Sunday, November 22, 2020

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 triumphs in managing schizophrenia. I encourage  you to purchase this book today and to share it with your children, school, and community.” 

-Ashley Smith, Author, Blogger, and Mental Health Advocate

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

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!

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

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 the most. Some healthcare workers and law enforcement are compassionate, love their jobs, and do care. The state hospital doctor who diagnosed me, jail nurses and social worker, the officers, therapists, doctors, my family, and several individuals who I am fortunate to know. I wish I could remind them of how much their diligence makes a difference, and how they personally impacted my outlook on recovery. They instilled hope for me to be hopeful about recovery, and still empowers to this day.

    My therapist of a few years challenged me to focus on how to manage. She helped me identify strengths and equipped me with information to access certified peer specialist (CPS) training. Over the years a few therapist offered a lot of coping skills to overcome daily stressors and symptoms.

    Reflecting on my last experience with law enforcement. I'll never forget the compassion I saw in the officer's eyes, the one who drove me to the hospital. The officer at the intake department who stopped to listen to me ramble about how great God is. I am grateful how my state trains law enforcement to work with people like me who may experience crisis. I am fortunate to tell them my recovery at the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training in the past.

    When I did not respond to the calls and text messages as usual my friend visited my home to learn what was going on with me. How my family took lead in caring for my son while I was hospitalized. Or when they advised me to go to the hospital. In the beginning, when I was first hospitalized at age 20 my mother told me I would share with others about how I made it through. I didn't know what that could look like. I'm glad my sister explained to me what a blog is, funny I struggled to be consistent at employment and had several jobs, but I maintained my volunteer work with NAMI Georgia for ten years and blog since 2008. I am thankful for my experience, but most of all my hope.

    Finally, I want to offer some suggestions for supporting me and my peers. Let us know the signs that you see when we are struggling and have a conversation before it turns into crisis, and becomes a demand without explanation. Be honest and direct when you think hospitalization is necessary. Continue to learn more about our individual needs and take care of yourself so that you can support us better. Trust is an important part of relationships as you know, don't lose it. Lastly, recovery looks different for everybody, don't assume and compare us. Just be supportive.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

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. Learn the subtle changes in routine, mood, and outlook, which indicates the beginnings of a downward spiral. For me that is poor sleeping habits, being easily irritable, not keeping my home tidy, and being bogged down by various stressors. Now when I identify the early warning signs I invest more time into my self-care regimen. My self-care is about finding peace of mind through praise and worship, writing, reciting affirmations, and walking.

    Occasionally, I maintain a mood journal to track mood swings to recognize concerns with mania and depression. I acknowledge great days, okay days, bad days, as well as my triggers. I record daily events and monitor them by keeping a color-coded scale for different moods. Pink represents great days, green—okay days, and yellow, orange, or red are for my bad days which worsens into the color red. To sum up these coping tips—keep a routine, rotate coping techniques, and stay on top of triggers and warning signs.

    Finally, I would advise my newly diagnosed self to get into therapy. Over the years, I learned how a therapist can help individuals rediscover their unique strengths and teach different coping skills. However, I can't go back in time to share these tips so I'm sharing them with you. To overcome the challenges of living with a diagnosis focus on yourself, manage the best way you know how, and never stop trying to find your good place in recovery whatever that looks like.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

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.

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...