It Didn’t Happen

So, if you know me by now, you know that I suffer from OCD and anxiety. It has been crippling at some points and sometimes is very hard to deal with. However, I have stumbled upon a method that has decreased my anxiety significantly.

I was grocery shopping the other day, and as I had loaded all my groceries into my cart, ready to put them in the trunk of the car, I noticed something on the cart handle. It was a brown mark. My brain immediately started disasterizing things and saying that it was from a baby that was sitting in the cart. I started to panic, because I had touched that handle before touching all of my groceries that I just bought. I thought they were all contaminated and that I was going to get sick if I handled them or ate them. Then a thought popped into my head – why not just pretend it never happened? Just go home, put all your groceries away and move on with life. Don’t sit around worrying or even avoid touching the groceries. Just move on! To my surprise, this worked fantastically. I was able to put that mark on the cart handle behind me and move forward with my day.

I was at work yesterday and I was sitting talking to a patient. She revealed to me that she also suffers from OCD. We chatted for a while. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a sticky mess on the arm of the chair I was sitting in. Again, irrational thoughts began flooding my mind. And then I remembered… it never happened. That was final, nothing to worry about, nothing happened. My fears and churning thoughts began to slow down and I was able to rationalize my situation.

As our conversation went on, I decided to tell the patient about my newly discovered method of defeating anxiety. I explained to her about the shopping cart handle and the arm of the chair. I told her that if you just convince yourself that it didn’t happen, thus re-focusing your mind, the anxiety will subside. It really surprised me at how well it worked.

Re-focusing your mind is key. By accepting that your crisis is in fact not a crisis, you can begin to focus on the rest of your day. If you believe that the troubling issue didn’t even occur, you are able to move on.

So, I encourage you try it. When something is really bothering you, just say in your head “this just simply didn’t happen”. It might seem a bit silly or unorthodox, but I have found it works wonders.

 

Ashleigh Singleton

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

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

Some Suffering is Optional

Some Suffering is Optional

I recently went through a bout of depression, but was fortunate to have several people in my life to give me a wakeup call. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in our troubles, that we either don't realize that Other people have their own stuff to deal with or we start to "disasterize" things.

The fact is that we control our lives and we control our happiness. For me, I was feeling sorry for myself and got wrapped up in my own emotions, not thinking about anyone else. I had several friends tell me that it's up to me to find happiness and that I control my life. I had a bit of an epiphany and realized that yeah, I don’t HAVE to feel crappy, I
can choose to fight and make the necessary changes in my life to become happy again.

One friend mentioned to me that some suffering is optional. This is very true. There were situations in my life where the depression or feeling down could have been avoided by simply cutting out the drama and making decisions that are ultimately, in my best interest. By choosing to avoid situations that will cause suffering, you maintain a happy state. It's all about making the right decisions and making things work for YOU.

Remember that everyone goes through struggles and low times, and it's easy to get caught up in ourselves. Just remember that you can make the decisions to be happy. You control your life. Happiness is there if you look for it.

Ashleigh

Blessed

Blessed

Today I had the amazing opportunity to be on the panel for the Early Psychosis Intervention program's annual conference. This year, the conference focused on hallucinations. The guest speakers were good, and it was especially cool to hear about others who also hear voices and it really hit me that I am not alone. I thought I was weird and different because I hear voices, but it was so cool to hear about other people's fight with mental illness and there are a lot of people out there just like me.

Being on the panel was very eye opening too. Young people shared their stories of their struggles with psychosis and hallucinations. These were brave and strong young people, to be sharing their story so openly in front of hundreds of people. It was just such a good feeling to know that my story and experiences are shared by others out there. I commend the others on the panel, they really gave an idea of how terrifying it is to have psychotic hallucinations but also how they are fighting every day for their lives.

It was an honour to be able to speak on the same panel as my dad as well. He has truly dedicated his life to the mental health system and helping families. I cannot express enough how much I appreciate everything he has done for me. I can also not express how much he has done for hundreds of other families. He truly is an amazing man, so
giving and loving for others. Yeah, hearing voices is scary, but with my dad around? I feel that much more safe. Life is good.

It is a dream come true to be able to share my story to thousands of youth and young adults. I want to be a beacon of hope to those out there who are struggling in their own life journey. I am always here if someone needs to talk. I have been presented with the amazing chance to speak everywhere such as classrooms, colleges and the RCMP. I know I have a purpose in life. I am here to do whatever I can to help others with psychosis. It is also a dream come true to be working for the Early Psychosis Intervention program, as they were vital in my recovery process, especially when I
first got sick. I truly have come full circle. I am not lucky to be doing what I do, I am not fortunate. I am BLESSED.

Ashleigh

When Things Don’t Go Right

When Things Don't Go Right

Well, it's been a while since I last posted a blog on here. I would like to inform you all that I have been doing fabulous! By utilizing my coping mechanism of living in the moment, I have been able to have a very productive and happy life for the last months. It is so good to feel happy again and not sit around worrying about things. I owe a lot of the success to my dad because he has been my pillar and support and I wouldn't have made all this progress without him.

What I wanted to talk about today is keeping yourself out of a rut. This past Monday I came home and had a LOT of anxiety. It was the worst anxiety I've had in the last couple of months. I struggled just to make it to bedtime. However, after a good night's sleep, I got up in the morning, determined to have a better day. did this by getting ready and going out to the Whale House where I always have a great laugh. I got to spend time with my friends and the staff there and they always make me feel good. Then when I got home, I immediately shut Albert down. This is the key to not falling in a rut. Every time Albert tried to get me to do things, I said NOPE. I didn't even give him the chance to get at me. I held my head up high and fought. This is what you need to do after you have a bad day. Sure, we have bad days. However, the key is to pick yourself up after a bad day and not let them pile up. Fight for your happiness. Be determined to have a better day than the last and take the steps and coping mechanisms that have helped you in the past. Remember, you have the power to shape your day. By implementing a positive attitude at the start of the day, you will find that you are far more equipped to pick yourself up after a rough day.

I can happily say that yesterday was fantastic and today is even better. I caught myself before I fell into a rut. So, when things don't go right, get up and fight harder. You will be so happy with the results and your life will be much more carefree.

Ashleigh

Just Smile

Just Smile

Ok so I really want to stress about living in the moment. I know I've talked about it on here a few times, but I wanted to share my story Of success with you. This blog is a success report on how well I have been doing this week and the progress I have made.

Mondays are usually pretty stressful for me, because I have to do laundry. As you can imagine, handling dirty laundry can be kinda gross to a germophobe. However, last Monday I woke up and something was different. I went to the
laundry room and right away, Albert reared his ugly head. It was something about touching the door handle with my shirt and then the worry that later my clean shirts would touch the shirt I was wearing and in some magical way, bacteria would transfer and make me sick. It sounds like a ridiculous thing to worry about, but that's the sort of thing that plagues my mind. Anyway, at that moment, 1 quietly said to myself "live in the moment". As I focused on that, I began to see my anxiety float away. Throughout the morning, as each new anxiety popped up, I said "live in the moment, don't worry about what MIGHT happen, focus on right NOW" and poof the anxiety was gone. Elated, I went to my Recovery Support Training class later that day, excited to tell my friends how well I was doing and the breakthrough I had made. It was such a great day, I was worry free and having a great time.

As this last week has gone by, I have been drilling it into my head. Live in the moment. Live in the moment. Live in the moment. And it is working! If I worry that the toilet seat isn’t clean, I reject that anxiety by saying "I'm living in the moment, that is something in the future so I don't have to worry about it right now". My life has been so much more enjoyable!

So, live in the moment and just smile. We are blessed to wake up each morning and we shouldn't waste our time on this earth by worrying.

By the way, I'm gonna tear next Monday apart! I am not worrying about it, but I am making a statement to myself that Monday is not going to get the best Of me. Why? because I am living in the moment.

I am so blessed. Life is good.

Ashleigh

Right Now

Right Now

"If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present”. — Lao Tzu

I have written before about living in the moment. Worrying about the future is pointless, because 99% of the time, what you are worrying about probably isn't going to happen. It is so easy for our minds to run away from us. We start obsessing over an idea or thought and then it has a snowball effect where it consumes your mind. When I start worrying about something, I have been reminding myself that it hasn't happened yet, so why worry? It seems like such a simple concept, but living in the future and worrying about it isn’t going to get you anywhere TODAY, in the present. Depression is something that I've had to deal with for a long time. However, I have realized along the way that yes, it's important to remember the past and those in it, but the past is the past and there is nothing we can do to change it. Dwelling on the loss of a loved one or being sad about something that happened in the past is not going to get you anywhere TODAY, in the present. I find that true peace is just living in the present. Casting aside all worries and memories and just taking things as they come. Not worrying about what "might" happen or what has already happened, but just enjoying the time you are given
on this earth.

By living in the present I have realized how good I have things. I have the most amazing and supportive family and group of friends. I live in my own apartment and pay my bills, clean and do anything else that comes along. I am so blessed to have everything I have, because many other people have far less. When living in the present I realize my
great appreciation for those around me. Friendships and relationships to me are far more important than material possessions.

So, if you want to achieve peace, just take a look around you and what you have been blessed with, and say to yourself “this is good. I am happy where I am at, I am fortunate to have time on this planet." Only then will you reach a true state of peace.

Ashleigh