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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 involved in my community. I was a youth church teacher, assistant coach for the youth, student mentor in college, and a poll worker for the presidential election before the adult-onset schizophrenia disrupted my life. My family and I did not understand mental illness, its seems to have crept up on us, and stole my livelihood, personality, relationships, and ultimately my mind, before I started the recovery process.

The illness terrified myself, family, especially my mother, because she did not know if I would be able to function again. During my most challenging experiences with schizophrenia, I experienced auditory and visual hallucinations, the voices, sometimes only one, other times multiple voices, were discouraging and told me that 'I was a dishonor to my family,' the voices were cruel and confusing, especially because I thought the voices were coming from the people around me.

And the images, I'll never forget the thought and fear I had, that I was being followed. One of the images were of a man on an antique bicycle, it dreadful, no matter how hard I tried, I could not escape him, it was scary! I became extremely paranoid to the extent that I stopped eating because I thought others were trying to poison me. Eventually, I stopped taking care of myself, speaking, and even moving.

I thought the devil was communicating to me through the television and radio, trying to persuade me to commit suicide. Imagine watching a church service on T.V. and at the end of the program you see the words "How to Commit Suicide" on the screen to order tapes! it frightened me. Other times I thought I felt the devil's presence in people around and even in church, which was not a good feeling. I am glad I received treatment when I did before those thoughts got any worse, or before I acted on them.

Also, I believed I could read people's minds, and they read my mind as well- it was all confusing and exhausting. Eventually, I had no recollection of where I was, I thought family members were impostures, and my personality fluctuated depending on the severity of my delusions, which were bizarre.

I am thankful to be able to do the things I want and need to do. Also, I am thankful for treatment and all involved in my recovery (God, family, peers, NAMI, online friends and supporters like you, and health care professionals). I appreciate the opportunity to share my story with you, it is therapeutic to me and I hope beneficial to you, too. I encourage you to partake in whatever helps you or your loved one's recovery (i.e., therapy, support groups, journaling, hobbies, meditation on higher power, family and friends, etc.). My episodes and encounters around my experience with mental health are all true.


Lady_Amanda said…
Hi Ashely,

I think you will make a wonderful therapist. Way to go girl! I think it's the hardest thing to do is go back to college after an illness. I don't now how it is for people who didn't go before they were sick. But you shared in your story you were going to school before your illness. Same with me. And it was just scary to me to go back. However, in 2006, I earned my bachelor's degree in Literature. And other than the day I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, walking across the stage to get my dipolma was the best day of my life!

Also I don't want to make it seem like mental illness is an actual person or a living thing. But in some twisted way, I think it knows when a person is religous. Because I know religion is important to you and it is to me as well. So you know what I think the illness does? It mess with that. The first voice I heard told me she was God. She was actually not the scary. Then the second voice I heard told me not to say my prayers and it kind of freaked me out. Then the final voice, the voice I still hear when I get stressed, tells me that I am going to die so just get it over with. The voice is really freaky and it sounds to me like what I would imagine the devil's voice to sound like! It's just really messed up. But I wll continue to pray for you and you pray for me. We will fight this illness and you and I will do great things. We already are! Praise Jesus.

Blessings with Hugs,
Wanderer62 said…
Ashley, thanks for telling your story because it is really a story of success in overcoming terrible odds and you did it. I think it is great that you are studying to be a therapist. I wish you all the best!

Kate : )
Womanrise said…
Ashley, I am so proud of you. You have come a long way and it is so heartwarming watching you grow each and every day. You have such sincere messages and words of encouragement to all of your followers. I look forward to each new blog and look forward to hearing you tell your story in person, again. God Bless you!
Ashley Smith said…
Thank you all for your continuous support, you motivate me to be the best I can be not only for myself but for those who I come into contact with. I appreciate all of you and encourage you to persistently engage in, and embrace your recovery.

Recovery does not mean you will never have problems again, it is about managing mental health the best way that fits your needs. Finally, recovery is an ongoing process that does not have a right or wrong way to do what keeps you well. I survived Schizophrenia (or whatever mental illness you are living with), and you can too!

With love,
Ashley Smith
Ann Weinburg said…

I commend you for having the courage to write this post. I cannot imagine what a struggle it has been to retain normalcy in your life with such an illness. Keep doing what you are doing. I wish all the best in achieving your goals!

Best wishes,

Ann Weinberg said…

I commend you for having the courage to write this post. I cannot imagine what a struggle it has been to retain normalcy in your life with such an illness. Keep doing what you are doing. I wish all the best in achieving your goals!

Best wishes,

Julia Heisey said…
Wow, I feel like we share the same story. Thank you for your inspiration. I am going to be starting school here soon for counseling. It's a certificate instead of a degree so I think it will be easier for me to accomplish. Small steps. One day at a time. I think a lot of our "voices" could have been spiritual warfare. What do you think? Thanks so much for your blog. God bless you. I will keep you in my prayers.

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