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Showing posts from 2011

From the Terrors of Psychosis to Hope and a Better Life

For me, experiencing psychosis is an experience I will never forget. In short, psychosis is when an individual cannot distinguish reality. I endured a psychotic experience at the age of 20, almost five years ago, and still remember the terrors of the illness- officially diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia in 2007.

The manifestation of the illness dominated my livelihood whenever I was extremely suspicious, confused, forgetful, irritable, distant, irrational, and hearing criticizing voices when nobody was around. In my mind, everyone was envious of me because I had godly talents. I thought I could read people's minds and understand them, and sometimes they could read my mind as well. I rationalized these strange beliefs by my faith in God and the miracles of the Bible. I believed I was on a mission for God and eventually thought I was Jesus Christ being persecuted again when I was arrested for a crime I committed while not in the right state of mind. The bizarre thoughts increased.


CNN- "Human Factor" Note

Recently my story was featured on CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta's Human Factor. I feel blessed to have an opportunity to share my experience with diverse communities around the world. I believe it is important to share my mental health condition with the public in order to help reduce stigma. Yes, sharing my mental illness has been a process.

I remember when I started this blog in September 2008 I was unsure about its theme and how much I would disclose. Initially, I did not share my true identity, and now I am very comfortable disclosing to the public about my health condition, because I have overcome many medical and social setbacks. I believe this illness can be defeated through treatment, support, faith and hard work.

For individuals and families still struggling with a mental health concern: as you know there will be many obstacles to reach peace with mental health and to live in recovery, however, there is hope. I remember the stories my mother and family shared with me about the…

Changing with my Recovery

It is amazing how much my recovery has changed. I can remember a time in my recovery where my goal was to socialize with someone because I felt distant from peers and my community. Now, I talk to a lot of peers and other members of the community. Its great to see how my recovery matures and my goals continue to change.

I have many goals, short-term and long-term that I occasionally update and revise. One of my short term goals was to complete the Certified Peer Specialist training program, and after three years I can finally check off that goal on my list, thank you!

Another one of my goals was to live independently. As I mentioned in another blog entry recently, I entered into a housing program with the county and moved into a group home to feel in control of my housing and life. This decision alone empowered me. And now, I live on my own. I live alone in the community of my choice and I love having this opportunity. In fact, I hope peers will have similar experiences of self-empower…

Who Is In Control of My Recovery?

Are we listening? Are we listening to the one in control of recovery? Who is in control of recovery? Is it our doctors? Our family members and friends?

For a brief time, I did not have choices in my recovery. My life was limited by the state system in jail. In fact, I had my choice to deny medication taken from me. I was court-ordered to medication compliance, which was encouraged by my family. I am thankful my family advocated for medication compliance because it ultimately saved my life. During the time I was not well, I recognized this only after I was medicated and educated on my health.

When I was not well four years ago, I believed I was a victim of conspiracy. I thought someone in my family were playing a prank and took me to an enclosed facility with routines not of my own (jail). I believed others were against me and working together to poison me and to spy on me; I felt my life was in danger, and that I had reason to feel uneasy and suspicious. As a result, I did not speak m…

Sunlight Village Mental Health Conference

Thank you, Sunlight Village Board of Directors, staff, and volunteers! I had a great experience at your mental health conference: Our Children, Our Future, on Saturday, June 18, 2011. I appreciate all your warm welcomes and support. It is nice to know I have friends in Dayton, Ohio. I would love to work with Sunlight Village again in the future! (The picture to the left, shows myself and Founder and Executive Director of Sunlight Village, Robbie Brandon)

At the conference, I delivered the speech, The Gift of Recovery: A Consumer's Perspective. I shared my personal recovery story from the diagnosis of Schizophrenia until the present. I went into detail about my recovery process because I wanted others to understand that recovery is a life-long journey that takes work, persistence, and support. I enjoyed the interaction with the audience.

NAMI New Jersey 2011 Conference- My Experience

Dr. Rebecca Roma and myself attended the NAMI New Jersey conference: "Shaping the Future of Mental Healthcare," which took place earlier today. NAMI New Jersey screened the new Schizophrenia documentary that we were both featured in called, "Living with Schizophrenia: A Call for Hope and Recovery." We were accompanied by a few Janssen executives and associates, Janssen funded and produced the documentary. It was a pleasure meeting Dr. Roma because I discovered some of her volunteer work projects and reason for getting in the medical field among other interesting conversation.

I had a great experience! I listened to some great speakers and among them was Dr. Robin Eubanks, who had a lot humor, energy, and really got the audience talking- it was interactive. Also I was able to get my questions answered in a workshop, "Choices in Recovery" (a Janssen program) about Schizophrenia. Overall, I had an amazing experience- having the opportunity to meet Dr. Roma an…

Encourage Each Other

Five years ago I was living an ordinary college student life. I did not anticipate a battle with mental health, nor did my family. In fact, I do not think anyone living with a mental health diagnosis anticipates a struggle with mental illness.

However, during the process my family and supporters held my hand through my experience with Schizophrenia and gave me hope. I am fortunate and blessed to have their support. I started a mental health outreach group, Embracing My Mind, Inc., because I would like to encourage others to have hope. I want to give back to the community and to support other peoples' recovery process so that we can "overcome mental illness together!"

Thank You

Now, I am overcoming Schizophrenia with the support of my community: family, faith-based group, treatment team, peers, professional associates, and you, my readers. I am grateful especially for my mother, because she supported me during our most difficult trials with this illness. For caregivers and …

"Living with Schizophrenia" Documentary Premiere

The premiere of the documentary, Living with Schizophrenia: A Call for Hope and Recovery was an amazing experience! My personal journey in mental health recovery was one of three stories featured in the documentary.

As a participant in the documentary I had an opportunity to serve on a panel discussion to share more information about the journey in my ongoing recovery. The panel discussion was moderated by JC Hayward, and the panelists included: Dave, Caregiver, Emily, director of the documentary, Ashley Smith, Mentor, Joshua Bell, Peer Counselor, and Rebecca Phillips, Writer.

The half hour film depicts the lives of three individuals living with Schizophrenia. I was united with some the other individuals who are featured in the film, in addition to the director of the documentary who also has a personal connection to the illness.

For me, the documentary portrays a message that Schizophrenia can be a very manageable illness and people living with the mental condition can lead norma…

The Importance of Peer Support To Me

Peer support is not a new phenomenon in recovery. According to the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Peer-to-Peer Recovery Education Course manual, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) groups and their 12-step model have been practicing peer support since the 1930s. Peer support is when an individual with similar concerns share knowledge and practical experience with each other to have a better understanding of their concerns and to mature in recovery.

As a person living with mental illness, a facilitator, and researcher, it is common for a person living with a mental health diagnosis to also have a substance abuse concern. This combination of concerns is called dual diagnosis.

Even though I do not have a substance abuse concern I feel like I can relate to people with substance abuse concerns. From my experience with mental illness I once lost close relationships, college education, and my livelihood. Similarly, people with substance abuse concerns may have lost close relationships, caree…

Lack of Trust: A Byproduct of My Mental Illness

In this entry, I'll share my experiences with Schizophrenia in regards to feeling lack of trust in others, paranoia, and isolation.... I remember my many episodes with Schizophrenia where I felt uneasy because of lack of trust in others. In the past, isolation was a giant bullying me around.

Sometimes my mind would take me to a place of fear, hurt, and an unsettling spirit, which started with what seemed like a strange look, or a different feeling around an individual, when in reality it was another symptom of my undiagnosed illness- paranoia. My paranoia was rampant and dictated my life prior to experiencing a crisis, which led me to jail and into forced treatment and to receive an official diagnosis of Schizophrenia in 2007.

In other words, my illness created enemies in my mind. For instance, I once believed my favorite kin was against me and I felt like she wanted me to fail, and I eventually thought she was conspiring to harm me. However, she never said anything to imply these f…

NABJ Panel on Schizophrenia Awareness-- The Experience

Today I participated on a National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) panel on Schizophrenia awareness in Washington D.C. My fellow panelists included: Judge Arthur Burnett, Sr., Annelle Primm, M.D., M.P.H., Xavier Amador, PhD, Jennifer Ayers-Moore, and Jennifer Pifer-Bixel, and moderator Vicki Mabrey (and with us in the photograph are some of Janssen's executives). Here is a summary of the panel discussion...

We discussed a range of Schizophrenia information: the basics or symptoms, myths, and personal testimonies. More specifically, we mentioned the need for more education and success stories in the media. Additionally, "Assertive Community Treatment (A.C.T.)" groups were discussed in regards to helping people living with a diagnosis stay involved in their treatment and to get the necessary resources to move forward in their recovery. "ACT" teams generally consist of a group of health care professionals that assist people in the healing process. Another g…

Whose to Blame

Whose to blame for my mental illness? Is it me, is you?... I presented a NAMI In Our Own Voice program for another Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) class yesterday. After the presentation, one of the class participants came to me and told me he felt responsible for my mental health. He worked at my old college and felt like he or someone from the institution should have been there for me when the symptoms of Schizophrenia seemed to have got the best of me. While I attended that school, I did not have insight into my mental health. In fact, I did not even know what a mental illness was!

Even when the symptoms of Schizophrenia tormented me, I did not know it was beyond my control. Many times, I prayed and meditated for peace of mind and for the angels to protect me as I go to my destination. I was very religious and had delusions that I was prophet of God. I prayed for protection because I felt like I was fighting a spiritual battle everyday. In other words, spiritual welfare between me an…

Trapped in my Schizophrenia: A Glimpse of my College Journal

Schizophrenia for me, is characterized by hallucinations (specifically the voices and visions of people or ghosts), thoughts of people gossiping about me, following me, or trying to poison me, and false beliefs or delusions...

As I reviewed old college journal entries it saddened me how prevalent my diagnosis of Paranoid Schizophrenia was. Certain phrases gave indication that Schizophrenia was dominate and slowly getting worse. I relied on God to relieve my stressful situations. Now, I will share with you some thoughts I had that I wrote about in my college journal while I was a sophomore and/or junior.

Stress played an intricate role in my symptoms that surfaced. On February 26, 2006, I wrote: "...Although I have been under a lot of stress due to financial, car, and professor conflicts, everything is okay...." Most of the time I tried to stay positive. However, I was obsessed with the idea that someone or some group of college students were gossiping about me. On March 11,…

Messages of Hope

Don't let Schizophrenia steal your joy! If you or someone you know is living with Schizophrenia or any mental illness there is hope. Schizophrenia is a manageable illness, like other medical conditions, with treatment and support.

Hope to me is to hear my own voice and only my voice when I am alone. I am thankful that I tried something that manages my hallucinations and other symptoms. I am hopeful that others living with Schizophrenia may find the treatment that works for them too. And hopeful that society will find solutions to many complications associated with the cause, or causes of the illness, and to find better treatment or a cure for this concern.

Someone with Schizophrenia can live a "normal" life in recovery, which is an on-going process to manage this illness. There is no set time frame for recovery. And, I will say this again, there is no set time frame for recovery, everyone is different and may require unique avenues to reach stability despite one's c…

Mindful of Present Symptoms

Some of the symptoms and side effects of my medication that I still struggle with are lack of facial responsiveness and seeming to walk a little stiff. Because other people have told me about these symptoms and side effects of my medication I try to overcome them.

While I am speaking to someone I may intentionally blink my eyes so that I don't seem to stare off, and I smile more. Occasionally, I nod my head so that the person I am talking to knows that I am following with whatever they are saying. And, I may turn away and then look back. Now, I have mastered these movements.

A major side effect for the medication I am taking was stiffness. When I first started my medication regimen in 2007, my peers said I looked like a robot. However, I did not feel stiff, but doctors and others noticed how I walked. In fact, my doctor gave me another medication to help counteract the stiffness. Now, I am not taking the other medicine because the side effects have seemed to fade away over time. T…

Overview of My Experiences: Overcoming Schizophrenia

I have had this blog for over two years and feel honored to share my experiences and suggestions with you. I love to write and am striving to help others in advocating for mental health, in order to reduce stigma, promote awareness, and to continue to share my testimony so that other people living with a mental health diagnosis understand that they are not alone, and that support is available if they seek it. Now, I am in school to learn how to become a therapist, and I oversee a non-profit organization I established called, Embracing My Mind, Inc.

It is unfortunate that some people, including myself, have to endure an extreme chaotic situation or crisis, before getting the treatment we need. In addition to the ordinary stresses of life, in my experience, I suffered a nervous breakdown at the age of 20 that resulted in my arrest and hospitalization as a result of my unknown mental illness, Paranoid Schizophrenia. It is important to acknowledge the fact that I was and still am very inv…

Event Announcement: NAMI In Our Own Voice Presentation

I am excited to announce that myself and K.C. Jones (her blog, Hope Is Real) will present our experience with mental health, TONIGHT at Charis Bookstore & More!! The NAMI In Our Own Voice presentation will be located at 1189 Euclid Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia, at 7:30-9PM. This event is sponsored by Charis Bookstore & More and Circle of Grace Community Church. All are welcome, hope to see you there!

For more information about the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) programs visit the website.

New Year, New Goals by Princess B.

Hello everyone. It's a new year and a new start for you and for me. For me, it's developing personally this year. Like many of you out there this new year will bring about new goals for ourselves. I have vowed to let this year be a year of completion and follow through to many of my goals. One where I complete projects I've started as far back as a year or two ago. It also means staying connected to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and the mental health community and being financially savvy. What are some of your goals--the ones you don't mind sharing or that are of pressing concern to you? Be Blessed, Princess B.

My Acceptance with Mental Illness

Acceptance to me is when a person recognizes they have a mental illness and then takes ownership of their recovery by meeting the needs of their mental health concern (i.e., medication, therapy, and/or other forms of treatment). Acceptance for me did not come easy. Now I will share with you how I started receiving treatment, why I initially refused it, and who helped me accept my diagnosis of Paranoid Schizophrenia.

Initially, I was forced into treatment, mandated by a judge to medication compliance. Therefore, whenever I refused to take my medication a group of staff would barge into my room, pin me down to the bed while the nurse administered a shot. We followed this routine for a few days till I gave in and took the pills they gave me.

In the beginning, I did not take the medication for several reasons: 1) I did not believe I needed them, nobody told me I had schizophrenia they just started giving me medicine one day, 2) I had a history of enduring allergies and other less severe ill…

Tonight's Support Group Meeting

I just got back from a NAMI support group. It was a very good meeting we covered a lot information related to coping with mental health, our attitude toward stigma, and various bizarre experiences. Afterward, I felt energized, uplifted, and empowered like the way church makes me feel, it was very good. I really enjoyed the company of my friends who are also in recovery from different mental illnesses. I look forward to next week's meeting!

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

The Hospital Stay (Continued)

While I was at a California State Hospital I stayed in a coed unit of about 50 people. There were about three to four people to a room. The women were roomed on one side of hall while the men on the other. The hospital divided groups of people based on long-term stay and shorter term stays- I was among the short-term units.

I remember the intake process, which was lengthy. I endured several comprehension, medical, and personal tests. The staff wanted to know everything- my childhood experiences, schooling, knowledge of my mental illness, the reason I was there - EVERYTHING!

In the hospital, we were provided three meals a day with flexible diets if stated - vegetarian, no pork, low sodium, etc. We earned points by good behavior- going to classes, cleaning our room, dressing in an appropriate manner, and doing whatever we were supposed to. The points went toward a store where we could purchase candy, accessories, and other items.

Whenever someone got into trouble they would lose their free…

The Hospital Stay

In my experience, I stayed in the hospital for 2-3 months to get an official mental health diagnosis, and also to regain competency for trial. I was in jail and in a state hospital for taking a military truck from the airport. Taking the truck was related to my nervous breakdown or psychotic break.

My hospital stay was productive. I reunited with my mother and family, and participated in group therapy. I was sent to a California State Hospital because my (unknown) mental illness had gotten so severe that I became catatonic- not moving my body limbs for periods at a time. I was extremely paranoid that staff would try to poison me and thus, I stopped eating and drinking. As a result, I was sent to the emergency room several times. Also, I failed a competency test for trial, in short, I was so sick that the court hearings could not proceed and the judge mandated medication compliance and a visit to the state hospital.

My illness had taken over the loving, ambitious, go-getter, Ashley. I be…