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

Don’t Let the Bullies Win!

Bullying is an epidemic. Everyday, thousands upon thousands of people are bullied for their race, gender, creed and sexual orientation. Bullying has driven thousands upon thousands of people to self harm and suicide. What are we going to do about this epidemic?

I myself have recently been the victim of bullying. About a month ago, I came out to the world as transgender. This was not an easy step to make. I spent weeks prior agonizing on how I was going to come out to my dad, to my siblings and to my friends. Fortunately, I have the most amazing father who accepts me and my transition fully. My brother Christopher and his wife Michelle have also been very supportive. And, I can’t say enough about how my friends have rallied around me and been there as amazing supports.

However, not everything about my transition has been sunshine and rainbows. Albeit, I am very blessed to have so many people around me that care and love me, I have faced bullying and discrimination. I have been called derogatory names. I have been told that my transition is a transgression. I have been told that I am loathed. These kind of things really broke me. These sorts of statements drove me into a rut of depression, anger and suicidal contemplation. I thought that I was never going to fully be accepted for the person that I really am, and that I would be rejected for life.

I broke down in front of my dad the other day because of this bullying I was experiencing. Because of one bully, I thought that the world hated me. I felt ashamed and embarrassed. I felt sick to my stomach for being transgender and finally living my life the way I believe I was meant to. I wondered if I was ever going to be fully at peace for who I am.

However, my dad made a very good point. He explained to me that by reacting to the bully’s words, I was feeding his methods, and he would just continue to say hurtful words towards me. As long as I was giving him a reaction, he would continue. My dad is a very knowledgeable man, and is seldom wrong. So, I went home that night and I took some time to really think. I realized that yes, my dad is correct. If you react with tears or anger, you are fueling the bully to continue insulting you. Those who have been bullied are hurt and don’t know where to turn. But, if WE can stand up to our bullies, not give them a reaction and just ignore what they are saying, they’ll get bored and move on.

So, I am saying right now, Don’t Let the Bullies Win! If you are reading this and you are being bullied, please know that you are a loved, important and beautiful person. The bully has no control over you unless you let them. I know it’s hard to just turn around and walk away, but you will find that it really does work.

I am making a decision here and now that I will no longer fuel my bully’s attempts to hurt me. I don’t know what is going on in his head, but I am making the choice to turn around and walk away. I will no longer react with tears and anger. I am a stronger person and I know that I am loved and accepted for who I am by the people that matter!

So, to my bully: See ya! You will no longer have any power to hurt me.

 

Ashleigh

The Power of Positive Thinking and Re-framing Your Mind

Positive thinking is very powerful. I have learned that if you have a positive attitude, that you will be someone that people want to be around. No one wants to be around a negative person. I have found that simply saying aloud when I wake up in the morning that “I am going to have a good day today”, it gets me started on the right foot and the right frame of mind. It sounds so simple, but it works. I challenge you to look in the mirror and smile. A simple smile can release serotonin in your brain, which creates a “feel good” property. It literally makes you feel good. If you feel good when you start your day, you are more likely to be positive and upbeat. So try it! When you get up tomorrow morning, tell yourself that you are going to have a good day, that you are going to make it the best it can be. I think you will be pleased to see how well it works.

I recently found myself in a very low place. You could read it on my face. People around me were noticing that I was down and upset. One of my dearest friends said to me “Alex, when I see that you are down, it makes me feel down too.” That really upset me, because the last thing I want to do is be a negative influence on my friends and the people around me. At first, I was really hard on myself and had negative thoughts, saying to myself that I simply was not going to be around the person anymore. I really internalized what she had said, and I started to beat myself up.

Then, I made the realization that I control how I act and how I display my emotions. I control my state of mind. So, at the point where I was personalizing and beating myself up, I gave myself what I call a mental “ass kicking”. I activated my positive thinking abilities and initiated positive self-talk. Self-talk is very powerful. For instance, negative self-talk can tear you down, while positive self-talk can build you up, increase your positive mood and re frame your mind into a better state. So, in my situation, I said to myself “I am going to pick myself up and present myself with more positivity. I want people to enjoy being around me and have fun with me.” That slowly helped me to re frame my mind. I made the conscious decision that I wasn’t going to sit around and mope, I was going to ensure that the people around me were feeling good. So, in fact, I picked myself up and enjoyed the rest of my day, laughing with my friends. On the car ride home, the one friend told me that she saw such a change in me and she was very happy that she got to spend more positive time with me. It was a really good example about the power of re framing your mind. Like I said, YOU have the power to re frame your mind when you are in a negative situation. Pair that with positive thinking, and you’re set!

 

Ashleigh Singleton

It’s Not All About Me

Today I am writing about an issue I came upon recently. One of my biggest flaws is that I personalize things that really don’t have anything to do with me. It is something that I have really realized in the past little while.

To give an example, I was on Skype with my sister in law the other day. I am planning on going over there for 5 days next week. She mentioned that Cadence had a rash and a possible viral infection. I was worried that my trip would be cancelled if Cadence was ill. I phoned my dad in tears because I was looking forward to the trip for a very long time. Later that evening, my sister in law said that the trip was still on. This made me feel great, my vacation was coming!

I was riding in the car with my dad yesterday and he made a really good point. See, I immediately thought about myself and my trip when I found out Cadence wasn’t feeling too good. I panicked, thinking that this trip that I had been looking forward to for so long wasn’t going to happen. Really, I should have been thinking about Cadence. Is she okay? How sick is she? When is she expected to get better? Are some of the things I should have asked. Instead, I thought of myself and what would happen to ME personaly. I should have been more concerned about Cadence’s health.

I also personalize a lot of situations with different friends of mine. A lot of the time, I will get stressed out, thinking it’s my fault that someone is struggling or isn’t able to meet for coffee. I feel like I have done something wrong, when really, I am not even related to the real situation.

So, it is my goal to start analyzing my behavior more. I want to realize when I am being selfish or thinking about just myself. The world does not revolve around me. Everyone is going through their share of issues, just as I am. It doesn’t mean I am at fault, though. I am going to start thinking of others first, before I make it anything about me.

I encourage you to do the same. Look at how you react to situations that are really not under your control or don’t have anything to do with you. Think of the person in the root of the issue and be understanding that they need to deal with things as well. It’s not always about you.

I am constantly working on my flaws, and this is just another step in my journey.

 

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

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

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

Mike Singleton

Mike Singleton

I wanted to take a moment to write about the most amazing man I have ever known. My dad. My dad surpasses the definition of unconditional love and compassion. He has selflessly been serving others during his stay on this earth. He took care of my mom for all the years that she was sick, walking each day with her and making sure she was taken care Of. He raised 4 children selflessly and lovingly. He continues to serve others and his love for his family is astounding.
I guess I have always been a "daddy's girl", I've always been close to my dad, I have memories of playing games with him on the computer before we had the internet. I have memories of him taking my brothers and I to the beach. I have many good memories of spending time with my dad. Honestly, I was a complete brat growing up. However, my dad loved me anyway. I wish I could go back and change some things I did growing up but it's all a lesson learned.

My life changed forever on March 30, 2000. That is the day I lost my best friend, my mom. I remember after hearing the news, just leaving the house and walking. I didn't know where I was going. I ended up at my school and the rest of that day is a blur. However, my dad also lost his best friend, his wife. After tireless years of caring for her health issues, she was finally free from her pain. My sister had already moved out several years before, so my dad was left to raise a 14-year-old me, 16-year-old Matthew and 18-year-old Christopher. My dad had to become a mom and a dad.

Fighting on, my dad loved us and continued to keep the family glued together. Shortly after my mom died, things really changed for me. Not only was I missing my mom, but my life was slowly crumbling down. This is when I started to hear voices. The next years were filled with long nights alone, cutting myself with a kitchen knife. Other nights I just sat in fear from what I was hearing in my head. My dad had no clue what was going on with me. After I confided in a teacher what was going on in my head, I finally got the help I so desperately needed.

My dad didn't ask to lose his wife and for his daughter to be diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 16. However, he took the life he had been dealt, not only keeping himself together but holding on to a family that needed each other.

The last 15 years have definitely been a rollercoaster. I have been through stays on the psych ward, numerous medication changes, countless hours of psychological counseling and long bouts of fighting for my sanity. The one thing that I can definitely say thought is that I would not be typing this today if it wasn't for my dad. My dad has been there for me through everything I have experienced on my mental health journey. He has been walking with me every step of the way.

My dad is the most selfless man you will ever meet. He has dedicated his life to not only helping me but also helping others, both individuals and families, through their mental health journeys. He serves on several committees and facilitates groups to help others. He is almost busier now being retired, than he was when he was working. He will go
sit on the psych ward at the hospital and if people need to talk, he's there. If no one talks, it's just another night. He gets up early in the morning to go to meetings and Stays late at night as well. I had the honour of being on the panel with my dad at the Early Psychosis Intervention conference last week. It was really cool to just walk around with him and see all the people that knew him. There were so many people that he has worked with and families that he has helped. After the conference, I gave my dad a hug and told him thank you for always being there for me.
My dad has done more things for me that I will never be able to repay. So, I hope by writing this, you the reader can have an idea of how amazing a man Mike Singleton is. He doesn't get enough recognition for everything he does. and he doesn't mind. He continues to serve and help others. He continues to be my rock and main support. He is also my best friend.

My other intention of writing this is to maybe show just a little bit to my dad how much I love him and appreciate everything he does for me. Maybe by writing this, he can know that he is loved and admired by so many people. Maybe he can know that he is making a huge difference in the world around him and changing lives for the better. I hope his reads this and feels proud. I hope by writing this. I convey how much I love him and everything he means to me.

So, dad, I love you beyond words. We have spent the last 15 years battling a terrible monster, but you know what? I can say that we're doing pretty damn good. We make such an awesome team presenting together and changing lives. I know sometimes I can be a brat but I want to know that I am grateful for everything you do for me. I appreciate you. You are an amazing dad and an amazing man and you deserve all the joy and happiness this world can provide.

Love, your daughter, Ashleigh.