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Showing posts from January, 2013

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…

Excuses?!

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…

Hospitalizations are Always Bad- Right?

Although I am doing well now I know deep inside that I can have a relapse despite being on medication, and become hospitalized again. I keep that in mind to humble myself and to reflect on my experiences in order to learn and grow from them.

I've been admitted to a California state hospital before, for three months, back in 2007. I do not have a lot of history of being in the hospital, but that experience alone helped me come to terms with my illness and motivate myself to stay in treatment in order to avoid hospitalization.

However, don't misconstrue my experience and goals of trying to stay out of the hospital. I do not agree that the hospital is a bad place or is the enemy, and that we should avoid it at all costs. Yet, I understand there are incidences where hospital staff abuse patients, which is frightening and upsetting, at the same time.

I can understand that some of my peers need to be hospitalized for diverse reasons and periods of time- some shorter than others and…

An Excited Mind!

I am tired- mentally- tired of all the thoughts of projects I want to fulfill, but can't. I am eager to get a lot accomplished on a lengthy project in a short amount of time. I know I need to slow down, but I am so motivated, and I am very focused.

Last night I couldn't go back to sleep without typing some thoughts on my laptop. My excitement to work on a project comes to me like a sugar high and a short burst of energy rushes over me to get it started. This happens every once in a while- a thought comes to me and I must focus all of my attention on making it become a reality.

What's going on with me?- Is this a moment of mania? Are the antidepressants working better than usual and giving me more motivation? Or am I experiencing tunnel vision?

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

A Woman Like Any Other

I've meditated, procrastinated, and had writer's block on a topic I've been wanting to discuss for a very long time. It is very personal and intimate to me. I understand and anticipate both positive and negative feedback as a result of this particular blog entry, because it is a very controversial topic among the mental health field- I will try to be straightforward.

I am an advocate for women rights, including the choice to have an abortion, however, I am against abortion as a method of birth control. I also believe women who have a mental illness have a right to exercise this human privilege. However, I believe if a woman's health is in jeopardy as the result of any medical condition (not just mental illness) getting her healthy again takes precedence.

Schizophrenia is manageable. In fact, it is like many other medical conditions in that it requires a lot- patience, resources, faith and commitment to endure- which is a huge responsibility and life-long lifestyle. In…

"Strength in Numbers"- Share Your Blog

I keep going back to the thought- "there is strength in numbers"- I remember thinking about it during the Certified Peer Specialist training earlier this week, and again by the network of online bloggers who either live with a diagnosis or are a family member. I appreciate my fellow blogger peers and family members of those living with mental illness who share their experiences with mental illness. As the NAMI affirmation goes: "We are experts on our own experiences"- which is true!

Strength in numbers coupled with "the shared experience" is comforting because each of us can relate and offer wise advice because we've experienced something similar. We may not have the same diagnosis, but may be able to relate to hearing voices, extreme suspiciousness of family and others without cause, anxiety, racing thoughts, etc.

In fact, I feel it is easier for me to make friends or to have a conversation with someone who has experienced mental illness in some form…

In the Moment

I am satisfied with my mental and emotional status. I believe this is because I am not as active with volunteer projects, which I have a habit of overloading myself. Also, I am not stressed about personal relationships. Generally, when I am under a lot of stress my well-being deteriorates.

Opposed to feeling overwhelmed and anxious, I feel focused and excited about the near future. I am receptive to new ideas and projects. I am enjoying this moment!

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

Recovery Partnerships

Recently, I participated in a Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) continuing education workshop to keep my certification and to learn more information. During the training we identified recovery, our roles and responsibilities, and new Medicaid-billing policies. The training experience reminded me of interactions with mental health professionals and peers who have given me hope.

In short, recovery is a unique learning process that ultimately develops into self-direction. The CPS position is a growing dynamic that has spread across the country and is becoming internationally recognized. The position of a CPS is versatile and flexible; in that we are to act as a liaison between mental health staff and peers living with a diagnosis, and to demonstrate life coach abilities by acknowledging strengths within peers, and as a result to support their goals and plans.

Ultimately, the CPS position is to also overcome the mental health system or to help establish a new culture of recovery in that pee…

Comparisons, Perspectives, and Struggles

I, like many of my peers have experienced disturbing thoughts, anxiety, and have missed doses of medication when I should not have, over the past year. Part of me desires to be normal- I mean to not be dependant on medication daily- but I've experienced a glimpse of the consequences, which can be detrimental. I understand how critical it is to stay complaint even more so than a professional can express to me, because I've witnessed the dark side of Ashley, which has been out of control, out of character, and very scared.

Some individuals get the wrong impression about me from my blog- some think I handle my illness perfectly or that I am too optimistic- when that is far from the situation. I was not diagnosed with all the answers- I, like my peers have challenges- and it took a lot of practice, effort, and support to get to where I am today. Yes, I am proud of my recovery and have come a long way with the support of treatment and others, however, I have setbacks too, which I a…

Overcoming Schizophrenia: How I am Living with it Blog

I updated the appearance of this blog because I wanted it to look refreshed as I move forward with it. I started this blog in September 2008 to have a better understanding of my diagnosis by recording my experiences.

In the beginning I wrote about my most challenging encounter with psychosis- a range of symptoms in that I had difficulty distinguishing reality- and how it led to my incarceration, hospitalization among other experiences in 2007. Now, I continue to track my moods and setbacks living with schizophrenia through this blog to encourage peers and families to stay focused on recovery, and to also educate students and the public about it.

I jumped into recovery with a positive outlook because I had insight through a combination of education and medication at the introduction into my recovery, and I was inspired by my mother and doctor to live life despite my illness by going back to college and sharing my testimony. I got to where I am now in my recovery through a lot of suppor…