even have hunger pains! Eventually you do not have to relieve yourself.

You are confined to your bed, not because you are tied down, but because your mind is not functioning properly. You are frozen in time, you do not move a muscle (literally). Your mind is wasted- all the education, memories, and daily functions are not registering; sometimes you hear those around you sometimes you don't- you are catatonic.

Imagine going to court and having to be strapped down because you refused to wear shoes. Or even, not noticing your own mother, grandfather, and aunt in the courtroom with you. Or, even noticing you were in court sitting before a room full of people that are deciding your future. I was zoned out, not aware of what was happening around me.

To rationalize things I thought I was being poisoned by people supervising me. Before I was catatonic I would intentionally throw my plate on the floor so that I would be given another plate so that I can eat. Later, I was put in the psychiatric ward at the jail. They labeled our plates because of our unique diets. Then I thought I was not eating because I was fasting to worship God. It was confusing and I was losing a lot of weight- I lost about 30 pounds off of my slim frame.

After I was mandated by the judge to comply with a medication regimen I slowly regained consciousness and my sense of reality. I drank protein drinks in addition to the three meals that I was given. I got my mind back!

...you probably can't begin to imagine that! But, I can because it happened to me!

It is interesting how some people can quit street drugs, alcohol, or tobacco cold turkey, but I guess it is mind over matter.

To learn more about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada), or Embracing My Mind (EMM).

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Is Treatment Optional?

Is treatment optional? That is one of a few questions I asked the group the other day. For me, treatment is not optional, because in the past I made a poor decision that was costly.

During my nervous breakdown, I was extremely confused and paranoid. I did not recognize which trolley/train to get on although I rode public transportation many times before. I sought a newspaper because I did not even know the date! I was a mess. Moreover, I thought everyone was interested in me and out to harm me. I began trying to disguise myself by removing my glasses and anything that identifies me such as my Bible, which I carried with me everywhere.

As you may have read in an earlier blog entry, I thought I saw demons. They were everywhere! In all the people around me. I was outnumbered and could not escape. And then I saw a sitting truck with the door wide open and the keys in them. Aha! I thought, this is a blessing from God and my way to escape everyone. I got into the truck and started driving. i thought to myself if I could get to a store to buy some scissors to cut off my hair I would escape everyone.

The radio was on and Sean Kingston's song, "Girls, Girls, Girls," I think the song is called was playing. The lyrics went something like this... "The girl makes me suicidal, suicidal, can't get over her". I took the song literally and thought it was a message from the devil trying to get me to commit suicide, but that wasn't happening!

Soon police were in my rear view mirror and I got scared. I had never been pulled over by the police. My anxiety shot through the roof (on top of the high level it was already at due to conflicting voices), and I wasn't stopping. I drove through the city with the police on my tail, went the opposite flow of traffic, and eventually stopped by a head on collision into a building. Thank God I was wearing my seat belt.

I was outnumbered by the police and I surrendered, because the truck wouldn't start up again. As I sat in the back seat of the police car all I could do was pray. Besides, I thought I was Jesus Christ being persecuted all over again. In fact, I thought the police car I sat in was about to blow up, I thought the police were in on it, trying to stop me from my mission, which I don't know what it was, but I know must have had one being a prophet.

I spent five months in jail and in the state hospital. At first, I was so out of it I did not know what was really going on- my freedom was suspended because I had committed a crime. And later, I was told I hit two cars, but the people were not seriously hurt- Thank God!

Now, on medication I am aware of my surroundings and do not want to put myself in jeopardy again. In jail, I learned of my diagnosis, paranoid schizophrenia, and was put on medication. That was a blessing in disguise because it could have gotten worse.

The medication helps me. I can think clearly without the hassles- hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and anxiety. I don't worry my family anymore, or myself for that matter!

So is treatment optional? Hell no! I want to live life to the fullest and if medication is my magic, then so be it...

If you are struggling to get someone to take their medication try reminding them of their episode and really troubling moments such as depression, suicidal thoughts, not eating, going to the hospital, etc. I know when someone tried to convince me to take my medication they reminded me of how many times I went to the emergency room and said that was not normal, and that I am sick and need medication. That was my nurse, while I was incarcerated. His comments got me to take my medication.

To learn more about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Friday, September 18, 2009

EMM Jump Starts First Support Group Meeting

Good news: Embracing My Mind launched its first support group, Strengthening Each Other, at the mental health center yesterday, and it went very well.

Group participants engaged in group by sharing their personal testimonies and reading the handouts out loud. My therapist co-facilitated the meeting with me and we took turns asking participants questions related to the exercises.

We studied my personal experience with schizophrenia by reading an earlier blog entry, "What is Schizophrenia to Me," from Saturday, March 7, 2009. Some of the topics we discussed was medication an option? Symptoms and stigma. For example, I portrayed extreme paranoia that led me to stop eating and showering because I thought someone was trying to poison me, and also tamper with my soap causing it to burn my skin. Stigma was mentioned when I recalled I was turned down in housing, the potential landlord assumed I would be too stressed to live there.

The great thing about group was the members could relate to me and to each other. At the end of group my therapist had members share something positive about group, which made me feel really good, and then she said she is proud of me for taking on this group. I am very excited about having the opportunity to host groups and to directly advocate for mental health education and recovery.

To learn more about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Embracing My Mind (EMM), or the Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

NAMI Georgia Training (Peer-to-Peer Education)

As some of you may have read in the previous blog entry I participated in NAMI training this past weekend, and it was great! The training was set in place so consumers can teach a nine-week course for other consumers about mental illnesses and recovery. The course is called "Peer-to-Peer Education". Now I am a Recovery Education Mentor, (Yay!). NAMI provided the hotel for three nights, as well as lunch and dinner (the hotel provided breakfast). The training was Friday through Sunday. The actual training took place at a local Atlanta university, so it was very nice. Overall, it was the people that made the training great.

There were all sorts of people at the training. Some with their own businesses, others with full-time jobs, and degrees in various fields. They were inspiring to me because despite their mental illness they were able to achieve their goals- running marathons, helping others with mental illnesses, being certified peer specialist, and achieving recovery.

We engaged in interesting exercises that led us to understand that we are one body no matter what the differences are. Completing the "Relapse Prevention" exercise was an eye-opener, we labelled our experiences, discussed our feelings and thoughts, and rated them. Another interesting exercise was acknowledging the pros and cons of sharing our diagnosis with other people. That exercise and the advance directive was the most profound assignment we did. Again, an advance directive is a document that lists the consumer's desires, and who would make decisions for them if they are unable to make decisions.

Parallel the Peer-to-Peer training was the Family-to-Family training. I wish I had known about that training so my family could take that course. One of the class participant's family partook in the training and enjoyed it, they said it was in dept.
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Today I went to group and it went very well. We studied post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I learned a lot of new things. For example, everybody who experiences a dramatic situation does not automatically have PTSD, and a person could be diagnosed with it months or even years after the dramatic experience. A dramatic experience may include, but is not limited to the following: war, abuse, rape, accident, etc. Some of the symptoms are: panic attacks, depression, nightmares and night sweats, etc. One important thing to note is that although some other mental illnesses may have similar symptoms that does not mean a person necessarily has PTSD. Treatment may include medication and support groups.

Also, Embracing My Mind (EMM) will start groups at the local mental health center Thursday, September 17th. The group is called Strengthening Each Other. I am very excited about this opportunity and look forward to sharing it with you...

If you want to learn more about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Overcoming Schizophrenia Blog Anniversary (Yay!)

Dear Reader,

It has been one year since I started the Overcoming Schizophrenia blog (Yay!) and we have learned a lot about schizophrenia and other mental illnesses together. In short, I have blogged about the gender differences in schizophrenia, hardship with health insurance companies, myths and stereotypes, dating and relationships, and of course, my bizarre encounters when schizophrenia took over and portrayed the other side of Ashley (i.e., confusion, anger, fear, denial,etc.).

Again, I learned of my paranoid schizophrenia diagnosis in the summer of 2007 when I had an unfortunate situation that led to my arrest, hospitalization, and eventual recovery stage. Since then, I have experienced independent living with other women with mental health concerns, reuniting with my immediate family, and volunteering with various non-profit organizations; and starting a support group, Embracing My Mind.

I continue to take medication to help cope with the symptoms of schizophrenia, (i.e., for me, hallucinations- seeing things that are not there and hearing threatening voices that other people do not hear- high anxiety and paranoia, delusional- believing that I was a prophet or Jesus Christ Himself! And believing that my own relatives would poison me?!), I am blessed that these symptoms are under control and dormant.

Participating in various support groups has inspired me to get involved in mental health education through this blog, and to even start a support group, Embracing My Mind, which will kickoff on September 17th at the local mental health center, and I am VERY EXCITED!

Through Embracing My Mind, I will share my experiences with paranoid schizophrenia, and strive to achieve a safe haven for other people living with, and who are affected by, mental health concerns. Hopefully, the support group will create bonds among group participants and enable everyone to try and overcome mental illness together by voluntarily taking responsibility for their recovery, goals, and empowering one another. For the time being, the group is only for a specific clinic, however, when I reserve space elsewhere the group will be open to everyone; families, caregivers, consumers (people living with mental health concerns); male and female, etc.

In fact, I will be attending the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) training this weekend, and I will blog about that experience with you shortly afterwards. I appreciate you for coming back to read about my opinions and experiences related to mental illness. If you have schizophrenia or are connected to the illness in some way and keep a blog please share your link and I will post it with the other 'schizophrenia blogs'.

If you are a partner, parent, child, caregiver, friend, health professional, or consumer affected by any sort of mental illness, I want you to believe that recovery is possible. When schizophrenia hit me hard, I pushed those that love me away, believed that everyone was suspect, stopped eating, showering, and LIVING...I cried for no reason, stopped doing the things I enjoyed such as going to church and writing, and scared myself by believing that everyone was a demon, and had mixed emotions about everyone because I believed I could read their minds, which had bizarre and conflicting thoughts.

These last couple of days I attended group therapy at the local mental health center, and by just being there and hearing different people's testimonies it reminded me of God's love. Group participants spoke candidly about their own situations and were frank and loving while giving others their opinions and suggestions.

Thursday, September 10, 2009 is World Suicide Prevention Day, I encourage you to observe this day because it affects so many people with mental illnesses, and other people.

To learn more about schizophrenia visit NAMI or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia(Canada). Also, check out Embracing My Mind(EMM).

Monday, August 24, 2009

How Can I Support Someone with Persecution Delusions

Recently, a reader asked how to support, or what to say to someone who has persecutory delusions and confides in them. I thought this question was profound. By investigating this question it could help so many people maintain or develop a trusting relationship with their relative, friend, or client, etc. I asked the opinion of my therapist, and she gave some pointers and asked me to remember a time when I was psychotic and what could someone have said to me to make me feel more comfortable...

When I was at my peak of psychosis everything was a sign from God- that truck making a U-turn meant go back, that taxi cab driver telling me to stay out of trouble meant he was in on it too. While I was psychotic I heard conflicting voices. When I would ask someone a question on the phone the voices would give different information. I was extremely paranoid. And almost everyone was a threat. I couldn't confide in relatives because they would tell my secrets, I couldn't trust friends because they wouldn't believe me. I couldn't keep a journal because someone would find it and read it. I was mentally trapped. I remember trying to escape from family, for reasons that I cannot make sense out of, but the belief was that they were after me, and I was scared.

Wondering about the city I spotted a man with a bike, (I thought to myself I could take his bike and escape from everyone), I asked this man questions about his bike. It was early in the morning and I wore a short sleeve top, he asked me if I was cold and gave me his sweater. I took the sweater then eye-balled his newspaper, I was anxious to know what day it was. He asked me if I wanted it and I said no (I don't know why I didn't take the newspaper). By this time I re-evaluated taking his bike, (this man must be an angel- he gave me his sweater because he knew I was cold, and offered his newspaper when I really wanted it, to know the date). We talked about nothing, I asked him random questions like if he was married with children. He told me he was divorced. I asked why didn't he have children, and he replied because his wife was on birth control. I felt at peace with this man. Finally, I told him I had to go and went my separate way.

If he had known I was psychotic and offered support I would have wanted him to say what my therapist suggested: "What can I do to let you feel more safe?" My therapist also suggested that an individual ask the person experiencing psychosis if there was another explanation for their situation, such as why the FBI would be following them or why their family or anyone would try to harm them.

It is important to show empathy by telling the person with psychosis that "I understand you feel like everyone is after you (or whatever the scenario)..." DO NOT PROMISE to keep information confidential because if that individual who confides in you is a danger to them self or to others I would strongly recommend that you contact a professional ASAP.

My therapist also said to try to maintain neutral facial expressions and tone of voice to not come off as threatening. The man that spoke to me was very kind, warm, and concerned for my well being. Also, do not encourage the delusions. Instead, remind them that it must be scary for whatever they are experiencing, but just show your concern for them and how you are there to support them.

I hope this post gave you some insight into how someone feels when psychosis takes over and what you can do to support them. I appreciate you for reading my posts and would love to hear from you- whether it be a question, comment, or simple "hello".

If you would like to learn more information about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Horror Movie Sends False Message of Mental Illness

I saw the movie Orphan last night with an old friend, the movie was good, however, it links mental issues to violence which is not okay. I am not going to say too much about the movie for those of you who are interested in viewing the movie, but that the little girl had a history of violence and mental issues. The message the movie made was that people with mental health issues are extremely violent.

This is what puts fear in our neighbors, coworkers, friends, etc. For instance, a while ago an associate from the neighborhood was commenting that he and his daughter do not associate with their neighbor because he has schizophrenia. When I heard this I wanted to jump out and tell him my mental health status to prove that people with schizophrenia are friendly and upright individuals because I am not weird or violent.

Why can't the girl just be a violent person and drop the whole mental illness scenario excuse? Nowadays, people are snapping on people and committing murders because they lost their job, their partner was cheating, lied to them, or simply didn't get what they wanted or expected. The girl could have grew up in an abusive home and was acting out what she saw. The movie did not label a specific mental illness, (thank God!) but said the girl was a patient of a mental hospital.

Besides that concern, I enjoyed spending time with my friend from my old school. I had not seen him in three years. We enjoyed each other's company and plan on going out again sometime.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Serious Mental Illnesses?

I was discussing mental illness with an associate and the question came up, what makes mental illness serious? In short, serious mental illness includes: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and borderline personality disorder. My associate said, 'all mental illnesses are serious'. What do you think? What about eating disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and others?

According to the Vermont Department of Corrections Agency of Human Services serious mental illness is "substantial disorder of thought, mood, perception, orientation or memory, any which grossly impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, diagnoses of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, psychotic conditions not otherwise specified, bipolar disorder, and severe depressive disorders."

The good thing is serious mental illness can and do get treated with success. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), "The best treatments for serious mental illnesses today are highly effective; between 70 and 90 percent of individuals have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with a combination of pharmacological and psychosocial treatments and supports."

To learn more about serious mental illness visit NAMI, or to learn more about schizophrenia visit Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Friday, July 10, 2009

Medication is Imperative

Taking medication can be a huge challenge for some individuals. I am a strong supporter of getting treatment to help overcome mental health concerns. Before, I recognized I had a mental illness I refused treatment to my own detriment. I got so sick I refused food, showers, speaking, and living. I was like a vegetable. Now, I recognize my illness and understand the importance of medication.

Many people do not accept their diagnosis. How can a person support them as they recover? What can they say to get an individual to try taking their medication regularly?

Even now, after accepting my mental illness and taking medication voluntarily, I struggle with the following concerns:

1) Running out of medication
2) Forgetting to take medication
3) Reapplying for an assistance program
4) Trying to get samples until my order arrives
5) Not having enough money to get medication

And the list could go on. I have learned from these experiences that to get medication I could develop a routine in order NOT to forget. Now I take my medicine before I go to bed.

Order medication in advance, and continuously follow up with the nurse to ensure that the order is processing. Have required documentation for assistance programs available. Have someone that I trust to remind me to take my medicine.

I encourage you to learn more about schizophrenia by visiting the following websites: Embracing My Mind, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and the Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Monday, July 6, 2009

Closer to Recovery Part III

Recovery for me began when I accepted my diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia almost two years ago, in 2007. Since then I participated in a few support groups, lived in an independent living establishment for people with mental health concerns, and I continue to take my medication voluntarily on a regular basis. The medication allows me to focus and to do what I want and need to do. It is a blessing to have such advanced knowledge to help people overcome mental illness! I hope someone will find a cure for schizophrenia and other mental illnesses so that I don't have to remember to take my medication. I wouldn't have to be put in a separate category as vulnerable or different from the average person because of my mental illness.

The recovery process has taught me a lot about myself and continues to educate me about mental illness. As I said before, I did not even know what schizophrenia was until it became a part of my life. I am glad I recognize what is going on with me, and what pushed me to change my beliefs and behavior from the past. The thing is I am the old Ashley but now informed, new and improved. I understand what triggered my psychotic breakdown and the warning signs. For example, my triggers were financial stress, moving and adjusting to a new environment.

As a result of my recovery process I want to see other people overcome mental illness too. At first, I started this blog to capture daily emotions and events, however, it grew into something more when other people contributed their experiences. Now, I have blossomed into another stage of recovery and mental health advocacy through my new support group, Embracing My Mind. I want Embracing My Mind to be a resource for people living with mental health concerns and those affected by mental illness. I want to be able to mature on my path to recovery with other people in the support circle.

For resources on schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia, and Embracing My Mind.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month (July)


According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) the US House of Representatives assigned the month of July as: Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in honor of Ms. Campbell and the way she reached out to miniorities with mental illness. Ms. Campbell was an author and advocate for diverse populations with mental health concerns. In fact, NAMI gave her the 2003 Outstanding Media Award for her book, Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry. Campbell passed away in November 2006.

Check out a new support group, Embracing My Mind, and also NAMI and Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

HIV Testing Event A Success!

Empowerment Resource Center's Take Charge. Get Tested. Event was a success, over 200 people received rapid HIV tests. Embracing My Mind was honored to sponsor and to be an exhibitor for the event. Embracing My Mind pasted out literature from the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Also, Embracing My Mind received a great response from survey participants. Survey participants ranged in age from 14 to 59, and were of diverse connections to mental illness, i.e., some were relatives of those with mental illness, friends, caregivers, and others were directly impacted by mental health concerns.

Check out Embracing My Mind for support, and also the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Thoughts on Support Groups

What other support groups have you participated in? What did you like or dislike about them?

I've participated in NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) groups, WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) groups, and others; including online groups. I prefer small groups, less than ten people. I enjoy sharing my story and relating to other people. Ideally, I would like to find a group that I can grow with, meet friends and people I can trust and spend time with outside of the meetings. I remember in WRAP meetings we developed rules that respected members of the group, that made me feel a little more comfortable. NAMI groups allowed me to bring my family, that was a plus, so that members of my family can be educated about things relating to mental illness too.

Online groups are great because of its diversity of experiences. You learn so much from other people's experiences and questions and answers. The plus for online groups is you get stay anonymous.

I can't say I disliked anything particular about the support groups I've attended. What are your thoughts on support groups?

Also, check out a new support group, Embracing My Mind. To learn more about schizophrenia visit NAMI or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Friday, June 19, 2009

Personal Fulfillment through Volunteering

People volunteer for different reasons; some have a disability, others may be retired or have extra time to commit to an organization. Whatever the reason, volunteering is a great opportunity to learn new skills and to network. In my experience with volunteering for diverse organizations I have learned how different organizations operate, network, and how they promote different programs.

It is nice volunteering because you can set your own hours. Most of the time organizations are very flexible with you. Also, you learn new things. For example, with the organizations I have volunteered for I learned new tricks on Microsoft Office to create flyers and to use programs I was not familiar with. I am learning how to become incorporated, how to apply for grants, and even have the opportunity to set up a table with a non-profit organization event (Take Charge. Get Tested. Event, June 27, 2009). The things I am learning while volunteering could cost a lot of money if I were to have learned these things in school!

My volunteering allows me to simply "get out of the house" sometimes!!! Time passes by so fast, I want to be able to account for it and feel as though I have done something productive with my time.

Volunteering allows me to successfully interact with other people and not always think about my illness. We could all sit at home and look at the walls and wonder what we're going to do next. We'd soon get very bored. Volunteering is like being proactive with my time, because I know I would get bored so, why not get something started?

My website, Embracing My Mind, was further in my heart and on my mind to create as a result of my volunteering. I was lucky enough to get hands on experience and guidance with my new "mentor" and boss.

Networking is essential to promoting programs. It is helpful to save business cards and to ask people if they know anyone who would be interested in your program, and to get personal referrals.

I enjoy getting different projects and meeting new people. What do you enjoy from volunteering?

To learn more about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada). Also, check out a new support group, Embracing My Mind.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Take Charge. Get Tested. Event-- Atlanta, GA June 27th


If you are in the Atlanta area, come out and get tested at Empowerment Resource Center's second annual Take Charge. Get Tested. Event, Saturday, June 27, 2009 on Auburn Avenue between Bell Street and Jesse Hill Jr. Drive.

Free HIV testing, refreshments, and entertainment will be provided at the health fair. Join key Georgia legislators Senator Nan Orrock, Representative Tyrone L. Brooks Sr., Representative Margaret Kaiser, Fulton County Commissioner Nancy Boxhill, and Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall in support of this community outreach campaign.

Empowerment Resource Center is collaborating with Saint Joseph's Mercy Care Services, and Big Bethel A.M.E. Church. The health fair is expected to reach over 500 Atlantans. Also, Embracing My Mind (EMM) is a sponsor and exhibitor for the health fair.

To learn more about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada). Also check out Embracing My Mind, a new support group.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Your Advice for Interacting with You

If you were to give someone advice on how to interact with you what would you recommend?

If I were to give such advice I would tell the person to support my endeavors and to motivate me. They could support me by participating in discussions related to schizophrenia, listen to my concerns and help me to provide solutions or alternatives. And they would motivate me by encouraging me to strive for my passion, get back into school and to do well, and by giving constructive criticism to improve my weaknesses.

What kind of advice would you give?

To learn more about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada). Also, if you are looking for a support group check out Embracing My Mind.

Monday, June 1, 2009

How Can We Get Them To Understand?

As you know, not everybody understands mental illness. For example, when a student with a mental disability seeks special accommodations from their professor they are overlooked or not taken seriously (I heard of this situation from an on-line discussion group).

Another more common instance is telling someone in the workforce that a person needs accommodations due to mental illness. Many employers do not understand mental illness, so they try to avoid the situation all together by firing or encouraging the individual with mental illness to quit (another situation I learned of through an on-line discussion group).

Once, while psychotic and not aware of my mental illness, I was questioned by the police and sent home with family. However, if the police had been trained in mental illness like how to spot individuals with mental illness, I could have been treated sooner.

Some people do not think mental illness exists. How can we get them to understand?

1) I think mental illness education should be mandatory for teachers and employers, this way people will be more sensitive to individuals with mental illness. The state can make such programs mandatory by enforcing it through funding opportunities. Make schools and employers have a certain percentage of people with mental disabilities take advantage of their services and jobs. As a result, there will be less stereotypes and stigma attached to mental illness; and less students will feel discouraged and less employees will feel discriminated against.

2)Mental illness education should be taught in middle school as a part of the health education curriculum, just like STDs, sex education, and drug-free programs. This information, when taught earlier before the age of the onset of mental illness, will help people understand that something is wrong and that they should seek a professional health care provider for diagnosis.

3)Train police on how to spot individuals with mental illness. Then, more people with mental illness will get treatment.

What are some other ways we can get them to understand mental illness?

To learn more about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada). Also, visit Embracing My Mind for open group discussion on various topics concerning mental illness and life.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Phase II The Bright Side of Schizophrenia: The Beast/Learning Experience

Recovery is an ongoing process that demands time, a good attitude, and support (on-line and/or off-line). While there is no cure for schizophrenia, yet, recovery is possible. To me, recovery is being able to function and to take care of daily activities. This could mean a lot of different things to people. What does recovery mean to you?

Setting goals is a part of recovery. Goals could be long-term and short-term. For me, my goal is to complete college. To keep this goal alive I vocalize this goal by telling people I will return to school this fall. In addition, I visited colleges and did some research on the Internet to see which college I would like to attend. What is your goal?

Motivation to get well helps tremendously and allowing other people to support you helps even more. While I was recooperating in the hospital my mother exercised with me and played word games with me to: 1) help reduce stiffness due to my medication and 2) to stimulate my mind. What motivates you to keep going despite your mental illness?

After the institution, I joined a treatment program for young adults and learned more about my mental illness. Educating yourself or another's mental illness is being proactive, in order, to know what to expect and to be prepared.

Schizophrenia can be a beast or a learning experience that makes you stronger, you have a choice which role schizophrenia or any mental illness will play in your life. Which role have you chose?

Again, think of these questions: what does recovery mean to you? What is your goal? What motivates you to keep going despite mental illness, or your loved one's mental illness? Which role have you chose- schizophrenia or mental illness as the beast or a learning experience?

To learn more about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada). Also, join my forum at Embracing My Mind.

Phase II The Bright Side of Schizophrenia: Changing Attitutdes

I look at having a mental disability as a challenge to overcome. A positive outlook on life with schizophrenia helps me cope with the illness. Also, learning more about schizophrenia through Internet sources and other people's experiences helps me believe I can and will overcome schizophrenia. Refusing to let schizophrenia control me, I have a hold on it through medication and support. I take my medication regularly, discuss schizophrenia information with my family, and I share my experience with other people online.

In my opinion, changing your attitude about schizophrenia or any mental illness is essential to overcome it. To me, overcoming schizophrenia means being responsible by confronting issues. Issues related to schizophrenia include: medication compliance, asking for support and giving support, and educating one self about their mental illness.

For example, discussing a medication regimen with family or a support team. Let everybody know when you plan to take your medication, how much medication you are taking, and if you need assistance remembering or distributing it.

Also, knowing who has your best interest and getting their support. Support could come from anyone, i.e. a partner, family member, friend, caregiver, health professional, mentor, or a counselor. If you can, support other people with mental illness through support groups online or offline, that way people can overcome mental illness together.

Be proactive and learn more your illness or a loved ones illness. There are many sources available on the Internet. To learn more about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Have the attitude that if someone else can recover I can recovery, or my friend or loved one can recover. Changing a person's attitude has to come from within, it cannot be forced. Always love yourself and try to make wise decisions to overcome mental illness or help others with mental illness. Look on the bright side of schizophrenia, take your medication or help someone else take their medication if you are a caregiver, and get support.

You are invited to share your story of how you or a loved one overcomes mental illness (i.e. schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder) by submitting a 500-word or less essay/article to the email address located on the website Embracing My Mind. I encourage you to sign my guestbook and to join my new forum at Embracing My Mind.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Phase II The Bright Side of Schizophrenia (A Series): Embrace Your Mind

Now that we have discussed the myths, stereotypes, and fears associated with having schizophrenia it is time to talk about the good things associated with the illness. I am doing a series called Phase II The Bright Side, I will discuss positive attributes related to schizophrenia. You can help me with this series by submitting a success story of mental illness (i.e. bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia) in a 500 word or less essay/article, and email it to info@embracingmymind.org, and in the subject bar label it Success Story. You do not have to attach your full name to the article, but make sure you give your first name and state. Also, please give a title to your essay/article or one will be provided. The success story will be posted on the website Embracing My Mind.

Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA) stated: "Studies have indicated that 25 percent of those having schizophrenia recover completely, [and] 50 percent are improved over a 10-year period..."

Understand that recovery is possible. If you or a loved one are concerned about a person who has schizophrenia, remember the facts and know that they can get better. For instance, I probably already shared this information with you, but a little less than a couple of years ago I experienced some really bad symptoms of schizophrenia to the extent that my mother thought she would need to get some sort of guardianship over me. I was catatonic, not moving my limbs for hours at a time, I refused visitors (family), and I stopped eating, showering, and speaking.

The judge said I was incompetent, and sent me to the state hospital. After my family encouraged my attorney to persuade the judge to mandate medication compliance, and was approved, I slowly but surely got better with medication and time. I started talking again, seeing family, taking care of personal hygiene, and living again!

Embrace your mind by re-learning yourself after diagnosis. Prior to my nervous breakdown I was involved in several activities- church, school, work, and cross country. However, after my diagnosis I had to learn to take things slow for a little while until I could readjust to overcoming schizophrenia. I took a break from a lot of things and slowly rearranged them into my schedule. I took a class in school and attended a day treatment program for young adults where I learned more about my illness. I even started volunteering and dating again. Now I am volunteering regularly and enjoying a new social life. Everybody is different so what worked for one person may not work for another.

Believe that there is a future after diagnosis. There is no cure for schizophrenia, yet, but there is treatment that enables a person to function well and live life. Again, SARDAA stated that 25 percent recover completely, in order words they do not experience symptoms anymore with the support of medication. If you have a mental illness, with treatment you can overcome anything you set your mind to.

Thank you for considering to join Phase II The Bright Side series by submitting a 500word or less essay/article by email to info@embracingmymind.org. To learn more about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada). Check out my new forum at Embracing My Mind.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Check Out My NEW Website and Give Feedback


Hi,
I am soo excited, I launched my new website Embracing My Mind today. It is still under construction, however, I would appreciate your feedback.

Go to "My Forum" and register to become a member, check out my "Resources and Links" page, check out "Upcoming Events"- check out everything! If you have a mental illness (i.e. schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression) related blog and would like to submit it email me: info@embracingmymind.org.

It is designed to be an all in one location for you to find out information about serious mental illness. It is not all about me, it is about us, so let's work together. Oh yeah, don't forget to sign my guestbook. Thank you for your support, and bye for now!

Ashley
http://embracingmymind.org

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Taking Steps to Advance with Schizophrenia

After my diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia in the summer of 2007, and release from the institution at the end of October I took baby steps to wellness. There is a process to recovery, but everybody may not do it in the same order or in the same manner. These are the steps I took toward recovery...

I applied for Supplemental Security Income, moved into an Independent Living home, and enrolled in a county day treatment program for youth with mental illness. Typically, people are denied Supplemental Security Income on their first attempt, however, I was not. I think I got approved on the first try because I had history with the State Hospital and I had a nurse help me with my application. It took six months to get benefits.

The day treatment program was great. I attended Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) classes, in addition to other classes geared toward mental illness awareness. I took a break from school and work for a few months, however, when I returned to school I took one class to take things slow. I spent five months in an Independent Living arrangement before I rented my own room with a family. I lived with the family for four months before reuniting with my mother and sister in another state. I moved from California back to Georgia to be with my family.

When I arrived in Georgia I went to the county mental health department for a doctor, medication, and therapy. I applied for Medicaid, but was denied, however, I enrolled in the Abilify Assistance Program and I am currently receiving medication through the program. I attended therapy weekly and then I went on to a marketing internship.

Because I planned on returning to school to recieve my bachelors in business and marketing I took the internship. Now the internship has ended and I am now volunteering my marketing talents toward a non-profit organization. My next step will be to enroll into school part-time and to take two or three classes.

How did you recover from mental illness? Do you know of any scholarships for mental illness for school?

If you would like to learn more about schizophrenia I encourage you to visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Friday, May 15, 2009

Networking/Schizophrenia is More Common Than You Think

First, I am not good at networking, however, volunteering for the HIV/AIDS non-profit organization is teaching me a lot. For instance, today we spoke with a few tenants within our building and discovered they were friends with a politician who we are trying to get their support from for our upcoming event. While another tenant gave us some really good contacts and was able to donate T-shirts for volunteers. This was a great experience.
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Someone that I am working with has a sister who has schizophrenia. Schizophrenia affects people close to me too, besides family. In fact, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that 1 out of 5 American families are affected by mental illness.

I was surprised to learn that someone that I work with has come into contact with the illness that I am trying to overcome, because schizophrenia affects only about one percent of the United States population. (Maybe the illness affects more people than what is being reported)?

I wanted to ask so many questions, but I held my tongue and went with the flow of the conversation. (I did not disclose my diagnosis to anyone at work). Knowing that this co-worker's sister has schizophrenia made me feel more connected with them.

As I have mentioned before, I did not even know what schizophrenia was before my diagnosis. In short, schizophrenia is a mental illness that impairs communication skills, perception of reality, and could make a person hold a conviction that has no evidence such as the FBI is after them, or someone is following them.

Although schizophrenia is a serious mental illness, there is hope. Recovery is possible. There is treatment such as anti-psychotic medications and others. Personally, I am reaping the benefits of such treatments and it is working very well for me. I hope and encourage other individuals living with mental illness to give anti-psychotic medication (under profession care) an opportunity to work wonders for them, as it has for me.

But know this, not every everybody responds to same medication as someone else, there are several types of medication to choose from. In fact, I had to try a few medications before I found one that worked for me.

To learn more about schizophrenia I encourage you to visit the following websites: 1) the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and 2) Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Afraid of Rejection

Yesterday, I missed the perfect opportunity to tell my boyfriend (who I have been dating for a little over a month) that I have schizophrenia...

Schizophrenia awareness is a strong interest for me. Am I ashamed of my mental illness because I did not tell him that I have the illness? Or am I cautious of sharing my information with others because they may be ignorant to what the illness is? I think I am the latter, because I don't mind sharing my story with strangers, also I don't think my boyfriend knows much about schizophrenia.

I got scared and did not tell him I have schizophrenia because I don't want him to reject me, but he will find out in the end. Is it better to share my diagnosis so early in the relationship or to wait?

I did not feel comfortable sharing my diagnosis with him, yet. I am going to go with my feelings and wait. I don't want it to not work out for other reasons, really soon, and for him to know my whole life story.

When I do tell him, what will I say?? Start out with a question and then go from there... do you know what schizophrenia is? I have schizophrenia. It is a mental illness that affects a person's thinking processes and ability to function because they may experience hallucinations, delusions, and communication problems. I discovered I had the illness a couple of years ago, and since then I have received treatment and I continue to learn more about my illness. Then let him ask me the questions.

This is very important to me because it is a part of me now. Five years ago I would have never thought of mental illness or it affecting me and my family. I did not even know what schizophrenia was until my diagnosis in the summer of 2007.

If you want to learn more about schizophrenia I encourage to visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

When Will We Get Over Sterotypes

In the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) "Schizophrenia: Public Attitudes, Personal Needs" report stated the following statistics:

* 79% of people would want a friend to tell them if they were diagnosed with
schizophrenia, but only 46% say they would tell friends if they themselves were
diagnosed.
* 27% would be embarrassed to tell others if one of their own family members was
diagnosed.
* 80% expressed discomfort with the prospect of dating someone with schizophrenia
who has not received treatment, compared to only 49% if the person has (received
treatment).

Why are people ashamed to admit that schizophrenia affects their lives? Many people have various misconceptions about schizophrenia- people with schizophrenia are violent, lazy, or homeless. While I do not fit into the stereotype of a person with schizophrenia as well as many of my readers with schizophrenia, people continue to believe these myths.

Again, 79 percent of people would want a friend to tell them they have the illness while almost half of study participants would not admit to that diagnoses if they had schizophrenia. Why is that- that is a double standard. Why do people expect so much from others, but want leniency when it comes to their status?

Going on the second prong, why is it that a relative would be embarrassed by their family member's diagnosis of schizophrenia? Nobody is perfect, many people have medical ailments such as diabetes and cancer or undesirable personality traits such as being conceited, a pathological liar, or a gossiper- those traits should be embarrassing, but not schizophrenia. Nobody can decide who gets mental illness.

About half of survey participates would not date someone with schizophrenia even if they had treatment. This statistic really saddens me. Again, nobody is perfect and they certainly cannot determine whether they have a mental illness or not.

What do you think of these statistics? Do the statistics surprise- why or why not?

To learn more about schizophrenia visit the following organization's websites: 1) the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), or 2) Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Building Professional Relationships/ Dating 101

This week I started volunteering for a non-profit organization that focuses on HIV/AIDS awareness. I am interested in HIV/AIDS awareness because I believe it is a serious issue in America that needs more attention. I will be working with this organization for the summer.

The other day I attended a town hall meeting that discussed safety and community involvement to decrease the selling of drugs in the business area. After the meeting the executive director and I handed out business cards and networked with participants.

The executive director, who I will be closely working with this summer is going to educate me on how a non-profit organization operates, like an internship, and I will contribute to marketing needs and speaking engagements. I am very excited about this opportunity, and I got to thinking that I could start a non-profit organization or clubhouse that focuses on schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

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When I first started this blog, I thought it was going to be a diary-like blog, however, it has turned somewhat informative and therapeutic to discuss schizophrenia. I have been blogging for eight months now, I think I am ready to take it to the next level, and since this whole blog is personal I want to share with you something that is not too often touched on in mental illness... dating.

Recently, I started dating a man whom I am very interested in- he has a good job, great dating etiquette, and is handsome and single. I hope to keep him as friend for long time, so I don't want to run him away with the knowledge of my mental illness, so I did not tell him about it. We have been dating for about month now, how long should I wait before I tell him that I have schizophrenia? Or should I even tell him at all? Not that there is an urgency to share this information, however, I think it is important to be honest with friends.

I think it is kind of important to share the fact that I have a mental illness to friends, because they can be very beneficial by vocalizing symptoms, getting more information about the illness, and reminding one to take their medication.

Questions for You
If you have a mental illness, how long was it before you shared your diagnosis with your partner? If you are a friend, caregiver, family member, or someone interested in mental illness, would you date someone with a mental illness- why or why not?

If you want to learn more about schizophrenia I encourage you to check out the National Alliance on Mental Illness or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada). Thank you for reading this blog and commenting!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

An Update

I've been aware of my illness for almost two years now and I take my medication regularly. My symptoms have been repressed with the support of Abilify. I do not have hallucinations, I am not delusional or paranoid.

You would assume that my illness has been cured, but it is not. I know from other people's experience that if I discontinue my medication the symptoms will return. There is no cure for schizophrenia, yet... Have I ever thought of discontinuing my medication- no, because I know that the symptoms will return and I don't want to be afraid, anxious, or paranoid again. My symptoms are under control for now, and I hope to maintain that control through consistent practice of taking my medication.

I am blessed to find a medication that works for me. Abilify has little side effects- stiffness- but it does its job and does it well. I am doing very well, my marketing internship is coming to close and soon I will volunteer with another organization and go back to school.

The advice I would give to other people living with schizophrenia is to take your medication, it is the most important task you could do to battle this illness. Also, for family and friends of those with schizophrenia, hang in there. This may be the most difficult struggle you come across, but keep hope alive and know that it takes time to recover. My mother almost thought she lost me, because I was in a catatonic state and when I wasn't catatonic I did not speak to anyone including family. I did not do the things I enjoy and I would not eat, because I thought someone was trying to poison me. But look at me today, I am staying active, eating, and managing my symptoms.

To learn more about schizophrenia please visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

If you have a success story, please share, family and friends of those with schizophrenia need to be encouraged.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Another Misconception of Schizophrenia

Lately, some associates have mentioned schizophrenia and assumed it was split personality or a dangerous trait. Schizophrenia is NOT split personality! And it does not make the individual more dangerous!

When I heard them refer schizophrenia to incorrect characteristics I wanted to correct them by telling them that I have schizophrenia, and look at me, I don't act like I have split personality or are a danger to anyone, but I couldn't. I don't want to risk being alienated or discriminated against because of my illness. I just had to remain quiet and let them finish their preposterous explanation for why they don't hang out with their neighbor who has schizophrenia, and that actor who played someone with schizophrenia in that movie.

I think back and wish I would have commented by saying something like I have a relative with schizophrenia and they don't have split personality, or are a danger to anyone, just to set the record straight...I feel like a punk for not saying anything at all.

These experiences just reinforce the fact that I have to be very selective as to who, how, and when I tell someone that I have schizophrenia. It is very sad that I have to put on two faces with people, especially when they mention the illness.

How would you have handled the situation? If you do have a mental illness, how do you handle situations like these?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Coping With Schizopohrenia, When A Loved One Is Affected

by Sarah Scrafford

It’s not easy to digest the fact that a loved one, friend or family member, has schizophrenia, especially if it’s someone you live with or interact with on a regular basis. It’s hard to accept that the person you know so well and love so much is now at the whims and fancies of hallucinations and delusions, some of which may be directed at you. It’s not easy to lead a normal life when you’re living with a schizophrenic, but there are reasons to cope as best as you can, because:

Their recovery depends on your attitude too: Yes, there are medications like antipsychotic drugs that help control the symptoms and prevent them from occurring too often, but what really matters is your support and understanding. If you’re not patient with them, they’re going to relapse into the depths of this illness more often. Your acceptance of their condition goes a long way in making medical treatment more effective.

It could take its toll on you: If you don’t accept this as part of your life and learn how to deal with it, you’re going to end up facing a whole lot of stress. You may end up taking it out on the person who’s ill, thus complicating the situation even more. Take the time to look after yourself and, difficult though it may be, strive to keep your life as normal as possible. Seek the help of family members or friends when you need a break or when things get too much to take.

It could happen to any of us: If you remember this golden line, you’re bound to deal with the situation in a more positive way, probably like how you would want to be treated if you were suffering from schizophrenia. It’s hard to be patient and kind all the time, but you must make a concerted effort to do so, because you’re definitely going to regret losing your cool if you do so.

You need to get past the disease and look to the future: You could do this by joining a support group and by learning all you can about this disease from books and other sources. It also helps if you play an active role in your loved one’s treatment and keep in regular touch with their doctor and counselor. Educate yourself on the symptoms and learn how to read them and about the causes that trigger them so that they can be avoided.

You need to plan for emergencies: The worst could happen, and rather than think of yourself as a pessimist for dreaming up worst-case scenarios, it’s best to be prepared. Keep a list of numbers that you need to call in case of emergencies when your loved one’s situation deteriorates or when they’re having a really bad spell. Also, learn how to deal with them until professional help is at hand. This way, you avoid the panic and helplessness that so often accompany a crisis.

Your loved one needs a life too: And the best way you can give them this is to encourage them to be as independent as possible. You must gently persuade them into doing things for themselves and picking up new skills to cope with their disease. A strong mind and a positive attitude go a long way in helping both the schizophrenic and their loved ones cope with this mental affliction.


By-line:
This article is contributed by Sarah Scrafford, who regularly writes on the topic of radiography technician schools. She invites your questions, comments and freelancing job inquiries at her email address: sarah.scrafford25@gmail.com.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Anything Can Be Controlled

I have been diagnosed with schizophrenia for less than two years and I have my symptoms under control through the blessings of anti-psychotic medication. Through my experience with this illness I have learned that anything can be controlled with the right resources and a great outlook on life.

Whether it be asthma, diabetes, a learning disability, or mental illness, you can manage it. Working close with your treatment or support team, medication regimen, and strategic alternatives anyone can succeed at leading a positive lifestyle. Here are some tips I use to live with schizophrenia.

First, I follow a customized routine. I learned that taking my medication at night reduces the side effects of medication which is for me, stiffness. Therefore, I take my medication just before I go to sleep.

Second, I am conscious of my illness. Through conversations with my mother I have learned that sometimes I look as though I am in a daze. This is a negative symptom of schizophrenia, which in general is hard to treat. Negative symptoms include lack of speech, lack of facial expression, and lack of expression in voice. While I am having a conversation with someone I try to blink more subtly and move my head so they don't think I am in a daze or not paying attention to what they are saying.

Third, I research information on schizophrenia so I can be proactive and cope with symptoms. For example, I have studied the different types of symptoms and signs of a relapse.

Finally, I am optimistic about my future with this illness. I still have goals I plan on accomplishing and seek additional support to help me handle this illness. I don't let schizophrenia consume me, I handle it.

Thank you for taking the time out to read this post, I appreciate you and hope you will share your knowledge about schizophrenia to others. To learn more about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Monday, March 30, 2009

Help Find A Cure

Schizophrenia is a seroius mental illness that affects one percent of the population or 2 to 3 million Americans. The illness affects the mind in the form of hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking and other symptoms. There is no cure for schizophrenia, yet, however, there is treatment that reduces symptoms.

You can help scientist come up with a cure for schizophrenia through giving. Here are just some of the organizations where you can donate your financial gift to, I encourage you to learn more about an organization and to support them:

1) National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression or NARSAD

2) National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI

3) Schizophrenia Research Institute (Australia)

4) Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada)

To learn more about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia. Thank you for your support!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Schizophrenia: Medication

I have not written any blogs lately because I was involved in several different activities the last couple of weeks. For those of you who are reading this, thanks for not forgetting about me.

This post is for caregivers and patients with mental illness. Medication compliance can be a difficult thing to cope with in the beginning, but as time passes things get a little easier.

When living with schizophreniak, your priority should be following a medication regimen. Taking your medication regularly relieves symptoms and makes you feel better than you did when and/if psychosis actually took over. Psychosis is a combination of symptoms including delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thinking, etc. For example, I believed people were poisoning my food even though I had no evidence to justify this belief, this was a delusion.

There are many reasons why people with mental illness do not take their medication. It can be due to the side effects of the medication, truly forgetting to take the medicine, or believing that one is cured of the illness. There is relief, psychiatrist could recommend some medications to counter the side effects. Some side effects of medication include, but are not limited to, the following: trembling, bed wetting, drooling, constipation, stiffness, and restlessness.

If you forget to take your medicine there is a system that can remind you to take it, Intelecare. Intelecare is also for caregivers, they remind them to give the patient their medication. It comes in three forms- email, mobile, and telephone. You can customize messages as well.

To remember to take my medication I keep a daily organizer that holds my medicine for each day of the week. I also have a routine that allows me to take my medicine just before I go to bed.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for schizophrenia, yet. However, there are several different types of antipsychotic medications you can choose from. Everyone is different so one medication that worked for someone else may not work for you. For instance, I had to try about three medications before finding the right one- I did not like the side effects of other medications, some made me tired while others made me restless or hungry.

I have learned from other people's mistakes that you should always take your medicine. An online associate stopped taking their medication and experienced their symptoms soon afterwards. I have not had the urge to stop taking my medicine since I left the hospital. From other people's testimony I have learned that symptoms will immediately follow after one discontinues or lowers their dose of medication without a doctor's supervision.

I am thankful for antipsychotic medication. It relieves symptoms and helps you think clearly again. To learn more about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Schizophrenia: Bizarre Behavior Part I

Part of schizophrenia is irrational behavior and disorganized thinking when untreated. Before I knew I had developed adult onset schizophrenia I believed some strange things.

For instance, I questioned family members, to distinguish if they were really my relatives or impostures. I believed they were impostures when they did not answer my questions the way I wanted them to. Where the real relative went, I did not know.

As I asked these questions I had a blank stare that scared my family: "Who was your childhood friend," I asked my sister..."What high school graduation gift did you give me," I asked my grandmother."..."What did I write on your Mother's Day Card?... Was it taped or sealed?" I asked my mother..."What restaurant did you take me to before we went to the zoo a few years ago," I asked my uncle. These questions seemed minor or mediocre, and of no significance, but they were very important to me.

"Where are your glasses?...Where is your Bible?...Why haven't you been answering my calls," my aunt asked me. (I usually carried my Bible everywhere I went). "I lost them," I replied.

In reality, I left my cell phone at a smoothie restaurant because I believed my aunt placed a tracking device in it, however, where I was going was no big secret, but I felt violated. I left my glasses in the bathroom, in order, to disguise myself from the people following me, but there was no one actually following me.

Now, thinking back on my actions I realize how bizarre these incidents were. And I recognize that I was highly delusional. I remember being scared at the time and not having any relief from whatever action I took. These were just some of the bizarre things I did, but there is a lot more that I plan to share with you soon.

I am just so glad that there is medication to overcome the symptoms of schizophrenia. Today I do not have delusions or a lot of other symptoms associated with schizophrenia because of the medication. The intention of this post is to bring about awareness and to give an idea of what life can be like living with schizophrenia, when untreated. Although there is no cure for schizophrenia yet, there is treatment to reduce the symptoms.

If you are a caregiver, friend, or parent of an individual with schizophrenia and notice strange behavior you should keep a record of it and tell this information with their psychiatrist. Also, keep hope alive that that individual will get better!

To learn more about schizophrenia and to get support visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)or Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).

Saturday, March 7, 2009

What is Schizophrenia to Me

This is what schizophrenia is like when untreated...

It is a nightmare that you cannot wake up from. The illness causes you to believe that everything is about you; a television program, a song on the radio, a stranger's glare. The illness makes you feel trapped, as if everybody is watching you and trying to harm you, but you can't escape- you're outnumbered.

You can't eat food because someone is trying to poison you. You can't take a shower, because someone has tampered with the soap and it will burn your skin. You can't tell your family what's going on because they have been replaced too, they're impostures! You can't trust your friends because they will run and tell someone your secrets. You know they are gossiping about you and they are out to get you, you can feel it, God has blessed you with special powers that enables you to feel menacing and positive spirits in people; you are sensitive to people's emotions.

Everything is a sign, that truck making a U-turn means you should go back, that taxi cab driver saying, 'stay out of trouble,' means he's watching you too, and is in on it. The voices discouraging you are people around you, they know everything and are using information against you.

What is schizophrenia? Schizophrenia is a mental illness that corrupts the mind. It makes you believe bizarre things and causes you to act strange as a result of the delusions and hallucinations. The illness alters your thoughts and personality causing you to be distant and secretive, not trusting anyone or letting your guard down, for me at least.

Schizophrenia is a highly misunderstood, complicated mental illness that many people do not want to talk about and many do not understand. It is disturbing, media portrays it as a characteristic prone to violence. People are afraid of what the person with schizophrenia will do, they don't have any idea what the illness is about except it is associated with violence. Even church members are confused about the illness, some believe that people with schizophrenia have demonic spirits in them that need to be expelled. Others flat out discriminate against persons with schizophrenia in the workplace, within families, and in housing because they simply do not understand the illness.

THIS IS NOT TRUE: people with schizophrenia are upright citizens! They are not proned to violence unless they have a history of violence prior to the onset, which is a very small minority of people with schizophrenia, like the general population. People with schizophrenia are entitled to have live just like everybody else, they are not filled with demonic spirits. And they deserve to get work and get a home without the hassles. (I have been discriminated against in housing. The potential landlord thought my potential roommate would cause too much stress and suggested that I should not rent a room there).

However, when treated, you can think clearly and be more conscious to what is going on around you. You are not afraid of the people around you. You can openly voice your thoughts and opinions. You can eat your food in peace and shower with no concern. You can form meaningful relationships again.

To learn more about schizophrenia or to get support visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Friday, March 6, 2009

Coping with Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that disrupts a person's thinking, emotions, and behavior, which can lead to the extent of isolation to suicidal thoughts. There is no cure for the illness, yet. Schizophrenia affects males and females alike and people of all cultures. It affects 2 to 3 million Americans, and one percent of the world population.

Despite my illness, I am motivated to keep going because of my family, online peers, and self determination to not go backwards. Nearly two years ago I was distraught at thoughts of people following me, people trying to poision me, and the voices telling me 'I was a dishonor to my family.' Before all of this, I was a junior in college, an AWANA church teacher, a cross country runner, an intern, a daughter, and a sister. Like many of us with a mental illness, I would not have thought I would have had a mental illness, but something had to explain the paranoia and symptoms. The illness sneaks up on you and snatches away everything dear to you- your career, family, friends, and livilihood.

Now, almost two years after my nervous breakdown I am coping with this illness with the support of family, online peers, treatment team (i.e. psychiatrist and therapist), and medication compliance. I am learning more and more about my illness and ways to cope with it. I accept my illness and am working on how to live with it.

What motivates me to take my medication is the thought of losing control. Losing my family again, not completing my internship, not communicating with online peers and supporters again. I don't want to experience psychosis again, I don't want to live in fear of people, I don't want to hear the deep voices that laugh at me and discourage me. I don't want to not eat because I believe someone is trying to poision me. I don't want a complete stranger to call the cops on me because they believe I seem disoriented and confused again.

I will not let schizophrenia get the best of me. I will live life and enjoy it. I will work hard to remember to take my medication, ask my doctor questions about coping skills and symptoms, and ask for help when I need it, before it gets too late. I will fulfill my goals and dreams of completing school, getting married, having children and getting that house! Schizophrenia may have had me down and out in the past, but it will not dominate my life, I handle it with medication, support, and therapy.

To learn more about schizophrenia and to get support visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness or Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada). If you or a friend is experiencing suicidal thoughts call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.