In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle – injury, illness or other hardship – they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn’t know they possessed. This week Ashley Smith shares the shock and struggle of learning she had schizophrenia.
In the summer of 2007, my life changed drastically when I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at the age of 20.
I was made aware of my illness when I stole a military truck from an airport and went on a high-speed chase with the police. I was jailed and later hospitalized for that crime.
I am now on my journey to recovery with the support of family, treatment team, peers and my faith. I share my recovery story as often as I can because I want to help reduce stigma, change perceptions, and encourage an open conversation about mental illness.
My hope is that that the public will have a better understanding of schizophrenia, be supportive of people living with it, be open to discuss one’s need for treatment, and help them seek treatment. Support and treatment are the keys to successfully managing schizophrenia and there are resources available to help consumers, caregivers, family, co-workers and friends understand it and that recovery is very possible.
I encourage people to visit www.choicesinreovery.com to get that information. You can also view the documentary, “Living With Schizophrenia: A Call For Hope and Recovery,” which is about three people, including myself, who are living successful and productive lives.
Two additional things about schizophrenia that I want to share is that there is no face to schizophrenia; and that the myths that people with schizophrenia are violent, have split personalities and that it is caused by poor parenting are not true. As you can see from my story, I do not fit the stereotype of how people characterize the condition and the people who have it.
I did not know what schizophrenia was prior to being diagnosed. I did not know that I had a history of mental health in my family, and I did not recognize that the illness was gradually stealing my identity. But now that I am aware of my condition, I am fighting back by giving back and sharing information to spread awareness and hope through my nonprofit Embracing My Mind, Inc.
The hardest thing I’ve had to cope with was the fact that I have a lifelong diagnosis and I will be in treatment for the rest of my life. If there was something I could change it would be societal acceptance of mental health and schizophrenia to be viewed as a medical condition like any other.
I’m hopeful that through my story, people will become more aware of schizophrenia and change their perceptions about it. I’m hopeful that people who witness my story on Human Factor will provide comments to this blog on whether my story has helped them to better understand schizophrenia and put them on the road to changing their perceptions.
|Post by: Ashley Smith – Special to CNN