Since I created this website two years ago, I’ve discovered a few other women who have a similar diagnosis and also have their own blogs. One of these women is Ashely Smith. Ashley Smith has a blog Overcoming Schizophrenia and has also created her own nonprofit organization dedicated to helping other people with mental illness. I invited Ashley to write a guest post for my website to share her experience and tell us how she came up with the name for her organization, Embracing My Mind. Here is Ashley’s story:
After I was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2007 I was encouraged to pursue my dreams despite living in recovery by my doctor, family and peers. Some of my dreams included going back to college and managing a self-help program for people affected by mental illness.
While taking a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) class I was inspired by the facilitator to lead meetings, because they also lived with a mental illness. I imagined conducting classes that educated and empowered peers to live a healthy lifestyle in recovery.
Unknowingly, writing my blog, Overcoming Schizophrenia ignited hope for me becoming a facilitator and helping my peers. The blog gained a good following and became a great network of support for people affected by mental illness. I interacted with readers regularly through my blog and became an expert on living with schizophrenia through my personal experience with the illness. I enjoyed supporting and guiding others so much on my blog that I wanted to also reach out to people in-person.
One day I developed a series of goals and plans for a program to help peers. I remember being so excited about this program that I wanted to create a catchy name for it and I started brainstorming names and keeping a list of them to choose from. First, I started thinking of titles closer to the letter “A” so if I was going to be in the Yellow Pages others would be able to find me faster. However, that night I couldn’t sleep well and then I suddenly thought of an appropriate title: Embrace My Mind. The title reminded me of how I cared for and strived to help my mental health by accepting my mental illness and moving forward in recovery.
Afterwards I ordered a family meeting about my goal for the group I tilted Embrace My Mind. I shared so many ideas and hopes for this group I would start in the near future. However, my mother reminded me that nobody knew “Ashley,” and told me I needed training in order to be taken seriously. I listened and took notes. My mother thought of changing the title from “Embrace My Mind” to “Embracing My Mind,” which I really liked and stuck with it. She also abbreviated the title to “EMM” and I made that the organization’s logo.
Now, I am checking off my “to-do list” that my mother gave me. Today I am trained to help peers. I am Certified Peer Specialist (CPS), which means I have the experience to work closely with people who have a mental illness, and to help them identify their strengths and to assist them in pursuing opportunities in order to improve their wellbeing.
My story has been featured on CNN’s Human Factor with Sanjay Gupta, the Tavis Smiley radio show, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals documentary, Living with Schizophrenia: A Call for Hope and Recovery. Through my work with Embracing My Mind and much support from diverse organizations including NAMI Georgia, I’ve shared my recovery story with hundreds of people to change their perceptions of mental illness and to promote hope for those living with it. I’ve visited diverse programs to share my story, including universities, law enforcement trainings, clinical staff, and shelters to name a few. My hope for EMM is to share hope and to change lives through motivational talks, classes, and self-help meetings.
I’d like to thank Ashley for all the work she has done to help those suffering from mental illness, and we wish her all the best in the future. Thank you Ashley!