Selling yourself short

Selling Yourself Short

I was recently presented with the opportunity to do some pretty important training for my job as a Peer Support Worker. The task seemed very daunting to me, and everything inside my head told me “you can’t do that, you’re not good enough” and “you will fail, don’t take it”. I ended up listening to what my head was saying and said that I was not capable of the training.
Fortunately, I have some amazing people in my life that support me constantly. My dad being the main one. He explained to me yesterday about me selling myself short. He said that sometimes I hastily make decisions, thinking I’m not good enough or I can’t do the task at hand. My dad said that that is selling myself short and not giving myself the chance to do things that I am actually capable of doing and that will better me in my career. I miss opportunities to move forward because I am constantly holding myself back.
So, yesterday I was doing some thinking about the whole situation. I realized that there are many times in my life where I don’t do something because I think I can’t. Riding the bus. Going to events at the Whale House. Facilitating groups. What my dad said, made me realize that I CAN do so much. I need to stop using the word can’t and replace it with CAN. I CAN ride the bus, I CAN go to events at the Whale House, I CAN facilitate groups, and yes, I CAN complete the training that I will be taking. I CAN and I WILL.
So, I encourage you to take a look at your own life and see where you are selling yourself short. You are capable of much more than your head lets you believe, as am I. Take time to make decisions, don’t back out immediately because you don’t think you’re good enough or you can’t do it. Have faith in yourself. We as individuals are capable of amazing feats.
Keep your head up high, don’t listen to those thoughts that undermined you. You CAN do it, and you WILL do it.

Ashleigh

Fighting on

Fighting On

As the year 2016 is soon coming to a close, I find myself reminiscing about my mental health journey. It has been full of ups and downs, many victories and some very trying times. However, I look back at where I was a year ago, and it is amazing to see how far I have come. It has been my goal this year and heading into next to really challenge myself in terms of my anxiety. I can say with pride that I have done that so far this year. I started off the year with taking the Stand Up for Mental Health class. To say it was life changing would be an understatement. David Granirer taught me that it is possible to laugh at what we are going through and not to treat our mental illness as a death sentence. When I started the class, I was quite depressed and lacking hope. However, I came out of it at the end a new person. I have more confidence, a new sense of humour and a whole new feeling of hope. I am so grateful to have taken the SMH course and meeting David because it was truly life changing.

This past summer was also a big victory, thanks to some amazing staff at the Whale House and my amazing friends. I was able to tackle my bus anxiety. I finally realized that people wouldn’t take the bus if the seats were as bad as my anxiety says they are. I watched people get on the bus and sit anywhere, not obsessively looking at their seat to see if it was "clean". With this new understanding, I managed to ride the bus to and from the Whale House almost every day of the summer. I can finally step onto the bus and quickly find a seat, sit down for the duration of the trip and not get up every few minutes to check my seat. It just doesn’t bother me anymore, and if it does, I quickly shut those
thoughts down.

In the past year, I have also been making some decisions to better my physical health. The biggest change I made was to stop drinking pop. What a change! I never realized how much pop I was drinking until I lost 30 lbs. in the first 6 months of not drinking it! I am constantly getting people commenting on how I have lost weight and it is encouraging. One of the problems with some anti-psychotic medications is the side effect of weight gain. I have gained a lot of weight over the last 15 years. But! I have lost quite a bit in the last year. It is something that I continue to work on.

One thing that I joke a lot about is eating with my hands. I would eat EVERYTHING with a knife and fork. I would use a Kleenex to take my medication. I would eat pizza with a knife and fork. I would eat sandwiches and garlic bread with a knife and fork. I would eat potato chips with a fork. However, just in the last 2 or 3 months I have really challenged
myself to start eating with my hands again. What a huge success! I think the biggest victory was going to the Peer Support Worker training day and eating my bread roll with my hands. NO one noticed but I gave myself some credit because that was a huge step. When I went to the island to celebrate my birthday with Christopher, Michelle and Cadence, I shocked them by eating my pizza, taking my medication, eating snacks and sandwiches all with my hands. Now at home, I eat my potato chips with my hands. I take my medication straight from my hand. It certainly is less cutlery to do! (haha) and also another step at not letting my anxiety control my life.

Probably my biggest success this year has been training to become a Peer Support Worker. It's been a very interesting time studying. However, I have realized that it is my passion in life to help others. It took just over 2 years to complete all of the training, but on December 2, 2016 1 graduated as a Peer Support Worker. There were times where I thought I couldn't do it and I couldn't finish my practicum. But, I had the support of so many people. I shadowed some amazing Peer Support Workers who taught me so much. I had great classmates who were always a support. I had my dad pushing me along, encouraging me to have a positive attitude, even through the low times. When I step off the IPU after a shift, 1 look to the sky and smile because I know I have found my meaning in life. I have finally found where I am meant to be. As my mom was a nurse many years ago, I know she is so proud of me going into the hospital to help the IPU patients. I have a job doing the very thing that I love. There are many opportunities coming up after the holidays!

I hope I haven't rambled on too much. I just wanted to share some of the changes and victories I have had in 2016. I notice that when I am out with people, things don't bother me as much as they used to. Riding the bus. My weight. Eating with my hands. Those are just a few examples. I have made SO much progress over the last year, and I feel like a whole different, better person, than I was a year ago. I feel like I have grown immensely and battled my illness with great victory.

So, my message to you is to keep fighting! There will always be the hard times. There will always be struggles. But! If you stay strong, determined and have a positive attitude, you can accomplish so much. Take things one day at a time — don't expect a complete overnight success. There is so much hope out there. It took a lot of trying and determination for me to make it to this point, but I know you can do it too. Keep your head up high. Be proud of who you are, and tell those people/things that try to shut you down, that you CAN do it!

Ashleigh Singleton

Enough

Enough

There has been a major change in all our lives with the recent US election. Quite frankly, I have been disgusted and dismayed at the actions of some. Trump winning has sparked a lot of hate and ugly feelings for many people. The US is divided. We all get on Facebook and complain about how much we hate Trump or Hillary. We attack each other for petty reasons, we argue, we fight and we hurt each other. We discriminate against others for voting for the opposite candidate. We spit hateful words.

This is not right.

We live in a wealthy country, we have nice houses (and apartments), we have food in our cupboards, running water and electricity. We have nice clothes and shoes to keep us warm. We have every electronic toy known to man, cell phones, computers, tv's, etc. We are not starving. We are not in the middle of a country in civil war. It is safe for us to walk the streets and be who we are. We can love who we want, we can say what we want and we can do what we want. That's pretty damn good if you ask me.

Please, please, look at your life and realize how blessed we are! We have it all! We don’t have to worry about when our next meal is going to be or if we are going to have clean water to bathe in. We can walk down the street and not have to worry about car bombs. Think about it people... we have it good. So, stop the hate! Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. We all have free choice. It is not right to insult someone because they didn’t vote the way you did. It is not right to discriminate against certain people because of their skin colour, nationality' or sexual preference. We are better than that!

What we CAN do is love each other, because we are all going through this together! We all face the struggle that is at hand. Let's just try and be a little nicer to each other. Have some compassion. A simple smile goes a long way! We as humans need to support each other. Enough of this hate garbage.

Ashleigh

Blessing in Disguise

Blessing in Disguise

So, I have written pretty extensively about my journey over the last 16 years, dealing with Schizophrenia and OCD. I have found though, that I was wrong in my initial thinking that mental illness is a death sentence. When I first started hearing voices and was going through psychosis, I thought I would be turned into a drugged up drooling zombie in a padded room. This scared me so much that I went for 2 years without telling anyone that I heard voices. However, my journey has been very' different than what I thought it would be. I was very fortunate to have the Early Psychosis Intervention program parachute in right at the beginning and they brought a lot of hope and answers to what I was going through. I also from the start have had a very strong support network. So, along with medication and a lot of hard work, I have blossomed into this successful, intelligent young woman, who lives in her own apartment and pays her own bills. I have realized that having a mental illness has actually been a blessing in disguise. For the last several years, it has been my goal and fight to erase the stigma that is associated with mental illness. There just simply isn't enough knowledge out there for people who are struggling, and they continue to struggle because of that. No one wants to talk about mental illness or disclose that they have mental health issues.

I go to high schools, colleges, meetings, workshops and even the RCMP and 911 dispatchers and I do talks about how far I have come. It is so great to be able to bring hope especially to youth and young adults that are struggling because I was once there myself. I have really been blessed with an amazing father as well. We are pretty well known in the mental health community. We have been dubbed "a great tag team" and we do a lot of talks together, me sharing my story and my dad sharing from a parent's perspective. We get all these cool opportunities to share our story all over the place. We have talked to thousands of family members, mental health professionals and people going through psychosis themselves. This is such an amazing opportunity to have. My dad and I are able to go out and change lives. We bring hope to so many people where there once was none. We bring strength to families and the idea that with psychosis, recovery can be expected. You have no idea how much I love being able to do that. My dad and I have touched so many lives.

So, I would definitely say that having a mental illness has been a huge blessing in disguise. If did not go through everything I have in the last 16 years, then I wouldn't be changing lives. I wouldn’t be bringing hope to people. I wouldn't be going to high schools and helping kids who are going through their own personal hell. I get to fight stigma and be a beacon of light to not only people with psychosis but also their families. How awesorne is that? Without everything. I wouldn't have such a strong bond with my dad- I wouldn't be as close to him as I am now. There are so many amazing things on the horizon for my life and I have made it so far. It is my life goal to help others and show that mental illness isn't the end of the world.

So, if you are facing a mental health diagnosis, remember, it is NOT a death sentence. There IS hope. You CAN recover- There is so much positivity and a future out there for you.

Ashleigh

Video Games

Video Games - Waste of Time?

Video Games. Waste of Time?

Ok, so I did a talk a few months ago and there was a mother in the audience. As I finished and was accepting questions, she spoke about how her son spends all his time on video games and that she has to constantly get him to stop playing so much. Now, I know what a lot of you think about video games, that they are a waste of time. Well, this is a big subject for me because I am an avid online video game player myself.

I told the mother that it's not the end of the world that her son is so into video games. There have been many studies about how video games can affect a person. Games are actually a lot more than just staring at a screen, mashing keys on a controller. It is a fact that video games online can promote healthy, social relationships. Online video games can also be an escape from anxiety, depression and anger. I’ll speak from my own experience...

Go back to the year 2000. I was fourteen years old. My mom's health had been severely ailing for the last several years. On March 30, 2000, she passed away. I was a shell of emptiness, anger, depression, frustration and hated God for taking my mom from me. I remember however, before she passed away she gave me some money to buy myself a video game. Now, at the time I wasn't a gamer. I was into ice hockey and music. I went out to the store and bought myself Rainbow Six. I had never really played any video games on the computer before. I played the single player for a while and then discovered the online feature. My computer was very low tech and my internet was slow. However, I did have a desktop microphone. At first I just joined games and played with others, being absolutely terrified to speak into the microphone. Finally, I built up the courage and said "hello" to the group of people in my game. That's where it all started. Rainbow Six was the first game I ever got into. I went on to buy the next Rainbow Six game called Ravenshield. I met some amazing people online in that game. I think back to the hours I spent playing that game in which I was especially into the co-op mode. I loved the fact that I was fighting terrorists with people from all around the world. As I got more and more into the game, I met more and more people — people from all over, from Canada and as far away as Australia. I began talking to people. I will never forget my first online "friend", Chris. We played so many rounds of Ravenshield together that I couldn’t count. I could tell he really cared. Now, you always hear on the news that there are tons of creeps and weirdos on the internet, and I will acknowledge that yes, there are some interesting people out there. However, the internet is also the home of some of the most trustworthy, caring, understanding individuals. I began to realize this very quickly.

As I was trying to deal with my anger and depression from losing my mom, I got more into online video games. Alongside my buddy Chris, we played many different games, one we got hooked on was Shot Online, a golf game. I was able to talk to Chris about my life, about losing my mom and expressed to him how depressed was. I remember many late nights talking to him. He was there for when my "real life" friends ditched me. I had found an outlet. I was getting out my anger and frustration in a healthy way, it was my alternative to self-harm.

When I turned 16, I was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. This is where I really needed some coping mechanisms and support. I had started playing a plethora of other online video games, from Call of Duty to Left 4 Dead. I found that getting online and talking with the amazing people I had met, made the voices a little quieter, the anxiety a little less severe, the sadness a little less overwhelming.

As the years went by, I met many different people and became close friends with people of all ages, genders, races and locations. Some people came and went. Some people lasted for years. Some people are still in my life. I went from talking to no one at all in my life to talking to friends online and getting advice and help from them when I felt like I had no one to go to in my real life. I created a social environment where am not judged or criticized, and I actually TALK out my problems.

I had finally found something that gave me relief from the mental affliction inside my head. Video games. I met my best online friend a few years later, my good buddy Goose. Goose and I have recorded a ridiculous amount of hours playing Left 4 Dead online together. He is definitely my best online friend and I feel really comfortable talking to him about my illness and what is going on in my life. He is the funniest, most encouraging person I know and he can make me laugh no matter how bad I am feeling. There have been many times where I was having really bad anxiety, and I would turn on the computer and send Goose a message to play some games together. As soon as the games started, the anxiety went away. The voices calmed. I had found a reason to wake up in the morning.

I was finally introduced to the amazing game, World of Warcraft, in 2010. About a year ago, I Google’d "friendly WOW guild" and came across Two Percent. I am now part of an amazing group of people that play World of War-craft together. These people all know that I have Schizophrenia and OCD. They all I know I suffer from extreme anxiety. I have shared many things about my life with them, and they genuinely care. They can tell in my voice when something is wrong, and they are more than willing to talk about it. They are a huge support to me and huge in my support network.

You might have a better understanding now of my love for video games. I'm not the only person out there like me. I've come across countless people who actually credit video games for them not committing suicide. Video games can bring so much hope and joy into people's lives. I agree, there are negative aspects, like video game addiction, but if used in moderation, Video games can be an escape, that volume knob to turn the anxiety down, to get away from sadness. I advocate for video games because they have given me a reason to live, and they take me away from things when I am having a hard time. I also realized that I am not alone. There are SO many people out there that suffer with the same things that I do. I have a special bond with these people and we are able to talk about our illness and come together to fight it.

So, the next time you want to get on your son/daughter's case about playing video games, take a look at how beneficial they are. They might be that key in your child's life that is helping them hold on. There are countless people out there who genuinely CARE. I am lucky to know so many of them and I have a beautiful internet family.
THAT is why I play video games so often. They quiet the voices, calm the anxiety, and brighten the sadness. Video games are my joy and passion.

A big shout out to my online friends, Chris, everyone in Two Percent and especially my friend Goose. You guys bring me an incredible amount of happiness and hope. Thank you.

Ashleigh

Life

Life

It's always good to look at the accomplishments you make in life. Working on the IPU I am sometimes reminded that I was once there. At that time, I was living with my dad and I was completely hopeless. I found solace in self-harm and isolating myself from the world. After some turbulent years of medication changes and therapy, I have made it to where I am now. Next month I am 31 years Old. I have been living with Schizophrenia and it symptoms since I was 14.

So, as you can see it has been a long time. I credit my dad for helping me recover, he has dedicated his life to me and I would not have made it this far without him. Also, it has taken a lot of personal self-work. Writing this blog has helped me express my feelings and share with the world what works for me might work for them too.

Reflecting today. In February I will have been living on my own in this apartment for 6 years. I am surrounded by the things I love. Guitars, 2,500 CDs and an awesome gaming computer. This is my own little slice of Heaven. I was just looking around the room and realized how lucky I am to live here. I realize how lucky I am to have come this far in my recovery. A lot of people don't have that. I am so grateful that I can live on my own in my own apartment and not need assisted living or living in a group home. My job on the IPU shows me the rawest emotions and struggles that people face. I was there 15 years ago, I am just appreciating what I have and how blessed I am.

You can never be too grateful to be in a good situation. Recovery takes a LOT of hard work and determination. It also takes different amounts of time for different people. We with mental health issues all struggle and succeed in our own ways. We are all on a path in life.

So, I sit here, happy and content. I know my future is very bright. I am cozy and warm. I have a roof over my head. I have food in my fridge. Yes, I have a mental illness. No, that does not determine the outcome of my life.

Hard work. Determination. Gratitude. Love. Hope. Empathy. The will to fight. We need all of these to progress and move forward in life.

Be blessed.

All it Takes

All it Takes

I sign on today to the news of another, yes another, mass shooting. I am growing so tired and weary of hearing about people hating each other. There has to be a change. The change starts with you and me.

I was at Walmart today in line waiting to make a purchase, which was taking quite a while. The lady ahead of me turned around and I simply smiled at her and she smiled back. Now that may seem like nothing, but I know it made me feel good to receive compassion from a stranger, and I'm sure it was the same with her. The little things make the biggest impact. Let's turn off our TV's, sign off the internet, hearing about the horrific news, and remember that there doesn't HAVE to be so much hurt, pain and hate in this world. It can be a self-revolution.

So, while you're out shopping, smile at a stranger. Open a door for someone. Carry their groceries to their car. These small things will go a long way. We need to love each other. The world is seriously lacking some love and compassion right now.

Ashleigh

Attitude

Attitude

"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.

"I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so, it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes".— Charles Swindoll

My dad gave me this quote today. He spoke to me about attitude and it really hit home for me. I have been going through some difficult times recently but my dad helped put everything in perspective. Our attitude and the outlook we have on our lives determines the outcome of situations. I have been faced with a dilemma recently that I can either carry a grudge and cause more grief than it's worth, or I can decide that I don't need the drama and enforce a positive attitude on the situation. I have been wallowing in my own self-pity and harboring a lot of angst and frustration recently. It turns out that my attitude was the main factor. See, we all control our attitude and the way we react to different situations in life. I myself have the ability to decide that I am going to ‘not sweat the little things’ and keep pressing forward in my life.

I can't change how other people are going to treat me but I CAN change how I react to it and how I handle things. so today, right now, I am choosing to take the higher road and say, you know what? yeah, I don't like what has happened or what this person is doing, but I am going to just focus on my life, my job and myself. I am going to treat people that
cause me stress with compassion and kindness, because we can all agree that the world can sure use a bit more of that. This is my decision to pick myself up and move on, strive forward in life. The things that have been bothering me? Oh well. I can't change a person's opinion when it's already been set. I can however change the way I respond and the way I react. One thing my mom always taught me was to "do everything with a happy heart". I remember the very first time she said it to me. I was upset because she had asked me to do something that I didn't want to do. However, I will never forget her sitting down and telling me to do everything with a happy heart, and live with a happy heart because I as a person resonate to the world and the people around me.

So, gaining wisdom from both my dad and mom, I am in a much better frame of mind. I am no longer going to choose to hold grudges and be upset with people. I can change my attitude and take things in the way that shows compassion and a happy heart. My dad told me that we choose how we think and act and other people notice it. Do I want to be noticed as a miserable, angry, angst-ridden, selfish person? No. I want to be noticed as the woman that really cares for others and herself.

I take these two bits of wisdom from my dad and mom and apply them in my life. You can apply them in your life as well. Let the little things go. Don't hold grudges. If someone treats you poorly, respond with kindness and compassion.

You are not going to change the world with negativity, neither are you going to change what happens to you in life. Just take it as it comes, choose to have that good, positive attitude and do it all with a happy heart.

Ashleigh

Going Back

Going Back

I have been honored with the opportunity to facilitate a family support group with the Early Psychosis Intervention Program. Tonight, was the first night of the 4 week long group.

I sat among parents who are for the first time going through the horrors of having a family member with psychosis. I could see the pain on their faces as they described that they had no clue where their wonderful young son went. These were parents that were just trying to keep their heads above water, trying to grasp for an understanding of what their children are going through. I saw the confusion and hopelessness as they talked about their family members, their beloved children, how they are lost to this ugly, viscous animal that is psychosis. It really tugged at my heartstrings. I realized that I myself was there 14 years ago, and my dad sat in the same chairs and expressed the same agony and despair of what he saw me going through. The feeling of not having a clue what is happening to his daughter, the feeling of her life slipping through his fingers. My dad and I have been to the depths of hell and back in the last 14 years.

This evening was an eye opener and confirmed for me that I am doing exactly that I was meant to do in this life. If I can be that beacon of hope to these parents, then maybe I could show them that things DO get better over time. I have come full circle, going through the EPI program myself and now working for them. I can share my Story and
provide hope for families and people that are suffering from psychosis.

It was an eye-opening night. I am now more certain than ever that I was placed on this earth to help others in their own personal hell.

I have found my purpose.

Ashleigh Singleton

Life Changing

Life Changing

It is not often that I go through a point in life that shakes my foundation and changes how I view not only my world, but the world in general. This is one of those rare times.

I had the absolute honour and privilege to take the Stand up for Mental Health course for the last four months. I went into the course not really expecting anything, I had never dreamed of being a standup comic but I figured I'd go because at the very least it would help with my public speaking skills. I still remember the first class, walking in and
having David introduce himself. I really wasn’t sure what I was doing there but what happened in the next four months is remarkable.

In the first couple of weeks of taking the course, I had found myself in a deep depression. Thoughts of self-harm and suicide ran rampant in my head. I really felt like there was no point to life and was on the verge of giving up. I couldn’t possibly fathom how I would be able to joke about my life and my illness, let alone laugh at it. However, I found myself talking to David. I expressed the deep depression I was in and that everything was so raw that I couldn't write jokes. David was very understanding and provided a lot of hopeful ideas and helped me take a different perspective on my life. One thing he said to me, though, changed how I now look at my life. “Some suffering is optional”. I came to the realization that I control my happiness, I control how I view life and I control my ability to laugh at things and shrug them off.

As these last four months have gone by, I have grown immensely. I thank David for never giving up on me, even when I was at my most hopeless point. He really helped me look at the lighter side of life. It is a very bittersweet night. I enjoyed taking the Stand Up for Mental Health course very much and it's one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. Not only did I learn how to laugh and joke, I healed. Being able to get up on a Monday morning and go to have a laugh and work on jokes was really a turning point in my life. I look at the whole last four months as a huge healing process. I will always treasure my time in the course and doing a live standup comedy show. I will treasure the memories of laughing while making new friends. Most of all, I will treasure the words that David shared with me and the hope that he and his program brought into my life. I can now say with confidence that life is good!

So.now I close another chapter in my life. I have come out a new person, an optimist. I am no longer in the depths of depression. I am able to laugh and joke about my illness. I have a new outlook on life.

Most of all, I have healed.

Ashleigh