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I Am Happy Today Because...

I am 31 years old. I am a single-parent. I am a writer, an advocate and peer counselor for mental wellness. I also have schizoaffective disorder; schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder (mania), and anxiety. And today, I am happy...

I have a beautiful son that I am thankful to have and to love on every second of my life! I am working on a book with two great friends on recovery, Angela B. Franklin and Charlene Flagg. Our book, Out of the Darkness: Faces of Mental Illness and Recovery REVEALED, is for release this year (2018).

Ashley Smith
Because of my condition I am more aware of mental illness. I am passionate for the cause to fight the ongoing beast of widespread stigma, and negativity on persons living with mental health conditions. I aim to encourage mental wellness for myself, peers, and EVERYBODY. Living with my diagnoses enables me to be conscious of my self care needs, demand to engage in self-love activities, and to strive for overall wellness with my many goals, and attempts to get it right! 

Now my greatest challenge is my depression, anxiety, and side effects of my medication. With my depression I've slept for extended periods of time as if exhausted, but no physical labor to validate the sleep. It could be difficult to maintain energy to function at the pace I am accustomed to. My anxiety and side effect of my medication, which is poor focus and vision impacts me at work today. 

However, I am fortunate to manage these concerns with my doctor's prescriptions, regular therapy sessions twice a month or more often depending on my levels of stress, and engaging in my support system; and coping skills that include: journaling, creating a monthly budget, talking to close friends and family regularly, listening to music, lighting candles, buying flowers, and greeting cards for myself to keep me uplifted. I journal and write about my daily activities, give thanks to my Father God, and reflect on disappointments and happenings in my life. 

Currently, I am working part-time for a non-emergency resource information line for a mental health advocacy group in Georgia. My position requires me to respond to requests for resources in Georgia by phone and email. I talk to peers, care partners and caregivers, mental health professionals, activist, educators, law enforcement, and people like you! I love my job, because I feel like I am helping the recovery movement whenever I share my personal experience living in recovery, and to make effective local referrals and linkages to care in our communities.

Despite working 4-hour shifts I have to manage myself by attending to self care demands, because I am stationed at a desk and constantly on the computer, and calling individuals back with a list of resources. My self care needs at work are to take a mini break that may include reflecting on the moment, only, eating a snack, checking in with a friend, and self encouragement. My self encouragement may be motivational self-talk such as 'Ashley, you can do this... Ashley, take your time... Ashley, you got this!' During really difficult days, which are rare, I may journal on my light work break, pace the parking lot, and to take my anxiety medication. 

All of my coping tactics help me maintain my position at work, and to live well. There is no single coping act that trumps all coping skills to me, because I must rotate them for effectiveness, practice routine, and to 'be gentle with myself,' as a close friend says. I am not for or against medication, I support whatever helps my peers with professional support, but I take my medication because it works for me.

I am happy today, because of all of these things. I've been in recovery for 10 years! I am proud of myself. I may not have the fantasy life I envisioned growing up; I do not have a bachelor's degree. I do not own my home. And I cannot sing, but I am a proud mother. I am a proud daughter, sister, auntie, cousin, niece, friend, girlfriend, and peer... And I have many great relationships; 1) with my God and family, 2) best friends, and 3) my many peers and associates that add to my life and help with goals. 

Finally, I am working on completing, Out of the Darkness: Faces of Mental Illness and Recovery Revealed. Afterwards, I plan on getting back to my follow up book to What's On My Mind? A Collection of Blog Entries from Overcoming Schizophrenia, Volume I. My follow up book will be titled: What's On My Mind? Coping Takes Work, Volume II. 

Lastly, thank you for checking on me- much love! Ashley


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