Mental Health Collection: Ashlee's Story (Part 2 of 2)
Welcome back! Here is Part 2 of Ashlee's story, where she writes that mental illness is not something to be ashamed about. She also shares why she loves helping children, which is a special gift.
Missed Part 1? Check it out here.
We are honoured that Ashlee has contributed so beautifully to our space. Thank you Ashlee, for being a light to others, and for showing that we're all in this together.
(Here is the sign you first see when you walk into Aspen & Oak. At GG, we love trees, and we really love this explanation of appreciating people just the way they are. Comforting, isn't it?)
All I can do in the world is speak to my truth: mental illness is beautiful. It is a gift; a gift I have been given. This has not always made my life easy, but it has made it more meaningful. I have an amazing life, a beautiful son, a supportive family. I have 14 years of university education which has led me on my professional path. This has given me the capacity to understand those I work with and those I connect with on a personal level. It also enables me to challenge those who continue to stigmatize individuals struggling with mental illness. Instead of pretending who we are not, we need to accept who we are. We need to work with what we have. Mental illness does not mean you must change; it means you need to work with your gift and use it in a way that makes sense to you.
In my private practice, Aspen & Oak Professional Counselling, I thoroughly enjoy working with children. I believe that children have an amazing capacity for change and are resilient. Their minds are continuously absorbing information and changing shape (literally). They have the capacity to learn coping skills from an early age. I cannot stress enough how important it is for a young person to develop a sense of self and coping skills early in life. If therapeutic intervention is applied appropriately, it can change a child’s life. This is where my passion lies - I want to help. Help children (and adults) understand that mental health is not as scary or abnormal as it is often perceived, that it does not have to negatively define who you are. It does not have to limit academic-, personal-, or professional-development, and it does not have to leave you feeling helpless and alone. You do not have to suffer, and the sooner we drive that concept home, the better.
(one of the children's areas at Aspen & Oak)
Working with children who have suffered deeply is difficult. But watching a child develop new skills and confidence-building tools shows me that the pain and struggling has had its purpose. When I see this, I feel good about the work I do. If I can help one child, I have done my job. But it does not always go that way, and it is hard. Just like a client, I am a human being. I have emotions/feelings and have good days and bad days. I struggle with time management between home/family and work life, and I struggle with my own mental health. And although I do not like to admit it, I cannot internalize the weight of the world and expect positive outcome. I have to suck up all of those negative feelings, and I move on. I am only human, after all.
(Ashlee and Rebecca chatting, at the Aspen & Oak office)
Now? This is my time to step up, and show you that mental illness does not mean failure. Mental illness is a gift. It has meant great success for me! It has provided skills and tools that I will always carry with me both personally and professionally. My mental illness has developed personal and professional space that creates opportunities for growth. I work through personal issues, no matter how challenging, using necessary support(s) to gain clarity and meaning of those issues. I treat my clients the same way I treat myself – like a human being who needs assistance in understanding their feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and attitude toward mental health. Perspective is everything. I choose not to suffer, and you can too.
My name is Ashlee Schmidt, and I am gifted with: Bipolar.
(Rebecca, Ashlee and Amanda - hanging out at Aspen & Oak)
This concludes our feature of Ashlee's story. Want more stories? Check out our blog for more Mental Health Collection posts.
Want to contact Ashlee directly? Her website is here.
Want some reminders that your mental health is important? Check out our decal collection here. It's our bestselling collection!
Thank you so much for being here. Cheers to you, and to taking care of your mental health,