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

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