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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 animals, appreciating nature, participating in sports, and volunteering.

I look at my schizophrenia as a gift because it has become my ministry. While I was hospitalized and diagnosed in the state hospital five years ago, my mother told me I would be an evangelist sharing my experience with the community... and that is what I am doing today! I've had the pleasure and opportunity to travel to Canada and several cities in the United States telling others the good, bad and ugly about my recovery story that in turn brings about hope and motivates some individuals to keep pushing on- this is so rewarding to me!

My schizophrenia is also a gift to me because I am learning myself all over again and had I not experienced something this life changing I do not think I would have utilized my talents to support other individual journeys in this capacity. Yes, I did not always view my medical condition as a gift, however, now that I am mastering it with the support of family, medication, peers, and treatment team, and faith, I feel like I can use my skills to assist other individuals.

Also, having this medical concern has helped me be less judgmental. Because mental health can sometimes go undetected it is important not to assume one understands another person's concerns. Although living with a mental illness can be difficult it can also teach one to be a better person, as it has done for me.

In the past, individuals have criticized me for taking a positive view on my mental illness. I think some people were frustrated because of lack of connections to treatment team, family and community left them wondering how to cope with a serious health condition that was dominating their livelihood. Because some individuals may not see their mental health as a gift, I want to challenge them to acknowledge the good things that have risen from their experience- maybe the condition showed them who their true friends were. The illness could have enabled them to get more in touch with their true selves through art for example, whatever the blessing, I believe more of my peers will see their concern as something that can be overcome with adequate supports and hope!

Finally, I look at individuals living with a mental health condition as soldiers of faith- despite their circumstances because they learn to maneuver and to live life with or without medication. I love to see peers living "normal lives" through marriage, career/volunteering, and family life- all of which I value dearly.

I titled this blog entry "Soldiers of Recovery," because that's what we are- anyone who takes the time to study recovery for themselves or a loved one is a soldier by enduring, learning and hoping for a better future. I encourage everyone to see the positive influences of a circumstance that may have led you to have some setbacks but ultimately overcame them!

I appreciate the blessing to be able to mentor others through this blog, Embracing My Mind, and the mental health recovery campaigns I am associated with including the documentary, Living with Schizophrenia: A Call for Hope and Recovery, among several media appearances on my recovery like CNN, and the Tavis Smiley radio interview. I appreciate you for reading my feelings, thoughts, and experiences related to mental illness... THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

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).


Kate Kiernan said…
Hi Ashley,

I think you are a wise woman. I appreciate how you have worked to get the message out that people can recover from serious mental illness. In just five years you have done so much. I am glad to see that you are neither promoting nor rejecting the possible value of the medications out there and that you are open to all kinds of approaches to treat mental illness.

I don't see myself so much as a soldier but rather as a survivor and seeker of balance and health for myself and everyone. We're all in the same boat and we need to work together to find more creative solutions to our problems. Sometimes it's just a matter of having a good attitude, especially in adversity. Cultivating gratitude is a blessing as it can smooth out both the rough edges of life as well as the sharp points. The practice of it has helped me so much and is part of why I am still alive today.

Well, keep on keeping on little sister doing the good you do for yourself and others. Thanks for writing,

Kate : )
Anonymous said…
Amen Delphic Sibyl...!?

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