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Showing posts from 2012

Identifying My Triggers

Over last six months I've been battling depression, anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. My doctor calls it postpartum depression, resulting from the birth of my child, but I call it "life." Prior to the birth of my son I never had a lot of experiences with depression. However, I am not sure if I agree with the postpartum depression diagnosis now, because of the several other factors which contributes to my depression and other symptoms around the time of receiving that diagnosis.

I know that stress is a major trigger for me, and I am still learning what type of stress is unhealthy for me. Despite life's many stresses, I think I've narrowed it down, my stressors include: criticism from individuals within my support system, arguing, over-productivity, and major life changes such as relocation.
Now that I know what stresses me out the most, how will I cope with the daily struggles? For one thing I need to continuously work on my communication with my support network in…

CHANGE: How to Release Old Ways?!

The last few days have been rough for me, however, I have not had the need to take my anxiety medication again- yay!- and my state of well-being is improving by writing regularly, and recognizing that I have the support of my therapist, family, friends and fellow bloggers. I still get tired easily and feel concerned with all the things I want to do for myself, family, the nonprofit I serve, and other mental health related projects; despite the plan I came up with my therapist to relieve and manage my stress. I will read a little more than usual to help relax, and make sure I take a nap today.

A friend of mine said to be gentle with yourself. I used to think I was superwoman and was not fragile- my opinion on this matter has changed... I am fragile and do need to be gentle with myself, I just need to learn how to master this change.

Change is difficult for me because its a change in my thinking and lifestyle, and I'm the type of person that is a creature of habit and stay in my com…

Mapping A Way to Satisfaction

I am tired and I have not even started the work I want to do today. I feel both physically and mentally tired. I have so many goals I want to fulfill- I think I should focus on coming up with a plan to get what I want, or map out the baby steps necessary to complete. Despite my stresses, writing is helping me relieve some of the ongoing thoughts and concerns constantly floating around my mind.

Financial stresses is a predominate concern for me, not for the basic necessities, but the means to get more money to satisfy my needs and desires, which will help reduce a lot of the struggle. I envision myself being a superwoman, like my mother was to me, but I just can't get past the hump in my road to success. I wish I could work and get results within a short time frame, have enough energy to balance both work and family, and be very resourceful and able to do what I want to do such as travel to visit family.

I am hopeful that I will accomplish my goals- if I just stick to the plan I wi…

My Support

As a result of my recent blog entry, When Coping isn't Coping Anymore, and comment on other online networks, a few friends and family members called me with urgency to check on my well-being. I guess I did not realize how well I articulated my mental distress, but I needed to write to feel a little relief. The concerning calls and encouraging comments really made me feel that I was important, cared and thought of, and was not alone in the battle with mental illness.
Having my support network is important because friends and family could pick up on cues from my active lifestyle or lack of, and my thoughts from online groups and identify my stressful  moments, sometimes when I can't. I appreciate others for reaching out to me, it re-energized my optimistic perspective on recovery and life.
Although I still have work to do to acquire and maintain wellness, I believe I can and will get through this difficult time with satisfaction. 
How strong is your support network?- Do you have…

The Plan from When Coping isn't Coping Anymore

This blog entry is in response to my last, "When Coping isn't Coping Anymore," posted on December 19, 2012...

Recently, I've been under a lot of stress, so I tried my usual coping skills that usually worked for me in the past with dissatisfaction and no relief. Accordingly, I went to speak to my therapist to learn new ways to help me cope with my stress and anxiety. Fortunately I came after most of the traffic died down in the mental health center, and was able to speak with her.

We came up with a stress management plan. The plan is to set a time frame or parameters around the time I spend on the lap top doing business. I will prioritize my work load and take more time out for myself to relax. I plan to try this new way of limiting the time I spend to my business for a week or two.

After talking to my therapist about the many things on my mind, I felt some relief and satisfaction with the stress management plan we devised. I feel safe knowing that these feelings are …

When Coping isn't Coping Anymore

Since September, I've been busy with business- board meetings, conference calls, and presentations- which I am satisfied with being a part of these activities. However, I feel like I am powered on overload right now, and its not a good feeling.

Right now I have a lot on my mind. Lately, I sleep too much, forget too often, and lack motivation to carry out house chores- I force myself to do them every few of days. The last couple of days I took the maximum dose of anxiety medication that was prescribed by my doctor, it helped a little bit. I wrote in my journal and read a little to relieve racing thoughts, tension and overwhelmed-feeling, but I still felt uneasy. I've used most of my coping skills- writing, reading, listening to music and cleaning, now I need to talk to someone about this, because I do not understand what is happening to me?!- I feel like I am gradually breaking down sometimes, while other times I am forcing myself to do what I need to do, and I do get a lot acc…

Fear to Openness about Medication

I am concerned that I may be slipping into depression that may get worse if untreated.

Prior to the birth of my child I never had a bout with depression, but as my body changed so did my hormones and my susceptibility to depression. A few months ago I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and at the time I knew I needed extra support from my my treatment team. I knew I needed to focus on my mental health because my anxiety level was up and down, it was difficult to concentrate, and I felt extremely overwhelmed and afraid my mental illness would rear its ugly head and try to destroy my recovery accomplishments. I spoke my therapist who contacted my doctor and let them know I was coming in the next morning as a walk-in, which I did and we tweaked my medication.

Now, its hard to focus and to carry out minor assignments, sometimes I feel anxious for no reason, I am extremely tired and sleep more than usual, and I feel like I am on a downward spiral. Yet, I have reason to be. I have a …

How is Schizophrenia Portrayed in Media

Last week's Colorado theater shooting tragedy. When I first heard about this incident I assumed media and the public would identify schizophrenia; a brain disorder characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and other symptoms loosely categorized as either negative symptoms, positive symptoms or cognitive symptoms. Schizophrenia, schizophrenia- the media is doctor and authority over correct diagnosis of individuals and their actions, overnight- I am NOT surprised! Immediately, I understood the consequences- STIGMA- shame, fear, and suffering in silence, for individuals living with this medical condition and for their families and loved ones. Initially, I did not want to address the issue because I know how it will manifest in media and ultimately in the eyes of the United States society and beyond. Remember the Arizona shooting- "schizophrenia" was immediately suspected... To me, schizophrenia- the scapegoat for horrific crimes and everything negative, in m…

The Patient/Doctor Relationship- Barriers to Treatment and Tips for Better Care

What are some of the barriers to care in the African American community, and shared barriers for all populations? How can individuals receive adequate treatment?

I will recommend a reading that may share some factors and answers to these questions, I will also share my experiences with doctors, and what I've learned in order to support others on their journey to maintaining recovery.

Recently, I read an article about mental health disparities on African Americans in California. To read that article click here. This article particularly interested me because the study took place in California- where I was also diagnosed.

One of the experts who commented on this concern, Dr. Annelle Primm, who I've also had the pleasure of sitting on a panel discussion with in last year's NABJ event in Washington, D.C., said "due to lack of cultural understanding," African American patients are being misdiagnosed.

However, many individuals- not only African Americans- living a ment…

New Article and Screening of the Living with Schizophrenia Documentary

I had a busy week with interviews about my personal experiences with schizophrenia including that with Ms. Jackie Jones from Black America Web, and the the screening of the documentary Living with Schizophrenia: A Call for Hope and Recovery which was held at the Benjamin Steakhouse in New York City on Thursday, July 19, 2012. To watch the half hour film about three individuals living with schizophrenia- the misconceptions, struggles, and recovery, visit

The interview with Ms. Jones was very conversational. She asked me a few questions about my experiences and wrote a very informative article which I am excited about. Here is how the article began:

Before Ashley Smith gave a presentation before a group of law enforcement officials about schizophrenia, one of the officials had told the audience before she arrived that “there is no hope” for a person with the mental illness.

Fortunately, she wasn’t in the room when he made the remarks.

When Smith finished …

Overcoming Ongoing Challenges

There will be ups and downs living with mental illness. Recently, I've experienced some bad days, which concerned me very much because I do not have a lot of bad days to the extent that I need to take a step back and to regroup- emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Stress makes my illness flare up or worsen, I know this by experience, however, fortunately I usually understand how to cope with the stresses of my life- discussing concerns with family and friends, writing, listening to music, or walking- I handle my stress like other people handle theirs who are living with or without a mental health diagnosis.

In the past, my stresses of college and finances led my symptoms to escalate to psychosis- where I heard voices that other people did not hear, saw individuals that did not exist, experienced confusion, anxiety, irritability, irrational thinking, racing thoughts, etc. etc.

A few weeks ago I experienced some bad days. In the beginning I felt jittery, anxious, and then exha…

Paving the Way

Dear Peer,

I want to share some things with you that may be helpful in your recovery- First, having a diagnosis of mental illness does not have to limit your life and your abilities. Back when I was institutionalized, I remember my state hospital doctor giving me hope by telling me I could go back to college, and that schizophrenia is a very manageable illness. I am here to tell you, you can do the same!- Whatever mental health condition you are living with- no, it most likely will not be easy everyday, but it gets better after you overcome the initial phases of self-doubt, denial, and loss. Yes, loss, one of my most difficult realities. My health temporarily caused me to either lose or distance myself from getting a higher education, friends, family, and ultimately my sanity and myself. However, after years of hard consistency, support, and awareness of my medical condition, I have gained all that back- schooling, new friends, family, and a new life!!

If I knew back then what I know …

Soliders of Recovery

Mental health a problem or gift? First, I do not view mental illness as a problem, but a challenge that many individuals can cope with through utilization of one mechanism or another. A problem to me is something that is not getting any attention till it escalates and turns someone's world upside down like in my own experience with schizophrenia a few years ago. In fact, I try to stay open minded to diverse means of coping with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder among many other health conditions dealing with the mind.

Moreover, I am neutral on the support of medication although I personally take advantage of its blessings in my life. To state clearly, I am an advocate for whatever helps my peer cope positively. I have come to understand that there are several positive additions and alternatives to medication including using one's creativity through arts and crafts, music, writing, singing and other artsy talents like taking care of animal…

A Recipe for Acceptance and Well-being with Schizophrenia

I wrote this article for NAMI- Athens Ohio. To listen to the radio interview hosted by Tom Walker click here.

For me, understanding of my mental health condition enables me to move forward in my recovery. A combination of acceptance, support, and treatment; and faith, motivates me to strive for well-being, which is a sense of normalcy in spite of my preexisting medical concern.

How am I overcoming schizophrenia? My journey is an ongoing process that I will continue to thrive on not only for myself, but for my family, peers, and community. Now, I will share with you how I've mastered my recovery of mental health and am living a normal life.

Since my diagnosis of a serious mental illness- schizophrenia- in 2007, I've learned to cope with my condition and to keep a good attitude no matter how individuals living with or without a mental health challenge view the concern. Getting to this level of comfort was not easy. In short, I've battled housing discrimination, social judgment,…

Religion a Symptom?

I presented my recovery story to law enforcement earlier this week as part of the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training program. During the presentation one of the participants asked me if religion was a symptom of schizophrenia. I did not go into depth with my answer then, but I want to elaborate on how religion impacted my symptoms during the most difficult time of my life, five years ago.

When my symptoms of schizophrenia started affecting my emotions, outlook on life, and my ability to function, I did not understand what was happening to me. Consequently, I relied on my religion for understanding of myself and for the strange experiences I had.

I am able to discuss the many symptoms I endured now, because it happened in my past, and I am coping with my illness well through medication, support, and faith. Some of my symptoms I experienced included: seeing and hearing things that others did not experience, having false beliefs, extreme suspiciousness and distrust in people I usually…


The following blog entry was written by a guest blogger:

My name is Christina Bruni and I want to thank Ashley for allowing me to be a guest blogger at Overcoming Schizophrenia. I'm the Living Life columnist for SZ magazine and the community leader and expert blogger at HealthCentral's schizophrenia community Web site.

Life is not easy-it is not always, and sometimes it is not often-golden for those of us with SZ or another MI. The respect and compassion seemingly so freely given from one so-called normal to another is not routinely given to the neediest of us in society, who do our bravest and our best to manage our schizophrenia, to manage whatever life chose to give us.

I propose-as I have in my own blog, Left of the Dial-that we fight hate with love, we send those ignorant and fearful people a healing vibe, and wish them well. More than this, I submit we cannot afford to treat each other, as peers, with less than respect, dignity, compassion and AWE. Awe for w…

Blind to the Person with the Illness

Recovering from schizophrenia is an ongoing learning experience- what I learn about myself, peers, and research. Whenever I share my personal experience I try to use appropriate terminology to not offend, misrepresent, or make it sound too traumatic and without hope- Yes, schizophrenia can be a debilitating illness, however, it can also be very manageable, which I focus on the latter outcome to provide hope to my peers and families effected by mental health.

When I share my story I frequently use the phrase 'living with schizophrenia' opposed to 'suffering from schizophrenia,' because I have overcome the hardest part of the illness, to me- that being psychosis and the criticizing voices that nobody else heard. It does not bother me when someone uses either of the phrases, because everyone's experience is different.

There is no right or wrong way to describe one's experience with a mental health concern, in my opinion. Like so many perspectives on life, there is n…