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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, and self-stigma, among misconceptions of the community made known through uneducated comments and beliefs in response to my recovery experience, and the illness in general.

Although acceptance of schizophrenia came early for me, in the initial stages of diagnosis and treatment, I could not have overcome so much in a speedy manner without the support of my treatment team, mother and family, peers, and faith, that I will manage my life once again. For me, getting support required an open mind, willingness to share personal experiences, and offer support to peers and other individuals effected by mental illness. Support from a range of connections was crucial to me because I needed a cheerleader (medial staff, family, peers, and supporter, etc.) on my side to keep hope alive and to also let me know that recovery is possible.

Although I am on medication to help treat my mental illness, among other treatments including therapy and support groups, I understand there are alternative treatments available and unique ways to reach peace and well-being living with mental health. I am an advocate for whatever healthy coping mechanism works for my peer.

The underlying factor that helped me accept my schizophrenia was faith in a higher power and a purpose in my life to assist others in recognizing there is life after a difficult challenge such as a medical concern like mental illness. In fact, when I was diagnosed and in the hospital a few years ago my mother told me that I will be an evangelist and share my experience with the community. Back then I did not know how I would share my recovery story, but my faith has always led me in each avenue I took to help benefit individuals by sharing my life dealing with this medical condition.

I was featured in a documentary, along with two individuals living with schizophrenia, that was produced by Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. called, Living with Schizophrenia: A Call for Hope and Recovery. I've personally traveled to and spoke to communities in Canada and across the United States. My story was also presented on CNN and among several other media channels. Now, I share my recovery experience with law enforcement and facilitate workshops to support peers and family members effected by mental health.

My hope is schizophrenia will be viewed as a manageable medical condition and that understanding will flourish and ultimately reduce widespread misconceptions and myths. It is an honor to share my life with schizophrenia in our community and abroad. I plan to write a book about my experiences and to manage a wellness center for individuals effected by mental health.

To learn more about schizophrenia visit Embracing My Mind, Inc., National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Choices in Recovery, and Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).


K.C. Jones said…
My hope is schizophrenia will be viewed as a manageable medical condition

I hope for that as well. You're doing so well and so much-very impressive! I am proud to call you my friend.
Ashley Smith said…
Thank you very much K.C. Jones!
Anonymous said…
Hi,When I hear cartoon characters I can't control them? What everone is there at the time I manifest into my personality? I channel the character? It's similar to going "Polar" as in Bi-Polar. This I also do? I have read and heard about Schizophrenia being a chemical imbalance. It's biological in some families and caused by substance abuse also.So if you are predisposed to a mental illness and you do some kind of substance your chances of "goin ill" are higher...And of course the ill might turn to drugs and alcohol to cope or ease the pain of being ill and make it worse...?!
Anonymous said…
Oh?! I forgot I found a study online about Autism and Schizophrenia...According to the research Autism can become Schizophrenia if it's disturbed...
koro said…
I am a Japanese schizophrenia patient.
I will read a blog for reference.
the difference in the system about health -- if it is, I would like to know~♪
English commented perfectly wrong?
Chris said…
Hi Ashley,

I'm glad you tell the truth to fight stigma, as we all must each in our own way.

I'm lucky that ever since I got my degree I haven't been stigmatized the way a lot of other people have.

My memoir Left of the Dial is available for pre-order on and when I told people about this who didn't know my diagnosis, everyone congratulated me anyway.

Everyone I met since I turned 35 only welcomed with open arms, so I'm lucky.

When you know in your bones that you're a good person it doesn't matter what other people think. I send ignorant and fearful people a healing vibe and move on.

juju said…
Hi Ashley,
Congratulations to you on your recovery. My son is in the process currently after a wicked break two years ago. I just started blogging about it (more for me than him).
If I didn't write, I might drown.
I hope you have much success in your process!
Hello K C Jones, I read your whole blog and I accept mental health and fitness is more important than anything, if your mind is healthy your body will also be healthy.
Claudia said…
Congratulations on your ongoing recovery with Schizophrenia. I am happy that you have been able to get all the support form your family and community. As a current psychology graduate student and a student worker at NAMI, I know how hard it is for people to live with mental illness and be able to fight the self-stigmas and community stigmas. I think that speaking out about your experiences is so empowering not only for yourself but for others who struggle with the mental illness. In addition, I love that NAMI provides the crisis intervention trainings for police officers and glad to hear that you are able to be a part of it. More professionals in our community should be educated about mental illness so that people do not have to experience housing discrimination, or get targeted by law enforcement. Best wishes to you and all of your endeavors!

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