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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 now, I would've let my mother in on my medical condition sooner from a legal standpoint, so that she could be better knowledgeable of my mental illness and to make wise decisions for me. Opposite that, if you do not have a family member you feel comfortable making decisions for you, I suggest writing an Advance Directive or a living will, while you are well, that states your preferences in the situation of a crisis or where you cannot make decisions because of your mental illness.

Moreover, I would journal even more about my recovery including medications and other medical interventions such as alternative therapies and activities that I can master later on to help me cope with my schizophrenia. Journaling does not have to be long and have correct spelling- it is a book that allows you to speak freely whatever that definition is in your mind.

Lastly, I would come prepared to doctor visits with many questions on my medications and on my recovery such as will this medication put me at risk of gaining any additional medical concerns? Do you have any recommendations on how to get affordable medication and/or treatment? Is there an alternative to medication that will help me cope with my condition? What local groups or organizations are there to support my recovery? Are there peer-led groups I can participate in? (Note: I am neither for or against the treatment and use of medication, I support whatever works for the individual. However, I continue to take my medication because of its necessity and I do not want to make irrational choices that may limit my freedom and opportunities).

I hope these suggestions have opened your mind to more possibilities in your recovery and wellness. I believe we can "Overcome mental illness together!" by sharing experiences and making your recovery journey a priority despite setbacks such as insurance, discrimination, and lack of family support. I am very fortunate to have a strong support system, opportunities to move forward in my recovery, and faith that I will do well, now what are you going to do with this information?

Take care,

Ashley Smith, Certified Peer Specialist
EMM Founder and Executive Director

P.S. I encourage you to comment on my blog entries, I often wonder if my story and suggestions are beneficial- to my peers, caregivers, and students and other interested parties- however, this information is not to replace professional medical advice. Thank you for reading!

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


Jen Daisybee said…
Ashley, it's great how you have become such a leader for others living with mental illnesses. You are a good example of how recovery is possible. I know that I have learned a lot through trial and error with my illness, and I also try to share what I have learned on my blog. For me, like you, medication is necessary to live my life. I wouldn't be who I am today without it. I have difficulty understanding why some people are so against psychiatric medication, but I really think it is because of the unfortunate amount of stigma that continues to exist today. I have followed your blog for years, and seen you get better through your own words. You are a remarkable young woman who has much to be proud of.
Ashley Smith said…
Jen Daisybee, Thank you for the comment and for following my blog, I appreciate you and all of my readers.
Jen Daisybee said…
Ashley: You are the recipient of an I Choose to Live Award. To get a copy of the award for your blog and to read the write-up go to: and scroll down to the new award recipients for 2012. :)
Ashley Smith said…
Thank you for the award Jen Daisybee!
seeing as this is a blog about an illness i have dealt with for the majority of my life, i wanted to say hi, and wish all the people who have, are, and will, suffer from "mental-illness" the best.

and please feel free to view and comment on my blog.

also, here is a poem i wrote regarding my illness:


Youthful feelings gone and diminished.
All that is now felt- is clouded by dark haze.
Pain, hurt, suffering- sorrow- is what dwells inside.
No true light shines inside.
Only the light of, wasteful, madness.
Infested with the foul stench of waste you struggle on.
You struggle on to find true light.
Yet, the fanatical madness overwhelms any hope.
Now, all you know is the- weight, of waste.
The weight is unbearable.
Overwhelming the body and causing the mind to race.
What waste craves is sickness.
What it is- is, almost of disease.
Peace, you cry for.
Years, upon years, pass in the clouded and dark- haze.
The suffering that you always felt yet never knew has taken you.
Peace, you cry for!
Anonymous said…
Hi? I used "Isolation" to my advantage.
Most of the people from my past have some sort of Drug and/or Alcohol problems? So, obviously I had to separate myself from them to recover from substance abuse.And in this "Isolation" I realized I was Ill! I had been thinking it was my habits that caused me to behave the way I did? It's the "Cold Turkey" concept I heard my dad talk about.I want/need "Peers". But I have to protect myself from untrustworthy influences...?
Manda said…
Hi Ashley,

I don't know if you remember me, but I used to go under the user name Lady Amanda and had the blog Living with an Invisible Disability. Now I go under the user name Manda and have a new blog What happens next. Please stop by and say hi because I missed you.

Hugs with blessings,
Hi Ashley

I have a diagnosis of schizophrenia too, so I was interested to find this blog. I am better now - and like you, I have used my blog to help myself heal.

I think that writing is a valuable tool for staying mentally well - by expressing ourselves, we can help ourselves to understand how we became ill and how we can can get better.

All the best
bella said…
Hi Ashley,
I am very happy that I found your site and blog. I was online searching information about paranoid schizophrenia, because recently (2weeks ago) I came to realization that my sister is having Auditory hallucinations. I am not sure how long she has been having them. She has also fallen into a deep depression. After reading up on paranoid schizophrenia, I am concerned, because all her symptoms fit the discription. The voices she is hearing our very critical and abusive to her. I know that the first thing I need to do is to get her evaluated, but I am not certain how to approach her because oviously she is not aware enough to realize that she needs help.
I am still trying to process that she may have the disease, myself. I am happy to hear your success story because it gives me hope. My sister has many dreams for herself and is only one year shy of completing her BA. She is everything to me. How can I help her?
Ashley Smith said…
Hi Bella,

Excuse me for being late responding to your concern. First, you and your family should work on getting an official diagnosis of your sister's concern. There are many mental illnesses that could enable an individual to experience hallucinations, get diagnosed.

Keep a journal of your sister's experiences and symptoms so if you are able to talk to her doctor you could share important info that would the doctor treat your sister. Try to get your sister to add your name to the doctor's list as to share info about her with you.

I would strongly suggest you and your family get as much info on mental health as you can and to get involved in a support group for family members such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to get resources and to get a better understanding of what your sister is going through.

I hope you and your family get the resources and info needed to help your sister.


Ashley Smith

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