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Showing posts from 2013

Decisions: Preference vs. Convenience

Recently, I called the mental health center to reschedule my appointment with my psychiatric doctor whom I've been receiving services from for three years, and to my surprise he no longer works there. Because I really like receiving services from this doctor I sought him out online and found another practice where he works, and received his phone number. I spoke to him directly and learned where I could schedule another appointment to see him elsewhere. I called the new agency and asked about their process of becoming a new client and if they accept my type of insurance, which they do. Now I am considering switching centers to continue receiving mental health services from my doctor.

My experience with mental health doctors has either been okay or really good. During my recovery I've come across two doctors out of five who I think are passionate about their practice and who sincerely  listen to my concerns beyond asking me the routine questions about self-harm, and whether or …

My Antidepressant Decision and Update

I decided not to go off my antidepressants. A little while ago I posted a blog entry about my idea to stop taking my antidepressants with my doctor's approval. I said I would wait to discontinue the antidepressants until I met with my doctor... I appreciate your feedback on this important concern.
Recently, I had a disturbing thought cross my mind and tried to erase it by thinking of happy thoughts, which worked, however, it reminded me of how frequent those thoughts were before I was on antidepressants. One major reason why I decided to stay on my antidepressants is because I think this specific medication helps keep my disturbing thoughts at bay. Finally, me and my doctor decided to stay on the antidepressant, but to stay on a lower dose, which satisfies me. I believe I made a wise decision. I will postpone discontinuing my antidepressants for the time being.
Lately, I've upheld a very busy schedule, and I am content with it. For me, having a busy schedule helps me stay focu…

Celebrating Mental Illness Awareness in October

The month of October honors people living with mental illness in diverse ways...

In fact, in 1945 the United States government made the first week of October, "National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week." However, in 1962 the word "Physically" was removed to honor all people with disabilities. And in 1988, the government expanded the calendar recognition to promote the entire month of October and also changed the name of the holiday to National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and the theme for 2013: "Because we are EQUAL to the task." Campaigns to raise awareness around disability employment issues, and to celebrate the diverse contributions of workers living with disabilities is carried out during this month.

Moreover, the certified peer specialist (CPS) position recognizes and supports people living with mental illness who want to work with peers affected by mental illness by becoming certified as a peer counselor. CPSs learn about the stag…

Time to Stop Meds?

I take one anti-psychotic for my schizophrenia, one anti-depressant, and another med to counteract the side effects. I understand that my medication for schizophrenia is a lifelong commitment, however, I've heard from others that depression for some may be temporary.  With  that said, sometimes I feel like I do not need to take my anti-depressants, but I will not stop taking them until I get my doctor's support...

To quickly tell you about my background with depression, I developed postpartum depression after the birth of my son. I started taking the anti-depressants a little over a year ago after experiencing some symptoms which were probably triggered by a lot of "good stress"- having a baby and managing my new way of life. I remember my symptoms of depression included having a frequent overwhelming feeling, intense anxiety, lack of motivation, poor diet, and sleeping more than usual among other symptoms. When I became aware of my symptoms I spoke to a professiona…

My Recovery- Stamped and Approved by Me!

September 2013 is National Recovery Month... Recovery Month promotes the societal benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery for substance use and mental disorders, celebrates people in recovery, lauds the contributions of treatment and service providers, and promotes the message that recovery in all its forms is possible. Recovery Month spreads the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover.                               
With proper care and treatment, between 70 and 90 percent of persons with mental illnesses experience a significant reduction of symptoms and an improved quality of life. (the National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI) September 2013 also represents my five year anniversary for maintaining this blog, which I started in 2008. At the same time, September is my birthday month, yay!

As I reflect on my journey of recovery that began in 2007 at the age of 20, I c…

My Version of Hope- A Poem

My fingers were itching to share more about my experience on managing mental illness, to write and to share my thoughts, my therapy. I let my mind wonder and started writing a poem. I don't have a lot of experience writing poems but I ventured off into another form of expression. Below is the poem I wrote:
My Version of Hope by Ashley Smith

I feel a better me is yet to come,   No more naive decisions that make me feel dumb.  Limitless opportunities are on the way, I believe I know what I want and how not to stray. 

I see myself as the individual I long to be- free, confident, and classy,  My experiences cannot stop me, Not schizophrenia and depression nor anxiety. Because ingrained in me is an overcomer of adversity.

Now I understand how to strive in my recovery, But I cannot take all the credit when it took a caring party. I give thanks to my treatment team, family and peers, Including those online that opened up about their fears.

And I will never overlook my miracle from above, …

Buddhism, My Mental Health & My Happiness by Jennifer L. Myers

Jennifer L. Myers is author of the blog, Never Give Up: Buddhism, Family, & Schizophrenia. Jennifer earned her masters in Urban and Environmental Policy from Tufts University and her undergraduate from UC Santa Cruz. She has experience working with the U.S. Peace corps in the Dominic Republic, environmental non-profits, and teaching. Currently, she is working on her memoir, Never Give Up: Buddhism, Family, & Schizophrenia. The following is her experience...

Buddhism, My Mental Health & Happiness by Jennifer L. Myers

When I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2002 I had already been practicing Buddhism with the SGI (Soka Gakkai International) for 14 years. Still, I didn't have a very strong practice at the time. I attended local discussion meetings regularly, but I didn't spend much time chanting on a daily basis. It wasn't until the symptoms of schizophrenia - the voices whispering in my head, the screaming and yelling I heard outside my apartment, the fe…

The Interview: A Life of Recovery and Advocacy

I had the pleasure of learning more about a remarkable individual and advocate for mental illness. This woman is an expert on mental illness, having been in remission from schizophrenia for over 21 years.  She obtained a Masters in Library and Information Science (M.S.) from Pratt Institute and works as a public service librarian. Her name is Christina Bruni. 

1.  How were you diagnosed? How long have you been in recovery? I had a breakdown on Friday, September 25, 1987 at 5 pm.  By 9 am that Saturday morning my mother drove me to the ER.  I was admitted to the hospital and started taking Stelazine.  The blue-eyed psychiatrist on the ward told me: "You don't want to have paranoid schizophrenia.  You have to take medication."  I was lucky I was aware that something was not right.  I've been in recovery 26 years.
2.  Who is your mentor? My mentor is Robin Cunningham.  He was featured on the original In Our Own Voice video circa 2002 when I first started doing the IOOV …

Anosognosia- Watch this Short Video

I learned about this video on facebook. I think the video did a great job of describing what anosognosia is. The most interesting thing I learned about this issue is that there are different types of medical conditions which have this concern- not just individuals living with schizophrenia.

Initially, I did not know I was struggling with mental illness, I thought it was more emotional or spiritual concerns, which I prayed about, journal about, and tried to overcome- the wrong way by not seeking a doctor. Two situations helped me recognize my illness- brutally honest nurses and a combination of medication and education about my diagnosis. Now, that I am aware I try to maintain wellness by taking my medication, keeping doctor appointments, and giving and receiving support from others- I know that may seem easy, but it is not, it was a process for me and still is because I believe recovery is ongoing.

What do you think about the info in the video?

To learn more about schizophrenia visit

Suicide. My Understanding

One of the strongest taboos in our society is suicide- I've heard that ministers do not want to preside over the funerals, and families do not want to discuss it with outsiders... I admit, my faith prevented me from investigating suicide because I thought it was bad. I never attempted suicide however, I felt like my illness could have made me a victim of it. I am not so judgmental about individuals who attempt suicide. Now, I have a different perspective on suicide, here's why:
Since my diagnosis of schizophrenia I have encountered people of diverse backgrounds- careers, families, faith, and experiences with mental illness, etc. Having a mental illness was my beginning of not being as naive as before about life experiences, and ignorant of understanding our differences. Like being diagnosed with mental illness, the suicide attempt of my family member came unexpectedly to me. When I found out about it I was overwhelmed with a range of emotions- disbelief, guilt, grief, helpless…

New Recovery Lives

Having experienced a range of situations, and people related to my illness, I understand how "recovery" can have several interpretations and that each meaning is arguably the ideal definition.  Recovery to me used to mean striving for a part of me that used to be, before my illness stole that life away from me. How does an individual stop comparing their recovery to their old life?

I think it is difficult for each individual to let go of their career that once defined who they were- working in the corporate world, being a teacher, and real estate agent, or a student in college, etc. I remember my mother once said, 'this is all new to you, and you have to learn the new Ashley.' I think that was great advice, because it opened my eyes to having an open mind on my recovery. I have a new life in recovery and I choose to nourish it instead of measuring it and comparing it to my life before diagnosis.

How have you learned to cope with your life in recovery?

To learn more ab…

Coping takes Work

"Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." James 2:17 NKJV 
I agree with this scripture because everything in life demands some effort to get the desired results. Likewise, taking medication to treat mental illness with no coping skills and others support while expecting the illness to go into remission is not the most effective process- there is no magic pill- mental health recovery takes work. 
My schizophrenia seems to be under control and my depression has improved with the medication, but I am still struggling and learning how to better cope with my depression. Lately I've been pushing myself to straighten up the house everyday and to go outside and enjoy the sun, even if it's only 20 minutes. I also listen to music and share stresses with family and friends. I think keeping up my appearance and getting sunlight has been the most useful coping skills I practice under daily basis. I am not where I want to be with my depression right now, but I…

Women are Worthy- Radio Interview Archive

Here is a link to the one hour long radio interview from June 1st I had with Jackie Charles on Women are Worthy. Also, check out Women are Worthy facebook page. Please listen to this interview- a range of situations are mentioned here- myths, dating, diagnosis, and suicide, etc.

To learn more about schizophrenia visit NAMI, Choices in Recovery, Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).

Coping Skills to keep me Afloat

I've been feeling depressed- lack motivation to do anything and a desire for more and more sleep- but I am no longer settling to live in it. The last couple of days I forced myself to set up some form of routine that included a walk in the sun, and I think it temporarily helps my depression. Also, I've created some affirmations on my facebook page that lifts me up a little.

I think much of my depression is the consequence of my many stresses. Now, I am trying to reclaim control of my mood and to maintain some form of motivation- no matter how minor it seems.

Today is a good day for me because I feel like working on my projects. Now I need to maintain a routine that will help me stay motivated to help change my current state of mind- any suggestions?

I will not give up on my mental health... Please share some coping skills I could use to help me get out and stay out of my depression.

To learn more about schizophrenia visit NAMI, Choices in Recovery, Schizophrenia Society of Nov…

Side Effects- ugh! Lesson Learned!

Have you suffered with the side effects of your medication in silence?

Despite the progress I've made in my recovery I still have setbacks. Recently, my doctor changed the dose of my medication and as a result I've been experiencing some side effects. Initially, I did not know I was experiencing side effects, and I assumed my concerns were happening because I was not taking my medication at the same time daily or that it may have only occurred as a result of me missing a dose.

Moreover, I noticed the side effects were starting to bother me more and more to the extent that I had poor concentration which prohibited me from maintaining eye contact with others, and my ability to read, write, or do any type of work that required attention. Although these side effects were not as bad as some that I've had in the past such as feeling jittery or having restless legs, they were still bothersome to me.

My lack of concentration bothered me very much because in the past people complim…

Women are Worthy Radio Interview June 1st

I will be a guest speaker on Women are Worthy, a fox affiliated radio station on Saturday, June 1st 10-11 AM Eastern Time. Hosted by Jacqlyn Charles. To listen to this live interview on mental health and women concerns visit: and to call-in to show your support: (770) 382-1270. Also, like women are worthy page.

Crisis Plan- Do You Have One?

I need to create a better crisis plan because my current plan involves me addressing concerns to my treatment team, which is also needed, but I should include some members of my support network into my crisis plan. I realized my crisis plan needed improvement when I  hesitated on a couple of questions, for example: "who do you want to make decisions for you in the event you can't?" This shows me that I need to sit down with a couple of individuals in my immediate circle to make sure they understand my preferences and how I would like to be treated in the event I need them to make decisions for me. 
Do you have a crisis plan? Are your supporters aware of your preferences in the event of a crisis?
To learn more about schizophrenia visit NAMI,Choices in Recovery, and Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).

Support Groups Play an Intricate Role in my Recovery

Lately I've been slacking in recovery and not participating in support groups for a number of reasons. I think depression has been creeping up on me as a result of not going to support groups and working as much. I lacked motivation to carry out house chores and to complete other easy tasks until recently (yesterday). For me I must have a productive schedule in order to stay well. Being productive to me is either volunteering or working, and engaging in advocacy. I recognize that I must stay involved in support groups to maintain and strengthen my coping skills like other treatment regimens such as taking my medication.

Last night I went to a support group which made me analyze what was going on with me. I had not been to a support group in about a month and being back was refreshing. Now I realize that going to support groups every week is still vital to my recovery.

If you would like to participate in a support group whether you are an individual living with mental illness or a…

My Progress into Independence and Recovery

I've been in recovery for over five years and have learned a lot about it along with my peers. To me, crucial steps to recovery are consistency, risk-taking, and trust. An individual must be willing to participate in their recovery and hold trust in their treatment team and treatment regimen- whatever that is. Before they get to a place of cooperation one must step outside of their comfort parameters trust their treatment team, and do something different to help themselves in recovery, and to also maintain that new lifestyle.

For me, that was going to support groups. When I moved back to Atlanta I didn't have resources to engage in quality outpatient treatment programs, but I did have access to mental health care which I did take advantage of. I got involved in a patient assistance program by the pharmaceutical company and took part in the support groups led by my therapist in my local treatment center. I went there to 1) get out of my house, 2) socialize with people, and 3) t…

The Truth about Living with Schizophrenia

To me, living with schizophrenia is bittersweet it keeps me alert and aware of my mental illness, while at the same time I enjoy life despite my challenges. I am more cautious about my mental health and my antennas are always up. I must be mindful of the possibility of my symptoms flaring up, and to stop it immediately from recurring by sharing concerns with my therapist and psychiatric doctor. I am afraid that my symptoms may interrupt my current recovery lifestyle of living independently; therefore, I am compliant with the prescribed medication regimen my doctor recommends and adamant about taking it as directed to get the full benefit.
Sometimes when I am home alone and I hear a faint sound, I pray it isn't a voice only in my mind, and I remain still to listen and to make sure it isn't. Other concerns is forgetting to take my medication. As described in a recent blog entry I used to skip doses if I forgot to take it in the morning time, which is when I take my medicine, but…

Medication Compliance- Challenges and Coping Skills

In general, I take one anti-psychotic and one anti-depressant medication once in the morning time. Taking medication can be challenging for me especially if I forget to take the medication in the morning. In the past, I used to skip my dose of medication if I forgot to take it in the morning, but I would not take it in the late evening, because I did not notice the effect it had on me the following days. However, I do not do that anymore, my body and mind has changed over the years and I must take my medication every single day to avoid the consequences, which include my partner taking notice and the discomfort I feel in that, and risk of my many symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia flaring up.

Now, I recognize a change in me whenever I miss a day of medication, for me I lose concentration or eye contact with people and whatever is in front of me. This tendency makes me feel very uncomfortable because I like to keep eye contact with people, which I am generally good at it.

I understand …

Recognizing My Challenges- Motor Skills, Memory, etc.

In general, mental illness can effect a person's mood, behavior, cognitive skills, and speech, and thus, a person's ability to function in the workplace, school, and/or social situations. When I had my psychotic break in 2007, I was not able to think rationally, complete assignments, or to stay focused. I heard voices that hindered my ability to engage in conversations with others. 
In fact, I failed a competency test provided by the correctional system in California that requested answers to general questions such as who is the president of the United States and what is the date; my mental illness oppressed my understanding to the extent that I could not answer these questions.
While I was in the state hospital recuperating; taking medication, and learning more about my diagnosis I even recognized my motor skills were not up to par. Whenever my mother visited me we would exercise because a side effect of my medication caused me to walk very stiff- some peers made fun of me an…

New Recovery Sisters in the ATL

A few months ago an Atlanta woman contacted me on the Embracing My Mind facebook page. She let me know she was also living in recovery from mental health. She complimented me on my supportive efforts and invited me to view her blog, which I did. On her blog, I found diverse articles on maintaining recovery and wellness, and other interesting topics. Also, she is very supportive of the GLBT community and people of color.

Recently, I had the opportunity of meeting this individual in person through a temporary job opportunity that gives a voice to peers in treatment. When I met her I thought to myself her name sounds so familiar- "Stephanie McClain,"- and she thought the same (Ashley Smith)! As we brainstormed our mental health affiliations we realized our introductions initiated online a few months prior.

Now that we know each other in person we plan to support each other's online advocacy efforts via blogging, Youtube, and other social networks. I look forward to collabor…

Learning more about my Symptoms and Diagnosis

A few weeks ago I asked the question: "Mania or Something Else?"... Well, I got an answer to my question, plus some!

I visited my doctor a couple of weeks ago and he confirmed I was experiencing "hypo-mania," which is what fellow blogger assumed I was experiencing. To my understanding hypo-mania is similar to mania however not as extreme where incidents lead to harsh consequences like arrests.

When I was in this state of mind I was obsessed with working on my laptop, I blogged more frequently than usual, and I felt like I was on an upward swing, which was a little unusual, this lasted for about a week and then quickly spiraled down into irritability. After sharing how I was feeling with my doctor we tweaked my medication...

I am glad I have a better understanding of myself, now I know how to identify my hypo-mania moments!

However, my discussion with my doctor lead to another indept discussion- I shared previous moments of hypo-mania which as a result made him beli…

A New Culture of Recovery

There is a stigma against me and my peers, but there is also one against mental health care providers. Common stigmas of me and my peers vary from lazy, possessing a split personality, to mass murderer- ugh! The stigma of health care providers are they abuse patients, treat us all the same, or do not listen to patients' concerns.

However, I view my peers and health care providers totally different. I see my peers living independently or contributing to the household. They seem like peaceful individuals- practicing mindfulness and keeping to themselves- not inflicting pain on anyone or starting a riot. They engage in creative hobbies such as art or poetry, and other activities. My peers not only help themselves but also other peers by offering advice and a listening ear. And they're far from lazy!- a lot of the people I associate with who have a mental illness volunteer. They also work jobs that they take pride in and enjoy, part-time and full-time.

Despite what really goes on …

Helping vs. Enabling

I think some of my best ideas come to me during the night or while I'm in bed. I got an idea about a blog topic that I couldn't shake and had to prematurely get out of bed to record my thoughts while "they were hot." I'll start with a brief history with my English literature teacher from high school...

I always liked to write and to journal. During the last part of high school and early college my teachers and professors complimented me on my writing. I had the same English Literature teacher my junior and senior year of high school- Mrs. Parker. I really liked her because she challenged me, and she liked me too because I was a good student academically, and was more mature compared to my peers. Sometimes I would share my problems with her and she would listen and provide feedback.

She sponsored an activity I created during black history month, a trivial game for students to participate in and to win prizes. I came up with brief summaries of famous African Americ…

Learning about Mindfulness

I was introduced to the idea of mindfulness in a NAMI course called, "Peer-to-Peer," back in 2009, when I became certified to mentor the course with peers who also live in recovery from mental illness. We performed an exercise of observation- I won't go into detail because I do not want to ruin the experience for those of us who will participate in the class.

My understanding of mindfulness from friends is it revolves around the idea of focusing on the present moment. Concentration on breathing patterns coincides with the habit of mindfulness. In fact, I have a couple of friends who practice mindfulness. One friend studies it in a class setting while the other performs extensive research alone, and uses it occasionally. Also, I've heard from others who engage in some forms and practices of Buddhism that they also exercise mindfulness. Each of these individuals also live with mental illness. Because it seems popular among the mental health community I am interested in…

Terri Morgan's Book Review of Playing the Genetic Lottery

I was asked by an author to give a book review of her new novel that was published in 2012 and is based on schizophrenia from a family member's perspective. This is my first time reviewing a book, at the request of an author, however, I've been asked before, but shied away from doing it for differing factors. Terri Morgan's email request caught my attention and interest immediately, and I called her shortly after to learn more about the book and how I could help the cause.

I want to thank Terri for giving me the opportunity to write a book review for her. I feel honored to be a part of her awareness and anti-stigma effort.

Below is my book review:

Terri Morgan's Playing the Genetic Lottery- Book Review by Ashley Smith

When Terri Morgan, the author of Playing the Genetic Lottery, first contacted me by email to ask me to give a review of her new novel, she immediately informed me of her intentions, “My goals in writing this book were to reduce the stigma about mental illness…


I am against using my diagnosis as an excuse for my behavior, and it annoys me whenever a peer does. I do not do that because I value taking responsibility for a my actions, diligence, and being non-judgmental (which I try to uphold, however, I sometimes fail), having this mental illness has humbled me into trying to balance my perception of other people and life situations. However, I do understand that having symptoms can impair rationality, and that is something different than what I am discussing.

With that said, I was irked by my parter's lack of understanding and insensibility to my mental health. I told him I may be experiencing mania to describe why I've been on the computer too much, which has become an issue for us recently. He asked me what "mania" was and I defined it as an obssession- which may not have been the best description. His response bothered me, he said something to the effect: 'stop trying to find a diagnosis for everything you do!' I …

Mania or Something Else?

I think I've been experiencing mania, but I am not sure. I think I am in a manic state right now, because I am writing too much about mental illness. Over the last week I've written more blog entries than usual. And when I've recorded all I want to share on my blog I surf the web for other blogs to read and comment, which is not a habit, although I've come across some good blogs. Also, I am overly excited about a couple of projects to the extent that I cannot sleep or do anything else but record my thoughts and focus on the project. I am spending too much time on the laptop, and I know it but still I engage it. Writing is very therapeutic to me. Right now it is calming my anxiousness. Lastly, my mood had been up, way up, and then down and irritable because of small disappointments and this usually wouldn't effect me as much. I want to know if this is a form of mania or not, and if so, how to overcome it? To learn more about schizophrenia visit Embracing My Mind, NA…