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

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

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.

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