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

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