Friday, May 31, 2013

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.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

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).

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

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 family member I strongly encourage you to visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) for free educational classes and support groups.

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

Monday, May 20, 2013

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) to learn more about my diagnosis. And a few years later I still participate in support groups which has helped my recovery tremendously.

Although recovery is challenging it does get easier with time. My biggest struggles were accepting life-long treatment, not being able to go back to work, and putting independent living on hold to recuperate. Today, I've managed to overcome most of these challenges. However, I still have concerns with medication compliance. Despite these concerns I've managed to take my medication for three consecutive weeks and I take pride in my daily successes.

Sometimes I have to take a step back and appreciate my daily accomplishments such as taking my medication on time, doing the dishes and other housework, and carrying out assignments promised to others. Completing these tasks could be challenging especially when depression creeps up on me and motivation becomes an issue, or I forget to do things.

Despite my initial struggles I've learned that I can go back to work, and volunteering has been my bridge and experience to get back into the workplace. Now, I've been living independently for three years- making arrangements for myself and paying utility bills and rent, and I am so proud of myself! Getting to independent living was a process- I stayed in a residential program for almost a year and then with my mother again, where I did contribute to the rent.

Today, I mentor peers in recovery by example. I encourage peers to take risks and to engage in advocacy for others. And I am enjoying life in recovery! Despite all the stigma around schizophrenia I surround myself with supportive people and networks. I am overcoming schizophrenia!

My next steps are to find permanent employment with benefits in mental health advocacy and to get off of disability income. I would like to be a homeowner and I believe this is attainable. I think my progress into independence and recovery is ongoing, however these successes can deteriorate if I do not stay compliant on my treatment plan, trustworthy of my treatment team, or stop taking risks that better my recovery lifestyle.

How have you, or your loved one, taken risks in recovery? What are your next steps in recovery?

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

Thursday, May 16, 2013

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 now I do not do that to avoid the consequences of poor concentration and my discomfort in that. Despite my concerns of experiencing hallucinations and other symptoms I have a good lifestyle because I have access to treatment and support, and I partake in it.

Maintaining wellness demands attention and a lot of support. I surround myself with supportive people- family, friends and peers because without the support, the stigma of schizophrenia would silence me and take away my livelihood. However, I do not like how the media labels perpetrators as having the illness whenever they terrorize the community. The truth is people living with schizophrenia are productive citizens of our community. We deserve respect, quality jobs and homes, and to be treated fairly in the health care system and in the community.

Despite living in fear of my symptoms coming back I do have a life... Yes, there is life after diagnosis of schizophrenia. I do enjoyable things, like volunteer, go to the park, and talk to family. Yes, I am concerned about my mental illness but I do not let it consume me all day everyday. 

If I were to give advice to peers, I strongly encourage building an effective support network and also building rapport with their treatment team. Always having someone to trust such as a peer or a family member that knows they have a mental illness and treats them with respect is crucial. An individual living with mental illness does not have to suffer in silence, we do not have to go through the process alone!

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

Sunday, May 12, 2013

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 there are a lot of routines I could do to remember to take my medication such as keep a pill container for every day of the week, to set my alarm, or to take my medicine when I do a daily practice like to brush my teeth, I have tried a few routines. Now, that I know there are ill effects if I do not take my medicine daily, I am even more prone to remember to take it in order to avoid my ramifications of embarrassment and discomfort in front of my partner and others, or worse disorientation caused by my mental illness.

Another reminder of why I need to stay compliant on my medication is my past experience of jail time, my family's concern during that delicate situation, and the accomplishments I've made since my diagnosis. Yes, taking medication is a life-long challenge for me but it is necessary for me to manage my severe mental illness and to take charge of my life!

If you are an individual living with a mental health diagnosis, do you notice any changes in yourself when you do not take your prescribed medication, for whatever reason? 

If you are a family member, do you notice when your relative is not taking their medication, if so, what are the initial signs?

I understand that what I am asking you is very personal, therefore I encourage you to respond anonymously if you do not want others to identify you online in order to participate, educate, and to relate to others. Thank you for taking the time to read about my challenges and ways that help me to cope!

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

Friday, May 10, 2013

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 and called me a "robot." While we exercised I noticed I moved my limbs very slowly and I could not speed it up even when I wanted to.

Prior to my psychotic break, other people described me as sharp, and a person who had a good memory. However, as a direct result of my mental illness my motor skills, memory, and socialization skills are challenged. Sometimes, I feel like my memory, reactions, and understanding are delayed. 

Recently, I had discussions with peers who are also living with a mental health diagnosis that are different than mine, and who recognize similar delays. I am so glad I am not the only one who experiences this!

I think the anti-psychotics helps me with my cognitive skills. I can think clearly, complete assignments, and play an entire game of Scrabble in under eight minutes online. And I do not hear voices. My memory still needs improvement. I have short term memory loss sometimes. 

In addition to the medication, I believe playing word games such as Scrabble and writing in my journal and this blog, helps me practice focus and speed which improves my motor skills and reactions. Although, I know my memory and cognitive skills could be sharper, I believe my engagement in Scrabble and writing helps me in these areas. 

If you are an individual living with a mental illness, have you noticed delays of any kind as a direct result of your mental illness?

If you are a family member- have you noticed a delay of any kind in your relative as a direct result of their mental illness?

Comment. I would like to hear from you and how you cope with this! Thank you.

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

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

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 collaborating with her online!

Stephanie started blogging in 2012, she says, "Blogging is my form of expression; it heals my past, my feelings of anger, anxiety, depression, and fears." For more information about Stephanie and to link to both her blog and youtube page visit her awareness sites via

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

How to Cope with Dark Seasons

I aim to empower those affected by mental illness. However, the truth about recovery is there will be many dark seasons. Still, I hope peopl...