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Showing posts from 2020

Race & Mental Illness With Ashley Smith Interview - Living Well With Schizophrenia

This is the third and last interview I had with Lauren from Living Well With Schizophrenia. I appreciate Lauren for shedding light on theses issues. Also, I encourage you to subscribe to her YouTube channel. Thank you so much, Lauren. Enjoy everybody.

Who's Jerry? by T.M. Jackson - Book Review

     “ Who's Jerry? by T.M. Jackson is a profound children's book on how families persevere through challenges when a parent lives with schizophrenia. It is an excellent children's book that is filled with love, resources, and empathy for families affected by this health challenge. I highly recommend this book for individuals to use as a tool to educate children about schizophrenia.       As an advocate for individuals like myself who lives with schizophrenia I appreciate the message. This book is special to me as a mother who is in recovery. When I read the nature of Jackson's request for a book review I immediately jumped on the opportunity to support her. Schizophrenia is a widely misunderstood medical condition that even adults have difficulty comprehending let alone explaining to youth. Therefore, Jackson's calling to articulate this specific health challenge in a children's book is significant. Jackson beautifully illustrates the bond, confusion, and trium

Peer Support & Coping Skills Interview with Lauren from Living Well With Schizophrenia

  The "Peer Support & Coping Skills," video is 2 of 3 interviews by Lauren from Living Well With Schizophrenia. In this video we explore what a certified peer specialist (CPS) does and how peer support helps.  I encourage you to learn more about the CPS position to train to become a CPS or to meet an individual who can support your recovery. If you haven't already I want you to view Lauren's YouTube channel, Living Well With Schizophrenia and to subscribe. Lauren is a peer in recovery and she provides information on what it's like to live with mental health and how to manage.  Thank you Lauren for this opportunity to share my experience and to help the cause that is to promote awareness about mental health recovery, and to assist others on their journey to empower themselves through the lived experience.  Do share this video. Enjoy!

Just Be Supportive

     When I was trapped in my mind's chaos I did not recognize the signals to seek heightened professional treatment. The signals were people's strange facial expressions as they stared at me, my family's determination to see me voluntarily hospitalized, my poor appetite and sleeping routine, and my aimless desires, which consistently shifted and even confused me. I said things that sounded bizarre, but I could not challenge them because my focus sporadically changed to the next thing before I gave it consideration.      I have a good memory and could recall difficult moments. Those times when I was ignored, dismissed, and overlooked. I remember those close to me who I thought would be some of my greatest advocates, but disappointed me. I choose to focus on the solution and not my sad incidents with people. More importantly, I know the individuals who took the time to investigate my situation, and tried to help.      I choose to focus on the individuals who encouraged me th

Dear Peer

 Dear Peer,      If I could send younger self a message when I was diagnosed I would tell myself to focus on two things: 1) stress management, and 2) self-encouragement. I would emphasize the importance of focusing on oneself, and not on others' perceptions of me due to the diagnosis. I would tell myself that most people will not understand, but that's not my problem. I would aim to reprogram the focus onto developing coping skills, an enriching self-care routine, building a stronger support system, and broadening my understanding of recovery, which is unique. I define recovery for myself as trying to stay in good space.       I would teach my younger self a few quick coping strategies such as how to manage anxiety, overcome depression, and identify a manic episode. Therefore, to relieve feelings of anxiousness manage house chores to get my mind off stresses and worries. To reduce the likelihood of experiencing my low places of depression - grasp the warning signs early on. Lea

Parenting & Schizophrenia Interview with Lauren - Living Well With Schizophrenia

In my interview with Lauren from Living Well With Schizophrenia we discuss some of the challenges of parenting while living with a diagnosis such as schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder. As a mental health advocate I aim to continue to empower you with information to change perspectives that is to fight the stigma of mental illness, and to connect.  In short, Lauren and I talk about my experience in recovery and how I manage symptoms and crisis as a mother... This is the first of a few interviews that we did.  To learn more about Lauren's advocacy and recovery story subscribe to her YouTube channel, and visit her website, Living Well With Schizophrenia: Thank you Lauren and Rob for the opportunity to provide insight into this much needed discussion for hope and awareness. For our viewers- thank you.

Experience is Key

Since 2007, I learned how to regroup, develop coping strategies, and to hold on to hope. Still, I am studying myself and ways to manage. Living with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder takes work, and it is also rewarding.   In the past, I loss myself to catatonia, delusions, psychosis, paranoia, anxiety, fear, and hallucinations. I am grateful for access to treatment, support, and mentors in recovery. I've  seen the end of the world's spiritual war in my head. I've anxiously ran away from the people following me. I lost my sense of reality, rationality, and ability to problem-solve. My faith kept me grounded but also led me astray on the road to mental confusion. Prior to my diagnosis I rationalized my hallucinations and delusions through my faith. I heard the voices in my head talking about you and me. I saw the shadows and spirits from the corner of my eye. I read their minds as they read mine. I experienced the many symptoms of schizophrenia, and rediscovered myself, dev

Hope Combats Self-Stigma

    In addition to the symptoms of this thought disorder, stigma is a great challenge, especially self-stigma. I believe it is among the top barriers to wellness. When I was diagnosed with schizophrenia it seemed that my identity crumbled. I used to cling to my college student role. My symptoms took away my motivation to study, speak, and do activities which usually gave me joy and a healthy outlet. When I dropped out of school I felt like I was less than. In the beginning, I did not know what my recovery could look like, I thought I would not be able to live a fulfilling life.       However, I was fortunate to have a lot of support and hope despite my health challenges. My doctor, mother, and treatment team gave me hope. When I was diagnosed my social worker, Elaine, referred me to a housing program and clubhouse which was empowering, because I was surrounded by peers with similar diagnoses. The program engaged us through recovery-oriented meetings, fun group activities, such as outin

Reset, Restore, and Refresh Yourself to Better Health

I had a relapse and hospitalization a couple of years ago. It felt like I would never get home soon. The days were long and repetitive with hospital staff, peers, and the same boring, enclosed areas within the white walls.  It was hard being away from my son, but I went to another place by singing praises to my higher power and also to him in spirit. When I got home I cherished our bond harder by taking lots of pictures of us. Accordingly, I learned how to reset myself and replenish needs to conquer the illness.  I did this by returning to the basics of self-care. That is to focus on getting adequate rest, practicing better eating habits, and managing stress, which required a lot of self-care. I attended intensive therapy sessions. We discussed a range of stress management techniques that would work well for me. I created a psychiatric advance directive and crisis plan. I performed light exercise by walking my neighborhood. I exercised my mind by completing word searches. I listened to

Lost but Not Forgotten

Have you ever been lost? Have an outdated GPS? Lost your keys? Or, simply lost yourself in a relationship? I have too, but more than that I lost myself. I lost my sense of direction. I lost time. I lost my ability to function. I lost my capacity to decipher reality. I lost Ashley. In the beginning, back in June 2007 my family filed a missing person’s report with the police. My mother thought the worst when the detective called. Nobody knew what happened. Finally, the detectives discovered my whereabouts. I was jailed. I was 20 years old with no criminal history, but that changed when I experienced a breakdown. A few months prior to my breakdown I was a junior at a private liberal arts university. I made the Dean’s List my freshman year. Thereafter, my academic excellence gradually declined. I was a student mentor, cross country team runner for three years, a youth assistant coach for home-schooled children, and also a youth church teacher for the AWANA (Approved Workmen Are


This is difficult to write about. Because I’ve been there… Yesterday, I ran a few errands. After I stopped in the middle of the road for a pedestrian to cross the street I saw a couple of police cars stop ahead of me. Nothing seemed out the norm in spite of the blue lights. And then I turned the corner at the traffic light. As I turned I saw a naked woman sitting on the stones off the side walk. She looked familiar. She had done this before about a month ago, because I frequent the area and saw her before. Now I know why the police were there.  Immediately, a wide range of emotions overwhelmed me—for the woman, the bystanders, but also for myself, because I’ve been there. When I was not present, time did not exist, nor did the understanding of consequences for my actions. I was simply just there. Others say I stared off into the distance for what seemed like hours or laid in bed for days. I did not know my mind was deteriorating, my understanding was fading, and my reality

In Honor of World Schizophrenia Day

World Schizophrenia Day, May 24, 2020 There is a universal unspoken code that negates the truth about schizophrenia, it is stigma. Stigma comes in a wide range of negative beliefs that uphold myths as facts. As an individual living with schizophrenia I experienced stigma first-hand.  It was hurtful and unfair. I have been labelled "demonic." One of the most common questions I get from men I date when I decide to disclose is "are you violent?"  Stigma translates into fear, discrimination, negative labels, and ignorant beliefs. Countless persons do not understand what schizophrenia is and do not know what recovery can look like and thus, continue to place me and my peers into a box with limitations. Stigma is perpetuated by different groups especially some religious people, world wide influential platforms such as Hollywood, and a magnitude of people all over the world.  There are several myths about schizophrenia, here are the most common: Myth #1: S

How to Restore Your Motivation and Manage Depression

Regaining motivation is tough but it is possible. Resiliency is an inherent gift. In spite of setbacks we learn how to manage. However, some of us unconsciously turn to quick coping strategies that may spiral out of control and lead to an unhealthy lifestyle. These quick fixes may include but are not limited to smoking, substance abuse, overeating, abuse of prescription drugs, and dysfunctional relationships. Ultimately these habits may lead or worsen depression and our mental makeup.  My depression looks like extreme exhaustion, lack of motivation, oversleeping, poor eating habits, irritability, isolation, anxiety, no excitement, and minimal fluctuation in mood. This is not me. Depression may also include: poor hygiene, suicidal thoughts, recurring hospitalizations, and suicide attempts. Depression looks different for everybody. However, the common denominator is feeling low, unlike ourselves, and suffering in a mediocre state of mind and lifestyle. If any of these feelings de

The Best Investment

The best thing about this recovery journey is the process of developing self-awareness and enriching self-care habits. I agree, the greatest investment is in yourself. I think we leave the door open to conflicting ideas about self-care by watching television and other people. To me self-care looks like pampering myself, creating time to reflect, and doing things that I enjoy. However, this was not always my outlook.  I engage in self-awareness by acknowledging my needs, concerns, and feelings. I am grateful for devoting time to praise and worship. My spirituality soothes me, but also energizes me to keep tying to have a good day.  One of the most profound coping skills that I engage in is writing. My journal is my comfort blanket in a way. I write letters to my higher power, myself, and sometimes to my mother. Writing clears my mind. Are you engaging your needs and feelings? Do you give yourself enough self-care to reap the benefits of a better state of being?

We Got This

I have been declared insane by society. I have been feared. I have been labelled. I have been disappointed by many because of rejection. I lost my mind, twice due to psychosis, but I came back stronger than before. We are not to blame for this illness, nor the stigma that society places on us. I am whole. I am worthy. I am strong. I am better today because of who I am and what I've been through. I have a mental illness, but it does not have me. I will continue to try to overcome. I will continue to aim to cope daily. I will continue to fight in my spirit, in my walk and self-care routine, because I must, in order, to live . I commend my peers for striving to overcome the fight. The fight against self-stigma. The war within our minds, and the struggles we aim to endure daily. I stand with you not simply in symptoms nor words, but through this fight called life, stigma, and mental illness- the label, the confusion, the pain that we must preserve through every day. Remember this

Stigma- The Threat Against Romantic Relationships

"You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anyone." - Maya Angelou As I scrolling through one of the private groups on social media a woman shared that she was engaged. She noted how this was important, because she had given up on relationships due to her mental illness. As an advocate for mental wellness it is particularly challenging for me to date, because most cannot handle the label- my mental health status. I have battled this at times, but in the end I keep advocating, and accepting myself and mission to fight stigma. Living with mental illness is challenging because it is an invisible condition. Therefore, people have stated that I do not look like I have a mental illness, or that I have been delivered and do not need medication. These statements are supposed to be compliments, but they reinforce the reality, which is stigma still persists. When I was hospitalized I knew a peer who had one visitor- her husband. He later told my mother that my pee

When Depression Creeps In...

Although depression looks different for everybody there are a few characteristics that remain the same:  exhaustion, depleted energy, poor hygiene, isolation, and limited emotional responses to otherwise uplifting events. For me, exhaustion plays a significant role in having depression. Simple tasks seem like a chore. My body feels like it cannot build enough stamina to do what I want and need to do. I’ve experienced poor hygiene in the past when I was in crisis mode. Like many individuals, when I am not well I shy away from conversation and people. When I should be excited or happy, I am not. There are varying reasons why people get depressed: loss of a job, grieving, bankruptcy, finances, separation in a serious relationship, genetic predisposition, disappointments and loss, poor weather, etc. Whatever the reason for depression we need to identify signs and continue to try to overcome it before it consumes us. Focus on building your coping skills. Therefore, when depressi

New Book Release: In Love with My Spirit- Again! Journal

In Love with My Spirit- Again! Journal: Prayers, Affirmations, and Questions to Empower You My new book, In Love with My Spirit- Again! Journal: Prayers, Affirmations, and Questions to Empower You, is available in paperback on Amazon. This is a 30-day journal that includes short prayers, affirmations, and self-reflection questions that is divided into two parts. The purpose of this journal is to empower you through spirituality in order to facilitate self-awareness. It is important to note that I am spiritual and respect different ways of acknowledging and identifying with a higher power. As you know, I overcame significant mental health challenges. My spirituality, therapy, and support system paved the way to developing my ability to master resiliency. However, this journal is for everybody who believes in a higher power. Therefore, I encourage you to purchase a copy of my book for yourself and others to further connect with your God/Goddess by building on these short pr

Upcoming Webinar: Mental Health Matters

Upcoming webinar this week! Register ASAP and ask questions. Make sure you capitalize the M's in the web address and sign up... This will be an amazing discussion on mental health.

Changing the Cycle Foundation Presents the 7th Annual Removing the Mask Event

Upcoming Event where Ashley Smith will present her story and book. Atlanta, Georgia area. $35 Tickets, lunch and refreshments included. Go to the website below, click on "Donate" and include your name and Ashley Smith's name in the comments section for the special rate. To register visit:

Minimize Stress and Maximize Health

When my eight-year old son said I looked tired and stressed I knew I had to work harder on my health plan. His little voice was on replay in my ear. Generally, he does not talk to me in this manner, but he was concerned and also suggested I take a nap. I understood the subtle attack on my health which my stress created. I had to act quick to prevent crisis and redirect my focus on strengthening my wellness routine.  Therefore, I went on overtime to manage my stress and reverted back to those coping strategies that helped in the past. This meant disciplining my mind to engage in more reading, concentrate on completing word search puzzles, walking around my neighborhood more than once a day, and repeating affirmations, and listening to motivational speakers for more positive messages in order to uphold healthy and productive thoughts. Whenever I cannot sleep I force myself to get out of bed and to carryout activities that will help relax my mind. I read self-development books

Excerpt from Coping Takes Work: When God Brought Me Back...

Here is a glimpse of the thoughts going through my mind as my God was bringing me back to reality and recovery. This is an excerpt from my book, Coping Takes Work:  “My body stated trembling, and I started crying profusely. I was frightened, but suddenly reconnected. Reality hit me. My mind was warring with itself, and I was the victim - but also the instigator! As I became unstuck, I had an epiphany. God told me what everybody else already knew. My illness was at its worst, and my thinking was off-balance. My thoughts were spiraling out of control, adding to the turmoil. I was detrimentally unstable. I could not control my crisis, myself, nor my life at this point. I was losing myself, but I was the last to recognize the dominant indications of my poor state of mind" ("Introduction"). To read more purchase a copy on Amazon today.

Excerpt from Coping Takes Work

Author of Coping Takes Work "It seemed as if everybody was obsessed with me and everywhere, I went, somebody was watching. Every comment I made somebody was listening. Every step I took somebody was monitoring" (excerpt from Coping Takes Work, "Introduction" by Ashley Smith). I was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 20. Common symptoms of my condition include: severe suspicion and paranoia, seeing and hearing things that others do not, false beliefs, anxiety, and loss of reality, etc. Fortunately, my mental illness is manageable. I am a single-parent and still enjoy life despite living with mental health challenges. Support my mission to offer mental health awareness and purchase a copy of my book, Coping Takes Work from Amazon, click here.

His Legacy: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was our light in spite the nation’s dark existence. Dr. King fought for several human rights campaigns, and stirred American society to consciousness. He led the civil rights movement against the systematic oppression that the notorious Jim Crow culture and laws executed.  He was more than a minister, human rights activist, father, husband, and brother in the struggle, and in the spirit. Dr. King became a legend because he fought for what was right; equality for all. I appreciate this holiday in his honor.

Choose Hope

In the past, somebody criticized me for being too positive on my blog. The truth is I write blog posts when I am in a good place. I have highs and lows just like everybody else. I choose to practice optimism and to envision a hopeful outcome. Applying a hopeful attitude is intentional. I work very hard to stay hopeful. As you know, this condition is life-long and can be saddening when compared to other conditions.  Recently, I reflected on the idea of not having this medical challenge. If I did not have schizophrenia I would be able to work full-time. If I did not have schizophrenia I would not have to endure question and answer sessions about my health when I get involved in a romantic relationship. If I did not have schizophrenia I would enjoy life more... Fortunately, I cut myself off this downward spiral. I reminded myself that everybody has challenges; they may not be severe such as a mental illness, but yet, and still severe. I am grateful for this life journey; challe