MentalMeds News
A Newsletter from www.MentalMeds.org
Issue 8

Dear Reader,

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.
Editor

P.S. As always, if you do not wish to receive email from me, please let me know, and I will remove your name from my list.


Table of Contents


Calling for Articles

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.

Humor

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."


The Chicken

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.


The Dustbin

Patient: Doctor, I keep thinking I'm a dustbin.
Psychiatrist: Don't talk such rubbish.


Sausage? Yum!

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!"


Hello

Two psychiatrists pass in the hall. The first says, "Hello."
The other thinks, "I wonder what he meant by that."


Treason!

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 person now.

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 paranoid schizophrenia.

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 recovery.

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.


Are 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

 
 
 
 
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