Thursday, November 21, 2019

by A Guest Blogger: For Addicts, Recovery Means Creating a New Life

If you’re struggling to maintain your sobriety, you aren’t alone. There are millions of fighters just like you working toward reclaiming their lives from drugs and alcohol. There are a few common traits that many successful recovering addicts share. Keep reading to find out what they are and how you can follow in their footsteps.

They establish new patterns

You can’t continue to live your life the same was you did when you were using. You must change and adapt to your newfound sobriety. Consider a career change; many recovering addicts find they have more success by starting their own business. One career that is easy to enter is dog walking. As a dog walker, you’ll reap many rewards including getting to spend time with dogs, which can actually boost your recovery efforts and stave off depression.

Dogs have been used as part of a treatment plan for users as young as 11 and come with the added benefit of helping you stay physically active. Plus, being with canines for any amount of time can lower your stress and anxiety levels.

Other positive patterns to adopt include eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, and keeping your home tidy. Sometimes, establishing new patterns involve re-establishing old ones. For example, if you allowed your auto insurance to lapse during this time, you would need to take the appropriate steps to get things back on the right track, which might include approaching your old company or finding a new one altogether. Of course, this applies to other things besides auto insurance — the important part is identifying them and making changes.

They have a supportive network and aren’t afraid to use it

Here is a tough truth to handle: Your user friends aren’t really your friends — at least not while they continue to drag you down a path toward substance abuse. It takes time, but you can create a new network of healthy friendships, counselors and other support persons that you can lean on without judgment. But making new friends as an adult, and especially as a recovering addict/alcoholic, is difficult. Inc. asserts there five types of people you need in your life: a leader, a storyteller, a listener, someone who forces you to think, and someone who never lets life get them down. Here are tips on making new friends from someone who’s been in your shoes.

They are confident, but not cocky

The difference between cocky and confident when you’re in recovery is that confidence helps you win the battle and cockiness makes you weak. Learn how to believe in yourself but never forget that you are human and you have weaknesses. Unfortunately, years of abuse have likely shattered your self-confidence and taken a toll on your self-esteem. You can reclaim this aspect of yourself by remembering past successes and making — and meeting — small goals. Make lists every morning of what you’ll do that day. Always include one bullet point that specifically reminds you to stay clean. Check off each accomplishment no matter how small and keep a visible file of your victories to remind you that sobriety is possible.

They recognize their triggers

Triggers are the people, places, and actions that make you want to use. It might be anything from stress to an unkind family member — or driving by the local bar. When you’re in recovery, you must learn to avoid these triggers or find ways to cope with them that don’t involve relapse. Take a new route home, try yoga, or call a trusted confidant in your support group. Huffington Post asserts that unhealthy relationships, even those bonded in blood, should be severed when they impact important areas of life and there is no area more important than your sobriety.

Recovery is a long, hard road but you can smooth some of the bumps by changing your daily patterns, keeping close friends and family (and leaving behind toxic relationships), and finding the confidence to do it all again tomorrow. Take things one moment at a time if you must and celebrate each of them.

Image via Pixabay

Adam’s mission is aligned with Addiction Hub’s to help people find support with issues relating to addiction.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Waking Up Tired

What do you do when you wake up tired? Lately, I have been struggling with depression. My depression is not the result of the changes in season, mood swings, PMS, nor breakdown in relationships, or loss. My invisible brain disorder is going through another one of its phases.

Sometimes I wake up tired. In spite of medication adherence, I am challenged by my depressive state of being. I practice self-care daily, but lose energy by the late afternoon and am forced to shut myself down early at night. It is not fair; living with limited energy, taking restless naps, and repeating my health plan that is not completely pulling me out of this depressive state.

My days are short but my fight is still strong. Yes, I may wake up tired, and do not carry out plans, but I get back on track and try my best to not give up.

Still, I press forward. I surf social media for encouragement. I drink more water and give myself time to embrace self-care demands. Moreover, I pray that this low energy leaves me.

Finally, I am not at my best but I am still trying. I choose to challenge my invisible storm. I may not win every time, but I am still in the fight. I understand waking up tired is just for a moment, therefore, I continuously try to overcome this internal battle. Recovery is not always about winning, but simply going through the process and trying again and again until a better day arrives and better you shows up.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

10-12-2019 Press Release for Coping Takes Work

For Immediate Release 

Contact: EMM Enterprise, LLC

New Book Redefines Recovery with Practical Coping Tools

Atlanta, Georgia—October 12, 2019—Ashley Smith, author of the blog, Overcoming Schizophrenia, self-published What’s On My Mind? Coping Takes Work, Volume II during Mental Illness Awareness Week. The blog’s key messages bring attention to schizophrenia and how recovery is possible. A popular review identified Ashley’s blog among the “Top 20 Schizophrenia Blogs and Websites to Follow in 2019.”

Coping Takes Work is a collection of inspiring articles from my blog, Overcoming Schizophrenia. My story focuses on how I master resiliency through different coping strategies,” said Ashley Smith.

Ashley Smith is a mental health advocate who has been in recovery for over 12 years. She endured a court-ordered hospitalization among a range of challenges. The advocate’s story was highlighted in Janssen Pharmaceuticals documentary, Living with Schizophrenia: A Call for Hope and Recovery (2011). 

Ashley Smith is an author, blogger, and former board member for NAMI Georgia, Inc. Her new book, Coping Takes Work is available on Amazon in the Kindle Edition and paperback formats. Here are what authors and mental health advocates said about Ashley Smith’s book, Coping Takes Work:

“A recovery story of grit and grace that will empower you to manage challenges effectively.”

—Christina Bruni, Author of Left of the Dial: A Memoir of Schizophrenia, Recovery and Hope 

“Ashley Smith’s book, Coping Takes Work, is a rich guide to staying well, despite living with the stigmatized mental health challenge of schizoaffective disorder. It offers practical recovery tips and a story of hope that will enrich the lives of those living with mental health challenges, their supporters, including mental health professionals.”

—Corey Jones, Author of Hope Is Real: I Have a Purpose 

“Ashley has an amazing ability to provide insight into living with and managing a mental illness. She allows others to see her as a human being rather than a diagnosis, while also providing helpful tools, encouragement, and hope for those on their own recovery journey.”

—Jean Toole, President/CEO of Community Friendship, Inc.

Finally, click here to go to Amazon to purchase Ashley Smith’s book, Coping Takes Work. Lastly, to learn more about Ashley Smith and her blog visit:


Thursday, October 10, 2019

My Interview on The Authors Lounge Radio Show

On Tuesday, October 8th I was a guest on The Authors Lounge Radio Show. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the host, Sheryl Grace. Sheryl has experience in the mental health field and was excited about Mental Illness Awareness Week, especially today; World Mental Health Day.

We talked about this blog and my book, Coping Takes Work. In fact, Sheryl encouraged me to read an excerpt, which I did, from Appendix G, "When I Woke Up." I chose to read "When I Woke Up," because the focus is on my bond between me and my son. My son was my motivation to get well when I was at my worst, as articulated in the book.

Now, my new mental health book, Coping Takes Work is available on Amazon. Through this book I aim to encourage my peers in recovery to engage in therapy in order to master resiliency and wellness. My hope is for readers to purchase my book and to share it with others.

This is Mental Illness Awareness Week, October 6-12, 2019. Therefore, buy your copy of Coping Takes Work in either the Kindle Edition or Paperback to recognize individuals who are effected by a mental health condition, and also to learn more about recovery.

To follow The Authors Lounge Radio Show with Sheryl Grace on Facebook, click here.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Coping Takes Work is Available on Amazon

My book, What's On My Mind? Coping Takes Work, Volume II is available in Kindle e-book and paperback on Amazon today

I am grateful for the contributors of this work: Brian Anderson (author of Beautiful Scars, Volume I and II), Terresa Ford, CPRP, CPS, Pat Strode, Caregiver, Shannon Murphy, LPC, CPCS, and Stacey Walker, Sr. (author of Principles of Biblical Leadership). 

Also, I appreciate my editor Sarah Mayor. 

I am thankful for the book reviews: Christina Bruni (author of Left of the Dial), Corey Jones (author of Hope Is Real), Terri Morgan (author of The Genetic Lottery), Jean Toole (President and CEO of Community Friendship), and Bethany Yeiser (author of Mind Estranged, and President of CURESZ Foundation).

Huge shout out to my Overcoming Schizophrenia blog readers! 

Also, to Jacqlyn Charles from The Women Are Worthy Show and Sheryl Grace from The Authors Lounge Radio Show for supporting mental health awareness for September's Recovery Month and October's Mental Illness Awareness Week.

Coping Takes Work is a collection of select blog entries from Overcoming Schizophrenia (2014-2019), which have been rewritten and remastered. 

This book provides a picture of recovery through its many recovery stories, recovery tips, and self-help journal. This is a short read with about 150 pages. There are links and resources for schizophrenia. 

My message is recovery is possible, and therapy with practical coping skills can help us master resiliency after crisis.

It says in Ecclesiastes 7:8 "Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride (New Living Translation)." 

I am excited about my book and you will be too. Support recovery and Mental Illness Awareness Week that is October 6-12, 2019. Purchase a copy of my book and share with others. It is a great read for my peers in recovery, our caregivers, and mental health professionals.

Thank you.

Monday, October 7, 2019

At A Glance: Book Review on Coping Takes Work by Terri Morgan

“Ashley Smith is proof that it is possible to thrive despite living with a devastating brain disorder. Smith shares her experiences, including the ups and downs of her health through the years, in her new book, What's On My Mind: Coping Takes Work. This slim, well written volume provides a blueprint for living well with schizophrenia. Loaded with information, resources, and practical advice for coping with a severe and persistent mental disorder, Smith has created an essential guide for anyone who is living with schizophrenia, or loves someone who is.

The book includes a collection of entries from Smith's award winning blog that have been chosen and rewritten especially for this volume. The result is a user friendly guide crafted by a woman who has dedicated her life to helping others recover from their own health challenges. Smith writes clearly and honestly about her own mental health experiences, providing readers with an insiders' understanding about her journey. She openly addresses her recovery, her challenges, and even her setbacks in a straightforward manner. Her matter of fact approach makes this book comfortable, engaging, and authentic.

Smith does not sugar coat the challenges to recovery. The title alone illustrates the difficulty of living with an invisible illness. Coping does take work, but Smith helps make that task more manageable by clearly outlining what has worked for her, and many others. Along with tips on a variety of topics, including how to recognize warning signs and triggers, draft an Psychiatric Advance Directive, regain control after a crisis, and work with a support team, Smith encourages readers to draft their own, customized action plan for recovery. To facilitate readers, the book includes questions to prompt health consumers to explore their own situations, and take charge of their own recovery.

Coping Takes Work also includes recovery stories by certified peer specialists and a caregiver. It also provides links and resources about schizophrenia and related mental health conditions. The book is an excellent resource for consumers, as well as social workers, therapists, family members and anyone who is interested in learning about the challenges facing so many people in our society today.”

—Terri Morgan,

Author of The Genetic Lottery: A Novel Look at Schizophrenia.

At A Glance: Book Review on Coping Takes Work

I will release my new book, What's On My Mind? Coping Takes Work, Volume II this month. Here are what mental health advocates and authors are saying about the book:

“A recovery story of grit and grace that will empower you to manage challenges effectively.”

—Christina Bruni, Author of Left of the Dial: A Memoir of Schizophrenia, Recovery and Hope 

Christina Bruni is an author, blogger, and activist.

“Ashley Smith’s book, Coping Takes Work, is a rich guide to staying well, despite living with the stigmatized mental health challenge of schizoaffective disorder. It offers practical recovery tips and a story of hope that will enrich the lives of those living with mental health challenges, their supporters, including mental health professionals.”

—Corey Jones, Author of Hope Is Real: I Have a Purpose 

Corey Jones is an author, blogger, and certified peer specialist from Atlanta, Georgia.

“An essential guide for anyone who is living with schizophrenia, Coping Takes Work provides a practical blueprint for recovering from a serious brain disorder.”

—Terri Morgan, Author of The Genetic Lottery: A novel look at Schizophrenia

Terri Morgan is the author and co-author of eight non-fiction books. Playing the Genetic Lottery, which is about a family effected by schizophrenia, is her first novel.

“Ashley has an amazing ability to provide insight into living with and managing a mental illness. She allows others to see her as a human being rather than a diagnosis, while also providing helpful tools, encouragement, and hope for those on their own recovery journey.”

—Jean Toole, President/CEO of Community Friendship, Inc.

Jean Toole is the President and CEO of Community Friendship, Inc. (CFI), a comprehensive provider of recovery oriented services for adults with mental illnesses in the metropolitan Atlanta.

“Ashley Smith is a champion of recovery from schizophrenia, and her writing is relevant and inspiring. According to Ashley, "Recovery demands more than medication, it requires hard work." This book is a useful tool to help readers do the work necessary to successfully cope with schizophrenia, achieving a higher level of recovery and a better life. Coping Takes Work provides helpful suggestions for persons with schizophrenia to start meaningful conversations with their doctor, and is also a great resource for members of a treatment team, including social workers and clinicians. The information presented in this book will also help the reader better understand the experience of schizophrenia, and this will shatter the stigma.”

—Bethany Yeiser, Author of Mind Estranged: My Journey from Schizophrenia and Homelessness to Recovery, and President of CURESZ Foundation 

Bethany Yeiser is President of the CURESZ Foundation, which provides education about underutilized and cutting-edge medications and treatments for schizophrenia. CURESZ features stories of schizophrenia survivors who are not just recovered, but thriving despite a past diagnosis of schizophrenia. 

Coping Takes Work will become available on Amazon October 2019.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Radio Interview on the Authors Lounge with Sheryl Grace

Authors Lounge Radio Show
with Sheryl Grace
This is Mental Illness Awareness Week, October 6-12, 2019 and I will be on the Authors Lounge Radio Show to discuss my new mental health book, What's On My Mind? Coping Takes Work, Volume II. 

My interview with Sheryl Grace will be live on the Fishbowl Radio Network, Tuesday, October 8, 2019 4PM Central Time or 5PM Eastern Time. To listen go online to and stroll down to click on "Grey Stream."

Saturday, October 5, 2019

10-05-2019 Press Release for Coping Takes Work

For Immediate Release 

Contact: EMM Enterprise, LLC 

Blogger Inspires People with Mental Illness by Promoting Coping Tools: New Book Details How to Live Well in Recovery

Atlanta, Georgia—October 5, 2019—Ashley Smith, author of the blog, Overcoming Schizophrenia, publishes her second book, What’s On My Mind? Coping Takes Work, Volume II that is forthcoming in October 2019. This book is a collection of blog articles that focuses on recovery. 

Through the Overcoming Schizophrenia blog, Ashley candidly shares her journey with schizophrenia as an advocate and peer in recovery. Her blog focuses on a wide range of topics such as the benefits of therapy and practical coping techniques to maintain wellness. 

Countless doctors recommend medication to support mental health recovery. However, few people discuss ways to live well in recovery. Ashley has been in recovery for over 12 years and endured self-stigma, discrimination, and court-ordered hospitalization. Her new book, What’s On My Mind? Coping Takes Work, Volume II, will become available on Amazon in October 2019. 

“An essential guide for anyone who is living with schizophrenia, Coping Takes Work provides a practical blueprint for recovering from a serious brain disorder.”

“Ashley Smith is a champion of recovery from schizophrenia, and her writing is relevant and inspiring… Coping Takes Work is a great resource for social workers and clinicians… The information presented in this book will also help the reader better understand the experience of schizophrenia, and this will shatter the stigma.”

Mental Illness Awareness Week is October 6-12, 2019. This national mental health awareness week was established in 1990 by the U.S. Congress in recognition of the efforts by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Ashley Smith is a mental health advocate, blogger, and former board member for NAMI Georgia, Inc. To learn more about Ashley Smith and the new book, visit her blog at 


Monday, September 23, 2019

My Interview on The Women Are Worthy Show

I appreciate Jacqlyn Charles, host of The Women Are Worthy Show, for bringing attention to mental health challenges, such as mine. On September 16th, Jacqyln and I held a conversation about mental illness and its stigma. 

Jacqyln referred to the "Acceptance" chapter of my book, What's On My Mind? Volume I. The opening statement was a question: "Is accepting mental illness the beginning of recovery?" Initially, my recovery was court-mandated. In other words, I had no choice, but to accept forced treatment due to the legal circumstances as articulated in my book.

However, I gained acceptance quickly by the support of my treatment team and family. I recalled my mother's approach to my condition which was something I could learn how to manage because of my awareness of the diagnosis. My mother said: "At least you know what you have so that you can do something about it. Some people do not know what is going on with them."

The stigma of mental illness could lead to shame, suffering, and silence. Although there are a range of issues related to suicide, untreated mental illness increases the risk for this epidemic. During my interview with Jacqlyn, she revealed that she experienced unexplained suicidal thoughts. Mental health effects the whole person. Fortunately, there are ways to cope and manage.

Jacqlyn and I talked about therapy as a great coping tool. Therapy has many benefits especially when medication is not effective or an option. I highly recommend therapy because it works for me and I believe it can support peers in recovery.

Jacqlyn and I discussed a range of topics related to the stigma of mental illness. Out of the many misconceptions of living with this condition the most disturbing myth is the idea that people living with schizophrenia are demonic. I mentioned my feelings about this myth and my encounters with persons who hold on to this misconception. This myth is a widespread belief that is hurtful and dehumanizing. Jacqlyn and I spoke about other common myths too. 

I am glad Jacqlyn and I had this discussion during National Recovery Month (September). I enjoyed the conversation to spread light on the common misconceptions because self-stigma can manifest hopelessness, suffering, and pain. My forthcoming book, What's On My Mind? Coping Takes Work, Volume II offers a hopeful message through the collection of these blog articles. Coping Takes Work focuses on practical coping tools such as therapy to combat self-stigma and to manage recovery.

Here are some resources that were mentioned in the interview:

Thursday, September 5, 2019

My Anti-Stigma Message: There is Hope

(Champions of Science: The Art of Ending Stigma)

When I was diagnosed there were not a lot of recovery stories on schizophrenia. The only story I could identify with was the movie, Out of the Darkness that features Diana Ross.

Over the years, I have been called demonic on a few occasions due to my diagnosis. This is scary to me because I do not see myself as a threat or evil spirit. I identified more with college students, I dropped out of school as a result of my illness. I was diagnosed at age 20. Now I am a mental health advocate that aims to debunk myths and continue to strive to live well in recovery in spite of widespread stigma.

I am appreciative of Janssen Pharmaceuticals educational non-branded platform that aims to reduce stigma. In 2011, they spearheaded a documentary that shows how recovery is possible for persons living with schizophrenia. This was my first time seeing recovery in a positive light opposed to simply limiting us to the largely characterized symptom of hallucinations and voices. The half hour film is titled: Living with Schizophrenia, A Call for Hope and Recovery (2011). This documentary features three recovery stories including my own story, Josh Bell, and Rebecca Phillips.

In 2018, Janssen Pharmaceuticals led a panel discussion, which was an anti-stigma campaign. This virtual panel discussion featured: Vickie Mabrey (former ABC News Nightline Correspondent), Jeff Sparr (PeaceLove), Dr. Adam Savitz (Janssen), and myself. It is called, Champions of Science: The Art of Ending Stigma. Click here to view the full one-hour panel discussion that took place in November 2018. 

Through this blog I aim to offer hope and awareness. Moreover, I want to be an inspiring peer for others who are also diagnosed with schizophrenia and related conditions. So many of us are suffering in silence and do not have hope due to the stigma that society and others project onto us.

This blog details my journey in recovery with a hopeful attitude. Thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

11 Years of Overcoming Schizophrenia Blog Anniversary

Eleven years ago I started blogging anonymously about my experience with schizophrenia. I was 21 years old and still learning about my diagnosis, which I continue to study today. I am grateful for the feedback of my peers in recovery, caregivers, and our loved ones who engaged in this blog.

Over the years my recovery story gained a lot of opportunities and exposure. I became a mental health advocate, speaker, and trainer. I sought different platforms to share my lived experience. There were several. 

In 2010, I shared my recovery story as a speaker for In Our Own Voice. This program was new to NAMI Georgia, I was among the first class. I thank my instructor, Cathy M. for teaching me how to share my story. This program gave me a glimpse of what was to come. 

My first speaking engagement was on my birthday. I spoke for NAMI Georgia and the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for law enforcement. My presentation focused on my history with mental health, and legal intervention. 

Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia
Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia (2010)
However, my first conference was with Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia. I spoke at their annual conference. Dr. Stephen Ayers was executive director and engaged in my blog early on. I had a great experience, and still keep in contact with Steve. 

Another individual and blogger that supports Overcoming Schizophrenia is Christina Bruni. Christina is an author, journalist, and librarian. She's been a reader of this blog from the beginning. In fact, she wrote the foreword to my book, What's On My Mind? Volume I. Thank you Christina for your ongoing support.

I appreciate working with NAMI Georgia, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training program, and the Respect Institute of Georgia for many years. These organizations value recovery stories and help reduce the stigma of mental illness.

Janssen Pharmaceuticals Documentary,
Living with Schizophrenia:
A Call for Hope and Recovery (2011)
I was trained by the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network (GMHCN), and the Appalachian  Consulting Group as a Certified Peer Specialist (CPS). A CPS is an individual in recovery who models recovery and offers peer support. 

In 2014, I was among the three keynote speakers for the annual conference of GMHCN at St. Simon's Island, Georgia. They supported my first book, What's On My Mind? Volume I, and provided a complimentary copy to each attendee.

Moreover, I appreciate you all for participating on this journey with me. Also, I am thankful for the support of my Embracing My Mind Facebook fans. My hope is that you find inspiration in my story and manage recovery well. Furthermore, society may stigmatize us with fear and stereotypes, however, we do not have to feed into the discouragement and hold self-stigmatizing beliefs. We have come a long way in managing recovery, but we still have work to do in managing the stigma.

I have endured discrimination in housing, employment, and socially from persons I would not have expected. Still, I seek to enjoy life and recovery by striving to accomplish my goals and to share my recovery journey with you. 

Author of What's On My Mind?
Volume I
What's next? I am working on my second book, What's On My Mind? Coping Takes Work, Volume II. This book is a continuation of the first book. It covers a few years of blogging 2014-2019. Coping Takes Work is a collection of blog articles that focuses on how I regained control of my recovery after last year's hospitalization. I share a lot of practical coping strategies to help manage my condition. Still, I concentrate on how recovery is possible. I will self-publish Coping Takes Work within a few weeks. My hope is that you would enjoy this read and continue on this recovery journey. 

Thank you for acknowledging my blog, Overcoming Schizophrenia with me - 11 years and counting.

Much love, 
Ashley Smith

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Catch It. Check It. Change It.

Nobody enjoys the feeling of being on edge, and anxious... Anxious for the reply about the business deal. Anxious for the update on your loved one’s health. Anxious for confirmation of the loan approval, etc. We have all been there.

Recently, I felt anxious. However, my anxiousness could easily manifest into mania, a condition that perpetuates excessive energy. It was subtle at first. I brainstormed a few plans, and focused on different approaches to execute the agenda. I began to minimize my sleep to work on the plan. This load of ideas transitioned into over-thinking and indecisiveness. My anxiety built momentum to the extent that I had to check myself. I started to redirect my focus to develop patience. I did not want to experience mania at its worst, and produce negative outcomes.

I began to be mindful of my sleeping pattern and diet. I was making a conscious effort to maintain better self-care. I reached out to a couple of people without reply. In response to the over-excitement I focused on relaxing my mind. I practiced a lot of coping skills. I walked around my neighborhood to clear my thoughts. I listened to soothing music to ease my mind. I also completed house chores to concentrate on easy tasks, and to stay productive. However, my mind was still racing. Therefore, I tried to rest. Thankfully, my friend called.

Finally, I felt much better. Fortunately, my coping skills worked. I won the battle and my anxiety did not spiral out of control into extreme highs of mania. In other words, I caught it, checked it, and changed it. I learned about “Catch It. Check It. Change It,” in the certified peer specialist (CPS) training a few years ago. A CPS is a peer with a diagnosis who models recovery and offers peer support to encourage others. Now I feel more confident about my ability to fight symptoms by catching the warning signs, and applying my coping techniques.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Parenting With Mental Illness and Crisis

Living in recovery is challenging, however, it is a part of life for many individuals. Mental illness is more common than not. People with mental health conditions also parent. Despite mental health crisis peers can still manage recovery, and family.

I am a lived experience expert on schizophrenia. I persevered through a range of issues related to my diagnosis. I have been in recovery for a few years, and experienced a lot, such as the severe schizophrenia-related symptoms, court-ordered hospitalization, housing discrimination, and projected stereotypes. Still, I work on myself, job, and parenting skills. I am a mother of one. My child is seven years old.

Mental illness is a problematic medical condition, but it can be managed with adequate support, treatment, and coping skills. I engage in therapy and traditional treatment, or medication, to help maintain wellness. I practice a lot of coping skills to manage daily. For example, I walk every day, journal, and listen to music among other coping skills. I also rely on my support network, treatment team, and daily coping tools to get through small trials, and crisis. Last year [2018], I was hospitalized. This was my second hospitalization, which occurred 11 years after my diagnosis. 

This crisis created significant challenges for my family. Fortunately, I have a strong support system. My family made adjustments to help me manage through the crisis. Everybody pitched in to help me maneuver the hospital setting, and system. They temporarily took on parenting responsibilities, and carried out communication demands with certain people with my input.

I am grateful for the hospitalization, and for my family. I was able to focus on recuperating, maintaining a relationship with my son, and keeping my household responsibilities in place through them. For example, my cousin primarily took care of my son while I was away. My relatives and friends supported my cousin throughout this time-frame. While my caregiver stayed in communication with everybody, including my treatment team.

When I returned home I maintained communication, and support. I focused wholeheartedly on recuperating. I participated in intense therapy sessions over the next few weeks with emphasis on stress management, and self-care. In short, I managed resiliency through my support system, and determination to activate all the coping skills I learned in the past. Therefore, I wrote a lot in my journal, and prayed over my stability.

As a result of persevering my hospitalization, and crisis, I was able to avoid another major setback. Earlier this year I took a mini-break, and focused on minimizing stress. I felt overwhelmed, therefore, I communicated needs with my family. We orchestrated a plan to have my child cared for while I regrouped away from home. I stayed in a respite center for almost a week. 

In Georgia, we have peer-led respite centers located throughout the state. It is a community-oriented place to interact with peers in recovery, and focus on wellness. I engaged peers in group activities, and got a lot of rest. When I returned home, I maintained communication, and support to regain balance.

These incidents are ways I managed crisis, and avoided another setback. With my family's support I was able to seek treatment, maintain my mommy role, and keep pressing forward in recovery. Through these experiences I learned how important a support system can be in overcoming crisis. My support system includes my doctor, therapist, family, and friends. Together we kept me well, and I was able to carry out decision making demands, and still uphold a level of independence, and self-sufficiently. 

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Help without Hope

Doctors have the gift of healing. They can perform miracles and restore wellness when they believe in their work. If an individual needed surgery and had access to a surgeon this would be a great act of God. The surgery would treat the individual and restore good health. However, when the surgeon does not believe in the fruit of their works this poses a threat to recovery. Therefore, why would a surgeon perform the task, skill, and responsibility of medicine if they do not believe in their work?

I heard families and peers recall poor experiences with doctors and other healthcare professionals. These poor experiences are common. They may state that my peer can never work again, can never live independently, and cannot do what they used to do. A lot of healthcare professionals do not offer hope for recovery. Instead some healthcare professionals reinforce stigma, and doubt with lack of expectations for life after diagnosis. Some do not say anything at all, and leave us without awareness, direction, nor any sense of hope. Ironically, some healthcare professionals provide mental health treatment without hope for my peer's recovery, and livelihood. Thus, this poor prognosis kills hope for peers, caregivers, and families.

Finally, I aim to reassure you recovery is possible. My recovery is evidence that there is hope. My recovery is evidence that with hope we can overcome, and persevere the highs and lows of symptoms of mental illness. Peers, we can live a productive, and quality life despite mental illness. My experience is the evidence among other recovery stories.

Therefore, whenever a healthcare professional, or anybody, tells you what you can and cannot do with your life remind them that you are an individual, recovery is possible, and that you will strive to meet goals no matter what. Help without hope is a dead work. 

However, these things will last forever: faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13). Hope gives me a fulfilling life. Hope can do the same for you. I urge you to hold on to faith, hope, and love, because recovery is possible. Also, cherish those healthcare professionals who do believe in their work and recovery, because together we can overcome mental illness.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Pro-Choice for Stability

Catatonic. Delusional. Psychotic. These are a few symptoms of schizophrenia, which I suffered, lived in, and endured through medication. 

Catatonic was a place of immobility, distance, and lack of awareness. I experienced catatonia during my first breakdown at age 20. My breakdown led to my incarceration and hospitalization. My catatonic state of mind left me frozen, vulnerable, and lost. While I was catatonic time did not exist. I did not hold concerns related to hygiene, socialization, nor consequence. A jail nurse, Erwin, expressed my condition, in order, to persuade me into taking medication.

Erwin said, “We had to drag you in your chair from the day room back to your cell, because you would not move... We rushed you to the emergency room three times to stick an IV in you, because you stopped eating and drinking... Please stop ignoring me... Would you take your medicine?”

I did not move for hours, and maybe even for days. Doctors and nurses visited regularly. I do not know how long I was catatonic. However, I remember their concern, frustration, and urgency to get me well again. Yet, I was stuck due to schizophrenia at its worst.

Delusions and psychosis went hand-in-hand. I experienced these symptoms simultaneously. I had a breakdown at age 20 and 31. Delusions are false beliefs such believing I was Jesus Christ, or that others spied on me. Psychosis is lack of ability to distinguish reality. For example, I believed I was involved in part of a movie scene, and training scenario, and I could not distinguish reality.

My experience of catatonia, delusions, and psychosis were coupled with mania, which is excessively high energy. I had grandiose beliefs that I was a reality television celebrity and everybody knew who I was. Finally, the most common characteristics of schizophrenia includes the voices and paranoia.

Now imagine a pregnant woman experiencing a breakdown with these symptoms. These symptoms would make anybody vulnerable and at-risk of significantly dangerous situations and consequences.

Fortunately, medication among holistic treatment options counteract the severity of symptoms of schizophrenia at its worst. Treatment helps maintain stability and a quality life. I am on medication because it works for me. I know people who engage in alternative treatment such as diverse types of therapy; cognitive behavioral therapy, dialetical behavioral therapy (DBT), electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), music therapy, art therapy, pet therapy, and several different treatment options.

I rely on traditional treatment, and therapy along with different coping strategies. I am grateful to have access to medication that fits my needs and controls my illness. I have been in recovery for over 12 years. I have a seven-year-old child and manage well. Schizophrenia is a difficult health challenge, however, with a treatment team, information, support, and access to care this illness is manageable.

Now I am 32 years old. I have come a long way. Early on in recovery I did not know enough about my condition. Stigma by society, and even healthcare professionals, hid pertinent information. Recovery is possible. There are medications that are safer for pregnancy. Due to lack of education about my condition and medication options I chose not to have my first child. A lot of medications used to treat symptoms of mental illness can have irreversible developmental effects on the unborn child. Without the input of a specialist nor medication options to treat my condition while pregnant I chose to have an abortion, in order, to avoid miscarriage or potential birth defects.

Although there are treatments that help individuals manage schizophrenia they may not work for everybody. Effective medications aim to treat the illness first. There are several medications that are deadly and may cause miscarriage or detrimental birth defects. Still, medication options vary depending on individual needs.

I am pro-choice because I had the right to choose, and peers should have options too. My doctor and I discussed medication options for my pregnancy. Over the years my medication demanded adjustment. I was fortunate to have a doctor that believes in recovery, and explored medication options with me. I do not believe abortion should be used as birth control. Abortion should be an option to all women especially for peers in recovery that have limited treatment options in that their medication cannot tolerate a safe pregnancy. Schizophrenia is a serious medical condition, and if a woman needs to stay on medication to maintain stability I support her decision. I am pro-choice for the safety, and stability of peers in recovery, and for every woman to have the choice.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Break through the Illness Web: Redefine Recovery

Ashley Smith, NAMI Georgia Member,
Panelist at Emory University,
"Living With A Mental Health Condition Panel" - April 8, 2019
Living with mental illness is not an option, however, recovery is. What is recovery?! In the beginning, I did not understand my diagnosis, nor how recovery looks. In fact, I borrowed a vision of recovery from others. My enthusiastic state hospital doctor in California told me I could return to school, which I did. My mother told me she could see me sharing with others how I made it through with schizophrenia, and I started blogging anonymously, in 2008. 

Moreover, another pivotal influence, which shapes my optimism and outlook on living with schizophrenia was seeing another individual with my diagnosis facilitate a WRAP course. Mary Ellen Copeland’s Wellness Recovery Action Plan, or WRAP, guides peers in recovery on how to manage, plan, and overcome crisis, and relapse. Participating in this person’s class inspired me to become a certified peer specialist (CPS). A CPS is a peer who supports peers in recovery by sharing one's story of resiliency.

To me breaking through the illness web is overcoming poor societal views, redefining recovery, and creating a new perception of self, and recovery. After 12 years of different phases, changes, and experience of life, and recovery, I realize recovery is striving to maintain a good place. In other words, breaking through the illness web is changing perspectives on recovery, and also dis-spelling self-stigma. Over the course of recovery my understanding of it continues to expand. 

My understanding of recovery was 1) to restore, 2) to maintain medication compliance, and 3) to stay out of the hospital, over the course of my experience. These definitions of recovery were phases in my own life with the diagnosis. Although the definition of recovery is to restore, a peer brought to my attention that the goal should not be 'to restore,' instead to improve! While I take medication to help manage my condition it was not effective. I was on medication prior to my breakdown, and hospitalization last year [2018]. Recovery cannot be based on staying out of the hospital. In fact, last year’s hospitalization ignited another phase in my recovery; growth, and a better understanding of my wellness goals. 

Now recovery to me is to keep trying to stay in a good place! However, the true definition of recovery is unique. In fact, my definition of recovery may change, but for the moment it helps me to break through the illness web. 

To learn more about the certified peer specialist (CPS) position visit the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network (GMHCN).

Friday, March 8, 2019

The Role of the Therapist

The therapist upholds much in my relationship with recovery, which is a lifestyle. My therapist helps in diverse ways such as holding me accountable to my treatment plan, routine to maintain wellness, and self-commitments, or personal obligations. My therapist helps me combat self-stigma, encourages balance and routine as well as focus on wellness. In short, my therapist plays a significant role in my treatment team that consists of my psychiatric doctor, nurse, myself, and them, the therapist.

Whenever I have unanswered questions I take concerns to my therapist. My therapist finds resolutions pertaining to unanswered questions with my doctor, and general demands at the mental health center altogether. For example, when I had concerns paying for medication my therapist made a referral to the nurse to manage my needs. Also, my therapist can assist in scheduling appointments with the doctor whenever there is an emergency. Overall, the therapist plays a vital role in helping me stay accountable to treatment, keep distance from self-stigma, and to stay focused on a holistic outlook.

I appreciate sessions with my therapist, because they are resourceful, give straightforward input, and practice consistency. Holding onto negativity is easy. Therefore, being conscious of self-stigma is important to managing recovery. Limiting myself according to lack of awareness, and stereotypes of society weighs me down. I prefer to stay focused on my strengths, which my therapist helps reinforce in therapy, and to not let widespread fears dictate my outlook. I stay above self-stigma by reflecting my accomplishments, relationships with peers, and my faith in God. Moreover, my therapist reminds me of my many options to continue moving forward.

Part of my accountability to fulfilling demands of treatment is to manage a mood journal. My mood journal helps depict causes, and effects, of moods based on daily events, which I rate on a widespread color-based scale. My better days are the result of accomplishing my things to do list. While not-so-good days are typically plagued with unpredictable stress. Fortunately, my therapist and I review my mood journal, and corresponding events to determine triggers and warning signs leading up to my poorer days.

My holistic recipe includes my spirituality, support system, and personal responsibilities. In general, I aim to give God His time by praying, reading scriptures, and listening to uplifting music that focuses on Him. I feel more at peace whenever I worship and mediate regularly. I keep a handful of persons in my circle because they are my confidants, which requires trustworthiness. My personal responsibilities give way to making treatment a priority. My personal obligations are my livelihood; my son, our home, and self-care routine to balance life better. Therapy not only helps me manage my mood but also reinforces my self-commitments to enjoy recovery and life more.

Finally, my therapist holds many roles, which holds me accountable. My therapist gives me assignment to reflect on symptoms and such by recording a mood journal. My therapist reminds me of my strength that way I do not fall victim to self-stigma. Lastly, my therapist encourages holistic approaches that builds my wellness, and recovery based on my support system, spirituality, and routine for my personal livelihood.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Peer-to-Peer Advice

When I was diagnosed with schizophrenia 12 years ago my doctor gave me two pieces of information: (1) take your medication, and (2) manage your stress. Since then I manage my household, part-time job, and family obligations to my child. Still, I underestimated the importance of stress management. I was hospitalized last year due to what seemed like a decade of stressors. These stresses included financial hardship, the anniversary of my mother's passing, and birthday, the breakdown of important relationships to my support system, and lack of awareness of my triggers, and warning signs.

In short, triggers and warning signs are similar but different like a stop sign versus a yield sign on the road. Triggers are events or experiences that create negative consequences either emotionally, physically, socially, and legally. For example, a trigger may be going to a place that reminds one of a poor experience, and thus creates tension, stress, and dread, which leads to irritability and poor communication with others. A warning sign is similar, but it happens before a trigger settles. Warning signs are signs that lets an individual know they are not feeling well and require attention before symptoms and experience worsens. Fortunately, examining experiences helps one determine how to manage these triggers and warning signs better in the future.

I gained more wisdom from my hospital stay. I learned how to maintain a good place. While hospitalized I practiced a few coping strategies in order to stay focused in my place of wellness. Coping skills are essential to recovery. Recovery requires more than medication. Recovery to me is to keep trying. I define recovery to keep trying, because it is the act of striving for a better place of wellness. My coping skills include: therapy, rest, walking, writing, affirmations, trustworthy confidants, prayer, singing, reading faith-based material, motivational talks, uplifting music, and routine. The advice my doctor gave worked well for me. However, based on experience I had to focus more on stress management than anything, which meant awareness of my triggers, warning signs, and practice of my coping skills.

Finally, I encourage peers in recovery, and our supporters, to add a post-crisis management plan to ways to maintain. In other words, if medication works well do it, but focus on stress management or coping skills, and implementing a post-crisis plan. A post-crisis management plan is much like Mary Ellen Copeland's WRAP [Wellness Recovery Action Plan], or a psychiatric advance directive (PAD). They provide instructions on how to facilitate wellness during a crisis such as hospitalization. These Plans share pertinent information including how a peer functions when well, triggered, and how to best support us with preferred treatment, ideal facilities for recuperation, and preferences in how to manage our livelihood such as family, home, and communication with employer. I believe a post-crisis plan is essential to recovery because it acknowledges the many factors involved in recovery and life! Thus, from peer-to-peer I encourage us all to develop a post-crisis plan that way we can maintain recovery, stress management, and practice self-sufficiency by planning ahead.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

10 Ways That Shows Blogger LOVE

I posted this article on February 14, 2017, however, it is helpful to bloggers. Therefore, take notes! Thank you.

What is more important? The message, messenger, or number of readers, and comments?

I may not be the best blogger, but me and my blog, Overcoming Schizophrenia, was recognized and requested by some of the best… Huffington Post, a powerhouse and community-oriented pharmaceutical company, and organizations outside of my state, and country; including countless radio, and public relations’ requests to be on their shows, etc.

When I started my personal blog, Overcoming Schizophrenia (2008), I was scared, anonymous, however very much honest, which was at times uncomfortable for me as the blogger author, and it was overwhelming for some readers.

However, my blog has been mentioned in numerous articles, received a lot of attention from fellow bloggers, and was awarded by many of my blogging friends. I say all this to encourage you to consider my experience, reasons for my M.I.A. (Missing In Action), and maturity, love, and growth with my livelihood and online reflections in my blog.

This is for You Blogger Newbies, a few gifts to indulge, glance at, practice, or just click-n-go to another interesting blog, and article on your screen… and to my fellow bloggers those I know, and/or will get to know, please add more gifts to our “Love Day” dedication to our new blogging peers. This list should offer many don'ts, and why they are don'ts, but also increase readership, respect, and comments!!!
  1. Keep it real
  2. Never apologize
  3. Invite feedback
  4.  Be mindful of focus
  5. Go with the flow
  6. Always engage in self-care
  7. No rambling allowed
  8. Be sensitive to causes
  9.  Stay in your lane
  10. Respect privacy

Keep It Real
From Day One, I was honest and still am. Readers expect that from me… However, keep it safe and within your own style, approach, and delivery, and comfort.

Never Apologize
In the past, I’ve apologized to readers for not blogging. I stopped doing that for me. I blog because I love to write and reflect and to connect with others not because I am obligated. Finally, my reasons for not apologizing anymore is because I have legitimate personal reasons and excuses I choose not to disclose in detail with the world.

Invite Feedback
I engage readers with a question… it’s like text messaging, if you don’t ask a question you may only get a read or maybe “ok.” Therefore, ask for feedback relative to topic.  

Be Mindful of Focus
I’ve had the wonderfully talented Sade music artist singing on my blog to a few of her greatest hits; reality check, not everybody wants to hear my music while reading my blog about my diagnosis at that time. Maybe they prefer a different tune such as rock music. Maybe readers want to read and not be distracted by sounds not of their choice… I’m just saying.

Flashing colors and banners can be another distraction. Finally, too many advertisements distracts me personally, so why would I want to dump too many advertisements on readers?

Go With The Flow
Scheduling. I write whenever led. Fellow bloggers may keep a routine, which works for them. However, I don’t want to set myself up for failure, therefore I don’t tell readers I will post every week on a certain day or time of month. Yet, that may be appropriate for paid bloggers…

Always Engage In Self-care
My wellness is more important than anything, any appearance, blog and message, numbers, etc.

No Rambling Allowed
This is a blog, not a lecture, speech, or face-to-face conversation. Keep it direct, juicy, full of substance, and quality…

Be Sensitive To Causes
One time I posted a picture of fighting chickens, because I liked the shades of color and imagery. However, I quickly deleted that post because I was unknowingly offending a lot of people who love and respect animals, including online sites that I wanted to collaborate with, and to exchange links. Thus, be sensitive to groups because you never know when you want to work with others, and to never offend that collaborating partnership.

Stay In Your Lane
I live in the south, “The Bible Belt.” A lot of things I should not say, and do not say while speaking to people in public in our southern communities. However, I may disclose in upcoming books, for your information. However, for blogging you may want to channel, refrain, and touchup a few things. For example, cursing, religious direction, politics, and other controversy. I am not saying don’t be yourself, however, present in a way that is mindful unless you just don’t give a ____ (you know the rest)!

Respect Privacy
In the beginning I occasionally gave a shout out to frequent commentators; in agreement, acknowledging, etc. Despite the love, I later realized I put undue pressure on them. Therefore, appreciate frequent commentators, but don’t put them on the spot!

Depending on the blog topic, you may want to hide the “following” section that links back to readers profile pages. I removed the following section because I wanted to further respect my readers by not putting their readership picks on blast and understanding that my blog can be taboo for a lot of families and individuals, and I don’t have any regrets about leaving it off.

By the way, never forget that you are the boss; any advertisements, colors, pictures, etc. is a part of your signature and style, don't let my list override you!-just consider it. Lastly, do add to the list. Do state your reasoning for disagreement. And do share your blog!!!

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...