Who am I? The simple answer is, Ashley. I am just another human being, attempting to navigate a very complicated world. Living my life as best as I can and trying to make a difference while doing so.
The complicated answer would include numerous pages of written information, which is too much for me to share in a blog but something I have written down to publish in a book. Still stuck in the editing phase, but one day I hope to share with as many people as I can.
So, I will share a piece of me to explain why I chose to become a mental health advocate. Why I decided sharing my story was more important to helping others than keeping it hidden away.
I graduated from Butler University in May of 2008 with my Doctorate in Pharmacy. At this point, I had never officially been diagnosed with any mental diseases or spoken to anyone about my odd behaviors. I knew I did things that were a bit ‘off’ but I never knew they were far outside the realm of normal. It wasn’t until my sister-in-law mentioned something to me, letting me know I should speak to a doctor about my avoidance behavior because what I found as normal, was more of an issue than I thought.
I met with my first doctor shortly after this conversation and was officially diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), agoraphobia and general anxiety disorder (GAD). Though I had dealt with my ADHD since childhood, this was the first time a doctor wrote it in my medical file. I started on medication and this was the beginning of the emotional rollercoaster of treatment for mental diseases.
Over the years, I have gone through new situations, which bring about another diagnosis or we have just begun to understand what I go through better. After giving birth to my son in 2016, I struggled with postpartum depression which led to my first suicide attempt and a 5-day inpatient stay at the hospital. I was, then, diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). In 2019, following a situation where I was discriminated against, continually bullied and gaslit for months, I started to show the signs of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (c-PTSD). Unfortunately, this led to my second suicide attempt in July of 2019. To this day, I still deal with triggers and nightmares, though they are slowly decreasing in frequency and severity.
I share all of these issues to do one thing, prove all the stigma, stereotypes and prejudices wrong. I am tired of people assuming those with mental health issues or mental diseases are unable to have fully functioning lives if they choose to have them. We cannot succeed or we cannot hold a job. We cannot be trusted to have children or we are dangerous. If someone chooses to have a career, they can do so and struggle with mental diseases. We can have beautiful lives while overcoming our diseases. Society needs to stop labeling up and moving us into these stereotypes before they get to know the people we are and the lives we live.
I want all people to know, you can live whatever life you choose with these diseases. They do not need to define you, you get to define you. Our diseases explain bits and pieces of us, but they are not the overall picture. This is why sharing our stories is important because once you put a human life to the diseases and issues we deal with, it is harder to generalize all of us into these false stereotypes.