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3 Tips to Empower You and Your Loved One, Part II

  Two weeks ago, I started this conversation. I provided three tips to strengthen and empower you and your loved one: 1) Give options and practice shared decision-making, 2) Focus on strengths, and 3) Keep the trust. Although brain disorders may persist there are early warning signs prior to an episode and crisis. Be mindful of these triggers and warning signs that way you can reduce the likelihood of hospitalization by seeing help early on.     Now, I’ll provide three ways to keep from getting to crisis mode and prolong the process of a breakdown. My three tips: 1. Don’t overlook the early warning signs. 2. Don’t avoid the conversation, strive to address symptoms and concerns. 3. Don’t jeopardize the trust.      First, early warning signs may be subtle. Here are a few early warning signs that your loved one may exhibit, but are not limited to the following: poor sleeping patterns, severe mood swings or irritability, poor hygiene, isolating, and hyper-religious behavior. These ar

3 Tips to Empower You and Your Loved One

How can I help my loved one? How can I support their recovery? These are common questions I get from caregivers and supporters of people living with a diagnosis. I will identify three general tips to solidify your goals to empower your loved one. Before asking how can I help my loved one, consider this: are they ready to move forward in recovery right now? Is this what they want, or what I want? Recovery demands ownership of the process. Here are some dos for supporting your loved:  1) Give options and practice shared decision-making,  2) Focus on strengths, and  3) Keep the trust.  First, nobody likes being told what to do. Therefore, practice shared decision-making. Empower your loved one with options. For example, instead of saying you’re going to this program or that personal care home, discuss the choices. I understand how this could work, first-hand. Eventually, I didn’t want to stay with family, I wanted to live on my own. My mother didn’t want me to leave, but she consciously a

Let's Talk Project - Interview Series (Recommendations for People Experiencing Mental Health Challenges)

[This talk: "Recommendations for People Experiencing Mental Health Challenges: Ashley Smith: Let's Talk - The Let's Talk Project is funded by a grant from the Association for Psychological Science Fund for Teaching and Public Understanding of Psychological Science.] This talk emphasizes the fact that recovery will look different for everybody, and it will be a fight. I encourage people with similar diagnoses to consider my three recommendations: Consider therapy, Strengthen your support system, and Manage your self-care "I'm not immune to setbacks and to breakdowns, but I am confident that I'm going to give it my all to come back stronger and better after every breakdown, because I've been through some rough moments and I probably have some ahead of me...."

Upside Down

I made an error. My mind jumps on the merry-go-round. I think of everything, but potential solutions to fix it. I froze and a wave of negative thoughts about my mistake penetrated my entire body and energy. Shoulders stay high, my chest is tight, I maintain an unsteady breathing rate which broadcasts my internal chaos from the tone of my voice, alone. I sound like the blaring uneasiness of severe stress, worry, anxiety, discomfort, and dread.  I regain a moment of control and focus on fixing the issue. However, my stress level continues to rise as I meditate on the problem, and the perception I might have portrayed. Frantically, I make a call, send messages, and continue the vicious cycle in my mind.  Anxiety. I feel upside down whenever I go deeper in the dark forest of stress and worry. How can I manage to end the storm within? I put on the sounds of waves, but no relief comes of this because I cannot concentrate. I can’t meditate when my mind jumps like this. I research ways to cope

World Schizophrenia Day 2022: Remember, Me. Poem by Ashley Smith

World Schizophrenia Day is important because it validates the importance of spreading awareness about people living with schizophrenia. Still, the truth is schizophrenia is NOT a personality disorder. Schizophrenia is a thought disorder that can make it difficult to speak, think clearly, and problem solve. It is made up of a wide range of symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and psychosis. Unlike other illnesses, people living with schizophrenia have more challenges to treatment and recovery. The stigma alone, discourages countless people from getting diagnosed, and perpetuates the suffering in silence.  World Schizophrenia Day is a powerful opportunity to promote the truth that recovery is possible.  In the updated blog book, What’s on My Mind? Volume I, Revised Edition, I wrote a poem, “Remember, Me.” It captures the human perspective on living with schizophrenia. Simply put, we are human, too. Remember, Me. by Ashley Smith Will you remember me when I am not myself? Will you

Breaking through Seasons of Depression

After changing my employer, getting a puppy, going into autopilot with an extensive self-care routine, increasing therapy sessions, and adjusting medications with my doctor; I am feeling a little better. Life is challenging, however, managing symptoms like depression is even more stressful. Depression made the heaviness of my low energy and fatigue dreadfully disappointing season after season. It tried to kidnap my creativity, daily routines like cooking and cleaning, joy of spending more time with family, and my ability to be me. Fighting symptoms requires a lot of attention. It’s another job that you only advance in when you work overtime for a longer period. Now, I am finally starting to experience the hard work that my health team, support system, and me have done to continue to press forward. Prior to my diagnosis, I avoided medications for general use such as headaches and allergies. However, with the stigma of the diagnosis, I’ve tried to manage with minimal doses earlier in m

You Matter! Podcast Interview

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. I had the pleasure of being interviewed on the You Matter! Podcast by host Karen Ortman, Associate Vice President, Campus Safety Operations NYU-NY. This interview explores common myths, symptoms, and ways to cope with schizophrenia and related conditions. The show looks at my recovery journey and focuses on the early warning signs, challenges of being looked at differently, and how I stay motivated to work on my recovery. Click here to listen. I appreciate Karen for bringing awareness to schizophrenia because it is not given enough attention compared to other health issues. On the show we talk about my parenting concerns, alternative treatment options, and identify my new book. My book, What’s on My Mind? Volume I, Revised Edition (2022), is the updated version of my first blog book. It has a new introduction, final chapter, and added sections at the end of the book. It is available on my author page on Amazon . The You Matter! Podcast wa

Burning at a Low Flame

Have you ever tried to avoid an auto accident, but no matter how hard you tried you couldn’t stop the crash? Suffering with this season’s depression is like dodging a car only to accidentally hit another on the road. For over six months I’ve tried to manage depression by using my coping tools. Initially, my depression stemmed from a toxic workplace. Yet, due to the nature of my condition this stress aggressively activated low mood that progressed and continues to penetrate my mood even after removing myself from that environment. Stress worsens any medical condition which is no different for people living with mental illness. Medication helps lessen the symptoms, however, living with a brain disorder of any kind is challenging and requires more than pills. Even stress can penetrate the most effective treatment that generally controls the most severe symptoms.  Initially I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, but over the years it’s evolved into schizoaffective disorder, bipolar t