I am very pleased to introduce the author of this week's lead article,
Ashley Lauren Smith. Ashley takes us along on her frightening descent
into schizophrenia, a world of paranoia and hallucination that is daily
life for many, and tells us how she escaped to live a better life.
Hers is a courageous and fascinating story, and I think you will
enjoy it. After you finish, be sure to visit her Web log, Overcoming Schizophrenia
, for more of her fine writing and insights.
Kevin Thompson, Ph.D.
P.S. As always, if you do not wish to receive email from me, please let
know, and I will remove your name from my list.
Do you have experiences you would like to share about how you have
coped with mental illness? Uplifting stories? Educational stories?
Email me with your idea, and if it makes sense, I will be happy to
include it in a future issue.
Funny stuff from around the Internet. All of the jokes in this issue come from the Canonical List of Psychiatrist and Psychologist Jokes
, which has many more than I can list here. Visit the site, and enjoy the rest!
The Deck of Cards
A guy walks into the psychiatrist's and says "Doctor, doctor, you've
got to help me! I keep thinking that I'm a deck of cards!" The shrink
says "Sit over there and I'll deal with you later."
Psychiatrist: What's your problem?
Patient: I think I'm a chicken.
Psychiatrist: How long has this been going on?
Patient: Ever since I was an egg!
Sister of the Chicken
Psychiatrist: What's wrong with your brother?
Sister: He thinks he's a chicken.
Psychiatrist: How long has be been acting like a chicken?
Sister: Three years. We would have come in sooner, but we needed the eggs.
Patient: Doctor, I keep thinking I'm a dustbin.
Psychiatrist: Don't talk such rubbish.
Patient: Doctor, my wife thinks I'm crazy because I like sausages.
Psychiatrist: Nonsense! I like sausages too.
Patient: Good, you should come and see my collection. I've got hundreds.
The Hot Tub
A man goes to a psychiatrist, and they decide to start with a Rorschach
test. He's shown the first picture and sees a man and a woman making
love at the beach. In the second, a man and a woman making love in a
hottub. The third has a man and a woman making love in a park. In all
of the pictures, the man sees a couple making love.
After the test, the psychiatrist looks over his notes and says, "You seem to have a preoccupation with sex."
The man replies, "You're the one with the dirty pictures!"
Two psychiatrists pass in the hall. The first says, "Hello."
The other thinks, "I wonder what he meant by that."
A man who thinks he's George Washington has been seeing a psychiatrist.
He finishes up one session by telling him, "Tomorrow, we'll cross the
Delaware and surprise them when they least expect it." As soon as he's
gone, the psychiatrist picks up the phone and says, "King George, this
is Benedict Arnold. I have the plans."
Send me your
favorite joke, funny story, or amusing picture, as long as
it is related to mental illness. Keep it upbeat, please! Jokes
involving mental illness are welcome, but jokes that demean mental
illness are not. If it's appropriate, I'll put it up on the humor page.
No More Voices, No More Demons
by Ashley Lauren Smith
"You are a dishonor to your family," a deep voice said. "You would
never make it on your own," another voice said. These are some of the
things the voices in my head told me. At the time I did not realize
that I was hearing voices that nobody else could hear. I thought these
voices were of people around me or from my cellular phone. The voice
was referring to my desire to move out of my family's house.
I was going through a stressful time in my life. I had dropped out of
college, moved from Atlanta to San Diego, and was switching jobs,
again. This is what was happening before I had a nervous breakdown, or
a psychotic break, as they say in health professional terminology. My
psychotic episode led me to steal a military truck at the San Diego
airport, participate in a high-speed chase with the police and crash it
into the San Diego World Trade Center. Neither my family nor I realized
what was wrong with me and why my behavior was so weird. We were all
shocked by the diagnosis of schizophrenia.
The day of my breakdown, I remember feeling so intensely that demons
were following me. I tried everything to get away and even tried to
disguise myself. I thought if I held a cigarette, which I abhor, I
could mislead them. I decided to get rid of my things that I carried
with me at all times - my Bible and my glasses. I was about to cut off
all my hair to disguise myself from the demons. When I spotted the
sitting truck with the car keys in it, I believed it was a blessing
from God and a way to help get away. When I took the truck my intention
was just to go to the store to purchase scissors to cut off my hair,
and return it. I thought that everybody was a demon in disguise.
While driving the truck I remember feeling an outer body experience. I
was not in control of the vehicle, and I felt that someone or something
had taken over my body. I later learned that I was experiencing a split
between realities. I had so many bizarre thoughts. When the police got
their hands on me I was afraid that they were going to kill me. While
sitting in the back seat of the police car I remember being afraid that
the car would blow up. I prayed to calm myself down and hope for a
miracle to stop the car from blowing up. I thought I was Jesus Himself
and that people were out to persecute me. At the police station I
stomped the floor to kill the bugs around me, which were
hallucinations, and the police thought I was on drugs.
Looking back at my past I believe my symptoms started in my senior year
of high school. In high school I was active in a lot extracurricular
activities including the Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA),
Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), and track and field. I
attended church four services a week and teaching youth in the AWANA
church program. Being spiritually inclined, I believed I had the Spirit
of Discernment which is deciphering "evil" spirits from "good" spirits
in people. However, I would later learn that my gift of the Spirit was
evidence of my mental illness. I was a third-year student at Oglethorpe
University in Atlanta, Georgia. I studied business administration and
marketing. In college, I accomplished two marketing internships and was
a member of the cross-country team. This is who I was, I am a different
My symptoms worsened in college due to the stress of having to pay for
tuition, adjusting to school, and moving. I had trouble concentrating
in class and focusing on my class work. I dropped out due to stress. As
symptoms got progressively worse I thought that other people could
decipher what I was thinking and feeling. I accused people of
conspiring against me or doing things to hurt me.
Prior to the truck incident I had no criminal record, however the crime
I committed cost me five months in jail and in a hospital. I thought
the jail and the people in it were all part of a conspiracy against me.
In jail, I refused to eat and would intentionally knock over my food
tray because I believed the cafeteria staff tampered with my food. As a
result I was punished and sent to confinement. I was sent to
confinement many times. On another occasion I went outside past curfew
and tried to use the phones, but they did not work, this frightened me.
The guards told me to go back inside and go to sleep, I refused. They
wrote me up as if I was trying to escape. Had I been in my right mind,
I would have followed orders to return to my bunk. The illness makes
you an ugly person.
My family was very supportive. They visited me, wrote emails, and
collected bail money. They also advocated my case to the attorney by
persistently calling, writing letters, and visiting their office and
appearing at every court hearing. They collected recommendations from
people at the PTSA and my church in Atlanta. However, my sickness would
not allow them to get too close. I told my mother I didn't want to see
her anymore. I denied visits, mail, and would not call anyone. In my
mind I felt physically blocked to see my family. My illness had taken
over. After a change in my attorney, my family finally convinced the
judge to request a competency test.
My case was labeled Penal Code 1370, which means I was incompetent to
stand trial. I was sent to the California State Mental Hospital and
spent three month under doctor supervision until the courts found me
well enough to stand trial. During this time, I went through various
tests and medications until the doctors finally diagnosed me with
I experienced panic attacks and other forms of anxiety, which lead me
to withdraw from social settings. During an attack I felt like I was
suffocating, I got sweaty palms, and my entire body would shake. I
would not attend group therapy, events or eat in front of anyone.
Doctors had to prescribe me Ativan, anti-anxiety medication, in order
for me to tolerate crowds of people. Doctors treated my schizophrenia
with Abilify, novel anti-psychotic, and were very optimistic about my
My case was changed to Penal Code 1372, which meant I was competent to
stand trial. To my relief I was not sent back to jail and I was allowed
to return to my family. The judge wanted me to focus on my recovery, to
take my medication, and to pay restitution.
Now, I am a recovering schizophrenic. I am continuing to control my
illness with Abilify. In California I spent time in a program called
Providence Community Services (Catalyst). Catalyst is for transitional
age youth ages 16 to 24. the program in San Diego offered housing
(independent living), therapy, and educational support. They helped me
get back into college at Southwestern College in Chula Vista.
I have permanently moved back to Atlanta to be closer to family. I
attend groups at the local mental health clinic and read books about
schizophrenia. I have joined the National Alliance on Mental Illness
(NAMI) and attend their monthly meetings. I have decided to be patient
with my recovery. I plan on completing my bachelor's degree in business
and marketing and getting back into community work and programs.
I started a blog dedicated to schizophrenia. The blog discusses my
personal experience with schizophrenia along with information I learned
about the illness. Through the blog I hope to bring awareness to the
community and to provide support for people living with schizophrenia.
You can visit the blog, Overcoming Schizophrenia
, and post a comment at http://overcomingschizophrenia.blogspot.com
Ashley Lauren Smith studied business administration and marketing at
Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia, and Southwestern College in
Chula Vista, California. She is from San Francisco, but currently
resides in Atlanta, Georgia. To cope with symptoms she takes a drug
called Abilify which stops the voices and other symptoms of the
illness. Smith was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in the summer
of 2007. Now she recognizes her symptoms and educates herself about the
illness with the support of peer groups and NAMI. Some of her
accomplishments include being the recipient of Georgia Girls State
American Legion Auxiliary, Georgia PTA Scholarship, and Rich Urban
Leadership scholarship. Ashley Lauren Smith aspires to educate the
community about her illness through her blog Overcoming Schizophrenia
Spotlight on Resources: The Lighthouse Project
I was pleased to learn, recently, that my book, Medicines for Mental Health
, is available through the Lighthouse Project
From reading their Web site, and communicating with the director,
Kohar Enemark, I've learned that this organization provides Occupational Therapy
for children. I had thought the term referred to helping people with
injuries and physical disabilities to live a reasonably normal life,
but it turns out to have a much broader meaning.
The Lighthouse Project provides Occupational Therapy for children and
teens who have nonverbal learning disorders, Asperger's syndrome,
Autism, Attention-Deficit disorders, or other problems that
interfere with learning and social interaction. They provide a variety
of programs designed to address the various issues faced by
children and teens who have such problems, including once-weekly
sessions and one-week "camps" that focus on specific topics, such as
non-verbal communication, social skills development, anger management,
frustration tolerance, and conflict resolution.
If your children have any of these issues, and you live in the area,
the Lighthouse Project may be able to help. If you don't live in the
area, visit their Web site
, which has an excellent list of books and other useful resources.
You Looking for Writers?
If you are looking for articles on mental-health and medication issues,
for an online or printed publication, send me a note. I write for
various publications, and may be able to help.
MentalMeds News --
Copyright © 2008 by Kevin Thompson
May be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided material is
attributed to Kevin Thompson, Ph.D. at www.MentalMeds.org