Friday, March 13, 2020

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?

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

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- you are not your mental illness. You are uniquely made. Different from a lot, and blessed like many. You are strong through this struggle. I encourage you to continue to cope as best as YOU can.

WE got this, one step at a time, one push through the weather, another attempt at daily hygiene, medication, leaving the house, getting out of bed, and accepting support from others even though they truly do not understand this battle. Yes, we can. Yes, we will- try again, and again to live through mental illness, life, and everything negative that others and situations put in front of us.
Like the gossip, I will keep moving forward. Like the rejection, I will smile. Like the misunderstanding, I will stand firm. Like the loss, I will live for them. Like the hospitalization, I will continue to keep trying because I must try for me and for me first. I am a priority. I am loved by my God/Goddess. I am uniquely made and powerful. I will get through these trials. I did before. I will again.

Have a GOOD day. We got this!

Friday, March 6, 2020

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 peer's family does not know she is in the hospital and the couple will not disclose her hospitalizations. Just a few weeks ago a man purchased a copy of my book, Coping Takes Work. Prior to purchasing the book we talked about PTSD and other conditions. I learned that his ex-girlfriend had a mental illness, he admits it was challenging to be in the relationship with her. He did not understand, but wanted to and brought my book.

For me I've heard many discouraging statements from ex-boyfriends such as I would have chose you if you did not have a mental illness. The first question after disclosure is "are you violent?" and other harsh things. This lets me know they are not for me because they do not understand my condition due to stigma. However, it seems better if they aim to understand mental health concerns and keep an open mind.

I cope with the reality that potential partners will not understand my condition by reminding myself of past healthier relationships, but moreso focusing on myself. I accept my mental health condition. It is challenging, but I hold on to hope for better days and relationships.

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 depression creeps in or when an individual sees signs that they are going downhill it is crucial to take action to reduce its impact and severity. Some of my warning signs include but are not limited to having an overfilled trashcan and getting behind on household chores, experiencing drained energy where I do not have enough to cook a meal, and wanting to isolate.

Part of my self-care regimen includes: walking, journaling, and listening to positive messages on YouTube. When I begin to feel off-balance and down I aim to cling to my routine. However, I rejuvenate myself through longer than usual naps. Generally, I take an hour nap, but when I feel that I am struggling I will make time for longer naps and take them more frequently in order to keep up with demands such as caring for my son. In other words, I take longer naps while my son is in school and a shorter nap after he gets home to spend time with him and to do homework.

Still, taking naps and sticking to my routine does not solve all issues. I stock up on frozen dinners, I try to keep the main living areas of the house in okay shape, and encourage myself to keep trying to get through the days. When my walks get cut short and there is not a lot of sun I rely on listening to nature sounds on YouTube at home to feel at ease and connected to nature.

A final resolution for me is to adjust my medication with my doctor and to share concerns with my therapist in order to create more coping strategies. Depression is an invisible beast that places stress on everybody involved. Resting, walking, journaling, and communicating with my treatment team is essential to minimize the severity of depression. Yet, sometimes depression cannot subside.

I value my support system; family, friends, and treatment team for supporting me. My family and friends help me with my son by babysitting him on the weekends. This gives me an opportunity to regroup while my son has quality time outside of the house with others. My treatment team listens to my concerns and helps me create solutions.

I have tried a few antidepressants and mood stabilizers. I understand that due to my bipolar condition and having schizoaffective disorder that doctors must be careful creating my medication regimen, because mixing certain medicines can worsen my illness and trigger other symptoms.

In short, when depression creeps in I encourage us to take naps to produce more energy, try to stick to our routine, get support from others, and reduce the stress of household demands. Also, visit your doctor and therapist more frequently until there is a handle on the depression. Lastly, we are more than our illness, poor moments will pass. Try to focus on a range of coping skills and never give up.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

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 prayers and affirmations, also self-reflection questions.

This world is plagued with negativity. However, lets continue to choose the God/Goddess of our understanding and enjoy the fruits of positive energy and self-empowerment. Therefore, purchase my book, In Love with My Spirit-Again! Journal, today for yourself and another. I wish you well on rediscovering yourself through this 30-day challenge. All the best, Ashley Smith

Click here for the link to Amazon.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

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.

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...